Seder in the White House, Oy Vey

History has a way of repeating itself.

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Carol Schwartz

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Arutz 7

There is apparently bigger news than the historical Passover story, when millions of Jews freely walked out of Egypt amongst incredible G-dly wonders and miracles after 210 years of slavery. It was reported that US Preside
Pharaoh himself joined the labor force in order to symbolize that everyone was considered equal.
nt Barack Obama, along with his family, attended the second night Passover Seder in the White House with staff and friends. This is believed to be the first White House Seder attended by an American president.

William Daroff, who runs the United Jewish Communities' Washington office, stated that this occurrence is "a testament to how far we have come as a Jewish people in America." Daroff continued his awe of this "joyous" event by noting, "Jews are a vital component in the mosaic that is American culture and society. This night is indeed different from all other nights."

For those of us whose memory is longer than a week, we recognize this "act of brotherly love" as not quite "different" at all. Jewish history tells us that when we are warmly welcomed into the arms of countries in which we have been exiled, our downfall in those "host cultures" cannot be far behind.

Let's start with the Passover story itself. The Torah tells us about the miraculous rise of Joseph, the son of our father Jacob, into the house of Pharaoh. After 22 years in jail, overnight Joseph becomes the second in command of Egypt, the greatest nation at the time. Joseph saved from starvation, during a severe famine, all of Egypt as well as most of the world. In doing so, Egypt acquired incredible wealth and fame. Joseph was honored and beloved by all.

However, as the Torah then states, "A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know of Joseph." (Exodus 1:8) It is explained that everyone knew Joseph, but it was convenient to ignore Joseph's monumental contributions to Egypt in order to enslave and humble the Jewish people.

Pharaoh began the slavery of the Jews by deceiving them into showing their patriotism to Egypt by having them build cities to safeguard Egypt's wealth. We are told that Pharaoh himself joined the labor force in order to symbolize that everyone was considered equal. However, the situation for the Jews quickly deteriorated until they were completely enslaved and tortured.

In the 4th century BCE, the story of Purim takes place. King Achashverosh makes an erroneous calculation based on prophecy that the time for the rebuilding of the Jewish holy Temple in Jerusalem has passed. He is so happy that the Temple has not been rebuilt that he holds a 180-day celebration. Along with citizens from all of the king's lands and against the warnings of the great Mordechai, the Jewish people attend this party. Not only is there tremendous immorality, but also King Achashverosh displays the magnificent treasures and holy vessels looted from the destroyed Temple, and adorns himself in the Jewish priestly robes.

Soon after this, the decree to destroy the Jewish people is declared. The Talmud asks, "Why did the Jews of that generation deserve extermination?" The answer given is that the Jews derived pleasure from the feast of King Achashverosh. Perhaps they could not refuse the invitation of the king to his party. However, they did not have to feel proud and honored to attend the king's feast filled with the disgrace of its participants and, perhaps even more importantly, the dishonor of the items from the holy Temple.

In 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain declared the "Edict of Expulsion" for all Jews. Not long before this, Rabbi Meir Melamed became the financier to the king and queen and Don Isaac Abarbanel held an equally prominent position in the Spanish royal court.

Although thousands of Jews either chose or were forced to convert to Catholicism in order to protect themselves from the inconceivable, their efforts proved ineffective, for their persecution and expulsion had already been decreed on high. Even Queen Isabella is known to have stated that the evil ordinance was arranged by G-d Himself.
"Berlin is our Jerusalem and Germany is our Zion." We all know how this story ends.


In pre-Nazi Germany, the Jewish people created a similar fate for themselves. Jews fought side by side with the Germans in World War I, and were praised as being one with the Germans and their cause. Intermarriage was rampant and Jews were free to enter cultural, political and educational institutions as "equals". They were proud to be "more German than the Germans". In fact, the German Jewish Reform movement went so far as to declare that, "Berlin is our Jerusalem and Germany is our Zion." We all know how this story ends.

It is interesting to note that last year Obama's entourage was campaigning in Pennsylvania on Seder night. His team held a Seder at the Sheraton Hotel. When they reached the closing wish of the Haggadah, "Next year in Jerusalem", Mr. Obama and others jokingly added, "Next year in the White House." Has the White House now become our Jerusalem? Let us not forget our history and let us remember that history has a way of repeating itself. (May G-d protect us.)



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