The last song at the very end of Passover Seder is a song that reminds me of nursery school. It reminds me of the song, "The House that Jack Built." The story is that of a goat that a father purchased with two coins. Then a cat comes along and bites the goat, a dog comes to bite the cat. Then somebody takes a stick to hit the dog. The cycle continues, with fire, water, an ox, a slaughterer, then the angel of death and ultimately, G-d. Why do we sing this at the very end of Haggadah?
There are a few ideas behind this. It is clear that the goat symbolizes the Jewish people. The father that bought the goat symbolizes the two temples in Jerusalem. Now we all know the historical accounts of great rulers that tried to annihilate the Jews, from Babylonia to the Greeks to the Egyptians, the Ammalakites and the Romans.
In our funny allegory, the interesting part is that the dog bites the cat, which initially bites the goat. The dog sometimes claims the reason he is bothering the cat is because the cat is doing injustice to the goat. The truth of the matter is that he is biting the cat solely because he hates the cat, not in defense of the goat. In real terms, when one nation is trying to annihilate the Jews, and then another nation tries to get into the act, the other nations get involved to rule over people - not just because they are good-natured and are coming to the defense of the Jews.
Here are a few examples: when one nation fought against others in WWII, it wasn’t because the first loved the Jews and cared about those Jews who were dying in the camps. It was because others attacked them and they wanted to preserve land and power. The defense of human rights is an excuse sometimes for nations to war against one another. The beauty of that little song we sing about is that the little goat survived all of these terrible attacks because the ultimate authority over all the players is G-d--He who is in control, even over the angel of death.
For Jewish people it is very easy to feel connected to the Angel of Death because of so many who have suffered. The story to tell our children is to tell them that history repeats itself: we survive, but not because of our worldly wisdom or big armies, but we survive because G-d wants us to survive. In other words, the dog can scream and shout that he is saving the goat, but he is not sincere—he is only serving his own needs.
Mark Twain wrote that so many civilizations have disappeared, the Greeks, Romans and all the others that were so "great," but the Jewish people miraculously survived all of these hardships. We have to teach our children and educate them that we should not be proud because of overcoming the Holocaust, or some lobby in Washington, or a having a great army, all these reasons are only secondary. We survive primarily because G-d, the King of the Universe, wants us to survive.
This is this rabbi’s opinion and interpretation. The Jewish people sing this song, year after year at the end of the Haggadah.
Copyright Moshe P. Weisblum, All Rights Reserved.
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