Passover is a most appropriate time to ask how we Jews can alter the course of history. From their suffering, the Israelites beseeched the Almighty’s intervention, “And it happened during those many days, that the king of Egypt died, and the Children of Israel groaned because of the work and they cried out. Their outcry because of their work went up to God.” (Exodus 20:23) Following the death of the Pharaoh, from their servitude, their prayers ascended to the Almighty. Why? Had they not prayed before from their subjugation? Rashi, commenting on this sentence, states, “Israel was in need of salvation.”
Perhaps, in the past, the Israelites prayed for an improvement of their plight in the hope that their suffering will subside; that there would be a lightening of their bitter load. When Pharaoh died and yet the persecution continued, perhaps they then fully realized that the source of their troubles was not with the prior Pharaoh alone, but with Egypt and most importantly their existence in the Galut – exile. When they came to this understanding, then they prayed not to be rid of a king, but to be rid of their existence in Egypt, and hence, for redemption. Then, as the sentence states, their prayers ascended to the Almighty. After the death of Tsar Nicholas II at the hands of Bolsheviks in the aftermath of the Russian revolution, the venerated Chafetz Chaim reflected, “Who buried Nicholas?
Jews wept and cried out over their troubles, and in merit of their prayers, they were rid of the Tsar. If they so strongly felt the pain of the churban – the destruction of the Temple – and cried out against the desecration that is the exile, they would be rid of that, too.” (Sichot, 82)
The Jews prayed for an end to the brutal rule of Tsar Nicholas, but with the end of the Tsar, they now found themselves under the rule of Bolsheviks, who would prove themselves as worthy an adversary to the Jews as was Nicholas II. The Bolsheviks and their policies of forced assimilation threatened the very existence of Russia’s three million Jews. As in Egypt, Jews in Russia prayed for relief, but it would not come with regime change, because the real problem was Russia itself and the anti-Semitism that was endemic in Russia. The prayers for relief lead from one nightmare to another.
Over the past few years, there have been frequent calls for the ousting, or the elimination, of Yasser Arafat. No doubt, the absence of Arafat, as any enemy of the Jews, would be something good since Israel would have one less enemy. But once again, the main picture is obscured. Arafat is part of a society that is committed to the elimination of Israel. Along with Arafat stand the masses of “Palestinians” who support the war of terror against Israel. If he falls, others would take his place. The society of Palestinians is largely one that venerates and encourages murder and holds murderers of women and children in the highest esteem. It is, in fact, a cult of murder. To think that the removal of Arafat would change the landscape in any shape or form is like saying that removing a small portion of a malignant disease would cure the patient. No doubt, there have been times when the death of a tyrant caused the Jews great relief. The death of the wicked Haman, or the Roman Emperor Hadrian, or the Russian dictator Joseph Stalin no doubt gave the Jews reason to rejoice. But eventually, the exile would rear its ugly head and Jews would face new antagonists. Ultimately, there were times in history when Jews were spared by a despot’s demise, but not really saved.
In our own times, it is no doubt essential that Israel defeat the terrorists that threaten its people. Yet there is another dimension to Israel’s struggle for security. Passover being the holiday of liberation is a significant opportunity for Jews to pray as one, for everlasting change and the ultimate redemption as foretold by the prophets, when evil individuals along with tyranny and evil itself, which they represent, will disappear.
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