Let my people go to freedom!
Passover, the eight day (seven in Israel) Jewish festival commemorating the hasty exodus of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt begins tonight. Celebrated by re enacting the Exodus with an elaborate ritual meal filled with symbolic foods and reading the history of the leave taking along with commentaries answering important philosophical and historical questions, the holiday is the foundation of and the beginning of the Jewish people. As Yoram Ettinger, former Israeli Minister for Congressional Affairs at Israel’s Embassy in Washington, D.C., explains in his Passover Guide for the Perplexed 2014:
Passover is the oldest Jewish national liberation holiday, highlighting the comprehensive nature of Judaism: religion, nationality, culture/morality, language and history. Passover underlines the centrality of spiritual, physical, individual and national liberty and optimism, playing a critical role in preserving Judaism, Jews and the yearning to reconstruct the Jewish Homeland during the super-challenging 40 years in the desert and the 2,500 years of exiles, destruction, pogroms, the Holocaust, wars and terrorism.
Ettinger maintains that the Passover Exodus with its emphasis on freedom is also important to American history from its very beginnings, continuing til today.
3. Passover, and especially the Exodus/Liberty, were the pillars of fire guiding the twelve tribes of Israel, and the thirteen American colonies, from subjugation to sovereignty. The Passover legacy comprises a critical part of the American story. Moses, the US Founding Fathers and Israel’s Founding Father, Ben Gurion, were challenged by the “loyalists,” who were intimidated by the price/sacrifice of liberty, preferring subjugation to Egypt, the British King and the British Mandate. They featured in prior editions of the clash of civilizations against Pharaoh, the British monarchy and church and the Arab/Muslim world. The latter still rejects non-Muslim (“infidel”) sovereignty in any area considered – by Muslims – to be the abode of Islam (e.g., Spain and Portugal, southern France, Israel, etc.).
4. Passover's centrality in the American culture, state of mind and ethos has been evident from the 17th century Pilgrims and the 18th century Founding Fathers, until today. The Pilgrims considered Britain "the modern day Egypt," the British king was "the modern day Pharaoh," the sail through the Atlantic Ocean was "the modern day parting of the sea" and America was "the modern day Promised Land/New Canaan."
In 1775, the president of Harvard University, Samuel Langdon, said that “the Jewish government [that God handed down to Moses] was a perfect republic.” Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” (the cement of the 1776 Revolution) referred to King George as “the hardened, sullen tempered Pharaoh of England.” The root of the term Federalism is "Foedus," the Latin word for "The Covenant." The Founding Fathers studied the political structure of the semi-independent 12 Tribes (the colonies), which were governed by tribal presidents (the governors) and by Moses (the Executive), Aaron (the Judiciary) and the70 Elders (the Legislature). John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin proposed the “Parting of the Sea” as the official US seal. George Washington and John Adams, the first and second presidents, were compared to Moses and Joshua. Washington was eulogized as Moses and Virginia was compared to Goshen.
Yale University President, Ezra Stiles stated on May 8, 1783: "Moses, the man of God, assembled three million people – the number of people in America in 1776."
"Let my people go" and “Go down Moses” became the pillar of fire for the Abolitionists. “Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10) is inscribed on the Liberty Bell. The Statue of Liberty highlights a Moses-like tablet. The biography of Harriet Tubman, who dedicated her life to freeing other slaves, is called The Moses of Her People. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was motivated by the laws of Moses, which condemn slavery. She promoted the teaching of Hebrew. Martin Luther King was considered the Moses of his age.
Daniel Boone, the famous frontiersman, was known as “The Moses of the West.”
A statue of Moses stares at the Speaker of the House of Representatives, towers above the Supreme Court Justices (in addition to seven additional Moses statues in the Supreme Court Building), is featured (along with a statue of Maimonides and 21 additional Law Givers) in the US House of Representatives Rayburn Building subway station and is found in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress. Ten Commandment monuments were erected on the grounds of the Texas and the Oklahoma State Capitols. Cecile DeMille’s hit movie, The Ten Commandments, promoted US liberty, morality and the freedom of religion and expression, in contrast to Soviet oppression.
Theodore White wrote in The Making of the President: “It is as if Kennedy, a younger Moses, had led an elderly Joshua [LBJ] to the height of Mount Nebo…and there shown him the Promised Land which he himself would never entering but which Joshua would make his own.
As the true cliche has it, freedom isn't free; it must be guarded and constantly protected.