Pesach thoughts: Haman, Cyrus, friendship and peace

Professor Gerald Aranoff,

Judaism Prof. G. Aranoff
Prof. G. Aranoff

The Pesach Haggadah

We read in the Haggadah of Pesach:

“We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and God brought us out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. And if God had not brought our ancestors out of Egypt, we and our children and our children’s children would still be subjugated to Pharaoh in Egypt.”

How can it be that if God had not brought our ancestors out of Egypt, we and our children and our children’s children would still be subjugated to Pharaoh in Egypt ?

I heard an explanation. “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.”  Pharaoh owned us as a master owns his slaves. If the slaves rebel and run away, the owner still owns them.  The Israelites could have easily walked out of Egypt with all their animals and assets during the ten plagues.  In the plague of darkness the Egyptians couldn’t move for the first 3 days.

Moses wanted Pharaoh to free the Israelites

What did Moses want of Pharaoh? “Then all these courtiers of yours shall come down to me and bow low to me, saying, Depart, you and all the people who follow you! After that I will depart. And he left Pharaoh’s presence in hot anger” (Exodus 11:8).

Indeed, Pharaoh did free us from being his slaves: “And Pharaoh arose in the night, with all his courtiers and all the Egyptians—because there was a loud cry in Egypt; for there was no house where there was not someone dead. He summoned Moses and Aaron in the night and said, Up, depart from among my people, you and the Israelites with you! Go, worship the Lord as you said! Take also your flocks and your herds, as you said, and begone! And may you bring a blessing upon me also!” (Exodus 12:30-31).

Other nations enslaved us

Other wicked nations ruled, conquered and enslaved us.  The ancient Roman Empire passed laws death penalty for brit milah, keeping Shabbat, and teaching Torah. The Roman rulers killed Rabbi Akiva among so many.  The ancient Roman Empire collapsed, but did they free us as did Pharaoh on the night of Passover? No, we need today a modern Cyrus the Great to announce that we are a free people, no longer slaves to wicked nations.

Netanyahu cites Cyrus the Great

Netanyahu said in his 2018 AIPAC speech around Purim time:

“Now I believe that a day will come when this horrible tyranny will disappear, will perish from the earth and at that point, the historic friendship between the people of Israel and the people of Persia will be reestablished. Today we have Haman. Tomorrow we’ll have Cyrus and friendship and peace.”

Who was Cyrus the Great?


“Cyrus the Great, also called Cyrus II, (born 590–580 BCE, Media, or Persis [now in Iran]—died c. 529, Asia), conqueror who founded the Achaemenian empire, centered on Persia and comprising the Near East from the Aegean Sea eastward to the Indus River. He is also remembered in the Cyrus legend—first recorded by Xenophon, Greek soldier and author, in his Cyropaedia—as a tolerant and ideal monarch who was called the father of his people by the ancient Persians. In the Bible he is the liberator of the Jews who were captive in Babylonia.”

God Roused the Spirit of Cyrus the great

“In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, when the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah was fulfilled, the Lord roused the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia to issue a proclamation throughout his realm by word of mouth and in writing as follows: Thus said King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord God of Heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has charged me with building Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Anyone of you of all His people—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem that is in Judah and build the House of the Lord God of Israel, the God that is in Jerusalem; and all who stay behind, wherever he may be living, let the people of his place assist him with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, besides the freewill offering to the House of God that is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:1-4).

God gave the task of freeing us from wicked nations that enslaved us to Cyrus the Great.   Cyrus the Great conquered “all the kingdoms of the earth.” Cyrus the Great had the right to free us from slavery, same as Pharaoh had the right to free us. Without the master freeing his slaves, the slave keeps the status of slavery.  If Pharaoh did not say “Up, depart from among my people, you and the Israelites with you!” --- we would be merely runaway slaves.

We pray for the full redemption

“Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of the awesome, fearful day of the Lord. He shall reconcile parents with children and children with their parents, so that, when I come, I do not strike the whole land with utter destruction” (Malachi 3:23-24).

Opinion in the Talmud Ezra was the prophet Malachi

Megilah 15a:

“It has been taught: R. Joshua b. Korha said: Malachi is the same as Ezra, and the Sages say that Malachi was his proper name. R. Nahman said: There is good ground for accepting the view that Malachi was the same as Ezra. For it is written in the prophecy of Malachi “Judah has broken faith; abhorrent things have been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned what is holy to the Lord— what He desires—and espoused daughters of alien gods” (Malachi 2:11). And who was it that put away the strange women? Ezra, as it is written “Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel of the family of Elam spoke up and said to Ezra, We have trespassed against our God by bringing into our homes foreign women from the peoples of the land; but there is still hope for Israel despite this” (Ezrah 10:2).”

Donald Trump is a modern Cyrus the Great

I say that Donald Trump is a modern Cyrus the Great.  He will bring an era of friendship and peace throughout the world.  May God bless Donald Trump and America and He blessed Cyrus the Great and ancient Persia.