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Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"G-d has bestowed many favors upon us." (Passover Haggadah)
Gratitude and appreciation are virtues that are not simply praiseworthy, they are essential traits. On the Seder night we are enjoined to recount the many wonders and miracles that Hashem wrought for us. Ibn Ezra contends that appreciation goes a step further. We are to remember how it used to be, how we suffered, the pain and affliction to which we were subjected, the thirst and hunger which accompanied us and the depression and hopelessness that ruled our lives. Hashem rescued us from all that. He took us out of misery, granting us the opportunity to live as free people.
Harav Mordechai Gifter, shlita, explains that one must appreciate and give gratitude where it is due. Does one, however, analyze the good that he has received? Does one ever think about what life would have been like had he not been saved? Do we ever really evaluate the good? Do we simply say, "Thank you," and continue with "business as usual?" One must remember what it had been like; think back to the days of misery and pain, feel some of the frustration and grief that used to be so much a part of his life. Then and only then will he truly understand the essence of the favor he has received. All too quickly we pay our respects to our benefactor and forget about him. If we pay more attention to our past we might more fully appreciate the present.
This, according to Harav Gifter, is the purpose of the Dayenu format of the Haggadah. We must delve deeper into the "good" that we have received, reviewing it, analyzing every aspect of it, so that we will experience greater appreciation at the present time. Let us appreciate all that we have so that we may merit to be blessed continuously. Happy Pesah.
Rabbi Reuven Semah
"We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt...Originally, our ancestors were idol worshippers" (Hagaddah shel Pesah)
On the Seder night we, as parents, must tell that all-important story. I know that our beautiful children come home with volumes of hidushim, new ideas, on the Hagaddah. They are so anxious to recite all that they have learned. Of course, we encourage them to recite the four questions, Mah Nishtanah. However, it should stop right there. Now you take over! You must excite them! Rivet them to their chairs! Let them tell over their beautiful ideas tomorrow by lunch.
Today we are not literal slaves, but Pesah remains for us the time for personal redemption. We say "abadim hayinu, we were slaves to Pharaoh", but we also say, "mitechila, originally our ancestors were idol worshippers." We talk about Terah, the father of Abraham our father. Terah was a retailer. He sold idols. What is Abraham's idol worshipping father doing in the Hagaddah?
Rabbi Yisrael Miller, quoting the Oheb Yisrael, explains. One of the lessons of Pesah is never to give up hope no matter how insurmountable the problem appears to be. Do you suffer from the burden of a wicked Pharaoh? Don't give up. Hashem saved us once and He can surely save us again. Or do you suffer from the burden of your own emotions? Are you enslaved by fears or desires or thoughts that leave you no peace?
Perhaps you think you are far from the Torah and will never get close to Hashem? Do not give up. You can not be worse than Terah, Abraham's father, who was willing to kill his own son for the sake of his idols.
At the end, even Terah was redeemed by having a great son like Abraham, and even he himself made teshubah. He came to know Hashem. We say this in the Hagaddah to teach us that all kinds of personal redemption are possible. Physical, emotional, spiritual, whatever prison you are in, even one that you yourself have built. You can be freed. As long as we don't stop waiting for Hashem, He can always set us free.
There is no greater happiness than feeling close to Hashem. On Pesah you can get it. Help your children get it by thrilling them with what Hashem did for us. Happy holiday
Rabbi Yaacov Ben-Haim
There was once a Jew who constantly spoke "lashon hara." Creating ill will among Jews seemed to be his mission in life. All of a sudden, he seemed inundated in misfortunes of all sorts. He decided to take stock of his life. He admitted that he was guilty of lashon hara. He went to a Rabbi for advice on how to repent and to repair the damage he had done.
The Rabbi told him, "Go buy a chicken. Slaughter it, then pluck its feathers and scatter them in the air as you walk through the streets of the city. After you have completed that stage of your penitence, come back to me."
This Jew was willing to do anything to atone for his sins. He followed the Rabbi's instructions diligently. An hour later he returned and asked, "Rabbi, have we finished the atonement process?"
"Finished? You have just started. If you sincerely wish to repent, you must now gather all of the feathers you scattered."
The man stood there in astonishment. "Is the Rav serious?" he asked.
"How can I possibly gather up feathers that have blown onto trees and roofs, and into gutterpipes?"
"You can't manage to gather up the feathers you scattered just an hour ago. Do you think it will be easy to gather up the words of lashon hara you have scattered about over such a long time?"
The Midrash (Debarim Rabbah 6:14) states, "Hashem says, in this world, because there is lashon hara among you, I withdrew My presence from among you." Like a letter directly from Hashem - clear and unambiguous.
The message of this statement is incredible. The Bet Hamikdash has not been rebuilt, the Shechinah (Divine Presence) is not in our midst, because of the forbidden speech which we utter. Shabbat Shalom.
"This is what has stood" (Hagaddah)
Why do we raise the cup of wine when reciting this passage?
Throughout history many have endeavored to cause us to assimilate in order to detach us from Hashem and Torah and thus destroy us spiritually.
In order to avoid intermarriage and assimilation our Sages instituted certain ordinances. Since wine drinking brings people together and promotes intimacy, they prohibit sharing wine with non-Jews, and we are not to drink any wine which was handled by a non-Jew (Shabbat 17b).
Thus, with the lifting of the cup of wine we are proclaiming that thanks to adhering to the law our Rabbis issued concerning "this" - wine - i.e. the command not to mingle with non-Jews by drinking wine - we have maintained our identity and averted their every effort to destroy us. The Hagaddah illustrates this principle in the passage immediately following, which begins with the words "se ulmad - go out and learn."
The Hagaddah cites the relationship of Laban and Ya'akob, as if to say, "From this, go out and learn how true it is that we do not mix with the gentile world." Ya'akob lived with Laban and married into his family. Yet Laban hated Ya'akob the Jew to the extent that he wanted to destroy everything he possessed. This is a proof to the sad truth that joining with the nations of the world will not change their attitude towards the Jew nor bring him any good. (Ki Yishalcha Bincha)
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