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Weekly Chizuk

Pesach and the Seder

Rav Eliyahu Dessler (Strive for Truth V. II part 4 p. 21) writes that the observance of the Yomim Tovim is much more than a pious remembrance of past events. The yearly cycle is in reality a circle. On each festival we return to the original spiritual content of the day; to the kedusha of time which is made available to us today just as it was then. For example, the first Shabbos established, so to speak, a "station" in time whose name is "Shabbos." Each week we reach that same "station" - the very same rich spiritual essence which characterized the first Shabbos.

So too with Yom Tov. Each year on Pesach, one returns to the "station" of the geula from Mitzrayim. At this season it becomes possible to re experience the spiritual essence of "freedom granted by Hashem." It is really "the time of our freedom." I heard in the name of the Chasam Sofer that on the night of the seder, Shomayim sends down the same inspiration as the night of Yetzias Mitzrayim. Every Jew can attain exceedingly exalted heights on the night of the seder.

The root of the word Mitzrayim is boundary. Mitzrayim was a land permeated by boundaries and limitations. Hashem who is unlimited took us out of Mitzrayim. Therefore when we left we went out of all boundaries and limitations and gained, so to speak, Hashem's character of boundless. On Pesach everyone gains the ability to escape all his boundaries and limitations. He has unlimited power to raise himself up above this mundane world.

The first Rashi in the Torah (Ber.1:1) presents the view of Rav Yitzchak who said that the Torah should have begun with the possuk in parshas Bo, "This month (Nisan) should be for you the first month of the year." In preparation for the actual exodus from Mitzrayim, before the plague of the 1st Born, G-d instructed Moshe and Aharon in the Mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh - the sanctification of the new month. This was the process through which the Sanhedrin in Yerushalayim would declare the start of the new month, based on the lunar cycle.

This raises a basic question. If the Torah should have started from the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim, so why does it go through all of sefer Bereishis? Are we to understand that Breishis is all extraneous? No not at all. There is a tremendous amount to be learned from Sefer Bereishis. Rav Shach zt"l called it the sefer of emunah. However, in order to answer our question the Maharal explains there are two sections to the history of the world.

As we mentioned previously regarding Parshas Hachodesh, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt"l, the Alter from Slobodka (Ohr Hatzafon) makes a very startling observation about this possuk. He writes, that upon commanding Moshe Rabbeinu on this mitzvah, Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave over the determination of the months and the times of the holidays to Klal Yisroel. This concept is repeated in Vayikra (23:37), "These are the holidays of Hashem which you will proclaim to be holy gatherings." As the Yalkut Shimoni (191) explains, "If you proclaim it - then it is a holiday, and if not, it is not a holiday."

If we put that concept together with the Rashi above, we come to a remarkable insight. The Torah really starts at this mitzvah of New Moon (Rosh Chodesh). This is symbolic of Yetzias Mitzrayim and Pesach. This is the birth of Klal Yisroel as a nation and their new role in the workings of Creation. We are "partners" so to speak with Hashem in the workings of the universe (Nefesh Hachaim Sha'ar I). The spectacular characteristics of Rosh Chodesh in which the Sanhedrin can actually dictate the laws of nature is not limited to Rosh Chodesh. This is merely the prime example. But Klal Yisroel in their following the Torah are "partners" with Hashem in the running of the universe.

Rav Ezriel Tauber explains this with a beautiful moshol. The owner of a business needs help getting things done. Normally he can get away with hired hands. These are people working on a salary with set hours and a set job. Sometimes, however, this is insufficient for his needs. He needs someone with more responsibility. So he takes on a partner. The partner joins him in being the boss and now has responsibility over the success of the business.

What is the difference between a worker and a partner? A worker puts in his time, then goes home and forgets about the business. Now he's on his own time. He's working for his salary. He's in it for himself. A partner, however, can never leave his responsibilities. Even after working hours the success of the business is on his head. When on vacation he maintains contact with the office to make sure everything is running smoothly. After all, he's a boss. His concern is the success of the business.

With this we can answer our question above. The Maharal (Tiferes Yisroel Chap. 17) explains that Torah starts off with Sefer Bereishis. This is the sefer of individuals, the first tzaddikim, and then the Avos. Adam Harishon and Noach were great tzaddikim. However, they were individuals. We can liken them to our moshol of workers. They believed in Hashem and served Him, but they didn't take responsibility for the Creation. They took responsibility for themselves. Avraham, and after him Yitzchak and Yaakov, started a new venture, they started taking responsibility for the Creation. They yearned to that everyone should recognize Hashem as the Creator. Their concern was not for themselves, but for the business - Hashem's Creation. Because of this yearning, Hashem chose them to become the Avos of the new great nation, and with Yetzias Mitzrayim a new period of history began. With the birth of Klal Yisroel as a nation they took on a new role in the grand scheme of things: they became partners in Hashem's business.

How did Hashem arrange for Klal Yisroel to change their status? As long as they lived in a natural world attached to the material, they could not fulfill this grand task. Hashem had to lift them up above Nature and attach them to Himself. By attaining a holy essence they could be partners in the Creation. They would now have a divine character.

We recite in the Hagaddah:

"The L-rd took us out of Egypt," not through an angel, not through a seraph and not through a messenger. The Holy One, blessed be He, did it in His glory by Himself! Thus it is said "I will pass through the land of Egypt," I and not an angel; "And I will smite every first-born in the land of Egypt," I and not a seraph; "And I will carry out judgments against all the gods of Egypt," I and not a messenger; "I, the L-rd," it is I, and none other!

The Hagaddah here dwells on the fact that Hashem Yisborach personally took us out of Mitzrayim. It is such an important piece of knowledge that the Hagaddah dwells on it for a very long time. What is the significance of this fact?

The Maharal (Gevuros Hashem Chap. 55) explains that Hashem Yisborach wanted to take Klal Yisroel out of Mitzrayim so that they should serve Him. Being that they were from now on to be designated only for Hashem, it was necessary that Hashem Himself take them out and not through any other intermediary. If the Geula had occurred by means of an intermediary, the characteristics of that intermediary, and with it its limitations, would be engraved in the essence of Klal Yisroel forever. But being they were taken out of Mitzrayim by the personal hands of Hashem, they were lifted up to the level of total connection to the Almighty, absolute deveikus.

Hakadosh Baruch Hu accomplished the new birth of Yisroel as a nation created directly by Hashem.

This was such a remarkable transformation, it effected every one of us. Thus everyone is obligated to express this and repeat, In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had come out of Egypt, as it is said: "You shall tell your child on that day, it is because of this that the L-rd did for me when I left Egypt." "Me!" He did it for me. I have to feel this personally. Hakadosh Baruch Hu took a personal interest in Me! I'm His child and He loves me! He gave birth to me and I am His child and am here to serve Him.

This is the lesson that the rosha didn't want to learn. The wicked one, what does he say? "What is this service to you?!" He says `to you,' but not to him! By thus excluding himself from the community he has denied that which is fundamental. You, therefore, blunt his teeth and say to him: "It is because of this that the L-rd did for me when I left Egypt"; `for me' - but not for him! If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed!" The rosha doesn't feel anything special about being a Jew. Judaism is just a chore, a lot of rules and toil. It's not for him. Therefore he would never have been redeemed.

Pesach is a time when we unite with Hakadosh Baruch Hu and rise above this world. The entire Seder revolves around the Matza. Before we even begin retelling the story of the Geula, we have to put our attention on the matzah. We lift up the matzah and recite: This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt.

During the entire seder the matzah is sitting on the table in front of us. One who doesn't explain the symbolism of the matzah has not fulfilled his obligation. Rabban Gamliel used to say: Whoever does not discuss the following three things on Passover has not fulfilled his duty, namely: the Passover-sacrifice, Matzah and Maror.

This Matzah that we eat for what reason? Because the dough of our fathers did not have time to become leavened before the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them.

Thus it is said: "They baked Matzah-cakes from the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, because it was not leavened; for they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay, and they had also not prepared any [other] provisions."

Amazing. And also puzzling. Hashem commanded us to bake matzah in Mitzrayim and eat it together with the korban Pesach. But that is not the matzah we remember. As the Yidden were leaving they hurriedly made dough. But in their haste they didn't have time to bake it. They carried it on their shoulders and the sun baked it (Targum Yonason). And miracle of miracles the possuk testifies that it didn't become chometz. This wasn't the matzah they baked, it was miracle matzah that Hashem baked. This is the matzah we remember. This was Hashem's matzah. Hashem was accomplishing everything Himself.

It is astonishing to realize how important and symbolic the matzah is. We live in a world of time. Everything takes time. Hakadosh however is above time. Thus the Maharal (Gevuros Hashem Chap. 36) writes that because of this we eat the matzah which is also above time. It can't take its time in baking, it must be baked in haste. This is also symbolic of the Yetzias Mitzrayim when we left in haste. In order to become connected to Hashem we had to rise above time and enter a plane of no time. Thus we left in haste - in no time.

Moreover, the Maharal (ibid. Chap. 51) writes that matzah is poor bread. It is simple and can't have any spices or sweetener added. It is plain and simple flour and water. In order to be redeemed Klal Yisroel had to discard all the frivolities and externalities and become simple pashuta Yidden. This was prerequisite to becoming united with Hakadosh Baruch Hu who is simply One without any complexity. Thus with eating the matzah the Yidden discard all the frills of Olam Hazeh and simply become united with Hashem.

Additionally this symbolizes that the Geula was accomplished solely by Hashem. Just as the matzah is simple and natural and has no connection to anything else, so was the Geula. No other power or force took part in the Geula. We were redeemed personally by Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Thus we became connected specially and specifically to Hashem.

Moreover matzah is also symbolic of the future Geula. On Pesach Hakadosh Baruch Hu raised us up to be literally united with Him. This is the Gilui Shechina mentioned in the Hagaddah. Then we were left to work on ourselves to regain that exalted level during the 49 days until Matan Torah. We went through 7 cycles of 7 days of purification. At Matan Torah we regained the level of Adam Harishon before the sin. However, with the sin of the golden calf we fell again. Since then we have vacillated between various degrees of perfection and imperfection, but we have never regained the pure Gilui Shechina of Yetzias Mitzrayim. Hashem's presence remained covered in various degrees.

Matzah is related to the word Mitzvah. is in reality Hashem's name. The last two letters are obvious -. The first two letters also if we use the code of - - - etc. then becomes a and becomes a . is really - in hiding. So is Hashem's name half revealed, and half in hiding. is the same, just missing the "". The first half of Hashem is in hiding. The "" is missing, meaning we don't see the line connecting everything. And the only letter we see is the . represents Olam Hazeh (Menachos 29b). In this golus all we see is Olam Hazeh, Hakadosh Baruch Hu is hidden. Thus we eat matzah which is poor bread representing Olam Hazeh. Hashem is hidden. We break the matzah and take the smaller piece and put in on the seder plate. It is revealed the entire seder. The larger half we hide. Thus we go through golus with the smaller piece of Hashem revealed. Just a little piece. The larger piece is in hiding. But before the afikomen, before Moshiach, Hashem has to reveal Himself in His full glory. ' "In that day Hashem will be one and His name will be one." His name will be a single unified revealed name that everyone will see.

We hid the afikomen and during the entire seder it remains hidden. However we have to retrieve it and uncover it before the end of the seder. But the children stole it. The children within us with all of our petty desires and vain and foolish thoughts have stolen away the hidden name of Hashem. All we see is Olam Hazeh. But we need the afikomen and the children don't want to give it back. So we have to bribe them with petty gifts. We promise a bicycle and toys, silly little trinkets, so that they give the afikomen back. And if they don't agree to give it back, we take it away from the children anyway. And finally at the end of the seder we uncover the larger piece of matzah and partake of the afikomen as Eliyahu Hanavi announces the coming of the Moshiach. Leshana Habaah Birushalyim!

Shvi'i Shel Pesach

Krias Yam Suf: Pure Bitachon

And G-d said to Moshe, "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Children of Israel to go."?(Shemos 14:15)

(Based on the Or Ha-Chaim's commentary on the Torah.)

Imagine the scene: The Jewish People are gathered at the edge of the sea. Behind them is the mighty Egyptian army, relentlessly advancing on them. The situation is getting more desperate by the minute, and there is nowhere to turn. At this dark hour, Moshe turns to Hashem in heartfelt supplication. The Almighty's startling response is, "Why are you praying to Me?!"

Incredible! To whom should one pray if not Hashem - and especially at such a difficult time as this?! And if one's prayers are not answered, he should continue to pray until he sees some sign that his prayers have been accepted. Logically, we would have expected G-d to answer Moshe's prayer by instructing him to lift up his staff and split the sea. Instead, He told him to stop praying! What is the meaning of this?

Furthermore, what did G-d mean by His pronouncement: "Tell the Children of Israel to go"? Go where? Behind them were the Egyptians, and in front of them was the sea, which had not yet split open.

In answering these questions, the Or Ha-Chaim teaches us a very important principle in life. Chazal tell us that when the Jewish People were standing before the sea, they were on trial in Heaven. The prosecuting angels claimed that the Children of Israel were not worthy of being saved. While in Egypt, they had begun worshiping idols just as the local people did. "These [the Jewish People] are idol-worshipers, and these [the Egyptians] are idol-worshipers!" (Zohar, Terumah, 170b). Moreover, the Jews had just shown their lack of faith in G-d by saying that they would rather go back to Egypt than die in the desert. How does one win a case in the Heavenly court? Normally, the defending attorney - the side of rachamim (mercy) - is as strong as the good deeds one performs. However, the Jewish People's idolatry contradicted this and gave strength to the side of din (strict judgment) instead. Hashem wanted to judge Israel favorably, but He saw that the power of Heavenly mercy was very weak.

In order to bolster Israel's position, Hashem gave Moshe a potent piece of advice: "Why are you crying out to Me?" It's not in My hands. Even though I want to perform a miracle, the force of midas hadin (strict judgment) is preventing Me because they are not worthy. Therefore, "tell the Children of Israel to go." This is My advice to strengthen the side of rachamim. Speak to the Jewish People and tell them to rely on their emunah by going into the sea even before it splits. Tell them to have faith with every fiber of their beings that I will perform a miracle for them, to match their willingness to endanger their lives. By doing so, they will strengthen the power of rachamim. Because of their actions, the sea will miraculously split. Such is the power of emunah and bitachon to tip the scales to the side of merit; they are such tremendous forces that they can overturn midas ha-din.

This idea is echoed by R. Chaim Volozhin in Nefesh Ha-Chaim (section 1, ch. 9):

We read in the Torah: "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Children of Israel to go." This tells us that everything depended upon them. If they were to display perfect emunah and bitachon by fearlessly going into the sea, then the sheer power of their faith would cause the waters to split before them. Their faith alone would arouse Heaven to perform a miracle for them.

Everything Depends Upon the Emunah of Klal Yisroel

R. Chaim Volozhin in Nefesh HaChaim (section 1, ch. 7 9) explains this episode in a slightly different manner:

First, we have to give a short introduction from the first section of Nefesh HaChaim. Rav Chaim Volozhin, elaborates on a basic precept in the foundation of the world: Man's partnership with Hashem. The possuk says: "G-d created man in His own image, in the image of G d He created him" (Bereishis 1:27); "for in the image of G d He made man" (Bereishis 9:6). What is the meaning of "in the image of Hashem"? Do we really look like Him? Or does He look like us? That, we know, is utterly absurd. He has no image. And anyone who ascribes a material image to the Almighty is guilty of the heresy of anthropomorphism. Hashem is totally spiritual, and has no material form. All characteristics associated to Hashem are metaphors and figures of speech for our benefit to enable us to relate to Him. The commentaries tell us that all we can know about HaKadosh Baruch Hu are the attributes with which He relates to us, such as lovingkindness, mercy, justice, etc. But we can have absolutely no concept of Him Himself. He is beyond that. So what is this image of G-d?

The Nefesh HaChaim explains that the term used to denote Hashem in that possuk is Elokim. This term indicates Hashem's total control of the universe. He is the ultimate power ruling over millions upon millions of forces that influence every detail of this world. When He created Man, G-d gave him the ability to rule (so to speak) over those millions of forces. Man controls the world together with Hashem. By his good deeds, the world is influenced toward good; by his bad deeds toward the opposite. Thus, Man has been made a partner (so to speak) with Hashem. And therefore, Man was the only creature given free will. It is this quality of freedom of choice that enables Man to spiritually improve himself or lower himself. Angels and animals are compelled by their nature and cannot decide anything based upon free will; Man is the only creature with this ability. And because Man is partner with Hashem, through his actions he controls the world to add or detract from its spiritual perfection.

It says in Shir Hashirim, "I compare you, O my love, to a horse of the chariots of Pharaoh" (1:9). This is a very strange possuk. Imagine saying to your wife you're like one of Pharaoh's horses, what would she think of you? Not very romantic.

Rav Chaim Volozhin explains that we have to understand that Shir Hashirim is a love poem between Hakadosh Baruch Hu and Klal Yisroel. In this possuk Hashem is describing His great love for Yisroel and one of the remarkable gifts He gave us. Normally a rider controls the horse. The horse is guided by the rider; where the rider wants to go, that is where the horse goes. By Krias Yam Suf the tables were turned. The Egyptians had chased Klal Yisroel into the open sea-bed. All of a sudden the water, which had been upright like a wall, started falling. The riders pulled the horses to retreat and escape. But the horses all decided to go straight ahead, into the water. In this instance nature reversed itself and the horse controlled the rider.

This is the moshol the Ribono Shel Olam tells his beloved Klal Yisroel. When I created the world I was the ruler. But then I put you in charge. Instead of Me directing you, you have control over Me! This is the marvelous aspect of . Hakadosh Baruch Hu put Klal Yisroel in charge of all the powers of the Universe. We, so to speak, act like Elokim controlling the Universe.

And so it all depends upon us. The nature of the Universe reflects Klal Yisroel. If we are acting properly, then the entire Universe, spiritual and physical, follows accordingly. All of nature does what it is supposed to do. But if we are acting improperly, then the entire Universe acts accordingly and everything is tarnished and imperfect.

This is the meaning of ' "Hashem is your shadow by your right side" (Tehillim 121:5). A shadow does whatever the person does. If the person moves right, the shadow moves right. So too does Hakadosh Baruch Hu act with Klal Yisroel. In whatever direction Yisroel go, so acts Hashem. It is, so to speak, as if He is guided by our actions. This is the moshol of Shir Hashirim. You might think that Hashem is the rider and we are the horse and so He guides us. No, says Shlomo Hamelech. Even though He is the rider, we guide Him.

With this Rav Chaim Volozhin explains the possuk by Krias Yam Suf: "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Children of Israel to go." This possuk is telling us that everything depended upon them. If they were to display perfect emuna and bitachon by fearlessly going into the sea, then the sheer power of their faith would cause the waters to split before them. Their faith alone would arouse Heaven to perform a miracle for them. This was the message that Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu, standing there by the Yam Suf. Why are you crying out to me? It doesn't depend upon me, it depends upon you! If you show such strong faith and bitachon that you are willing to jump into the sea, then I will conduct Myself accordingly and split the sea. It all depends upon you. Bitachon has the power to create miracles.

I heard in the name of one of the Masters of Chassidus a pshat that coincides with this Nefesh HaChaim. We say in Adon Olam: "Master of the World Who ruled before any creature was created." Simple pshat (and it is correct) is that this is an expression of Hashem was King, is King, and will be King forever. But we can also detect a deeper pshat: Master of the Universe, You ruled before Man was created. But once Man was created, now Man rules.

Wishing Everyone A Wonderful Pesach Yom Tov!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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