Passover begins on Friday, April 15, at sundown — commemorating the first Passover as well as the birth of the Jewish people as a free nation. Under the leadership of Moses, they left slavery in Ancient Egypt to start anew.
And while the timing of Dennis Prager’s new book, “The Rational Passover Haggadah” — a direct and thoughtful dive into the Passover ritual of the seder — couldn’t be better, in an interview with Fox News Digital, he sounded a dire warning for America in his discussion of lessons to be learned from Passover and the Haggadah.
“A major reason Jews have survived 3,500 years is their continuous observance of national holy days and rituals,” the conservative radio talk show host and author said. “Without these, America may not be able to survive 300 years.”
Prager is a bestselling author, columnist and nationally syndicated radio talk show host; he is based on the West Coast.
His new book includes the Hebrew text for the Seder side by side with the English translation.
Here are highlights of Fox News Digital’s interview with him by telephone this week and in a follow-up email.
Fox News Digital: If readers take nothing else away from your new book, what would you hope they learn in 2022 about the Passover Seder and Haggadah?
Dennis Prager: Readers learn about the Seder and Passover, the oldest continuous holiday in the world. But “The Rational Passover Haggadah” is about much more than Passover alone.
I use the themes of the Seder (the meal of the first night of Passover) liturgy to address many of life’s most important issues.
Prager (con’t): Let me share three examples of that.
1. If God took the Jews out of Egypt, why didn’t he take the Jews out of Europe? In attempting to answer this question, I address the most difficult question confronting thinking believers.
2. Given the reference in the Haggadah to the afterlife, I address what I consider the ultimate question: Is this life all there is?
3. Can a religion or nation survive the death of rituals?
This is a particularly important question for US Americans. We’re losing all our national rituals.
Prager (cont’d): The Pledge of Allegiance is all but gone outside of conservative circles; the national anthem is under attack; July Fourth has become little more than a day off to enjoy hot dogs and beer; Columbus Day has been widely replaced by “Indigenous Peoples Day”; Memorial Day is just another day off; Merry Christmas has been replaced by “Happy Holidays,” “Christmas vacation” by “winter vacation,” and “Christmas party” by “holiday party” — and even Thanksgiving is under assault.
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A major reason Jews have survived 3,500 years is their continuous observance of national holy days and rituals. Without these, America may not be able to survive 300 years.
Fox News Digital: Is this why you felt it was important to write about Passover now?
Prager: I wrote it for the same reason I have written three of my projected five volumes of “The Rational Bible,” my commentary on the first five books of the Bible (the Torah). The abandonment of the Bible as our source of wisdom has led directly to the present moral and intellectual chaos as exemplified by the statement, “Men give birth.”
The reason for the abandonment of the Bible is only half due to the secular onslaught on Western civilization. The other half is due to Jews’ and Christians’ inability to rationally and convincingly explain the profundity and relevance of the Bible to succeeding generations.
Fox News Digital: What can the Haggadah teach those of us who are not Jewish?
Prager: The exact same lessons about God, life, meaning, morality, religion and society it teaches Jews. During the decades that I taught the Torah, over time as many non-Jews as Jews would come to my classes. There was a reason for that. As I said at the beginning of every semester, “The idea that the Torah only speaks to Jews is as foolish as the idea that Beethoven only speaks to Germans or Shakespeare only to the English. Either the Torah is relevant to non-Jews or it isn’t relevant to Jews.”
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The same holds true for the Haggadah, the nearly 2,000-year-old text of the Passover Seder. It has as much to say to non-Jews as to Jews. My commentary on the Haggadah is for all people. And, for that matter, for all year round.
Fox News Digital: Many people today question God — and question others’ belief in God. How do you respond to that in relation to the lessons of Passover?
Prager: I can answer this question with regard to groups, not individuals. While the Passover story is about God liberating a specific group — the Israelites — from slavery, the very same story records that “a mixed multitude” of non-Israelites were also liberated.
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God chose a people (to be known as the Chosen People) to carry his universal moral message into the world, but He cares about every group. “Through you all the nations of the world will be blessed,” God tells the first Jew, Abraham.
Passover initiated the idea that the God of all the world hates slavery. Never before in history was a deity depicted as being on the side of the enslaved. It should also be noted that no bible in the world depicts its adherents as negatively as the Hebrew Bible depicts the Jews. God is not ethnocentric — He is ethic-centric.
Prager (cont’d): As for individuals, I have no idea why some people are smarter, more talented, healthier or better looking than others. This is clearly not fair.
But I don’t believe God is the reason for this disparity. And if he is, I don’t know how he determines who gets what gift. As the medieval Jewish saying put it, “If I knew Him, I’d be Him.”
Fox News Digital: Is there anything else about the significance of Passover you would like to mention?
Prager: If the book does not affect readers’ outlooks on life, I have failed.