Chief Rabbi’s Pesach Message 5781

“You will see, you will see, how good it will be next year.”

Why, at every Seder, do we enthusiastically sing, “leshana haba’ah biyrushalayim” – next year in Jerusalem? Although we have made the same declaration every year, it has never come true – at least not in the messianic sense in which it is intended – so why not simply say “In the future, we will be in Jerusalem”?

Hope

Any study of Jewish history is a study of hope, often despite apparently impossible odds. It is therefore fitting that the epic story of the inception of the Israelites as a nation, the Exodus from Egypt, stands among the greatest illustrations of optimism and forbearance of all time.

It was a truly extraordinary miracle. The chasm in status between the Egyptian overlords and the Hebrew slaves could hardly have been greater. The most sophisticated and powerful civilisation on the planet controlled and persecuted a tiny nation of slaves, who were denied every basic human dignity and any capacity for resistance.

What hope was there for salvation? On what basis could the people summon the strength to go on despite everything? The answer is that they knew of the promise that Hashem had made to their ancestor, Abraham, that they would be strangers in a land where they would be oppressed and enslaved, but He would ultimately redeem them and they would return home to the Promised Land. Despite everything, they chose hope over despair. They chose to believe that salvation would eventually come.

Optimism

This places Pesach 5781 into valuable context for us. This time last year, we were coming to terms with the fact that we could not celebrate Pesach with extended friends and family as we usually do. It was agonising for so many, particularly those who were vulnerable or lonely. We took comfort in our belief that this was a ‘one-off’ and next year would be different. How then should we respond in the face of yet another Pesach when so many are separated from their loved ones, having not yet banished Coronavirus from our midst?

Let us approach this Pesach with the same degree of hope and optimism as ever. Real progress is being made and we are blessed by the extraordinary miracle that is the vaccine. Britain and Israel have led the world in administering its roll out and, Be’ezrat Hashem, we will soon return to a more regular rhythm of life.

I am inspired by the beautiful words of Ehud Manor, the Israeli songwriter, who wrote his famous song ‘Bashana Haba’a’, at a time when the State of Israel seemed to be surviving from one war to the next:

‘Od tireh, od tireh, kama tov yihye, bashana, bashana haba’a’ – ‘You will see, you will see, how good it will be next year!’

Valerie and I extend to you all our warmest and best wishes for a healthy, fulfilling and kosher Pesach.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

March 2021 • Nisan 5781

Posted in Parashah
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