Passover and Syria -- A Timely and Timeless Message

Passover and Syria -- A Timely and Timeless Message
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<p>Syrian Refugee Crisis</p>

Syrian Refugee Crisis

Belief Net

I received a wake-up call from Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo. He asked why we are not praying for the Syrians in our synagogues? He writes, “How dare we come before the Lord of the Universe with our personal prayers asking Him for His kindness and gifts, when we ignore the enormous atrocities done to other human beings?” He quotes Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Berlin (1817-1893), the last Rosh HaYeshiva of the famous Volozhin Yeshiva, who makes the powerful point that the greatness of our patriarchs Abraham, Issac and Jacob, and no doubt the matriarchs, was the fact that they cared about the well-being of all humanity.

We are in the midst of preparations for the upcoming holiday of Passover. We are cleaning our homes, cooking, studying, shopping, selling leaven and God willing, and getting ready for a joyous and uplifting holiday for our families and friends. Yet, we cannot forget the central theme of the holiday brought to light this week again with the horrific chemical attack in Syria.

Passover is the oldest and most transformative story of hope ever told. It tells the story of how slaves found their way to freedom and how the supreme Power intervened in history to liberate the supremely powerless. It defines what it is to be a Jew: a living symbol of hope.

This holiday beckons us not to stand idly by and fail to pray when great evil is heaped upon their fellow humans. Whether our prayers for the victims will be answered is determined by God but we must take the time this holiday and beyond to pray for the plight of thousands of children who are being killed, who have lost their arms and legs, and whose bodies have been burned beyond recognition.

Recite a Psalm every day for them. When we pray in synagogue or our houses of faith for the United States, we will also bear in mind the Syrians and all who are suffering from atrocities around the world. It is our obligation and responsibility. How can we believe that God will listen to our prayers when we can’t spare even one minute to pray for the women and children of Syria and the millions of others living in unimaginably devastating circumstances?

Thank God, the state of Israel and members of the larger Jewish community in and outside of the State of Israel have not sat idle in the face of this crisis. They have arranged medical and financial help for the victims, organized solidarity marches and have been taking to the streets, and much more. What Jew would not join these noble acts? Israel Treating Victims of Syrian War

As we sit at our seders, ponder these two questions suggested by Rabbi Cardozo:

1. What do you think it means, practically speaking, to not remain indifferent? Does it mean talking, demonstrating, voting, or something else?

2. Can you think of times in the Torah/Jewish history where the issue of indifference to someone else’s suffering arose? What did God have to say about it? What did Jewish leaders do? Could one argue from any of these sources that it is a mitzvah to not be indifferent?

Passover is the time to reignite our role in heralding a world of redemption and peace. In the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, “Pesach is the eternal critique of power used by humans to coerce and diminish their fellow humans. Pesach makes us taste the choice: on the one hand the bread of affliction and bitter herbs of slavery; on the other, four cups of wine, each marking a stage in the long walk to liberty. As long as humans seek to exercise power over one another, the story will continue and the choice will still be ours.”

May we merit experiencing the light of freedom for all humanity speedily in our days.

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