Passover and America

By Bruce Karasik

The story of Passover has been told for over 3,000 years. Passover commemorates the Hebrews’ (Israelites’) Exodus from bondage and slavery in Egypt.  The English word “Passover” comes from the Hebrew word Pesach, meaning to “pass over.”  God “passed over” the houses of the Jews when God slayed every firstborn in Egypt during the last and final plague he inflicted on them.  Jews were slaves for hundreds of years and the holiday Passover tells the story of how God took the Jews out of Egypt and led them to their freedom. 

The significance of the Israelites Exodus from Egypt ultimately led them to Mount Sinai where God gave the Jews the Ten Commandments and the Torah. The Exodus led to God revealing himself to an entire people, it led to the concept of ethical monotheism, and led to the Israelites being freed from suffering, bondage, and religious persecution. From the Hand of God, the Israelites were given the gift of freedom and the responsibility to spread the word of Torah, the law and the values of the one true God and to be a blessing to the world. These events changed world history. 

Thousands of years later and half-way around the globe, facing religious persecution and persecution from the King of England, freedom was once again challenged. Led by George Washington, American colonies fought the Revolutionary war, defeating England, the most powerful nation in the world. As a result, the United States of America was born.

When the great seal of the United States was being designed, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and others had proposed ideas for the seal. In August of 1776, Benjamin Franklin proposed a scene from the “Exodus of the Israelites” to be the design of the United States great seal. “Moses standing on the Shore and extending his Hand over the Sea, thereby causing the sea to overwhelm Pharaoh who is sitting in an open Chariot.”  Franklin then wrote “motto: Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”  Benjamin Franklin saw the great parallels between the Exodus of the Israelites to the founding of America. Founded mostly by religious Christians, America became a place where Jews have prospered and have been freer to practice their religion and tell the story of Passover than in any other place in history. 

Today, with the exception of Israel, more Jews live in America than anywhere in the world. This freedom has resulted in Jews contributing to areas of the Arts, Science, Psychology, Politics, Law and Medicine and more, far exceeding their proportion in numbers. America is the place where Jews have been free to contribute, create and influence. Jewish values and American values have always been united in their commitment to freedom and liberty. 

Since the founding of America and continuing still today, religious Christians are the biggest supporters of Jews and Israel. These Judeo-Christian values shared by Jews and Christians around the world are the guiding light to freedom.  Like the Passover story, the American story and the founding of America and the continuing American way of life has always been connected to freedom for its people and for millions of others around the world. 3,400 years later, Jews still tell the story of Passover, the Exodus and the law given to Moses and the Jewish People.  Because of these events, Jews and maybe even more so, Christians, have since spread the Torah and ethical monotheism to the world.

Whether it be an Israelite in Ancient Egypt, an American citizen in 1776 or in 2021, the right to be free is the central theme of Passover. With that freedom comes a responsibility to live up to a code of morality brought by the one true God to a small group of people thousands of years ago on Mount Sinai. The idea that Jews will be celebrating a holiday that commemorates an event that took place 3,000 years ago is miraculous in itself. Trying to comprehend and understand the effect that the Exodus and the law given to the Hebrews at Mount Sinai has had on mankind, one can only conclude that there was divine intervention.  

This year, Passover begins on the eve of March 27th bringing about a message of freedom, hope and optimism.  The story of the Exodus from Egypt will continue to be passed down from generation to generation by a people made up of different races, ethnicities and countries of origin. Whether we are called Jews, Israelites or Hebrews, we are a people united by a common religion, common values, a covenant with God, and a book filled with eternal wisdom called the Torah. The story of Passover is traditionally observed year after year to ensure that it will forever be remembered by those who come afterwards.  

Those who are Jewish and living in America are truly blessed to be living here.  It is America that has bestowed such blessings and freedom to the Jewish people. All Americans can show their gratitude and preserve our great nation by doing what Jews have been doing for over 3,000 years.  We can tell our children the story of our founding and share the wisdom of our Constitution. 

May God continue to bless America, Americans, and the Jewish people. Happy Passover!