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Shiurim & Adult Education
The Dayan's Weekly D'var Torah
As we know, Pesach is called Z’man Cheiruseinu – The Time of Our Freedom. The simple explanation, of course, is that Pesach marks the time when we were delivered by the Almighty from slavery in Egypt and, ultimately, lead to freedom in the promised land, albeit taking 40 years to get from point B to point A (Israel cannot be anything but point A).
Our Sages z”l teach us that Ma’aseh Avos Simon La’Bonim – the actions of our forefathers constitute a sign for their descendants, as such, just as they attained freedom all those 3468 years ago, we too should be attaining freedom right now, as we celebrate theirs as well as our deliverance. Nevertheless, whereas slavery in Egypt was an absolute and unquestionable reality, in our own lives, as individuals, as parents, spouses, children, and most of all as Jews what could possibly be termed “slavery”? In all likelihood, after engaging in an honest exercise of self-analysis, we will realize that we are utterly enslaved by (wrong) values, principles, customs, ideas, ambitions, frustrations et al, whose only purpose and function is to create an iron barrier between ourselves and the Divine Presence and either keep us where we are or, worse yet, take us down.
As we know, 4/5 of all Jews (as many as 12 million) in Egypt chose NOT to leave and, as a consequence, were killed in the plague of darkness. A question could be asked regarding this statement – Does it mean they physically died or does it mean they were “dead” because they preferred to “live in darkness”, oblivious to HaShem, His Will and His Deliverance? In reality either answer is heartbreaking but I would dare say that the latter is even more so than the former, for it shows that, in addition to being slaves to Pharaoh, they were also enslaved by their incorrect values, principles, customs, ideas, ambitions, frustrations et al… very much like many of us (present readership excluded, of course).
As such, another question appears and that is: “Had I been in Egypt, would I be a part of the 4/5 who perished or the 1/5 who trusted in the Almighty and whose story we are retelling this year during our Sedorim?” This is an honest question, not a rhetorical one!
Our Sages z”l teach us that the Jewish People, at the time, had reached the 49th lowest spiritual level (of 50) and, surprisingly, do not differentiate between those who perished and those who were saved, thus indicating that everyone was on the same level, “on the same boat”.
If so, how come some merited to be rescued whereas others (unfortunately the majority) chose not to? We find in the words of the Prophet (Isaiah 9:1) that “The people that walked in darkness Have seen a great light; They that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them hath the light shined.” Furthermore, King Solomon teaches us (Proverbs 6:23): “The Mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah is light.”
I was once a Shabbos guest of Rav Yosef Zilberman, Shlit”a, who lives in the heart of the Arab Shuk in Jerusalem’s old city. I will never forget the experience. I asked him why he lived where he did and he told me that in darkness, even a single lit match can make a tremendous difference. Extrapolating on his answer, I can only imagine how much more so, if we strive to enthuse ourselves, our families and our communities with Torah and Mitzvos!!! How much light could we possibly generate? How much power can we create in order to bring down the barriers that have separated us from the Shechinah for over two millennia?
To our forefathers, this binary equation signified deliverance, sustenance in the desert, the giving of the Torah and, finally, entering the promised land versus staying behind and disappearing into oblivion.
Therefore, how important it is for every single one of us to properly ascertain what enslaves us, what keeps us in the dark, so that the only steps of our ancestors we relive are those related to freedom and light, and not the opposite G-d forbid.
HaShem, in His infinite love for the Jewish people created the antidote to all that enslaves us, as we find (Kiddushim 30b): “I have created the yetzer hara [evil inclination] and I have created the Torah as its antidote”, and, as a matter of fact, He even created the cure before the disease (Megillah 13b), so the cure is there, it has always been, but we need to know what needs healing!
Therefore, let’s not waste this auspicious moment. On the contrary, let us strive to make this Pesach as miraculous as the one we are celebrating… Let us sincerely believe (not only hope) that we can do this, that we can achieve true and complete freedom and, in so doing, herald the arrival of Moshiach and announce the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdosh, may it be speedily and in our days.
BeBirkas Pesach Kasher veSomayach!