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Tzav Shabbat HaGadol Pesach 5770 | March 27, 2010
FLICKED WINE and ELIJIAH's CUP
For not only one enemy has risen against us … but in every generation there are those who would destroy us, but the Holy One Blessed be He rescues us from their hand. (From the Pesach Haggadah)
Flicking drops of wine as we recite the ten plagues is a particularly beautiful Seder ritual. It reflects the text in Proverbs, “When you enemy falls, do not rejoice.” (24:17). By this act we express our sadness that human beings, albeit our oppressors, perished in the struggle to bring about our liberation.
Yet Pesach’s fundamental message is that even as we were redeemed in Egypt, we have God’s ongoing assurance that as a people we will survive any and all attempts to destroy or enslave us. The Haggadah is clear that the Exodus from Egypt is an eternal paradigm for “in every generation there are those who would destroy us, but the Holy One Blessed be He rescues us from their hand “and will continue to rescue us from their hands.”
The tension of rejoicing in our survival while expressing sorrow at the fate of our enemies resonates to this day. Within the Jewish community, both in Israel and in the Diaspora, those are voices counseling taking maximum chances for peace. To those in this camp, the essential message of Pesach is in the flicking of the wine. The challenge before us as Jews, they insist, is to go the extra mile to reduce the suffering of even our adversaries out of the conviction that this will lead them to look upon us more favorably thereby enabling us to live happily side-by-side.
Most Jews are far less sanguine. Pesach reminds us not only of past redemptions, but also directs us to focus on the reality that historically we have been beset by enemies who mean to do us harm. The sad truth of contemporary Jewish history is that we are still confronted with implacable foes who have targeted not only Israel but also world Jewry.
Well before the State came into being, there were Arab riots in Palestine. Since 1948 there have been seven wars, two intifadas, and a host of terrorist attacks that have claimed thousands of Israeli lives and caused even more injuries, many of them life altering. The clear refusal of our neighbors to accept our existence has necessitated the creation of a highly efficient military that time and again has vanquished our foes.
Israel demands that the Palestinian leadership prevent terrorist attacks and even more importantly put an end to the anti-Israel incitement that is transmitted in its mosques, schools, print media and TV. The constant fomenting of rage against Israel has created an untenable situation since rioting and stone throwing ultimately result in injury and even death.
Israel would love to see a peaceful conclusion to its struggle with the Palestinians, but it remains a far off dream as long as a virulent anti-Israel sentiment characterizes their community. Few Israelis are happy with the status-quo but most accept that there can be no peace with those who remain committed to our destruction.
When we raise the cup of Elijah we express our longing for peace and our hope that this will soon come to pass, even as we are aware that this goal still eludes us. Then as is our tradition, we will conclude the Seder with the recital of l’shana ha’ba’ah b’Yerushalyim ha’b’nuya – next year and God willing - in the years and years to come we will continue to celebrate Pesach in rebuilt and unified Jerusalem.
From the holy city of Jerusalem, Rae joins me in wishing you a Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorach - a Shabbat of peace and blessing and a Chag Kasaher v’Sameach - a joyous and festive Pesach celebration.
The haftara, chosen from the writings of the prophet Malachi, makes reference to God sending Elijiah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of redemption… hence the special name and designation of this Shabbat.
This Shabbat is called Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Sabbath. According to tradition it was on the Shabbat prior to the Exodus that the Israelites were instructed to take into their homes a lamb, a symbol of deity to Egyptians, in preparation for the Pesach sacrifice.