Freedom of Peace Rabbi Bill S. Tepper
The final play I ever directed as a high school Drama teacher was, fittingly perhaps, The Diary of Anne Frank. Within my gifted company of actors was not a single Jewish student. But during rehearsals, these students came to identify with the ordeal of the Jewish people during the Shoah. They came to understand the terror endured by Anne and her family. Sixteen years later, I can still see my actors kindling the Hanukkah lights and hear their chant of the accompanying blessings learned – to perfection – in Hebrew.
Owing to their experience in that production of The Diary of Anne Frank, those students would no doubt be horrified by the catastrophes afflicting our communities today. Attacks on persons in churches, mosques, synagogues and temples. Attacks on persons in schools, shopping malls and public buildings. Virulent anti semitism and Islamophobia. In brief, an alarming scarcity of respect, love and peace.
We are in dire need of peacemakers. We are in dire need of the respect, love and peace that are characteristic of safe and welcoming communities.
Who are those peacemakers? They are you and I.
You and I who are caring and compassionate; who are sensitive and thoughtful; who reach out to the most vulnerable; who put the well-being of others before our own; who listen more than speak.
They are all for whom peace among the diverse array of faiths, ethnicities, cultures, age groups, genders, sexual orientations, socio-economic constituencies and political stripes is an imperative. The peacemakers are you and I.
Recently, we celebrated our festival of Pesach– our Jewish celebraton of freedom: the freedom to vote, travel, be educated, work and live where we choose, and raise our families with the love and caring they are due. Going forward into aviv – this time of spring, rebirth and renewal – may we commit ourselves to the freedom of peace; living in safe communities; facilitating tikkun – the healing of our world; living, working and learning alongside our neighbours in harmony and understanding; and knowing, from the moment we awake to that when we lie down to sleep – that our lives are enclosed within a comforting blanket of peace.
Menachem Begin, the late Prime Minister of Israel – who helped bring about peace between his country and her long-time adversaries, said:
Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth. Menachem Begin
The experience of my students in The Diary of Anne Frank helped – I only hope – that younger generation appreciate the desperate and ongoing need for peace, and the imperative of treating our fellow members of humanity with respect and love.
This is so much what our Pesach festival is about. This is what freedom is about. And what could be more worthy of celebration?