Shabbat HaGadol - Rabbi Daniel Bouskila

Ben-Gurion's Passover

April 19, 2008 - 14 Nissan 5768

Shabbat HaGadol

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila
Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel
Vice President, Board of Rabbis of Southern California

In 1947, standing before the U.N. Commission on the Partition of Palestine, David Ben-Gurion spoke these words:

"Three hundred years ago a ship called the Mayflower set sail to the New World. This was a great event in the history of England. Yet I wonder if there is one Englishman who knows at what time the ship set sail? Do the English know how many people embarked on the voyage? What quality of bread did they eat? Yet more than three thousand three hundred years ago, before the Mayflower set sail, the Jews left Egypt. Every Jew in the world, even in America or Soviet Russia, knows what kind of bread the Jews ate - Matza. Even today the Jews worldwide eat Matza on the 15th of Nisan. They retell the story of the Exodus and all of the troubles Jews have endured since being exiled, saying: This year, slaves, next year, free! This year here - Next year in Jerusalem, in Zion, in Eretz Yisrael. That is the nature of the Jews."

Several months later, on the Eve of Shabbat, May 14, 1948, the same David Ben-Gurion stood before the Provisional Zionist Government in Tel-Aviv, and pronounced these historic words:

"We hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Yisrael, to be known as the State of Israel."

With these historic words, Ben-Gurion, who understood the power of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt in search of freedom, put an end to Jewish homelessness. On that very same historic day, the rabbis of Israel should have changed the words of the Haggadah to read: Last year - slaves, this year - free. Last year in exile, this year in Jerusalem, in Zion, in Eretz Yisrael. As you sit down to your Passover Seder, contemplating two thousand years of Jewish exile versus the upcoming 60th Year of Independence in Israel, add a word of praise and thanks for David Ben-Gurion, Israel's First Prime Minister. He may not have changed the words of the Haggadah, but with his own words, he certainly changed the course of Jewish history forever.