Mark Blazer | Passover and Remembering the Innocents

Rabbi Mark Blazer

This Passover, as Jews around the world gather to celebrate our liberation from Egyptian bondage, some of our people will have spent nearly seven months in captivity. 

An unknown number of Israeli men, women and children may still be alive, ranging in age from an infant who turned 1 during his captivity to an 85-year-old man. The terrorists responsible still have the infrastructure necessary to maintain hostages inside Gaza, and this war will not end until they are all released or recovered.

When this war began in October, I wrote in these pages, mere hours after this nightmare began, that this war would be dreadful: “In the coming days, there will be staggering devastation and horrific civilian deaths. Israel, as it always has, will try to minimize the loss of non-combatants, but an enormous human tragedy is unfolding.”

The deaths of innocents over these last months are devastating and they can be simultaneously held in prayer by everyone also praying for the release of the hostages. The enormous human cost to the people of Gaza who are tied to the actions of the terrorist regime in control is a tragedy that must end.

When the children of Israel finally found freedom on the other side of the Red Sea, they sang and danced like no one ever had before. The song was so powerful we have been singing it ever since, and we are taught that even the angels could not contain themselves and began to sing as well. At that point God told them to stop and admonished them not to celebrate, “My children are drowning.” This ancient teaching reminds us that all human life is precious.

Our anguish over our enemies’ suffering is one of the reasons this clash of values must be won. We must never allow a culture of death to triumph, and we must never succumb to becoming another version of that nightmare. It is a very fine line that requires patience and compassion, restraint and vigilance. 

Each year at Passover, as we recount the suffering of the ancient Egyptians through the Ten Plagues, we diminish our cup of wine, a symbol of joy, by removing a drop with each curse. We remind ourselves there were human beings at the other end of each of those miracles, and innocent Egyptians paid a horrible price for the cruelty of their leadership and system of oppression.

We pray for an end to all wars and suffering, and each one of us must work at bringing shalom to our world. May this be a season of freedom, redemption and peace.

Rabbi Mark Blazer is the rabbi of Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita. 

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