April 21, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel,
It is spring, a time of new beginnings and one of the holiest times of the year for both Jews and Christians. While Christians last month observed the solemnity of Good Friday and celebrated with joy on Easter, we Jews are observing one of the most important holidays of the Jewish year, Passover.
Passover recalls the biblical Exodus, when Moses led the Jewish people from bondage 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 symbolic 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, during Passover we are to feel as if we ourselves have experienced the pain of slavery and joy of liberation.
During Passover Jews observe a number of dietary restrictions. Matzah (unleavened, cracker-like bread) is the only form of bread that may be eaten throughout the holiday. Jews are told in the Bible, “For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses” (Exodus 12:19). Thus, the days just prior to Passover are a flurry of activity, as we clean and search for leavened products in every nook and cranny of our houses.
Though it may seem that these restrictions detract from the holiday, the laws and customs of Passover actually enhance it. This is a time for Jewish families and friends to come together, bound by fellowship and devotion to God. In particular, on the first two evenings of Passover when the seder is conducted, the atmosphere is one of feasting, prayer, joy, and hospitality.
My friends, as we approach this holy time, even as I thank God for the incredible success He has bestowed upon our ministry, I also thank Him for you. The Jewish people have enemies today, just as they did in the days of the Exodus. We have seen this tragically illustrated just this week, when a bomb exploded on a bus in Jerusalem, injuring 21 people, and we see it illustrated in countless ways nearly every day. But the Passover story reminds us that God is still with us in all our trials and challenges, even as He is with the victims of this attack. How comforting it is to know that today the Jewish people also have friends like you who will stand with us through thick and thin!
Whether you are Jewish or Christian, my prayer is that your lives will be filled with joy, as I know mine will be as I reflect not just on God’s deliverance of the Jewish people, but on your unwavering, unfailing friendship. This Passover, may we all know the joy the psalmist spoke of when he said, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Psalm 16:11).
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President