April 6, 2017
Dear Friend of Israel
The scenes out of Syria this week broke my heart. While children slept in their beds, chemical bombs were dropped from planes, killing at least 10 children and dozens of adults, and causing serious injuries to hundreds more. The footage of frightened and confused toddlers being treated with oxygen and struggling to breathe was painful to watch. But we cannot – we must not – turn a blind eye to such cruelty and oppression.
These horrific events came as Jews around the world are preparing to celebrate Passover, which begins this Monday at sundown. At Passover we recall the biblical Exodus, when Moses led the Jewish people from oppression in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land, Israel. It was a sign of God's favor toward His chosen people, and marked the birth of the Jewish people as a nation.
The primary observance for Jews on Passover is the seder meal, a ritual reenactment of the Exodus. The Bible says that on Passover we are to tell the story of God's redemption of our ancestors from Egyptian bondage. The seder is the way in which we fulfill this obligation. In fact, more than simply retelling the story, we are to feel as if we ourselves experienced the pain of slavery and joy of liberation.
Certainly, as we look at the world today, there are so many people enslaved by circumstances they played no part in creating. There are the people of Syria, caught in the midst of a devastating civil war. In war-torn Ukraine, there are tens of thousands of Jews – many of them Holocaust survivors – who live in poverty that is almost unimaginable. Christians in the Middle East daily fear violent attacks from Islamist terrorists. And the list could go on and on.
It is easy to despair as we look at the world and all its problems. But if this holy season of Passover – and Easter, which Christians will soon celebrate – reminds us of anything, it should be that as people of faith we ultimately hope in something higher. Our faith liberates us from the tyranny of despair. Let us never forget Who is the ultimate authority: the God to Whom the Israelites “groaned in their slavery and cried out” (Exodus 2:23) for help prior to that first Passover; the same God of Whom it is said, “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God” (Psalm 146:5).
In this season celebrating God’s miraculous rescue, let us pray fervently that He bestow his precious gift of shalom, peace, on the people of Syria, on the Jewish people, on suffering Christians, and throughout the entire world.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President