Rabbi’s Message Mar/Apr 2018

Clarion Calls        Rabbi Bill S. Tepper

I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.

– Rosa Parks [from: www.brainyquote.com/quotes/rosa_parks]

It’s no coincidence that Purim and Pesach occur just one month [or as our Jewish calendar teaches, ‘one moon’] apart.  Both holidays celebrate the freedom of the Jewish people to live lives guided by the laws, traditions and ethical benchmarks gifted to us by our ancestors and the God of Israel.

Purim is a reminder of our determination to experience freedom and prosperity in the Diaspora; that is, while living within an overwhelmingly larger non-Jewish population.  Pesach, with its ritual seder meal and recitation of the haggadah, signifies our collective remembrance of the Exodus story: the pivotal journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land that is the touchstone of our millennia-long Jewish narrative.

But as history tragically informs us, the struggle for freedom did not end with our leaving-taking of Egypt, nor through the heroic efforts of Queen Esther and Mordechai in Persia.    Greek and Roman dynasties put Jewish freedom to the test.  In medieval Europe Jews suffered relentless oppression.  Successive Russian and other European rulers placed Jewish communities under fear and duress.   In the 1970s and ‘80s Jews in the Soviet Union suffered severe constraints, including the prohibition on travel.   And though the transition of Jewish life from Europe to North America resulted in unimagined success and far-greater religious liberties, such fortune was – and remains to this day – darkened by the plague of anti-semitism.

Nevertheless, there is an abundance of freedom for which we are constantly thankful: to vote, travel, educate ourselves, work at vocations and reside in communities of our choosing; to establish beautiful and vibrant synagogues and Temples, dynamic Jewish community and cultural centers, religious schools – both full-day and supplementary; to succeed in every walk of life, while contributing to the success of our larger non-Jewish communities; and, with love and pride look upon our Jewish homeland of Israel.

But the fight for freedom continues.   To others are owed the same rights and privileges for which we so long struggled.  These include, but are not limited to:

Freedom from the deprivation and need that flows from economic and social imbalances.

Freedom from ignorance and indifference as they pertain to the experiences of Canada’s indigenous persons, along with members of all faith, ethnic and cultural groups with whom we share life in our country.

Freedom from xenophobia: the groundless fear of our peace-loving fellow citizens whose view of life just happens to differ from yours and mine.

Freedom from the insecurity brought on by violence, terror and an obsessive gun culture.

And: decades after World War II and the Holocaust, freedom from the wounds, injuries and sickness that flow from anti-semitism.

We shall overcome,

We shall overcome,

We shall overcome someday.

Oh, deep in my heart,

I do believe

We shall overcome someday.

– Gospel and Protest Song

On Purim and Pesach we are grateful for the religious liberty that imbues our lives.  But may these sacred days serve as clarion calls, inspiring us in our never-ending quest for freedom – both ours and all with whom we share loving membership in the human family.