A time to celebrate, a time to remember

There are plenty of reasons why Passover remains the favorite Jewish holiday. Family and friends gathering together, enjoying good food and wine, watching the kids turn the house upside-down looking for the afikomen.

Yet there is a deeper explanation for the holiday’s resonance: Beyond being commanded to, we need to be reminded that we were slaves.

To repeat (just so it sinks in): We were slaves. As a people we lived in misery — not just in Egypt, but also in later times and in different places, from the ghettoes of medieval Europe to the ghoulish barracks of Dachau.

The experience of slavery left a permanent imprint on the Jewish persona, and collectively we decided it is impermissible to forget it. Not only does this annual reminder help us appreciate the good things in our lives, it keeps us scanning the horizon for future would-be enslavers.

Today, we see Israel under continuous threat from radical Islam, and not just from the murderous militias on Israel’s borders. From the pseudo-sophisticated former Indonesian President Mahathir to Iran’s lunatic President Ahmadinejad, from the still-at-large bin Laden to the rabid imams of Saudi Arabia, the Jewish people face a mortal enemy in jihadism.

It doesn’t stop with them. London Mayor Ken Livingston has a thriving side career as an Israel-basher and anti-Semite. Jews in France have been under assault, culminating in the grotesque kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi earlier this year.

In Russia, totalitarianism is slowly returning, and along with it the worst tendencies of that culture, including ominous threats to the Jewish community.

Even in this country, academics like Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and Tony Judt (incredibly, all Jews) continue to spew contempt toward Israel, which could easily morph into hatred toward Jews for an alarming number of individuals.

To some, this litany of anti-Semitism’s greatest hits might sound like a broken record: The same old villains singing the same old songs. Irritating but not threatening, they would say. Just look at how we are thriving all around the globe.

True. We are thriving. We are building Jewish institutions and Jewish community here and abroad. We have come back from the fires of Auschwitz stronger than ever.

But we were slaves.

And so we sit together at the seder table, compelled to forego complacency, at least for eight days. It began as a mitzvah from the Torah, but we Jews no longer need to be told.

We wish our readers a good Yom Tov this Passover.