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Since May 2014, I have written over 1,200 articles, totaling almost 1 million words. That is in addition to over 100 videos produced before that time. I cannot fathom how much time I have dedicated to this effort.
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The site’s name, “First One Through”, is in honor of two biblical characters, Nachshon Ben Amindav and Calev Ben Yefuneh. Nachshon is credited with being the first person to enter the Reed Sea before it split open allowing all the Children of Israel to pass through. Calev was the first person to speak up in defense of the land of Israel, when ten spies reported that claiming their inheritance was too difficult. Each person took action in the face of an obstacle to advance the community.
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The annual Chanukah tradition of tasting sufganiyut (filled donuts) at local bakeries returned us to Brooklyn this year. We decided to focus on Flatbush and Williamsburg, and skipped the usual run in Boro Park. Below are the bakeries we went to in order, in case anyone would like to replicate the tour.
Ostrovitsky’s, 1124 Avenue J
Our first stop was Ostrovitsky’s which scored well in prior visits. Unfortunately, the selection this year was beautiful but not good. The flavors looked great – Hazelnut, Napolean, Lotus, Oreo, Chocolate Mousse and Rosemary – but the dough tasted like it was a few days old. The filling flavor was still good but the amount of filling was very different depending on which donut we sampled (yes, we taste everything).
Pomegranate Supermarket, 1507 Coney Island Ave
We made an exception for the strictly bakery locations for Pomegranate, because of the store’s great reputation. There were basic flavors to try – jelly, chocolate, custard and caramel – and the jelly was really great. Dough was light and tasty and just the right amount of jelly and flavor. The $4.00 each for non-fancy seemed steep, but they were good.
Sesame, 1540 Coney Island Ave.
Sesame was packed as usual with a line to get in the store (and Chanukah didn’t even start until that evening!) The bakery always has a great assortment of flavors and they are usually terrific. This year, we found the dough and filling excellent once again, however a bit sweeter than past years. We are biased towards flavor over sugar, and this year, there was a complete lack of subtlety. Pistachio is always a favorite but now it comes complete with a sugar rush. We tried hazelnut and peanut this year too, and picked up a couple dozen for people in our neighborhood who crave them.
Taste of Israel, 1322 Avenue M
We heard good things about TOI but were then told that they only took pre-orders. We may stop by again next Sunday.
Schreiber’s Homestyle Bakery, 3008 Avenue M
Schreiber’s simply has the best lace cookies so we go every year. While not a complicated dessert, they have a great crispiness in a single layer and a generous dipping of excellent chocolate. Make sure to pick some up along with the sufganiyut.
The majority in the store are pareve. They have pre-boxed assortments and we picked up a few to bring to a dinner party (see below). The dairy ones which we ate on the spot had amazing dough – very light and tasty. Please go to the back to pick these up. The strawberry had the perfect amount of filling and also a really nice light flavor. The cheese was a little too light on flavor.
We took a short break to watch the World Cup finals and got to see the end of the second period of extra time and the shootout with Argentina beating France. I’m not sure how many families watched the end of the amazing 2022 game in a hair salon in the middle of a Chanukah donut crawl, but to those who did – wasn’t it great?
Oneg Bakery, 188 Lee Avenue
We drove to Williamsburg which is a hike I do not recommend. If you are going to the neighborhood anyway, that’s fine but not together with Flatbush which can be 45 minutes away.
Oneg is rightfully famous for its heavy babka, among the best in the world. They are huge at $45 for a half and $90 for a whole. We actually get the large and cut it into three, as they freeze well.
The store is very small and old school. The donuts aren’t fancy but the classic jelly was excellent, maybe only slightly behind Pomegranate’s in terms of flavor and consistency of filling.
Black and White Bakery, 520 Park Ave
B&W was a real disappointment. We had a good experience there in the past, and the chocolate horn was indeed very good. However, the donuts are too expensive ($6.50), almost all dairy, and lacking a variety of taste. Every donut seemed to have the same cheese filling, just with a different topping. While the toppings were attractive, they lacked in flavor. On the plus side, you can davenmincha at the Yeshivat Viznitz around the corner with over 100 Satmar students.
Below is the ranking for this year’s donut crawl. If you visit, please tell them about the review on the blog First One Through. As Chanukah covers two weekends this year, we are likely to make a second run next weekend, possibly visiting Boro Park and Crown Heights bakeries.
The world population just passed 8 billion according to the United Nations. It took just twelve years to add the last one billion people, the fastest pace ever. Due to the lower fertility rates among western countries, the U.N. projects it will take 15 years to reach the 9 billion level.
With such milestone, it is an opportune time to address a question which arises in various situations: How many Jews?
The Jewish population figure depends on many factors. Jews are a people as much as followers of a faith. Some Jews do not consider themselves of any faith or Jewish, even while other Jews might still consider these atheists and agnostics to be Jewish by ancestry. Further, Jews historically tracked their faith through their mothers, but some denominations have taken to using patrilineal descent as well, inflating the total.
According to the Jewish Agency for Israel, as of 2022, the total Jewish population stood at 15.3 million. That comes to roughly 0.2% of the global population.
Top 25 countries with Jews. The 17 countries with over 25,000 Jews is half of the 34 countries with that total in 1948, at the founding of Israel.
Jews in Israel / Palestine
Roughly 46.2% of global Jewry resides in Israel today, now that Israel has an open policy for admitting Jews. It was not always that way.
Palestinian Arabs sought to limit the number of Jews entering the region after the San Remo Agreement of 1920 which codified the 1917 Balfour Declaration. Several Arab pogroms slaughtered Jews in the 1920’s, with the British administrators using extreme measures against the Jewish victims. In 1929, the British expelled all of the Jews from Hebron after the Arabs slaughtered 69 Jews. A few years later during the multi-year 1936-9 Arab riots, the British capped Jewish immigration to the region at 75,000 people over five years, just as the European Holocaust was beginning. It enabled the deaths of over 100,000 European Jews.
During the Arab-Israeli War of 1948-9, the Transjordanian army ethnically cleansed all of the Jews from Judea and Samaria and the eastern portion of Jerusalem. It destroyed the synagogues and then gave Jordanian citizenship to everyone in the illegally seized lands, as long as they weren’t Jews.
No one mentions the Holocaust without mentioning the number of Jews who were murdered. The commonly used round figure is 6 million, of which roughly 1 million were children.
Anti-Semites don’t like that number. Some haters like David Irving question whether the Holocaust happened, while others like Richard Verrall say that the number of Jews killed was far lower than the 6 million. Many Holocaust deniers face jail time as countries like Germany understand virulent anti-Semitism and where it leads. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance was a working definition of anti-Semitism which has been adopted by many countries, which includes denying the scope of the Holocaust as one of it criteria. Trivializing the number and event can be considered a hate crime.
Jews in Power
People like to count Jews in positions of power. The refrain that Jews run the entertainment industry and media runs from the mouths of many people, most recently, comedian Dave Chappelle who said “I’ve been to Hollywood and this was just what I saw. It’s a lot of Jews. Like, a lot.“
The myth of Jewish power sometimes escapes numbers. If there are few Jews in congress or the State Department, anti-Semites argue that Jews control the government through money or extortion. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour said that U.S. politicians have “to profess sort of fealty, or at least pay homage, to AIPAC“, the pro-Israel lobbying organization. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) said that “Israel has hypnotized the world,” while her colleague Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) told fellow radical anti-Semitic progressives that Jews are the power behind “the curtain… who make money off of racism.”
Too Many Jewish Neighbors
Some countries and communities don’t need an actual count of Jews. They know that any is too many.
For centuries, European countries and cities penned their Jews into ghettoes. Russia banned Jews from living in 75% of the country and hemmed them into an area called the Pale of Settlement.
Some countries expelled all Jews including England in 1290, Spain in 1492, and Portugal in 1497. Muslim countries including Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq and Egypt made life impossible for Jews after Israel’s founding, forcing one million Jews to flee – almost the entirety of the Jews in the Arab world. Today, there are more Jews in tiny anti-Semitic Belgium than in the entire Muslim and Arab world.
Summary of Anti-Semitic Jew Counters
Anti-Semites can be grouped into two categories: “Counting Anti-Semites”, who see Jews everywhere as taking over neighborhoods and industries unfairly; and “Curtain Anti-Semites”, who cannot count many Jews but assume they are controlling the world as evil puppet masters.
The Counting Anti-Semites don’t want to see Jews Judaizing communities, whether in Jersey City, Mahwah or Jerusalem. Curtain Anti-Semites, like Rep. Louis Farrakhan, rouse the masses with fictitious blood libels and wild conspiracy theories against society.
All anti-Semites hate Jews and count them. If the haters determine that there are many Jews, those Counting Anti-Semites riot and seek laws and resolutions to curb where the overt Jews can live and work. If anti-Semites cannot count many Jews, those Curtain Anti-Semites spew hateful manifestos, citing forgeries like The Protocols of the Elders Of Zion and Hitler’s Mein Kampf about covert Jews. Some – like the Palestinian political-terrorist group Hamas – are grand wizards of both Counting and Curtain Anti-Semites, but leave the lobbying work to the “moderate” Palestinian group Fatah.
The FBI produces a comprehensive list of hate crimes each year. It breaks down the hate crime both by victim as well as perpetrator, and an examination of the data can yield important findings about trends in certain groups as victims and as offenders.
The numbers change each year but typically within a natural band. If the data suddenly jumps by an unusual amount, it would suggest that a terrible spike (or fortunate decline) has happened for some reason, or that the data is bad.
In reviewing the 2020 data for hate crimes, a huge jump in the number of crimes against the LGBT community seems to have occurred (+57% from 2019). Digging through the numbers further shows that the spike relates to crimes against lesbians (+619%) while crimes against gays declined by 11%. The jump in the numbers was completely attributable to anti-lesbian attacks by White people (+1465%, jumping from 142 attacks to 1,021), while anti-lesbian attacks by Black attackers fell 11%.
Is it possible that anti-lesbian attacks by White people which had annual totals of between 51 and 94 between 2004 and 2019 suddenly spiked in 2020 to 939 the way that the FBI numbers state? It seems highly unlikely to have happened in the same year that anti-gay and anti-lesbian attacks by Black people both declined by 11%.
The FBI is an important source of information about hate crimes, but it loses credibility when it fails to flag and revisit an errant data point, such as its statistic about White people attacking lesbians in 2020. Hopefully the FBI will check its data and either correct it or explain why such a big change happened.
One of the most contentious matters in politics is election integrity. Democrats and Republicans continue to trade accusations about the 2020 presidential results, with Republicans contending that there were fake votes and Democrats pointing to the January 6th riot at the US Capitol Building which attempted to negate the election results.
Four years earlier, the attacks on the presidential results were from Democrats against Russia, claiming that it used social media platforms to sway American voters. A multi-year investigation netted 13 Russians and three Russian agencies as being involved in election tampering. In response to the accusation, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “Maybe they’re not even Russians. Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship. Or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don’t know.“
The American Jewish Committee said in response to the Putin slur that Jews were “behind U.S. election meddling is eerily reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He should clarify his comments at the earliest opportunity.” “Clarify?” Really? What a pathetic comment to the anti-Semitic libel.
The leading Democrats in Congress – Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) – focused on Putin’s refusal to extradite the Russians with a letter to President Donald Trump to use all means to get the Russians to stand trial. The Democrats ignored the anti-Semitic smear entirely. Anti-Semitism is so ingrained in society, that three leading Jewish politicians didn’t condemn it.
Now in 2022, the leading liberal newspaper, The New York Times, also accused Jewish groups for interfering in US congressional elections. On July 19 the Times wrote a piece before primaries “What to Watch in Tuesday’s Primary Election in Maryland.” The article stated that Jews were “meddling” in the primaries of a “largely Black middle-class” district.
In liberal circles, teacher unions, women’s rights groups and liberal anti-Zionist organizations like the Open Society have a right to engage in lobbying. But not Jews. Certainly not Zionists. They are dishonest foreigners preying on minorities.
Political leaders and the media are openly resuscitating old Jewish libels, painting Jews as nefarious actors, not to be trusted. Much like supporters of boycotting Israel are Hamas’s willing executioners of the Jewish State, the largest public platforms are coming for the Jews.
The Supreme Court voted to overturn the 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade, putting the issue of abortion to each state to decide. In the coming months and years, lobbyists and legislators will lob arguments as they listen to constituents on the rights of women and the unborn. Extremists will win the day in both deep blue and red states, while purple ones may find compromise positions.
The extreme wings are fortified with devotees of deeply-held dogma. Religious conviction will drive some to seek the banning of abortion at the very moment of conception, when the potential life is simply a cluster of cells. The religion without deity has christened the desire of a woman supreme, and push legislation to permit abortion for any reason until the very moment of birth.
Both positions are nonsensical and harmful.
A cluster of cells is just that. Women likely have monthly periods that pass as much without notice. The mass has neither brain nor heart, so the basis of calling the coagulation “life” seems as silly and mundane as “What is a Woman?” To deprive women the right to manage their lives early in pregnancy is invasive and draconian.
At the other extreme, to sanction infanticide before a baby is born, is to legalize and bless the murder of the innocent. Even pro-Choice people say that if an eight-month pregnant woman dies in a car accident, doctors should save the fetus. They therefore admit that the fetus is an actual life worth saving, at least once the mother’s desire is no longer a factor. Such flawed reasoning could permit a mother to kill her two-year old if her finances or relationship become impaired (the main reasons for having an abortion are about bad timing, and financial or relationship difficulties according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute).
Each side protests that their cause is just. The desires to protect a woman and the infant are noble as each party is worthy of protection. And rights.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 95% of abortions occur during the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. Roughly 4.1% occur between weeks 16 and 20, and 1.3% happen after the 21st week. Using 2017 data suggests that approximately 11,200 abortions in the US were late term. To put the late term abortion statistic in perspective, in 2018, there were 19,660 deaths among children 1-19. The leading causes were motor vehicle accidents (20%), firearms (15%) and cancer (9%). In other words, the number of late term abortions in the US far exceeds the number of deaths for all children under 20 years old from car accidents, firearms and cancer COMBINED.
While there is not a large recent comprehensive study on who gets these late term abortions and why, there was a study conducted between 2008 and 2010 and published in 2013 on this very issue. It reported that “data suggest that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment. (emphasis added)” More specifically, it added that “Most women seeking later abortion fit at least one of five profiles: They were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous.”
The Bizarre Contradictory Liberal Laws of New York State
New York has some of the most left-wing laws in the country. When it comes to protecting the very young, recent laws have been enacted that are at odds with each other.
In August 2018, the state passed a law banning smoking in any facility that provides child care services. Governor Andrew Cuomo said at the time that “the dangers of secondhand smoke are indisputable and we must do everything in our power to protect children.” Other people in the State Assembly added that “second and third-hand smoke is a detriment the development of our kids.“
Five months later, Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act which decriminalized abortion at any time for any reason. The act specifically removed the killing of an “unborn child with which a female has been pregnant for more than twenty-four weeks” from the definition of a homicide. Somehow, the danger of secondhand smoke are “indisputable” but the targeted killing of a fully viable fetus is not a “detriment to its development.”
Most Americans are very disturbed by late term abortions. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 77% of people believe that an abortion should be illegal in the third trimester if the rationale is a woman’s wishes / “choice”, although attitudes flip if the mother’s life is in danger. In the May 2022 polling, the favorability of banning abortions jumped from 27% to 55% to 71% during the first, second and third trimester, respectively.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling was thrown out because the Supreme Court justices concluded that there wasn’t a constitutional right to the procedure and pushed each state to decide for itself how to handle the matter. Now the states must consider the rights of the unborn and of women, and whether they change based on time and circumstances. Citizens in states like New York should look to the original Roe decision that they celebrated, and pressure the legislature to adopt Roe’s delineation of fetal viability, and repeal the repeals that the far-left extremists enacted just a few years ago.
The nation has been in the throws of being pulled apart for several years now and the abortion map may set the borders of the Mason-Dixon Plaid for years to come.
In 1478, the rulers of Spain sought to consolidate their power and establish a society free of undesirable elements. Under the flag of the Catholic Church, the Spanish kingdom sought out “heretics,” principally Jews, as well as Muslims and Protestants. They used inquisitors who questioned people’s beliefs, giving them a choice of converting to Catholicism, expulsion or death. Over 200,000 Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, tens of thousands were killed and thousands more converted from Judaism. Portugal followed a similar course in 1497, and both countries enforced the Inquisition in their colonies in the Americas well into the 19th century.
Universities are using a similar tactic against Jewish Zionists today in the Campus Inquisition.
Jews are being singled out by student groups and governments to understand their positions about Israel. At McGill University in Canada, people called for a Jewish student to resign if she traveled to Israel. A Jewish student applying to a Student Council Judicial Board at UCLA was rejected after being asked “Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?” The Jewish student government president at USC was harassed with a campaign to “impeach [my] Zionist a**” after people found out she was a Zionist. San Francisco State excluded the Jewish group Hillel from a school information fair.
These same schools do not ask Chinese students if they support the Chinese persecution of Uyghurs. They do not ask Iranian students if they support hanging gays. They do not ask Saudi students if they support killing minors or bombing Yemenis. They don’t even think of asking Turkish students how they feel about Turkey jailing journalists, nor do they demand that Sudanese students be expelled from groups if they don’t condemn female genital mutilation prevalent in Sudan.
Campus groups only demand that Jewish students state their position about Israel, not the tens of thousands of non-Jewish Zionist students. It is blatant anti-Semitism in targeting only Jews and only the Jewish State for inquiry.
The university system has adopted an outrageous false narrative as a tenet of the new woke religion, that Israel engages in “apartheid, genocide and war crimes” (City University of New York) in promoting “white supremacy Jewry” (University of Illinois-Urbana) based on colonialism, stating “Israel in its inception is not a Jewish idea but a European one” (University of Wisconsin). This extremist progressive-socialist-BlackLivesMatter-Muslim cancel Jewish culture on campus has inverted the Jewish victims of white supremacy, to be the evil architects of racism in a re-launch of the debunked “Zionism is racism” campaign of the 1970’s. They are demanding that Jews be purged from their safe havens on campuses and in their homeland in the Middle East.
In the Campus Inquisition, heresy is defined as believing Jews are a people, indigenous to the land of Israel, who have a natural right to live free of persecution, with self-determination in their homeland. The new inquisitors demand that Jews either denounce such belief and become “good Jews” like those in the anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace, or be banned from society.
Approximately 550 years after the Catholic church ethnically cleansed the Jewish community from the Iberian Peninsula, universities are unleashing a new Inquisition to root out Jewish Zionists. And just like the anti-Semitic tormentors of yesteryear, today’s inquisitors wrap themselves in the shroud of a perceived higher calling, ridding society of the small and most persecuted ancient people.
As Passover, Easter and Ramadan all fell at the same time this year, the religious tensions and harmony in Israel came into sharper focus.
Muslims have a history of keeping sites it considers holy intact, even if holy – let alone holier – to non-Islamic faiths. In contrast, they have shown complete disregard for non-Islamic sites that are sacred and important to other faiths.
On April 10, 2022, Palestinian Arabs vandalized the Tomb of Joseph, one of the principle ancestors of the Jews. They smashed the Jewish tomb and set fires to a few rooms in what Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said was a “frenzy of destruction” as Palestinian rioters “simply vandalised a holy place for us, the Jews.”
But the Islamists kept the site intact as they considered the site sacred.
The government of Israel had given religious control of the Jewish Temple Mount to the Jordanian Waqf after it reunited Jerusalem in 1967. The Waqf has banned Jewish prayer at Judaism’s holiest site, it blatant disregard of Jews’ basic human rights.
But the Islamists kept the site intact as they considered the site sacred.
In Hebron, Muslims appropriated the Cave of the Jewish Matriarchs and Patriarchs which houses six of the seven forebears of the Jewish people. Muslims call the site the “Ibrahami Mosque,” as they venerate Abraham as the father of Ishmael, the forefather of Arabs. When Muslims controlled the site, they banned Jews from entering the building or even climbing above the seventh step to Judaism’s second holiest site. Israel took control of the site in 1967 after Jordan attacked Israel, and has since divided the holy site into times and sections for both Islamic and Jewish prayer, to the chagrin of Arabs.
But at least the Islamists kept the site intact while they controlled it, as they considered the site sacred.
Jewish history and sacred sites in their holy land has often been destroyed if the location held no religious value to the non-Jews. Last year, the Palestinian Authority demolished part of Joshua’s alter on Mount Ebal in Area B under Palestinian Authority control. On the Jewish Temple Mount, the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement conducted illegal renovations and disposed of over 9,000 tons of dirt mixed with invaluable archaeological artifacts which the Temple Mount Sifting Project has been painstakingly sorting even though the objects are no longer in situ.
The Kotel may only be in existence today because Islamists considered it the “al-Buraq Wall.”
The Jewish State has done its utmost to respect the history and sanctity of Jewish and non-Jewish locations throughout the holy land. However, Islamists destroyed and vandalized sites significant to other faiths that they do not value, while seeking exclusive control and rights of the religious sites that they appropriated from Jews.
The Islamist scars in the holy land have left Jewish sites destroyed where viewed as un-Islamic, or appropriated within their Islamic religion, and banned for Jewish prayer.
A young Abraham Lincoln wrote his first significant speech in January 1838, which has been called the Lyceum Address. In it, he bemoaned the mayhem that had taken over American society and offered thoughts on how it came to be that people had turned on each other in lynching mobs. The words ring out as true today:
“the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice.“
When Lincoln penned his speech, he considered the fact that the generation of the American Revolutionary War was dying out. Those patriots which had fought against the British to obtain the nation’s freedom had almost disappeared. That multi-year war touched every family with dead or injured fathers, sons and brothers, with each carrying their scars into that present moment. But as “the silent artillery of time” was cutting down the survivors, and whittling the “forest of mighty oaks” of history, people lost their connection to that particular shared past. The new generation took the blessings of freedom lightly and asserted the desires of self over the shared responsibilities and common wounds of collective society. Passions born of a common history had served the nation well but those days have come to an end. “Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy.”
A breakdown of societal order and bond between people ensued, leading to chaos.
Lincoln’s approach to the dire situation of the infighting between Americans was to abandon passion for “Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason…. and a reverence for the constitution and laws.” Without the immediate link to the past, society’s passions would run wild, and therefore required an adherence to laws under which everyone was bound to maintain the peace.
Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik admired the Lyceum Address but believed Lincoln reached the wrong conclusion. While abiding by laws is indeed required for social order, the historic connection to the past should never be abandoned, and passion, well-placed, is an important human trait and good.
The Passover Haggadah highlights the Jewish approach to maintaining the connection to the past, recognizing the birth of a nation finding freedom, and fostering a people’s passion into the future.
The Bible instructs Jews repeatedly to “tell their children and grandchildren” (Exodus 10:2, 12:26; 13:8; 13:14; Deuteronomy 11:19; Joshua 4:6; Joel 1:3) about the night of freedom, when God took the Children of Israel out of bondage on a path to the land of their inheritance.
Lord Jonathan Sachs expanded on this biblical directive and how it manifests itself in the Haggadah used at the Passover seder, that the method of recounting that story does not use the Bible as its immediate source sheet. Instead, the Haggadah is a text assembled over centuries, and includes “Hillel in the days of the Second Temple, the second-century sages at their seder in Benei Brak, the teachings of the Amora’im of the third and later centuries, poems by Yannai and Kalir from the post-Talmudic period, an addition from Ashkenaz provoked by the terrible sufferings of the First Crusade, and children’s songs from medieval Germany. Every word we say has a history.” Each generation reflected on the Passover story, giving a link through time to that midnight of disembarkation 3,300 years ago.
Time has muted the voices of a hundred generations past, but today we can imagine ourselves walking the desert sands while simultaneously instilling in our children that WE are critical links in and to that common history.
Laws of The Freedom Fighters
The story of the American Revolution is not the same as the Passover story. America’s story was forged with the vision and blood of American patriots who broke with the British monarchy to establish a democracy with new laws for its citizens to both protect it from the new government and establish a system to maintain a civil society. In contrast, on Passover, it was God who saved the Jews from the hands of the Egyptians and gave them new laws to live by.
Rabbi Shmuel Greenberg notes that the matzoh that we eat on Passover is the bread of slaves. Eating it together with bitter herbs is a reminder of being slaves to Egyptians, while eating it with the pascal lamb reminds us that the new lord is a benevolent one, the God who took people out of bondage and gave them commandments to live by.
A Modern Breakdown In Common History and Law
As in the days of Lincoln, we are living in a society that feels broken, with mobs angrily fighting each other, mass shootings, and people with whom we disagree run out of careers and society. Swaths of the country do not trust the government or the media, so bind themselves into small fiefdoms. Perhaps it is from years suffering from the human losses from COVID, the emotional tolls of lockdowns, and the evaporation of savings as inflation robs people of security.
But it may also be from the loss (abandonment?) of our common history. The ‘1619 Project’ and ‘Critical Race Theory’ advance a proposition that while “all men are created equal”, they do not share a common history. America was birthed with Black slavery with Africans dragged to the new world in chains. The makeup of society today includes immigrants and their descendants from around the world, not just the descendants from Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries.
To account for these facts, pubic school boards have started to require new curricula to teach about various ethnicities and countries around the world. Tragically, in some cases, the remarkable birth of America is being watered down, eliminated and/or vilified as poison at inception, a product of a racist White patriarchy advancing imperialism and capitalism. Not only do some schools advance that narrative of history, but argue that those systems continue to exist today and require new laws of “restorative justice” for certain groups. Not only does this approach break with celebrating a common past, but it argues we must have different laws for different groups today, including a seizure and redistribution of wealth from old White European colonizers to newer, darker colonizers.
The efforts deliberately pit members of society against each other.
America and Judaism on History and Law
To Lincoln nearly 200 years ago, the loss of the connection and appreciation of the nation’s founding may have been the beginning of the end. Unmoored from a common past, he believed society became vulnerable as a collection of competing strangers living in close proximity. His belief that history was a story of discrete generations left nothing but law to bind a nation.
The Passover Haggadah takes a different approach. History is taught as a continuous chain that must be strengthened at least once a year. The anchor of nationhood is the birth of freedom, and the seder is for remembering that fateful night AND how our parents, grandparents and ancestors also recounted that momentous day, and how that freedom came together with common laws.
Freedom, law and history are both tools and criteria to connect society in peace and harmony. The Passover Haggadah is such touchstone that encapsulates each of these principles separately and collectively, as millions of people sit at tables – apart but together – around the world.
Hopefully it will bring all of us a renewed sense of brotherhood and peace.