One of the most controversial passages in the Passover Haggadah and—for some Jews the most embarrassing—is the call for God to “Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge You, and upon the kingdoms that do not call up Your name.” This part of the telling of the Exodus story occurs right after the Grace after Meals and the drinking of the third of four cups of wine. We open the door of our homes and call upon God to curse the enemies of the Jewish people, enemies who “have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation.” We then sing for Elijah the prophet to usher in the redemption of the Jewish people. We close the door and the Seder continues.
Should this portion of the Haggadah be omitted as the vestige of medieval malevolence on behalf of Jews toward non-Jews? Does this only reflect a reality of centuries ago when Jews were struggling with Jew haters who persecuted them? In an epoch when we hope for a messianic age of universal brotherhood is not this passage tribal and anti-social? Should God really bring down His anger on all non-Jews for not accepting Him as the one true God? In an America, where Jews want to integrate and emphasize what unites all Americans, is not this passage the epitome of political incorrectness?
I believe that this passage of “Pour out Your wrath” is as relevant today as it was five hundred or a thousand years ago. Today, more than ever, we need the support of God in defeating our enemies. What we are enduring today is the worst anti-Semitism worldwide since World War II and the Shoah. To call for God to “pursue our enemies with anger, and destroy them from beneath the heavens of the Lord” is more appropriate than ever. The Jewish State faces forces that want to destroy it: Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and a nuclear Iran. Not only is the State of Israel threatened but Jews all over the world are vulnerable to attack. In the US, young Jews are intimidated on college campuses by faculty and students who hate Israel and create a hostile environment of BDS against the Jewish State. But not only are Jews targeted but Western civilization is facing threats. This is a time of crisis with real enemies we must face. What better time to call on God to eradicate the enemies of the Jewish people?
The Exodus was both an act of fury and an act of compassion. While the Ten Plagues were meant to punish the Egyptians for their enslavement of our ancestors, they were also proof of God’s power to a slave people who never believed they would be redeemed. God heard the cries of the enslaved and saw their suffering. Out of an act of love and promise He redeemed the lowly people. The angry God Who pours out His Wrath is a God pursuing justice for His people. God cannot simply be a God of love and compassion. To preserve His chosen people He must engage that people’s enemies. There are times to “turn the other cheek” and forgive. But there are times we must recognize evil and destroy it. It is tragic that only 70 years after Auschwitz there is so much hate of Jews in the world. But the divine response is to pour at anger and destroy those who want to destroy us. “Pour out Your wrath” may embarrass those Jews who want to wallow in victimhood. But for those who want to survive, thrive, and be victorious it is necessary.