In 1943, the first day of Passover fell on a Monday. It was April 19. This year, the first day of Passover also falls on April 19.
Seventy-six years have passed, and we live in a very different world. Because on that day, German troops entered the Warsaw Ghetto to begin deporting its surviving inhabitants, and the Warsaw ghetto uprising began.
The US Holocaust Museum writes, “The Warsaw ghetto uprising was the largest, symbolically most important Jewish uprising, and the first urban uprising, in German-occupied Europe. The resistance in Warsaw inspired other uprisings in ghettos and killing centers [such as] Treblinka and Sobibor.”
Ultimately, the resistance fighters failed. But their example lives on, and it is especially relevant today, as Passover celebrations begin on the same date that they opted to fight back.
Shifra Whiteman, who works at the American Jewish World Service and grew up listening to her grandparents’ stories of the Holocaust, wrote this week, “The heroism of this resistance has taught me what it means to put everything on the line to fight for justice—and what it means to properly commemorate righteousness a community. And though that dark time in our recent history has passed, I know that the work of pursuing justice is far from over.”
This year, as Jews around the world sit at our seder tables and tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, we will sing the words avadim hayinu, ata b’nay horin, “we were slaves and now we are free.” We don’t have to look very far back in our history to remember a time when we were not free, and we don’t have to look very far afield today to know that many people are not free.
Seders are fun, uplifting, sometimes silly. And there are serious moments, when we think about the monumental task of standing up to a cruel dictator and saying dai – enough. If the story of the Exodus seems too far in the past, too improbable, remember that our people have lived through many such times. May we have the strength, resolve, and courage to help ensure that justice flourishes, everywhere, for everyone.
To all of my Jewish friends and neighbors: May your seders be joyous and uplifting. May your matzah balls float and the bitterness of horseradish be blunted by the sweetness of haroset.
To all of my Christian friends and neighbors: May your Easter observances be joyous and uplifting. May you find all of the hidden Easter eggs and enjoy the sweetness within.