Eves of Passover
Beit Hashita, Nissan, 5763 (2003)
Benyamin (Gilad) died on the eve of Passover 5732, however Passover with its special contents passes like a thread through his letters and drawings. The adherence to the values of the festival only increases with the years.
On the eve of Passover 4686 (1936) when the movement was working in Haifa, he wrote a short letter to his parents:
Dear Father, Mother and Ruth
Today is the eve of Passover. I am sitting on a train and travelling to Ein Harod. The train is full of people but I feel bad tempered.
The eve of Passover – and what is special for me – nothing. I am just remembering again and again the Trumpet that was Embarrassed, by Bialik, and that same feeling that you have when you finish this story echoes within me, and I am hurting.
In the train – people, in the window – the valley, it’s already been ten months since I left for Haifa, and in my heart I am praying for something holy and it is not coming.
We have arrived at Ein Harod, I will get off, and I will walk in the fields, to the Group.
This story by Bialik did not leave Benyamin, and in his words of blessing for the 25th anniversary of Beit Hashita he returned to it:
And I remember, in the difficult times when the questions are exhausting me, and they are referred to me and not to any official institution, and not to anyone else....I remember....perhaps beside the point – a sad and gray picture that I read in my childhood in Bialik’s the Trumpet that was Embarrassed.
That same story about the expulsion of a Jewish family on the eve of Passover, how the Jewish mother does not forget to take Sabbath candles with her, and when it becomes dark in the forest, she stops the cart and lights the festival candles. That’s it: when times are difficult, when everything seems to be lost, not to despair, not to lose faith.
And what about the eve of Passover 5703 (1943)?
The days of the Holocaust, the echoes are already coming, we still do not know about the rebellion in the Warsaw Ghetto, and Benyamin says to us at the start of Seder Night:
On this day, when on the one hand there is no end to their killing and on the other hand it is the day of the exodus from Egypt, the day we left slavery, what can we say to ourselves on this day?
I will not say: there they are murdering us and nevertheless we will celebrate Passover with a strong arm! However I will also not say: we will sit and fast.
We need to think for ourselves.
What can we say to ourselves on the day of the exodus from Egypt?
The common denominator – the very act, to get up and do something, the very deviation from slavery, there is no doubt that there was a rebellion of the slaves, who were forced to hide and flee, and without doubt they suffered due to this rebellion. However our tradition, from a love and admiration of the story of the exodus from Egypt, has dressed this rebellion in an abundance of miraculous acts.
We shall not have miracles, and the false illusion that they will give us a country, that will give us independent lives - do not entertain our souls.
Our connection with the exodus from Egypt, the huge educational order which we were commanded by this rebellion, was the very rebellion itself, the very deviation from slavery, and taking freedom with a strong hand, without expectations and without reliance.
Someone, even the Holy One Blessed be He, save us from them......
And what about the eve of Passover in 5708 (1948)?
It was the midst of the 1948 war – the black month of Adar – the fall of the seven in the battle for the Gilboa, the fall of the seven at Beit Keshet and more.
Benyamin is at home, recovering. He is not in the war and is preparing Seder Night. And, in the middle of the Seder, he gets up on the stage, stops the singing of the choir and declares:
“Haifa is in our hands”!
Huge applause broke out in the hall, and in the diary it is written that after singing Had Gadya wild dancing started in the dining room.
Passover 5723 (1963):
The lovely list in the diary – “the eves of Passover” – which ends [at present] the kibbutz Haggadah:
Since then and to date
From the desert then and until Nissan 5708
From the Spanish underground and until Passover 5703 in the destroyed Warsaw.
From the “blood libels” in all the generations, and until the prohibited matza in the USSR. The sleepless night that has never faded.
The historical memory which never pales.
This is the holiness of the festival, this is the purity of expectation, this is the searching for the hametz, this is the innocence in our hearts.
The “Halachma anya”
The “any needy person”
The “made their lives bitter”
The “strong hand and the raised arm”
The everlasting Had Gadya
The four glasses, the open door, Elijah the Prophet who will enter, let the Messiah come quickly.
The bitter herbs of all the generations,
The matza in every house
The expectation with all the hope
The hope in all the hearts
The sleepless night which never fades. The memory that we have seen is paling.
This year my slave – from slavery to freedom.
And on Passover 5728, after the Six Day War
“Why is this night different?
This time, more than any other night, our heart is beating: this night is different from all other nights!
Passover on the Golan Heights, in the army camps along the Jordan Rover, in Kfar Etzion and the Dead Sea, in the undivided Jerusalem – Passover on the banks of the Suez Canal – memory of the exodus from Egypt in those times, and in these times.
No, we have not forgotten!
While the enemy is spitting fire at us, while he is ruining our Seder nights, Elijah will not come, his chair is still vacant.
And when we sit at a Seder today and when we lift the glass we will say:
“Why is this night different?”
“This year we are not slaves”!
On Passover 5729-1969, Benyamin writes in his army diary, and recalls previous Passovers:
1969 - Beit Hashita, the first of the intermediate days of Passover 5729
Dear Yochi, my dear son,
Indeed you will celebrate this Passover 5729 when you are there and we are here. Grandma was here and the Beeri family sat opposite us. Around us were tens and hundreds of members, the sons and the grandsons, and the choir captured the eastern wall. You were not with us, but it was as if you sat with us from “Halachma anya” and until “get up and go to the desert” and until “Elijah the Prophet” after the meal. Benyamin, who was the “father of the Seder”this time, sent his blessing “to all our members who cannot be with us today” – and you were also included in the loyal and warm blessing. In his opening remarks he cited Beilinson, when he said “we have been in all the campaigns for freedom. He cited Berl Katzenelson who said: “that ancient pedagogic order” of “in each and every generation man must....” and ended with freedom, with peace and the greater Israel of 48” – these were distant and needed words, that enclosed the future, and they recalled Passover of 43 and Passover.
And I am with you.
In the past years Passover has not let me go, I shall attach three passages:
Passover 5757. May 1997
This comes from love
In memory of Ernest (Horovitz)
Seder Night this year was the festival of the second generation – “the middle of the road” – those who were born and grew up with the “mythological Seder”, as they saw in Ernest’s Beit Hashita.
They were swept away by Dita’s enthusiasm, Danny’s baton, and they thrilled everyone.
It was in the air – the emotions, the love and the longing. And thus we all enjoyed an unforgettable experience.
And again the same prayer, the same anticipation – that will never end.
Nissan 5759, April 1999
The Passover generations
In the days before Passover I encountered more sadness. I was told by my family, that this one and that one were going overseas before Seder Night – to Greece, Turkey and more. In the media they spoke about 250 thousand passengers, which included kibbutz members.
And I thought to myself: Passover, Passover! And what about the duty of the fathers “And you shall tell your son”? And what about “ In each and every generation every man must....”, and “the ancient pedagogic order” as defined by Berl Katzenelson? Passover of the generations. How was that it in the distant past the Jews risked their lives in Spain, during the Inquisition, and held Seder Night in hiding.
And how is it that in the USSR they searched for Jews and cursed the “forbidden matza”. And here in fact “this night”, on Seder Night they are travelling to Tunisia and other places.
I felt the depth of the crisis that we, the secular society, are in. If we also disregard Passover we will remain “naked and bare”.
And suddenly I came across in the newspaper on the eve of the festival, a story about Jewish martyrology in our times. Three of our pilots had been captured by the Syrians, and they held a Seder Night in their prison cell. And this is how it was written: “When Passover 1971 came near we decided to celebrate it properly according to Jewish law, because of the symbolism of slavery to freedom, a national festival and as it reminded us of home and our families.
We wrote the Haggadah from memory, from a piece of cardboard that we found we made a Passover plate. In order to heat the food we had stored fat, we made wicks from cotton and we stole matches from the guards. From the salad that we received we kept the parsley as a substitute for celery.
From one of our meals we kept a bone – instead of the shank bone, from raisins that we received and sugar we made wine.
We celebrated Seder Night by singing loudly however in the middle of the celebration the door to our cell opened, the commander of the jail entered and demanded that we stop the celebration, however we refused. When he saw that his threats to throw us into solitary confinement did not deter us, he left.
I said to myself: this is the strength of the cultural baggage and childhood memories during times of trouble.
Nissan 5760, April 2000
After the festival.
I celebrated Seder Night with my family and my friends, with my friends who are living, and my friends who are not, and of course with Benyamin.
We sat, as we always had done, next to the Beeri family, with Ruth and Shabtai. On the table was a painted Haggadah by David Eleph the dear one.....and the Haggadah of Arieh Ben Gurion, with a dedication in his handwriting – “The spirit of Benyamin of blessed memory finishes this Haggadah of the Movement on his and our eves of Passover”.
I was full of memories, and I moved between what was happening in the hall and “eves of Passover” in the past, when Ernest with his spirit and baton led us.
We sing “Dew on my country”....”I hear the clear and tuneful soprano of Nelly...
We say “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt”, Nachum, Nachum Sarig used to read and sing, and later Yosef.
And I hear the Jewish melodic voice of Shimon Degani....
And so on and so forth
And now Shifra returns “And Miriam takes the tambourine in her hand” and later Tamar sings.
And what happened Benyamin? – the words of Berl of course “the people have safeguarded it for thousands of years”
And in a while – Haddasah – “Take your eyes and see...”
And now we are singing “There is no-one greater than the Lord” – Ada, Ada.....”Who hoped and who lamented”....
Everyone, everyone came to me – they are here and they exist in me, in us,,,,