President’s Passover Message 2019/5779
Dear Members and Friends,
Chag Pesach Sameach – Happy Passover!
Pesach has many names, each name has a different ring to it, and each one sounds a bit different – but essentially, they all mean the same: FREEDOM!
In Vayikra – Leviticus, Chapter 25:10 Moses says to the People of Israel: And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim freedom [for slaves] throughout the land for all who live on it. Moses says this in the context of the Yovel – the 50th year, wherein all slaves are given their liberty. The famous Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, the symbol of America’s Freedom which was first rung on July 8, 1776 to mark the reading of the United States Declaration of Independence, also uses this quote, somewhat abbreviated: Proclaim Liberty (Freedom) Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof. And for those of us who remember the movie “The Ten Commandments,” it is almost the exact words Charleston Heston – as Moses – said, when he led the People of Israel out of Egypt.
Freedom is expressed by what you yourself can control, including your own time. Just before the People of Israel left Egypt, in Exodus 12:1-2, G-d spoke to Moses and Aaron and says: This month (Nissan – the month in which Pesach is celebrated) shall be to you the head of months…..the first of the months of the year. Why is this so important and how does it relate to Freedom? The 16th century and Italian commentator, Rabbi Obadia Sforno, wrote:
From now on, these months will be yours, to do as you like, in contrast to the years when you were enslaved when you had no control over your time or timetable. Now you are free to have the month of Nissan as the head of months.
Freedom is probably the most precious commodity we have. Here in Canada we are lucky to have all the Freedom we need. As a people – the Jewish people – nothing stands in our way. Yet unfortunately, for too many of our brothers and sisters, Freedom is in short supply. Most Jews in France, Belgium, England and other countries are not able sometimes to fully practice their faith – our faith – in true Freedom. Antisemitism is rampant and increasing at an alarming rate throughout Europe, and elsewhere.
In Belgium recently, ritual slaughter has been outlawed and made a crime, and other states seem eager to follow. Religious Freedoms enjoyed for centuries are being slowly eroded.
And yet, amidst all this turmoil, we, as a people, still have so much to be proud of as we celebrate this year’s Pesach Holiday. Our country does it’s best to combat Antisemitism when it rears it’s ugly head, but there is still much to be done, here in Quebec and elsewhere. Although the UN is an impotent organization as far as Israel is concerned, nevertheless Israel’s representatives make themselves heard loudly, and miracle of miracles, inroads are being established. But it’s our homeland – the State of Israel, Eretz Hakodesh – of which we can be most proud. True – Israeli politics are a mess, and one needs a college primer to decipher the complexities of an Israeli election. As I write these words, Israel’s election is a toss-up. But it is still a vibrant democracy with the rule of law paramount. There are many accomplishments of the past year to be proud of, and we eagerly await the coming year with tremendous anticipation. Israel has made amazing inroads in it’s political affiliations throughout the world, with more African and Asian countries establishing diplomatic relations. Israel’s sportsmen have now appeared – and won gold – and have heard Hatikvah publicly sung in Arab countries, unheard of just 2-3 years ago. Hi-tech science and medical innovations have made Israel not only a start-up nation but an innovative nation as well, with Israel having more start-ups every year than almost every major power in the world.
And with baited breath as you read this message, we are eagerly hoping that BERESHEET, Israel’s newest satellite, B”H lands successfully on the moon, which will make it only the 4th country in the world to do so. And this is a country of which a French Ambassador to England once said “All the current troubles in the world are because of that (bleep) little country Israel.”
As a congregation, The Young Israel of Chomedey can be proud of what we offer. We have a small shul, and while we would like many more of our members to participate, we are still able to offer Minyans on a regular basis – certainly on those days that we most require a Minyan. We offer holiday services, and participate in many different events – together as a family and as a shul.
Dear friends – let us use the FREEDOM we enjoy as Canadians to help ourselves, our brethren and our communities. Let us continue to be “Or La’Goyim,” a light unto the nations, and continue to practice Tikun Olam – repairing the world! Let us continue to be proud of our Jewish Heritage, and of what HaShem has given us as a people. Let us continue to work with each other to make the Young Israel of Chomedey a vibrant shul – foregoing needless petty and sometime acrimonious disagreements – and together with Shaar Shalom may we continue to serve the Ashkenazic community of Chomedey for a long long time.
At this time, I would to thank our Executive for their tremendous efforts in trying to accomplish just that; through illnesses and adverse conditions sometimes, each one of our Executive members have continued to give their best efforts to allow all of us to enjoy the fruits of our labours, and may they and others continue to do so for a long time to come. I would like to thank Rabbi Banon for the tremendous efforts he has put into our shul, and the advice and help he has given to our Executive when called upon. We all wish him and his growing family good health and prosperity for many years to come, and wish him also many healthy years as Rabbi of our shul.
On behalf of my dear wife Zila, I wish each and every one of you and your families, a “FREILICHEN PESACH,” a HAPPY and KOSHER PASSOVER. May you celebrate it in good health, and may we all have the merit to see and greet each other also in good health as often as possible – in person and/or through our shul newsletters and messages throughout the year. Kol Tov!