Passover 2022: A Ukraine Chabad rabbi's Exodus - opinion

How can matzah, made from the most simplistic of ingredients, be intertwined so profoundly with our faith and heritage?

 RABBI YOSSI GLICK accompanies two girls from the Chabad Ukraine Orphanage on a plane from Romania to Israel following their 22-hour train journey to Romania. (photo credit: RABBI YOSSI GLICK)
RABBI YOSSI GLICK accompanies two girls from the Chabad Ukraine Orphanage on a plane from Romania to Israel following their 22-hour train journey to Romania.
(photo credit: RABBI YOSSI GLICK)

If there ever was a year that we can experience the message of Passover, it is right now. Ukraine is in rubble, as the smoke billows from the carnage of destruction. A modern day Pharaoh is trying to enslave 43 million civilians because his hunger for power is insatiable.

What hope could the Exodus of Egypt which occurred 3,334 years ago possibly convey to the world today?

My dear friend and cousin, Rabbi Yossi Glick, director of the Girls Chabad Orphanage in Dnipro, Ukraine, stood for 22 hours on a train as he evacuated children who are no stranger to trauma on their journey to safety. There was absolutely no room for luggage or to salvage any remnants of the 25 years he and his family invested in Ukraine, yet his heart overflowed with gratitude to God that the children in his care were on their way to freedom.

Our lives in today’s society are full of complexity and sophistication. Sometimes, we lose track of what really matters. As we approach Passover, it may be difficult to appreciate a simple, handmade matzah as special. In a world where everything is automated, a humble recipe of flour and water, baked by hand, one piece at a time may seem too ordinary and antiquated to be exceptional. How can something made from the most simplistic of ingredients be intertwined so profoundly with our faith and heritage?

Its real simple. God teaches us that life does not need any additives or preservatives. It’s about what really counts, the most primitive ingredients of flour and water, or in all our relationships, pure commitment and appreciation, whether it be for God, family, friends or community.

 A Ukranian serviceman walks past the wreck of a Russian tank in the village of Lukyanivka outside Kyiv, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, Ukraine, March 27, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/MARKO DJURICA) A Ukranian serviceman walks past the wreck of a Russian tank in the village of Lukyanivka outside Kyiv, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, Ukraine, March 27, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/MARKO DJURICA)

 So, when Rabbi Yossi Glick’s train pulled up at the station in Romania, although his physical belongings were left behind, his pure resolve to fill the vacuum in the hearts of the most vulnerable and marginalized victims of the war was as resolute as Moses with his outstretched arm over the Red Sea, leading the Israelites to a brave new beginning.

Each and every one of us can be a modern day Moses, despite a Red Sea of challenges that may seem insurmountable to cross over. All we need is a pure realization that God is hugging each of us tight. We are in this world to make a difference, and each and every mitzvah that we do asserts our freedom that no Pharaoh can possibly stifle.

On April 15 after nightfall, we all have the ability to connect to the same God who saved our ancestors of old by eating matzah – the same bread which sustained us 3,334 years ago and will sustain us now, as we leap, plunge, and charge forward, leaving the shackles and servitude of yesterday behind us.

The writer, a rabbi, is director of Chabad of Columbus, Ohio.