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Weekly Chizuk

Shabbos Hagadol - Pesach

(From Reb Sholom's Haggadah - Rav Sholom Schwadron)

Rabbi Yosi Ha-Gallili said: How do you know that the Egyptians were stricken by ten plagues in Egypt, and then were struck by fifty plagues at the sea?

In Mitzrayim it says of them, "The magicians said to Pharaoh `This is the finger of G-d.' At the sea it says, "Israel saw the great hand that the Hashem laid against Egypt; and the people feared Hashem, and they believed in Hashem and in His servant Moshe."

Now, how often were they smitten by `the finger'? Ten plagues!

Thus you must conclude that in Mitzrayim they were smitten by ten plagues, at the sea they were smitten by fifty plagues!

And the people feared Hashem,
and they believed in Hashem.
(Haggadah Shel Pesach)

The order in this possuk is backward! First a person has to believe that Hashem exists. Only afterwards can he fear him. This possuk says the reverse. First they feared Him, and then afterwards they believed. It would stand to reason that if one fears Hashem, certainly he knows that there is Hashem. And once someone knows there is a G-d, and he fears Him, why did the possuk have to add that they believed in Him. How is it possible to have yiras shomayim before emunah?

Before we answer this question let us try to define what emunah is and what heresy (kefira) is.

The Rambam, at the very beginning of Hilchos Yesodei Torah writes, "It is the most basic of the primary principles and a pillar of wisdom to know that there is something [namely G-d] that existed before anything else did and that He created everything that there is. Everything in the skies, on the ground and in between exists only because of the fact that He created them."

The Sefer Hamitzvos elaborates and lists this belief as a positive commandment: "It is an obligation to believe in the Diety. One must believe that there is a Higher Being Who is the Primary Cause of everything."

Now, we can understand that it is possible to obligate someone regarding that which he has free will; like putting on tefillin, or keeping Shabbos. Even such ethereal concepts such as Fear or Love - we can say that it is within a person's ability to spend time in contemplation to produce the desired effect and bring him to acquire love and fear of Hashem. But "believe"! How can you force a person to believe that Hashem exists? If he believes, fine. But if not - what do you want him to do?

We can take this even further. The Torah was given to each Jew from the moment he reaches Bar Mitzvah. Now if Aristotle and all the great philosophers and wise men throughout the ages struggled with belief in the Almighty - and many of them were even atheists - how can you demand a little 13 year old boy to rise above all their questions and believe what so many brilliant people couldn't?

And let's take this one step further. Why has such a question never been answered? This is such a simple question that every little child knows how to ask it: "Who created all this?" And yet, millions, billions, trillions of people have gazed at the world and said the simple word, "Nature." And yet how many of them has asked, who created it?

Thousands of scientists, in every generation, from all over the world, have probed the wonders of nature - from the largest and most gigantic galaxies, to the most miniscule subatomic particles, all of which contain boundless wisdom - and still no one has yet gotten to the bottom of any of it. They are still studying every bit of nature trying to understand it. And we stand on the sidelines forced to accept the explanation "Nature"; we are forbidden to question this "holy dogma."

The answer is so simple; any yeshiva bochur asks the opposite question: How can you call this concept "emunah"? It's not faith, it's obvious! Do you have to "believe" that the table and chairs that fill your dining room were made in a carpentry shop? No intelligent human being can see this without understanding the simple fact: "there is no creation without a creator."

Even the fact that Torah is min hashomayim. We've never heard a reasonable refutation worthy of the name rregarding this historical fact that every generation has known all the generations. The events of Matan Torah, the splitting of the sea, the Exodus from Mitzrayim, all the prophecies and miracles that Klal Yisroel experienced from the beginning of their nationhood. These are all undeniable facts.

Isn't it interesting that in all the annals of historical research no one has ever questioned - everyone has accepted as absolute fact - that America has existed for several hundred years! We have never heard of anyone asking the simple question: maybe not.

This is nothing new. However, in light the mystifying situation stated above it is proper and worthwhile to repeat that which is simple:

The intellect has no doubts! The heart is the source of these doubts!

Let's look at the secular individuals. When everything is quiet and peaceful they have the luxury of spewing their heresy. But when tragedy and hardship strike, how often do we suddenly see them running to pray? [Just sit next to one of them on an airplane that experiences extreme turbulence or engine trouble. He'll look at you with fear written all over his face and ask you to pray for him!] How is it possible that a person who was a sworn atheist or agnostic a few moments ago suddenly threw off his doubts and believes in prayer?

A Gadol once said: no one really has any doubts. He knows the truth with a crystal clear clarity - in his brain. All the doubts are in his heart. Sometimes the brain wins, and sometimes the heart wins. When the going gets rough, the heart melts and then he is willing to understand the truth. Otherwise, the heart wins and blurs his mind from understanding.

This is the source of all problems in emunah. Any little child can understand emunah. And he is even commanded by the Torah not to be bribed by his physical heart. That is the mitzvah: believe and don't be seduced by the heart's desires to deny Hashem's existence. The stronger the physical seduction - that is how strong ones emunah must be.

With this we can understand the Medrash: "Then Moshe and Israel sang…" This is the expressed in the possuk (Tehillim 106), "They believed in his words and sang his praise." Rav Avahu said, "Even though it is written that they had already believed while still in Mitzrayim, they turned around and stopped believing. Once they came to the sea and saw Hakadosh Baruch Hu's power, how He meted out justice to the wicked, they immediately 'believed in Hashem.'"

What's going on here? If they believed in Mitzrayim - if it was clear to them that Hashem is the Creator of the world and running it - how did it come about that they stopped believing? Take a simpleton. He doesn't understand that 2 + 2 = 4. But then he counts on his fingers, Ahhhh! Finally he understands. How can he suddenly lose his mind and think that 2 + 2 = 5 ??? He should be sent straight to the psychiatric ward. And the Medrash tells us about an entire nation that believed, and then didn't believe, and then they believed again! What's going on?

If emunah was in the realm of the intellect, then this would be a valid question. But, like we said, emunah is in the realm of the heart which has the ability to doubt. That is where it is possible to experience ups and downs. This is why when they saw the justice meted out to the wicked, their hearts melted and allowed the clarity of their minds to dominate. Suddenly, immediately, "They believed in Hashem"!!!

* * *

Pesach is the time of Geula. It commemorates the Geula from the enslavement in Mitzrayim, and Chazal tell us that Pesach is the time for our Geula from this long Golus.

Years ago every Yid yearned in his heart for the Moshiach to come. They sang the famous lyrics: ani ma'amin be'emunah sheleimah bebias Hamoshiach.

After the terrible Holocaust, when the State of Israel was established, the Yidden held their breaths, waiting in anticipation. But the years have dragged on and the golus just gets harder and harder, and the Moshiach seems further and further away. Yidden are hounded, and hunted, and hated, and no respite can be seen on the horizon. The Golus just gets darker and darker. People have even stopped singing, "Moshiach, Moshiach, Moshiach." Klal Yisroel is tired of Golus, but there is no end in sight.

There is a Yiddish version of the Ma Nishtana. It goes something like this: Pesach, at night, when the tatte comes home from shul, he puts on his white kittel and he hurries to make Kiddush in order that the little children shouldn't fall asleep.

Once, the little son of a Chassidishe Rebbe said over the Ma Nishtana in a shortened form: Pesach, at night, when the tatte comes home from shul, he makes Kiddush right away.

The Rebbe asked his child why he left half of the nusach out. The little boy replied that was the way he had been taught. So the next day, the Rebbe hurried to ask the Cheder rebbe why he left out some of the nusach. The melamed answered, "Oh, that's not important. Kiddush is important."

The Rebbe looked at him. "No! You don't understand. The MaNishtana is not talking about plain kleine kinderlach. It's talking about Klal Yisroel. We're the kleine kinderlach. We're weary from the long Golus. So we daven to the Ribono Shel Olam. "Tatte in Himmel. Come home. And put on Your white kittel of purity and hurry and make Kiddush. Because Klal Yisroel, your Kleina Kiderlach are tired and about to fall asleep!"

We should never lose our emunah. We must daven to Hashem to bring the Moshiach. Pesach is the time of Geula. LeShana Habo BiYerushalayim!

Wishing everyone a Chag Kosher v'Sameach!

Shevi'i Shel Pesach

(From Reb Sholom's Haggadah - Rav Sholom Schwadron)

"… And they believed in Hashem and in His servant Moshe."

The way to attain emunah is by using one's simple common sense and understanding things straight, without any philosophy. Everything is really quite simple and makes good sense. Long before a philosopher understands something with his intellectual analysis, someone with good common sense understands it almost instantaneously. The philosopher has to write tractates with reams of paper of analysis and mathematical and logical proofs that the universe couldn't have evolved by itself, while a simple young child can understand this with no effort whatsoever.

Even worse. The more a person gets into the habit of thinking using research and analysis, he loses his common sense. He has trained himself to ask regarding everything: who says it has to be this way? Maybe it's a different way? Eventually he can even convince himself that Man is descended from the monkeys! It's amazing how the whole world is going crazy from this nonsense.

There are those who believe that the world was created from a Big Bang! I've always wondered how such intelligent individuals could entertain such an idea. Everyone knows that when a glass falls on the floor and explodes you have to work very hard sweeping up all the tiny pieces. How can anything positive come out of an explosion?

Someone once asked me, "Reb Sholom. Maybe the world was created from a Big Bang?"

I answered him, "if you were 5 meters tall, and 10 meters wide, and one leg was long and fat while the other was short and skinny; and one of your eyes was planted on top of your bald head, and the other in the middle of your forehead; and your nose was on your stomach and your mouth was on your back; etc. Maybe then you could think about a big bang, because that's how you would expect yourself to look after an explosion. But when you are layed out so beautifully and organized, and standing normal in front of me, you most certainly did not evolve from any big bang or accident!

The same is true about Torah. Anyone who studies the holy Torah is convinced it is stupendously deep and logical. Even if he doubts that it is min hashomayim, but it most certainly didn't grow from the ground. And what kind of human had the ability to compose such a work like that? Common sense tells us it is min hashomayim.

They once brought a primus (kerosene burner) to the Mirrer Mashgiach, Reb Chatzkel. As soon as he saw it he exclaimed, "Ah! Torah min hashomayim!"

His family questioned him about his remark - what does a primus have to do with Torah min hashomayim?

He pointed to the little paper that came with the primus. It was the sheet of instructions how to use it. "If such a simple thing as a kerosene burner needs an instruction manual, how much more so the complicated creation called Man! He definitely needs an instruction manual from his Maker.

Wishing everyone a Gut Yom Tov!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff

Rosh Yeshiva

Yeshiva Gedolah Medrash Chaim

Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop ? Lakewood). You can access Rav Parkoff's Chizuk Sheets online:

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