Mah Nishtanah: How Is This Moment Different?

Blurry image of countryside with the words Mah Nishtanah: How Is This Moment Different?

As we straddle the time between Purim and Passover we are in a moment where we wonder, from where will salvation come?

Will it come from the human hands of Esther, who, when compelled by Mordecai, bravely spoke up on behalf of the Jewish people? Or will redemption come from the presence of God, an entity that acts in history on behalf of people who are crying out for freedom and whose tears we see and feel, and even taste as we dip a vegetable in salt water?

In 2022 it is hard to imagine that it is just one person or that we will be able to see the outstretched arm of God, but what we can do is look for those who are stepping up for people, with their voices, acting in God’s ways, to bring redemption to all. 

I recently had the honor of traveling to Poland and the Ukrainian border with 17 other rabbis from the NY Area on a UJA Federation Rabbinic Mission. While I was there I realized that the work of our people, the Jewish people, who are coming together to redeem lives through the work of organizations like JFNA, JDC, and JAFI, are helping to elevate the “everyday Esther’s” who are realizing that it is their time to make a difference.

It is their time to speak up for those who need help.

As we drove through the Polish countryside, we couldn’t help but picture our more recent Jewish ancestors, those who fled, hid from, and died at the hands of Nazis during the Holocaust. 

And with that as the backdrop I have been thinking about Pesah, and the question we are about to ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

I suggest we expand that to ask, “How is this moment different from all other moments?” 

At all (or most) other moments, when Jews were in trouble, we didn’t have anywhere to go. At this moment, Jews are able to go to Israel. Israel, as a sovereign country, is able to live out the vision and the values of being a Jewish home. Israel welcomes Ukrainian refugees, especially the direct descendants of Righteous Gentiles. Israel is using its collective voice to bring redemption to many. 

As you sit at your seder this year, please ask yourself, “How am I using my voice?” How can I ensure that “this night is a different night” and “this moment is a different moment” for all who seek change?

Author

  • Rabbi Rachel Ain is the Rabbi at Sutton Place Synagogue, a Conservative Synagogue in Midtown Manhattan, where, with her incredible professional team and dedicated lay leaders, she works to create a community that inspires, educates, and engages people at all ages and stages, looking for an address for their Jewish home. She’s involved in the larger community, sitting on the board of the UJA Federation of NY, the NY Board of Rabbis, and connected to the Partnership of Faith Communities. She is a guest columnist for the NY Jewish Week, the Jerusalem Post, and has served as a panelist on The Today Show, Good Morning America 3, and NBC Local News.

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