We can’t just kvetch, we must also sing!

Friday, 3 May, 2024 - 11:54 am

It was a strange Pesach dynamic that we just finished this week. Against the backdrop of the hostages, the war in Israel, the assaults against Jews around the world, including in American “Institutions of Higher Learning,” and the cacophony of condemnation of Jews and Israel for daring to engage in self-defense, celebrating a festival of freedom seemed to be a stretch. As one Israel meme put it, “The Chag is not “sameach” and the Seder is not “beseder.”

On the other hand, we are a nation that celebrates our intrinsic freedom at the soul level for millennia, including under the most challenging of circumstances. Furthermore, the miracles of G-d’s protection throughout this war abound.  

So, we celebrated Pesach. We sat at the Seder. We ate the Shmurah Matzah and drink four cups of wine. We recited the passages in the Haggadah. The question is, did we do more kvetching or more singing? When we read V’hi She’amdah, reciting “in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand!” did we emphasize the first half of the sentence, or did we emphasize the second half?

On one hand, we should be wringing our hands over the vicious and vacuous protests that are taking place on college campuses around the country. (Tangent: It is high time for a serious conversation on the value our society ascribes to the “college experience.” If this is what our universities are producing, we may want to rethink the trillions invested. Instead of teaching young people how to be thinking and productive members of society, they are turned into mindless zombies, blindly following the social mores du jour, even when those values are immoral and destabilizing.)

On the other hand, have we talked enough about the amazing miracles that took place in response to Iranian attack. Each of the weapons they launched was capable of wreaking mass casualties and destruction. That every component of the missile defense system, including the assistance of the “friendly” neighboring countries, should go off without a hitch, is a miracle of the highest order. Experts in the field have observed that even 90% success would have been off the charts. Imagine the destruction that could have been caused by the remaining 10%. To quote the “paper of record” in 1967, “It is a miracle of Biblical proportions.”

We must not let our guard down, and we must valiantly triumph against the scourge of antisemitism. We must do everything within our power to win the war and bring the hostages home. We must also project positivity and remain focused on praising G-d for the miracles that He does for us.

We can’t just kvetch, we must also sing!

Earlier this week Mrs. Rosina Slater passed away. She was a holocaust survivor who lived in Israel for years and then moved to New Orleans, where she was a successful businesswoman for decades. Rosina did not have children. In 2018 she made a very significant gift to Torah Academy to ensure that Jewish children in New Orleans would have a place to receive an education based on Torah values. The school is now known as Slater Torah Academy. The students and alumni knew her as Bubby Rosina.

The Baal Shem Tov once instructed a childless couple to invest in the education of their Jewish community, quoting this verse from Isaiah 56:5, “I will give them in My house and in My walls “yad vashem” (commemoration), better than sons and daughters; an everlasting name I will give him, which will not be discontinued.”

Through the sweet sounds of children learning Torah in New Orleans, the memory of Rosina (Raizel bat Shlomo) will endure as a blessing in our community.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin    

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