Subscribe to our Newsletter

click to dowload our latest edition



No need to justify, just to educate



“Three hundred years ago, there came to the New World a boat, and its name was the Mayflower. The Mayflower’s landing on Plymouth Rock was one of the great historical events in the history of England and America. But I would like to ask any Englishman sitting here on the commission, what day did the Mayflower leave port? What date was it? I’d like to ask the Americans: do they know what date the Mayflower left port in England? How many people were on the boat? Who were their leaders? What kind of food did they eat on the boat?

“More than 3 300 years ago, long before the Mayflower, our people left Egypt, and every Jew in the world, wherever he is, knows what day they left. And he knows what food they ate. We still eat that food every anniversary. We know who our leader was, and we sit down and tell the story to our children and grandchildren in order to guarantee that it will never be forgotten. And we say our two slogans, ‘Now we may be enslaved, but next year, we’ll be a free people.’”

This is an excerpt from David Ben Gurion’s famous speech to the Peel Commission in 1936 during the British Mandate of Palestine, which was appointed to study the rising violence between Arabs and Jews and propose a solution. Ben Gurion invokes Pesach as the illustration of our claim to Israel. Pesach is the festival of the Jewish family. It’s the festival where Jews, across the religious spectrum, gather to celebrate a seder together. It’s a festival that symbolises, more than any other, commitment to Jewish continuity and to the land of Israel.

Isn’t it ironic that in 2024, 88 years after Ben Gurion’s speech invoking Pesach, we’re still locked in a battle with our enemies and many around the world trying to justify our claim to Israel. A claim that preceded the existence of any of the nations that seek to delegitimise Israel. In spite of the superb efforts of journalists and community leaders around the world, even those of different faiths, we’re besieged globally by marches of thousands calling for Israel’s destruction with their ill-disguised antisemitic chants. It seems like our justifications fall on deaf ears, generation after generation.

Perhaps, therein lies the issue. We don’t need to justify. We need to educate. Ourselves.

There’s no mitzvah in the Torah which calls on us to explain ourselves to others. There’s no festival in which we dedicate ourselves to spreading the Jewish faith or belief to other nations. There’s only a mitzvah to tell our story to our children. There’s only a mitzvah to ensure that our children know who they are, where they come from, and how they are part of Jewish destiny.

When we sing the beautiful V’hi Sheamda on seder night, we remind ourselves that in every generation, there are those that rise up to destroy us, and it’s only our faith, tradition, and connection to Torah that ensures our survival.

In gematria the word “v’hi” is made up of four letters: a vav – numerical value six; hay – numerical value five; yud – numerical value 10; and alef – numerical value one, which our sages teach is a reference to the six books of the Mishna; the five books of the Torah; the 10 commandments; and the alef representing one G-d, Hashem. It’s only these that we can rely on, not Joe Biden.

Advocacy has its place and is important. However, Jewish education is paramount. Our homes and our seder tables are the foundation of Jewish continuity. It’s here that we sit at a magnificent multi-generational event and imbibe, deep into our consciousness, and remind ourselves of our roots. It’s around these tables that our children learn that in spite of what others think, and without the need to justify ourselves, Israel is the Jewish homeland because Hashem promised it to us. He took us out of Egypt and into Israel, where we established a homeland. There was no Peel Commission, there was no United Nations. Just a people and a divine promise. And that’s good enough.

  • Rabbi Ricky Seeff is the general director of the South African Jewish Board of Education, and former principal of King David Primary School Victory Park.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *