APRIL 3-4, 2009 10 NISAN 5769
"And you shall celebrate it as a festival for Hashem for your generations, you shall celebrate it as an eternal statute" (Shemot 12:14)
The holiday of Pesah comes once a year. It is a busy and beautiful time. We celebrate our nation being born, born out of a wretched situation of slavery that brought us to the lowest physical condition possible. The Torah commands us to celebrate this milestone for all generations to come. However, one who sees this occasion as commemorating only an emancipation from physical bondage will wonder, why celebrate now? What does it mean for us today? But, if one sees this also as a celebration of being released from a spiritually impure situation, to one of spiritual holiness, he has cause to celebrate even today as we dwell in exile. As the verse quoted above states, it is a festival for Hashem. We rejoice in our spiritual redemption to serve Hashem. Therefore, it is a celebration for all generations.
Rabbi Avigdor Miller learns a great lesson from the verse, "And Hashem will pass over (upasah) the door and will not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to smite (12:23)." He explains, (as quoted in the weekly Torah message from Sam J. Gindi) "Pesah (the passing over) symbolizes the eternity of the loyal Jewish people, whose progeny will continue until the end of days and whose souls are rewarded forever. Thus the miracle of the Pesah was not only for this occasion, but it teaches us that Hashem will always cause the destroyer to pass over his loyal ones in all generations.
Our people have faced their enemies in Nazi Europe, and we face our enemies in the Arab world today. We should not fear, because Hashem has said He will not allow the destroyer to destroy us, not then and not now. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"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 Shmuel Choueka
"Take Aharon and his sons with him, and the garments and the anointing oil...and gather all the congregation together unto the entrance of Ohel Moed" (Vayikra 8:2-3)
Moshe is enjoined regarding the misvah of anointing Aharon and his sons prior to their induction into the priestly service. What reason is there for the whole congregation of B'nei Yisrael to assemble at the entrance to the Ohel Moed? What connection do they have to this misvah, and what purpose is served by it? As this misvah is directed to Moshe, why did he relate it to B'nei Yisrael?
The Kohen Gadol's influence over the people is proportional to the extent that they are unified and in agreement. When there is discord and strife among them, his spiritual influence cannot imbue them with his source of holiness. B'nei Yisrael may be compared to a body with the Kohen Gadol being the leader and head. If the various organs are separated, then what purpose will the head serve? As Moshe was about to anoint the Kohanim, he first assembled all the people in front of them. This assemblage was the essential, reciprocal relationship required to maximize the Kohen Gadol's influence over the people. Only through unity can the influence of holiness penetrate all of Klal Yisrael. (Peninim on the Torah)
Motivational speakers, manager, schoolteachers, and business people have picked up on a phrase. What is the new buzzword for success? "Be pro-active."
"Don't sit back," they say. "Take the bull by the horns. Don't watch things happen and then react; make them happen!"
These are the guidelines they preach to others to prompt them into positive action modes.
When it comes to Torah and misvot, the Yeser Hara is constantly on the lookout for a hole in our defense system. Rather than fight us on the battlefields where we are strong, he would much rather choose a surprise attack on turf that we view as a "demilitarized zone." He won't try to get us to commit an out-and-out sin such as eating bread on Passover or non-kosher food; he prefers to take the easy path and blindside us when we are not looking. He knows that many people, even those who are observant, make clear distinctions between "religious activity" and "everyday life."
The Talmud teaches that one verse in Proverbs (Mishle 3:6) is the basis for all of the Torah. "B'chol derachecha da'ehoo - Know Him in all your ways." Rambam explains that misvot are not restricted to ritual observances. "All of man's actions and
words, whether at work or at leisure, should be aimed at this goal, so that no action is senseless and pointless" (Hilchot De'ot 3:3).
Eating, drinking, sleeping, and exercising all add to physical health. The point is to direct the goal of physical fitness to the ultimate goal of being in good health to serve our Creator.
When you leave the synagogue or your home to enter the "outside world," focus your thoughts on doing whatever you must to develop into a better and healthier person, one mentally and financially fit to better serve Hashem. Be pro-active. You might have to exercise your brain a little bit more than you like, but it will convert your everyday acts into misvot. You will have executed a sneak attack on the enemy, and won! (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
"What Laban the Aramean wanted to do to our father Ya'akob. Pharaoh had issued a decree against the male children only, but Laban wanted to uproot everyone." (Haggadah)
Tonight we are celebrating our redemption from Egyptian bondage. Why do we minimize the evil intentions of Pharaoh in contrast to Laban?
On the contrary, with this we are emphasizing Hashem's unlimited love for the Jewish people and how indebted we must be to Him. Hashem promised that however much we would forsake the Torah and despite our being in the land of our enemies, he would never reject us nor permit our obliteration (see Vayikra 26:44). While this is so, it does not exclude, G-d forbid, partial elimination. Consequently, when Laban sought to uproot everything, it was incumbent on Hashem to thwart his plans. Since Pharaoh, however, planned only a partial destruction of the Jewish people, Hashem's promise did not obligate Him to intervene. Nevertheless, in Egypt Hashem showed His great love for the Jewish people and prevented even a partial destruction. (Ki Yishalcha Bincha)
"The simple son"
A hasid of the Mezeritcher Rebbe once traveled to be with his Rebbe for Pesah. The winter had been severe, and the roads were bad. When he reached a small village near Mezeritch, the sun was setting and it was impossible to go on before Yom Tob.
The local innkeeper invited the distressed Hasid for Pesah and promised him a beautiful kosher Seder. The innkeeper and his sons said the Haggadah with tremendous enthusiasm. The sons asked the questions, and their father answered with great joy.
When they got to the "Four Sons" they said "Hacham, what does he say?; Rasha, what does he say?" - all with special emphasis unlike that of the rest of the Haggadah. When they came to "Tam, what does he say?" they became very sad, saying it with choked voices and with tears. And when they came to the answer, "With a strong hand Hashem took us out of Egypt," they read it with great happiness.
The Hasid could not understand their strange Haggadah reading, which made it seem that they did not know where to be sad and where to be happy. The same thing happened on the second night, with the same tears, and the same joy.
When he came to the Maggid, he told how sad he was not to be at the Maggid's Seder, and his great wonder at the innkeeper's Seder. The Maggid calmed him and said it was worth being away for Pesah to sit with the innkeeper and his sons, "They are great sadikim and know the true intentions of the Haggadah."
The Maggid continued: The Haggadah complains bitterly about the foolishness of man's ways. People pay attention to the Hacham - what does he say? They pay attention to the Rasha - what does he say? But they pay no attention to hear: "Tam" - "there" [in Aramaic, tam means "there"] - i.e. in heaven, what does He say? And if He will ask, "What have you accomplished, what have you done about your actions that have pushed off your redemption," what will you say?
As depressing as this may be, immediately we are comforted and gladdened by the answer: "Hashem took us out of Egypt with a strong hand." Hashem took the Jews out by force whether they were ready or deserving to be redeemed or not. He simply showed tremendous mercy and redeemed them forcefully. And thus, we too can hope that Hashem will have mercy on us and redeem us. (Ki Yishalcha Bincha)
"And He saw our suffering, our labor, and our oppression" (Haggadah)
"Onyenu" refers to "perishut derech eress - disruption of family life." "Amalenu" refers to "banim - the children." And "lahasenu" refers to "dachak - the pressure." Why did Hashem resolve to redeem the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage because of these three things in particular?
Originally Hashem had told Abraham that his children would be in Egyptian servitude for four hundred years. In reality, however, they were there for only two hundred and ten years. Since Hashem does not change His mind, the early departure must have been due to the Jews' accomplishing in only 210 years what is normally achieved in 400 years. Here are some possible explanations for this productivity: 1) They worked day and night. 2) They were blessed with very large families so that there was extra manpower. 3) The Egyptians worked them so hard that they accomplished the equivalent of four hundred years of slavery in this short period.
This passage is referring to the above mentioned: when Hashem saw the suffering caused by "perishut derech eress - the disruption of family life because of working nights," and "amalenu," the many children that were born, and "lahasenu," the unusual oppression they suffered, He decided the time was up for them to be in Egypt. (Ki Yishalcha Bincha)
Malbim views the four sons as representative of a historical pattern in the decline of Torah observance. The first generation of alienation, the wise one, follows the misvot of the Torah, yet questions why all different types of misvot are necessary, voicing skepticism to its children. Unwilling to submit unqualifiedly to the will of G-d as did their pious fathers, they want to know the meaning of every aspect of the ritual. The child of the next generation, the wicked son, sees no need to observe his father's "ancient and outdated" practices. "What is the purpose of all that you do?' he snickers. "Why should I perform rituals that even you yourself feel are futile?" he asks his father.
As to be expected, the wicked son offers his own child no Jewish education or exposure to vibrant Judaism, and the youngster grows up bereft of his spiritual heritage. Only on Pesah when the family visits grandparents for the Seder does he see a fleeting display of Torah and misvot. Unfamiliar with these strange practices he asks, "What is this?" He is the simple son.
The most tragic of all is the next generation, the simple son's child. He does not even have the opportunity to visit with an observant grandfather and at least once a year taste the beauty of real Judaism. He grows up in total ignorance, completely uninformed and unable to participate at all.
After undergoing the American experience, the Rabbis have added to the words of the Malbim as follows:
The Haggadah describes the generational breakdown only until the fourth generation - typified by complete ignorance, apathy and lack of information. But what about the fifth generation?
They answer that such an unfortunate person has only two routes to travel. Either he will marry a gentile woman who will bear him children who will no longer be Jewish, and thus there will be no fifth generation - or he will go off to Eress Yisrael, meet someone at the Kotel, and subsequently become an observant Jew - eventually winding up as a Hacham himself.
Either way, there is simply no fifth generation! The choices for the fourth son include either self-destruction - or self-rejuvenation that leads back to the Hacham. But one thing is certain: There are no more than the four categories described in the Haggadah. (The Sephardic Heritage Haggadah)
One of the vegetables that may be used for maror is hazeret, romaine lettuce. Its Hebrew name is related to hozer, to return. Often the bitterness of life's experiences causes people to reflect on the direction their life is taking and helps bring about a return to G-d.
R' Moshe Feinstein offers a perspective on this:
The Mishnah Pesahim (39a) lists five species that can be used as maror. The first one on the list, hazeret (romaine lettuce), is the preferred species to use for this misvah; the last species in that list, maror, which is a less preferred species, has an exceptionally bitter taste. One would have expected the order of preference to be reversed.
There is a lesson in this for us. Maror is the symbol of Jewish suffering, and calls to mind the suffering of the Jews in Egypt. But we must remember that all suffering ultimately comes from G-d and has a purpose. G-d presents us with difficulties when we lapse, to prod us back to the correct path. These difficulties can assume many forms. G-d does not wish to cause us pain; His sole intent in punishing us is to make us recognize our shortcomings so that we can overcome them. The form and intensity of suffering necessary to accomplish this depends on us. If a person who misplaces his keys realizes that G-d wants him to take stock of his actions, the "suffering" has accomplished its purpose. If, however, he does not heed these signals, he will be reminded (G-d forbid) by something more severe, until he heeds the message.
Therefore, the mild hazeret is the preferred type of maror. We must keep in mind that maror does not necessarily have to be bitter. It is only after time, when the message of the maror is continually ignored, that the bitter taste must emerge. (The Sephardic Heritage Haggadah)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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