BY AMBASSADOR (RET) YORAM ETTINGER—
1. David Ben Gurion, the Founding Father of the Jewish State (UN Commission, 1947): “300 years ago, the Mayflower launched its historical voyage. Do many remember the exact data of the voyage, how many passengers were on the Mayflower and what kind of bread did they consume? However, 3,300 years earlier, the Exodus from Egypt took place. Every Jew knows the date of the Exodus – the 15th of the Jewish month of Nissan – and the kind of bread – Matza, unleavened bread – consumed. Until today, Jews all over the world tell the story of the Exodus and eat Matza on the 15th of Nissan. They conclude the story of the Exodus (Hagaddah) with the statement: “This year we are slaves, but next year we shall be liberated; this year we are here, but next year we shall be in the rebuilt Jerusalem.”
2. Passover recounts Jewish history, re-entrenching Jewish memory, unity, collective-responsibility, roots, rights and sovereignty in the land of Israel. President Ezer Weizman in the German Bundestag, January 16, 1996: “Only 150 generations have passed from the Pillar of Fire of the Exodus from Egypt to the pillars of smoke from the Holocaust. And I, a descendant of Abraham, born in Abraham’s country, have witnessed them all. I was a slave in Egypt. I received the Torah at Mount Sinai. Together with Joshua and Elijah, I crossed the Jordan River. I entered Jerusalem with David, was exiled from it with Zedekiah, and did not forget it by the rivers of Babylon. When the Lord returned the captives of Zion, I dreamed among the builders of its ramparts. I fought the Romans and was banished from Spain. I was bound to the stake in Mainz. I studied Torah in Yemen and lost my family in Kishinev. I was incinerated in Treblinka, rebelled in Warsaw and migrated to the Land of Israel, the country whence I had been exiled and where I had been born, from which I come and to which I return… And, like our forefather King David who purchased the Temple Mount, and our patriarch Abraham who bought the Cave of Makhpela, we bought land, we sowed fields, we planted vineyards, we built houses, and even before we achieved statehood, we were already bearing weapons to protect our lives…”
3. “Next Year in the rebuilt Jerusalem” concludes the annual reciting of the Passover Saga. It reaffirms the ancient Jewish commitment to build homes all over Jerusalem – the 3,300 year old indivisible capital of the Jewish People.
4. Passover’s centrality in Judaism is highlighted by the first Commandment: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” The Passover ethos is included in daily Jewish prayers, Sabbath and holiday prayers, the blessing over the wine, the blessing upon circumcision, the prayer fixed in the Mezuzah (doorpost) and in the annual family reciting of the Exodus on the eve of Passover. Passover paved the road to the People of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the Land of Israel. In Hebrew, Israel is the acronym of the names of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
5. Passover’s centrality in the American ethos, inspiring the Puritans, the Pilgrims the Founding Fathers and contemporary American morality and state of mind. The Pilgrims considered Britain “modern day Egypt,” the British king was “the modern day Pharaoh,” the sail through the Atlantic Ocean was “the modern day parting of the Sea” and America was “the modern day Promised Land.” The term Federalism is based on “Foedus,” the Latin word for “The Covenant.” The Founding Fathers were inspired by the political structure of the semi-independent 12 Tribes (colonies), which were governed by tribal presidents (governors) and by Moses (the Executive), Aaron (the Judicial) and the 70 Elders (Legislature), a role model for US democracy. Adams, Jefferson and Franklin proposed the “Parting of the Sea” as the official US seal. The role model of Washington and Adams were Moses and Joshua. Yale University President, Ezra Stiles stated (May 8, 1783): “Moses, the man of God, assembled three million people – the number of people in America in 1776.” “Let my people go” became the “pillar of fire” for the Abolitionists and human rights movements in the US. “Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10) is inscribed on the Liberty Bell. The statues of Moses stare at the Speaker of the House of Representatives and tower above the Supreme Court Justices; a Ten Commandment monument sits on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol and a similar monument will shortly be erected on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol.
6. Moses, the hero of Passover, has been a role model of faith, principle, humility and endurance-driven leadership for American leaders. Moses’ name is mentioned only once in the Passover Hagaddah, as a servant of God, a testimony to Moses’ humility.
7. The Exodus is mentioned 50 times in the Torah, equal to the 50 years of Jubilee, a pivot of liberty. 50 days following the Exodus, Moses received the Torah (Pentecost Holiday), which includes – according to Jewish tradition – 50 gates of Wisdom. Where does that leave the 50 States?!
8. Passover highlights the centrality of spiritual, social and national Liberty. The difference between the spelling of Ge’oolah (“deliverance” in Hebrew – גאולה) and Golah (Diaspora in Hebrew – גולה) is the first Hebrew letter, Alef – א. Alef is the first letter in the Hebrew spelling of God, faith, father, mother, truth, covenant, soil, credibility, awesome, power, Abraham, light, love, Adam, courage, spring, unity, responsibility, horizon, tree, etc.
9. Passover – the role model of liberty – interacts with Shavou’ot/Pentecost – the role model of morality – since Liberty and Morality are mutually-inclusive. The Liberty/Morality interdependence distinguishes Western democracies from rogue regimes.
10. Passover highlights the fact that the Jewish People were passed-over by history’s angel of death, in defiance of conventional wisdom. Non-normative disasters have characterized Jewish history ever since slavery in Egypt and the Exodus: the destruction of the Temples, exiles, pogroms, expulsions, the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, Arab/Muslim terrorism and wars, etc. The 1948 re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty constituted a modern day Exodus and Parting of the Sea. Adherence to the principle-driven and tenacious defiance-of-odds legacy of Passover constitutes a prerequisite to Jewish deliverance.
11. The Exodus took place around 1,300 BC, establishing the Jewish People in the forefront in the Clash of Civilizations between democracies and rogue regimes. Passover is celebrated on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan ניסן – the first month of the Biblical Jewish year and the introduction of natural and national spring (Nitzan is the Babylonian word for spring and the Hebrew word for bud). Nissan (Ness – נס is miracle in Hebrew) is the month of miracles, such as the Exodus, the Parting of the Sea, Jacob wrestling the Angel, Deborah’s victory over Sisera, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, etc.
12. The 15th day of any Jewish month features a full moon, which stands for optimism in defiance of darkness. It is consistent with the 15 parts of the Hagaddah (the Telling of Passover), 15 generations between Abraham’s message of monotheism and Solomon’s construction of the first Temple, the 15 words of the ancient blessing by the Priests and the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shvat, Arbor Day – the “Exodus” of vegetation. The Hebrew value of 15 corresponds to two Hebrew letters which stand for God – י and ה.
13. Passover has four names: The holiday of Pesach (Passed-over; sacrifice), the holiday of liberty, the holiday of Matza and the holiday of spring. The number 4 features in the Passover Saga, representing the four women who shaped the life of Moses (his mother, Yocheved, his sister, Miriam, his savior, Batyah and his wife, Ziporah); Joseph’s four enslavements- twice to the Midianties, once to the Ishmaelites and once in Egypt; the 4 times that the word cup was mentioned by Pharaoh’s jailed wine-butler when recounting his dream to Joseph; the 4 Sons (human characters); the 4 glasses of wine drunk on the eve of Passover; the 4 Questions asked on the eve of Passover and the 4 stages of the divine deliverance from Egyptian bondage. The 4th Hebrew letter (ד) stands for God.
14. Passover is celebrated in the spring (Aviv in Hebrew – אביב – which consists of two Hebrew words: Father – אב – of 12 – יב – months/tribes), the bud of nature. The word spring is mentioned 3 times in the Torah, all in reference to the Exodus. Passover – which commemorates the creation of the Jewish nation – lasts for 7 days, just like the creation of the universe. Passover is the first of three Jewish pilgrimages, succeeded by Shavou’ot/Pentecost, which commemorates the receipt of the Ten Commandments, and Sukkot/Tabernacles, named after Sukkota – the first stop in the Exodus.