When the Jews were in Egypt, they suffered under the cruel pharaoh. The people cried out to God, who struck Egypt with the 10 plagues and performed the wondrous miracle of splitting the Red Sea, guiding his people through the desert.

Each year, Jews remember these events of the Hebrew Bible on the holiday of Passover, an eight-day holiday beginning this year on Monday night, March 29.

Passover reminds us that God redeemed our people from bondage long ago. We seek to experience the redemption anew at the Passover Seder, a holiday ritual meal.

In modern times, the Jews experienced a German pharaoh, a Hitler, who surpassed all other oppressors of the people in his absolute evil. When God redeemed the people from the darkness of Europe after World War II, there were not many Jews left. The Nazis had murdered almost all the Jews of Europe.

Following World War II, instead of wonders from God, the world saw a trickle of Jews make their way to Palestine, and then the world recognized the establishment of a Jewish state, the land of Israel, that would serve once again as a homeland for the Jews of the world.

The odds of Israel surviving as a state were small then, and even now the people of Israel face challenges of survival on a daily basis. Surrounded by hostile neighbors, threatened by Iran and Islamic terrorists at all times, can this small country continue for much longer?

The odds against the Jewish people living on outside the land of Israel are also small. Surrounded by neighbors of different faiths, what are the chances that a small, scattered people will maintain ancient religious practices in a modern world?

Passover reminds us to have hope. In the same way in which God caused his miraculous force to be known in the world through his awesome might in Egypt and awesome force in splitting the Red Sea, so now we can feel the strong hand of God in our lives, directing us and pushing us to persevere despite the odds.

The Jewish people are taught that it is upon us to be a testament to the world of God’s presence and to bring forth his goodness.

In the struggle for survival, the odds do not matter at all, when you know that God can make his presence felt in the world. Passover is a holiday that celebrates God’s historic and continuous action within our lives and the world as a whole.

 

Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld serves Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh in Portland.