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May 29, 2023

Rabbi Mendel Liberow: Caring for every person—A Passover message

In the foothills of Midian, a shepherd watches over his flock. He is responsible for the well-being and safety of every sheep there. Suddenly, he notices a lamb wandering away from the flock. The shepherd gives chase and finally catches up with the sheep—when he witnesses something impossible. He sees a thornbush on fire, but it is not being consumed by the flames. He approaches, and Moses hears the voice of G-d for the first time.

Tradition tells us that Moses was being tested by G-d when the lamb ran away from the flock. Would he let it go, chalk it up as an acceptable loss? Or would he put everything else aside for the sake of a single, solitary lamb? When G-d saw how Moses valued every single sheep, he was deemed worthy of being the Shepherd of Israel, and leading his people out of slavery.

This idea—that every person is precious—is a core Jewish value that Moses went on to teach his people. As G-d sent plague after plague to punish the Egyptians for the hundreds of years of slavery they’d inflicted on the Jewish people, Pharaoh began to relent, offering to send some of the Jews free—but not all. Moses stood firm. “With our youth and with our elders we will go, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our cattle we will go.”

It took a few more plagues to convince Pharaoh, but in the end, that’s exactly what happened. The Shepherd of Israel led each and every one of his flock to safety and freedom.

We recall our exodus each year on Passover as we eat the matzah—the food of freedom. After the tenth and final plague, Pharaoh, who’d been so reluctant to let the Jews go, begged them to leave as soon as they could. They didn’t even have time for their bread dough to rise, so their provisions were unleavened bread—matzah.

As we prepare for Passover, we’ll also recall another shepherd of Israel: the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, whose 120th birthday we celebrate this year four days before Passover. The Rebbe uplifted a nation devastated by the Holocaust, and sent thousands of emissaries across the globe to care for every Jew. In his honor, April 12—his birthday—will be marked as Education and Sharing Day by the president of the United States, as well as by cities and states around the country.

Let’s celebrate Passover with the inspiration these leaders gave us to care for each and every one. Reach out to a friend or be kind to a neighbor. Remember that every action counts, and that every person is precious. Because Passover is a holiday of freedom—for all.

Will you be celebrating Passover? Please reach out if we can help in any way or if you could use some matza or other Passover provisions. Call us at 408.766.2343.

Rabbi Mendel Liberow is the director of Chabad South County Jewish Center in Morgan Hill, which offers Jewish education, outreach and social service programming for families and individuals of all ages, backgrounds and affiliations. For information, visit JewishMH.com.

Please be in touch with any comments, questions or feedback at [email protected].

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