Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Community Redemption -- For the YIOP April Bulletin

Somehow, the Pesach story seems more real and immediate this year than in years past. The notion of a single man riling up his people, and coaxing them to destroy the Jewish people doesn't seem that farfetched this year. Having watched the president of Iran make genocidal statements, all while attempting to develop his country's ability to deploy nuclear weapons, I find the words of the hagadah chilling:

והיא שעמדה לאבותנו ולנו שלא אחד בלבד עמד עלינו לכלותנו אלא שבכל דור ודור עומדים עלינו לכלותנו והקב"ה מצילנו מידם
"and this [rule] has stood for our forefather and for us: that not only one stood against us to destroy us. Rather, in every generation, they stand up against us to destroy us, and the Holy One Blessed be He saves us from their hands."

The Gerrer Rebbe, using a play on the words of the hagadah, suggest an additional understanding to this passage that carries an important message for us. We normally translate the words שלא אחד בלבד -- to mean "for not only one -- i.e. Pharoh sought to destroy us. But he explains that the words שלא אחד -- can be understood to mean "since we are not one," -- בלבד -- "alone." Thus, the hagadah teaches us that because we do not act in a united manner, our enemies are able to stand over us to destroy us. Jewish unity is the greatest power that we can muster, and our disunity our greatest potential weakness. Unity does not mean that we give up on our principles. Rather, it means that when we find common ground, we work together on the issues that bind us together as a people.
Each year for many years, the Metropolitan Council of Young Israel has sponsored a community-wide Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration, either at YIOP or at the Young Israel of Southfield. Together, we have mourned the loss of Israeli soldiers and citizens who gave their life defending and protecting the state, and we celebrate the tremendous gift of the State of Israel that God has bestowed upon us. Yet, each year I found myself wondering whether the Orthodox community could reach out to the broader community to share in our Israel commemoration and celebration. After all, support for Israel spans the denominational spectrum, and it represents one of the few issues that binds us as a people.
So, for the first time, we will commemorate Yom Hazikaron and celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut truly as a community. On Monday night, April 23rd, the two Young Israel shuls will join together with Congregation Beth Shalom, Temple Emanuel, and other congregations and organizations for a true community-wide celebration. In addition, we will have our regular traditional minchah and celebratory ma'ariv at the JCC as well.
During the prayer for the State of Israel we recite in shul each Shabbos, we thank God for the State of Israel, and we call it ראשית צמיחת גאולתנו -- "the beginnings of the flowering of our redemption." Each year at Pesach we hope and pray that this "beginning of a flowering" continues to develop and grow into a full-blown redemption. Perhaps if we cause a little more unity in our community, we can coax that flower to blossom just a little more this year.