Singing and believing - Pesach

Friday, 19 April, 2024 - 4:28 am

I am resending as the second day holiday timing was omitted by oversight.

I figured that I may share something else that was shared with me. I asked a ninety year old Jewish person living near Bangkok if he would share his earliest Pesach memory with me. Here is what he shared:

I remember being at my Grandparent’s apartment in London because of the German bombing raids on London.  All children were evacuated to the countryside in fear of a German invasion.

I was 9 years old when we were all evacuated.  My mother said we were nearer to the Germans than she was!

I ended up at a farm for safety and all of this did not do that much for any Jewish studies although I have to be thankful to Hashem that me and my family survived at all!

Another weird fact is that I ended up in the British Army as a Lieutenant in British Armed Forces in Egypt at the Suez Canal!

Thank you for your interest in all this Rabbi!

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Are you a ‘lamenter’ who sings?

Or a ‘singer’ who laments?

Unusual question?

Isn’t this the time period to ask questions?

I have managed to ask four questions within the first few lines of my article, make sure to ask THE Four Questions this Monday night at your Passover Seder.

Yep, it’s that season of liberation. I can almost taste the crunchy matzah, imagine the feelings of giddiness after four cups of wine. And of course, the traditional melodies that accompany Pesach ring in my ears.

Click here to hear the ‘golden oldie’ tune for ‘Vehi Sheamda’.

וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵיֽנוּ וְלָנֽוּ. שֶׁלֹא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד, עָמַד עָלֵיֽנוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנֽוּ. אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר, עוֹמְדִים עָלֵיֽנוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנֽוּ. וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם

Vehi She’amda, La’avotainu Velanu Shelo  Echad Bilvad, Amad  Aleinu Lechaloteinu Ela Sheb’chol Dor VaDor Omdim Aleinu Lechaloteinu V’HaKadosh Baruch Hu Matzilenu Miyadam.

And this ( Hashem’s blessings and the  Torah) is what kept our fathers and what keeps us surviving. For, not only one arose and tried to destroy us, rather in every generation they try to destroy us, and Hashem saves us from their hands

Or join Mala from Chabad of Bangkok as he gets us ready to sing it at the Seder

I never really understood the depth and strength and immortality of this prayer in the way that I do now.

Lots of stuff going on.

The magnitude is immense.

The pace is dizzying.

I refer to events in Israel.

This week we witnessed epic miracles.

And on the other hand, we are quite unsettled.

(Below I am going to ‘copy paste’ a very poignant article from my colleague Rabbi Lazer Gurgow’s titled ‘Miracle of Miracles’. It calls our attention to the revealed miracles that we witnessed at the beginning of the week as our enemies rained major firepower down on the Jewish People in Israel).

A combination of opposites.

Jubilation and thanksgiving for the miracles.

Concern and prayers for the ongoing and future protection.

We sit at the Seder, thanking and praising Hashem for His miracles of Exodus. We drink four cups of wine with the intention of allowing ourselves to glide into a feeling of freedom, wealth and liberation.

And at the same time, we acknowledge that in every generation we have those who want to exterminate us.

I have said this part of the Haggadah for more than five decades thank G-d, yet never have I seen so vividly the enemies who stand by to finish us off if they only could.

But we don’t let the ‘realistic’ view hamper us or demoralize us. We are a people of miracles. Israel is a country which the Torah says has ‘Hashem’s Eyes on it from the beginning of the year till the end of the year’.

‘They’ – those who thought they could defeat us, are long gone.

‘We’ – the people of Israel whom Hashem chose, are still here.

We are a SINGING and BELIEVING nation.

Hundreds of thousands (or millions) of the Jewish people will gather around Seder tables on Monday night and sing and declare their thanks with true joy and jubilation. (Some seven thousand in Thailand alone please G-d).

At the very same time that they recognize the reality of our contemporary geopolitical situation.  

King David in his book of Tehillim Psalms seems to anticipate this dichotomy by placing chapter 122 and 123 adjacent to each other.

The heading to chapter 122 reads:

‘the (Psalmist) ‘Singer’ relates about the praiseworthiness of Jerusalem and the miracles that were wrought in Jerusalem’.

The heading to chapter 123 reads:

the (Psalmist) ‘Singer’ laments the long and protracted period that they have been in exile’

(I noticed this contrast as I have recited Psalm 122 for the last year, and today moved over to reciting Psalm 123 for the upcoming year.

This is according to the tradition taught by the Ba’al Shem Tov, that one should recite daily the chapter of Tehillim that corresponds to the number of years one has been alive. At the age of 18 one would recite chapter 19 and so on.

It is a great custom to include your personal Tehillim chapter into your daily prayers.

Many say the chapter for their children as well. Some do so for their parents.

As a chassid, I also say the chapter of the Rebbe, corresponding to the years since his birth.

Today is the Rebbe’s birthday 122 years ago. Hence, we began to recite chapter 123. Click here for more on this topic).

I feel that these two chapters sum up the kaleidoscope of emotions that fill my heart and mind.

We sing and yet we ‘ lament ’.

There is such a feeling of solidarity and unity within the Jewish community all over the world.

We are a people who are alone.

If you are in the mood to ‘lament’ there is what to ‘moan’ about. It’s not easy to be and feel alone. To be singled out and targeted in the overt antisemitism that has reared its ugly head.

However, from the perspective of the ‘singer’ and the believer it is uplifting and inspiring to recognize that we are indeed a people who is alone. This is by design. It is because we have been singularly and uniquely chosen by G-d for the mission of spreading His Glory throughout the world.

We refer to this paradox in our Pesach Seder.

We drink four cups of wine and sing the Halel praises of G-d.

We sing the praises of the miracles in Jerusalem and Israel.

Yet we declare that if not for G-d’s protection, our enemies would totally finish us off.

How do we live and thrive while harboring both sets of emotions?

This is part of the impossibility and miraculousness of being a Jew.

Impossible that we are still here, from a ‘nature’ standpoint. And inconceivable that we are able to celebrate.

Eminently achievable when we embrace our identity as the nation whom Hashem has chosen for His treasured task of creating a space for Him in this lowly world.

The Jewish trademark is JOY. Chapter 122 with its miracles comes before 123 with its lament.

The statement in the Haggada about our enemies’ murderous intents is recited from the context of a super celebration around festive and wine filled Seder tables.

Optimistic Jewish life must continue under all conditions.

(See a very heart stirring clip of a bar mitzvah celebration at the Kotel for war orphans).

We can and do rejoice because we are all ‘believers the children of believers’.

The three thousand plus years since Hashem took us out of Egypt has not tired us from singing His praises and eating Matzah ever Pesach.

Neither have the nearly two thousand years of exile disillusioned us for dreaming, yearning, anticipating and even celebrating the imminent coming of Mashiach.

Remember, at our core, we are SINGER’S, who lament a bit here and there.

We are optimists who know that Hashem loves us and wants our best.

The Rebbe whose birthday is today was a consistent source of positivity. Click here for ‘practical tips for positive living’.

Dear fellow Jew, embrace your role as a ‘singer’ and claim your Jewish ‘birthright’ of being a perennial optimist.

Continue the golden and joyous chain of Am Yisrael. In your own home, with your own family, around your own table, sing the praises of Hashem for the blessings of liberation from Egypt, and the blessings of freedom now.

Before this Monday 11 am sell whatever chametz that you have not disposed of by clicking here.

On Monday night eat Matzah to remember the great gift of Exodus and to strengthen and bolster your faith in the eternity and omnipotence of G-d.

To get Matzah contact JCafe or click here to contact me or head to your nearest rabbi/synagogue and or Pesach shop.

And my dear friend, let us pray, hope and celebrate that -


Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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