'Next year we'll be in Jerusalem'

Opinion: Jonathan Feldstein shares his "liberating" Passover thoughts

 Jonathan Feldstein's neighborhood (photo credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Feldstein)
Jonathan Feldstein's neighborhood
(photo credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Feldstein)

On the day before the eve of Passover a week ago, while driving home from the fourth visit to the store in as many days, coming right up the road to my house, I had a cool thought. 

The stores were full and the streets were largely quiet. 

I realized that at that very moment, most of the people in these buildings, pictured all the way to Jerusalem in the background, were getting ready for Passover in one way or another. And the same was happening all over the world.

Millions of Jews all over the world were getting ready for Passover, getting ready to sit at our tables and Seder meals, recounting our liberation from slavery to freedom. It’s like one big wave of celebration beginning in New Zealand and Australia, and moving west. 

But in the days leading up to Passover, perhaps more than any other Jewish/Biblical holiday, there’s lots to do to get ready. It’s cool to think of us all doing so at the same time. At least I think so.

By the end of the day, I had my list for the things we still need from the store for the following day, the eve of Passover. For me, shopping is not just a matter of filling what needs to be purchased on the list to finish making the food for the holiday, it’s strategic. I got to the store very early, before the crowds with their last (or second to last) shopping. My list was compounded by the fact that my son in law and oldest grandson had corona, so they stayed at home and celebrated by themselves.  With them not able to go out, and my daughter 8 months pregnant, my wife has been cooking and I have been shopping for them.  

Being separated during the holidays is something we tried to avoid for the past two years.  Unfortunately it caught up with us. 

After I got home and unpacked my groceries, I had another cool thought.  It’s something that I have known forever, but tied to my realization while driving home.  Not only were we all getting ready for and observing Passover at the same time, but we’ve also been doing this for thousands of years.  That’s not rhetoric, that’s real. 

It goes back to the Exodus when Moses said, “Remember this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand.”  The Jewish people have been doing that ever since, in the Land of Israel and in our diaspora.  Even in the Holocaust, Jews did their best to follow this commandment. 

There’s a modern story that underscores that fact.

In 1947, David Ben-Gurion (who would become Israel’s first prime minister) testified before the UN Special Commission on Palestine. His words were simple yet profound, and affirmed not just this fact that the Jewish people have observed Passover for millennia, but our connection to the Land of Israel as well. 

“Three-hundred years ago, there came to the New World a boat, and its name was the Mayflower. The Mayflower’s landing on Plymouth Rock was one of the great historical events in the history of England and in the history of America. But I would like to ask any Englishman sitting here on the commission, what day did the Mayflower leave port? What date was it? I’d like to ask the Americans: do they know what date the Mayflower left port in England? How many people were on the boat? Who were their leaders? What kind of food did they eat on the boat?

“More than 3,300 years ago, long before the Mayflower, our people left Egypt, and every Jew in the world, wherever he is, knows what day they left. And he knows what food they ate. And we still eat that food every anniversary. And we know who our leader was. And we sit down and tell the story to our children and grandchildren in order to guarantee that it will never be forgotten. And we say our two slogans: ‘Now we may be enslaved, but next year, we’ll be a free people.'

“‘Now we’re scattered throughout the world, but next year, we’ll be in Jerusalem.’  There will come a day that we’ll come home to Zion, to the Land of Israel. That is the nature of the Jewish people.”

There’s one more cool thought that unites us.  

Not only were we doing this all at the same time but on the same biblically appointed day. For most non-Jews, the 14th of Nissan means nothing. But that’s the day that God told the Jewish people to get ready to leave Egypt. Then they had less time to prepare, but the fact that we are all doing this on the same day, at the same time, for thousands of years, still today, is just cool. 

Thank God, Ben-Gurion’s vision is a reality and there are countless communities like mine in which all the finishing touches and actual Passover celebration are happening at the same time, in the Land to which God brought us.  It wasn’t just liberation from Egypt, but He brought us to the Land of Israel. And here we are still, and forever. The sites, sounds and smells add dimension to all the festivities.   

It’s not my most profound thought that we’re all doing this together at the same time, and have done so for thousands of years, but it connects me and all of us to our past, and our collective destiny. 

Last week, I released the first of two podcasts discussing the significance of Passover for Christians, from a Jewish perspective.  This week I discussed with a panel of Christians who observe Passover why they do that and how it’s meaningful to them as Christians. 

As we say at the conclusion of the Passover seder, may we be privileged to celebrate next year in a fully rebuilt Jerusalem, at the same time, on the same day, and continue to connect us with our tradition and our people.