Pesach, Purim, Yom HaAtzmaut, and Beer ?>

Pesach, Purim, Yom HaAtzmaut, and Beer

At the seder night, we spill some of our wine to commemorate Egyptian suffering [1]. Contrast this with the Purim seudah where even though the violence carried out against our non-Jewish neighbors was no less severe, the only wine spilt is by accident.

This makes sense; Purim is about Hakarat HaTov and when all we are doing is expressing thanks for a miracle, there is no place for remorse. Pesach also has an element of Hakarat HaTov but it is about more than a miracle alone. It is where our nation is born, and not only the miraculous, but also a strong moral fiber lie at our core. I believe that this is why Pesach, not Purim, gets to be our central narrative. Pesach is so important because it is not just a celebration of a people, but a celebration of a people with character. Not only do we celebrate becoming free, but we are asked to remember the price that freedom exacted on others. The two have to go together because the admission of complexity solidifies who we are.

I wonder if there is a place for that admission during Yom HaAtzmaut.

I wonder if the word nakba has a place in our Independence Day. Not nakba in the sense that Israel’s existence is a catastrophe, but in the sense that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians suffered in very real ways as a result of our independence and in many instances as a result of our misdeeds. As a religious person who believes that Hashem loves all people, I cannot ignore this reality. As a Zionist, I believe that not only is Israel an epic miracle but that it is also an opportunity for the Jewish people to reaffirm and carry out its moral mission. If Israel were just a miracle then Yom HaAtzmaut could be just a Purim and Hakarat HaTov alone would suffice. But my Zionism teaches me that Israel has a moral imperative too. Yom HaAtzmaut has to be complex; it has to be a Pesach.

This makes me a bit uncomfortable. The conflict is still ongoing and the claims from 1948 have not been resolved. There are those who use the word nakba to mark our very existence as a catastrophe. Wouldn’t it be easier if we waited until all that was behind us to acknowledge Palestinian suffering? Of course it would, but I believe that acknowledging what happened does not need to wait for the conflict to end. On the contrary, I think it must come first.

Like every year, on Yom HaAtzmaut I’ll be at some Al Ha’Esh wearing blue and white and rocking out to Kaveret. But if I find myself holding a bottle of (preferably Israeli) beer, I plan to spill some out.

[1] I’ve heard it argued that this ritual might not actually be about mourning Egyptian suffering but rather that the sixteen drops represent Hashem’s sixteen-sided sword as a tool of divine vengeance. That’s a pretty big 180. Either way though, there is a voice in our tradition that describes God’s sorrow over the loss of Egyptian life so for the sake of symbolism, let’s assume that is the idea here too.


One thought on “Pesach, Purim, Yom HaAtzmaut, and Beer

  1. Your premise of Pesach being qualitatively greater than Purim as it signifies the birth of our nation and not just a miraculous rescue, I believe is flawed. Purim celebrates the rebirth of Torah in Judaism as “קיימו וקבלו”, we accepted the Torah which we already accepted upon ourselves. Yom Haatzmaut does not need to “spill beer,” to be a moral day, nor did Israel commit to Palestinian suffering. One must not feel ashamed by defending himself or his people, yet I agree that we have some moral obligation to protect the Palestinian people.

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