Open Zion

03.27.13

Passover's Lesson For Israeli Politics: Substance Over Personalities

Who is the character most recognized with the story of Exodus? Who lead the Hebrews out of Egypt? Most people would name Moses, the leader of the Hebrews during the Exodus. But some, while reading the Hagada this Passover, might have noticed that Moses was not mentioned in the Hagada. Why is the man so critical to the story of the Exodus—the man know as the greatest profit in the Bible, who had a hand in putting forward the ten plagues, who spoke to Pharoah in the name of God—not mentioned in the Hagada, which is meant to pass the story of the exodus from generation to generation Jews?

The Hagada was collected at first during the days of the second temple and up until the Geonim period, between the 6th and 7th centuries A.D. Some scholars believe the reason for not including Moses in the Hagada was the intention to show that God is the one who freed the Hebrews, without the help of anyone, As mentioned in the Hagada itself: "The L-rd took us out of Egypt," not through an angel, not through a seraph and not through a messenger. What we can learn from this is that there is something bigger than the character or the messenger. The story can be told and can unfold without Moses.

seinfeld-celeb-seder
Al Levine/NBCU Photo Bank, via Getty

This lesson might serve us today in 2013. Recently, we saw a new Israeli government formed, with many new faces serving as ministers and Knesset members for the first time. All of them with the job of serving the people of Israel. All messengers of the people. During the campiagn, media and the public focused on the personalities more than ever. There was Benjamin Netanyahu, not Likud. There was Yair Lapid, not Yesh Atid. There was Naftali Bennett, not Habait Hayudi. Tzipi Livni and not Hatnua, Shelly Yechimovitz instead of Haavoda etc. Those were the main characters attracting the most attention. Not the parties, not the issues of the table, none of the content.

This practice continues today, even after the formation of the coalition and the 33rd government of Israel. Minor interest in substance, major interest in the personal. Yair Lapid said this, Naftali Bennett said this or that, and so on.

But Israel and its new government face major challenges in this upcoming year. From passing a budget for 2013 and 2014, budget cuts, possible economic crisis, global pressure to move forward with the Palestinians, freezing settlement building, geo-political changes in the region, social inequality and more. All of us, the public, the media and the politicians might learn something from Kodesh (holy) and bring it to Chol (secular): put aside the people and characters, and try to focus not on the personnel, the messengers, but on content that needs addressing, in order to overtake our upcoming challenges.

If Moses can be left out of the Hagada, the main instrument we have to teach the story of the Exodus, I'm sure Naftali Bennett can be left out of a news cycle for the greater good.