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September 5, 2015 / 21 Elul, 5775
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The Meaning of Freedom

Obama's visit remains a symbol that among us are those who still carry the ghetto mentality.
Tahir Square in Cairo in 2011 - and 2012, and 2013, and 2014 and 2015.

Tahir Square in Cairo in 2011 - and 2012, and 2013, and 2014 and 2015.

We are a democracy – the only real democracy in the Middle East. We have no king, no dictator who can dissolve our Knesset, our parliament, at a moment’s notice and a whim. And yet, again, Obama will insult us by ignoring an invitation to speak before the 120 members of our elected government. He has chosen, instead, to speak in the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

Obama comes here, free to deliver his insults, and we cower before his entourage.

We left Egypt to be a free people. This is the lesson of Passover. Freedom is not just a concept to us; it is the foundation of our lives, celebrated as a part of what we must be. In the hell of Europe and the darkest days of persecution, we remembered that God took us out of Egypt and made us free. Others have tried to take our freedom away but we have fought long and hard to reclaim it.

Our greatest lesson that came out of the ovens and ghettos of Europe, out of the prisons of Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Russia, is that we will determine our future, our present, our reality. We hold the keys to any prison in which we put ourselves; we alone can redeem our captives.

Obama’s visit remains a symbol that there are among us Jews who still carry the ghetto mentality inside. Those students who go to hear Obama speak, after he has announced that he will separate from among us – good Jew and bad Jew…you to the left and you to the right…they are announcing that this same ghetto mentality has been transferred to their generation. It is a sad and depressing thought.

Those who go to hear him speak – marvel in the streets that the great man from America has deigned to visit while ignoring that he continues to hold Jonathan Pollard prisoner, that he comes to dictate to us if or when we will have his permission to act against Iran or Syria – all these come from our history in the ghetto.

The meaning of freedom will come to Israel next week when we sit down to the seder on the first night of Passover.

This is the plain, poor bread that our parents ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, come eat with us. Whoever needs a place to say, come make Passover with us. This year we are here – next year may we be in the land of Israel. This year we are not free – next year, may be we be free to serve our God in freedom.

We used to be slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but  our God reached out His strong arm and took us out from there. If God had not saved us from Egypt, all of us – even our children and grandchildren – would still be slaves to Pharaoh.

And finally, as we come close to the end of the seder, we will stand and hold up our cups of wine. We will open the front door and invite Elijah the Prophet to visit our home and we will believe…and as we do, we will recite these words to a God who protects us from evil, even the evil that comes from friends.

God, pour our your anger on the nations that do not want to know You and on the kingdoms that do not pray to You. For they tried to destroy Yaakov and desecrated your holy places. Pour out your anger on them and let Your burning anger catch them. Chase them with rage and destroy them from under the heavens of God.

I have no doubt we will survive the visit of Obama, a bit worse for the traffic he will cause and a bit dirty for the insults he delivers during his staged visit. I do not know if we will ever be free of the ghetto. That, I think, is my greater fear.

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About the Author: Visit Paula Stern's blog, A Soldier's Mother.

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