Peres explains why this Pessah is different from all others

The Egyptians are seeking their own way out of bondage, president tells top rabbis in traditional holiday visits.

President Peres with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar (photo credit: GPO)
President Peres with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar
(photo credit: GPO)
As has been his custom for several years, President Shimon Peres on Wednesday paid Pessah visits with Shas spiritual mentor and former Sephardi chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef and with the current Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger.
Peres makes a point of visiting Yosef and the chief rabbis during the High Holy Day season as well.
RELATED:Peres urges democracy following Egyptian revolutionPeres: I'm optimistic Gilad will return home alive
Peres has a special rapport with Yosef, whom he has known for many years. Their conversations have a certain intimacy that does not quite carry over to meetings that Peres has with other religious leaders.
The extent of their familiarity is such that they embrace whenever they meet, and Peres has frequently received one of the mild face slaps that is a sign of Yosef’s affection.
Yosef, who was first on the president’s list of calls, bestowed a warm blessing on his guest, the gist of which was: “You are loved above [in heaven] and are pleasant below [on earth]. I wish the president success in his role and bless all the people of Israel on this festival of Pessah.”
Peres updated Yosef on his meetings with US President Barack Obama, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the upper echelons of the US administration. The two men also discussed various developments in the Middle East.
Peres requested the assistance of all three rabbis in advancing peace and stability in the region and declared: “The rabbis have a significant and decisive part to play in the quest for peace. We must not allow the Israeli- Palestinian conflict to become the flag of hatred for Israel of the entire Arab world.”
Click for special Jpost Pessah featuresClick for special Jpost Pessah features
Peres added that this Pessah was different from others because this year the Egyptians themselves were attempting to exit the house of bondage.
Notwithstanding anti-Israel demonstrations by some of Egypt’s freedom-seekers, the ever-optimistic Peres wished the Egyptians well and voiced the hope that they would emerge from the hunger, shame and want that for so long have been part of their reality.
Both Yosef and Peres expressed a wish for peace and unity among the Jewish people.
When visiting the home of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Peres thanked him for his efforts to find a viable halachic solution to the problem of IDF conversions. “The stand you have taken and the endeavors you have made have been of great help to these soldiers who risk their lives in the defense of Israel,” Peres said.
The president praised Amar, telling him that what he did could be considered one of the most important measures taken in Israel over the past year.
“You have conveyed a positive spirit to our people, and I ask your blessing and your help for progress toward peace.”
Amar was equally flattering and told Peres that as president he was the symbol of beauty and refinement in his appearances throughout the world and in his conversations with world leaders.
“This is the way to show the beautiful face of Israel,” said Amar.
He reminded Peres that observant Jews pray for peace three times a day, and before reciting the prayer, each person takes three steps backward in the realization that something has to be ceded in order to achieve a greater good. He also explained that sometimes the three steps backward are taken in order to ascend to greater heights when moving forward – in other words, to make progress.
“We pray to our Creator that there should be peace in the world and peace among our people,” Amar said.
At his meeting with Metzger, Peres discussed ways to advance peace and stability in the region, but also talked about ways to strengthen the nation in terms of mutual respect and moral commitment.
Metzger, in addition to being the country’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, is the unofficial “foreign minister” of the Chief Rabbinate and, in addition to his frequent travels throughout the country, he also travels abroad to international seminars and Jewish communities.
He has been in close touch with the Schalit family and has joined them in their protest tent for prayers. He has also been very outspoken about Jonathan Pollard, and in a radio broadcast on the eve of Pessah urged Israeli families to invite the poor, the needy and the lonely to their Seder tables because food collections and distributions by charitable organizations were not commensurate with demand, and no Jew should have to spend Seder night alone.
Peres has had an extraordinarily varied few days. On the night before Pessah he was the guest of honor at a reception hosted by the Council for the Promotion of Israel-China relations. On Monday morning he visited the Schalits. On Wednesday he visited the rabbis in the morning, and in the evening, as he does every year, he was scheduled to open the Ein Gev Festival, a marathon of community singing that attracts thousands from all over the country.