Rabbi Albert Isaac Slomovitz’s 2022 Passover Message

Rabbi Albert Isaac Slomovitz’s 2022 Passover Message

Rabbi Albert Isaac Slomovitz shares his inspiration and thoughts on this year's Passover holiday with the community.

Rabbi Albert Isaac Slomovitz
Rabbi Albert Isaac Slomovitz

This Passover and especially during our Seders, let’s take some time to explore a character that we normally don’t talk about: Pharaoh. He is an enigmatic figure even from the perspective of his description from the Torah.

One of the most well-known phrases associated with this leader is “And the Lord Hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Our Biblical commentators remind us that this phrase appears 20 times in the Exodus saga, half are of the king hardening his own heart and the other half is when the Almighty does.

The phrase and its usage denies an easy explanation. These words are constantly uttered in the midst of the ten plagues which make them more astonishing. Imagine if we were the Pharaoh of that time and had witnessed a number of plagues that were being initiated by the Creator on the Egyptian people.

How could we resist that power? How could he make the people of Egypt suffer calamity after calamity? How much hate did he have, that even after the loss of his first-born son and finally letting the Israelites go free, he decides to pursue them and take them back into captivity? Why was he so cruel, and more significantly, what meaning does it have for us?

For me, the image of Pharaoh is a stark reminder that truly evil people exist in the world. Some are leaders of countries that believe they can attack another democratic country and maim, brutalize and kill innocent civilians without any repercussions.

Despite all the warnings, sanctions and deaths of his own soldiers, he will not yield. There are other pharaohs who believe that terrorism, whether in America or Israel, is an acceptable policy. There is no excuse in taking innocent lives.

The knowledge of the reality of Pharaohs in our world serves as a catalyst for me. It greatly encourages me in my interfaith and community work. It compels me to promulgate ideals such as “Love your Neighbor as Yourself.” The reality of evil creates in me an instinct to do what I can to protect our wonderful American democracy.

I imagine that Moses and Aaron, even with G-d’s support, thought and worried a great deal about Pharaoh. We are correct with our worries. But in the end, they, with G-d’s help, were victorious over the evil of their time. With the Creator’s support, we will continue to battle evil. May G-d bless those who fight the evil perpetuated by those who “hardened their hearts.”

Have a happy and healthy Pesach.

Rabbi Albert I. Slomovitz is rabbi at large, Etz Chaim Congregation; assistant professor of history, Kennesaw State University; and founder, Jewish Christian Discovery Center.

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