April 23rd, 2016
Nisan 15th 5776
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Who is truly free?
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
The highlight of Passover is – the Leil HaSeder, the exalted night when we are commanded to fulfill many mitzvot. The Vilna Gaon, zy”a, counted all the mitzvot and obligations during the Seder night, including Torah ordained mitzvot, and Rabbinically ordained mitzvot, reaching 64 mitzvot. This night is replete and full of mitzvot.
It may seem that this contradicts what Chazal say that on this night one should feel as if he were a free man. In fact, the procedure of the entire night revolves around this idea. For instance, the mitzvah of sitting reclined is in order to feel like a free man. Also setting the table richly with beautiful vessels is for this reason, among many other traditions. If so, how can we fulfill both: on one hand one must feel like a free man, free from all dependence and slavery, while on the other hand, we are commanded to perform so many mitzvot, more than during the entire year. Does this indicate that we are not free men?
In fact, one who is “free” from all responsibility and burden and does whatever he wants, although he may seem free, in truth he is really a slave to the yetzer hara, to materialism, and to his desires. Whatever his yetzer desires, he feels compelled to do, and it is almost impossible for him to say “no” to its demands. On the other hand, one who fulfills mitzvot, although it may seem that he is confined and bound and has no freedom, the opposite is actually true. He is the truly free man, who is free from the domination of material desires.
It happens often in material matters that a person gets excited and swept away at first glance. However, after some time, his enthusiasm wanes and the attraction is gone. For instance, a person who sees an appetizing dish and desires to indulge in the food, or any other kind of desire that he cannot contain, after indulging he begins to get disgusted and has no more pleasure.
The opposite is true regarding spiritual achievements, since at first glance one feels no desire for it, but after fulfilling the mitzvah, he is filled with satisfaction and deep pleasure that lasts for a long time after. For example, if a person would be told to remain awake the entire night to study Torah, at first he may not want to do it, since he feels tired and wants to sleep. However, after toiling and straining to learn the entire night, as on Shavout night, or Hoshana Rabbah, he is filled with deep satisfaction and pleasure. He experiences true gratification. The biggest proof for this is motzei Yom Kippur. There isn’t a single Jew who does not feel amazingly uplifted above the confines of physical desires. Despite the fact that he had fasted all day and afflicted himself with the five afflictions, his spirit and his soul is gratified and he experiences deep satisfaction. Real freedom is the absolute dominance over one’s yetzer. The pleasure and joy that fills a person when performing a mitzvah, leads him to do more mitzvot, which bring him added joy, and so on.
Thus, on the Leil HaSeder, since the redemption from Egypt is discussed, and the entire purpose of the Leil HaSeder is to feel that we, too, were slaves in Egypt, and Hashem redeemed us as well as our forefathers, all the mitzvoth that we do on the first night of Pesach contain the building blocks of emunah (faith). The benefits and reward are enormous beyond comprehension, and one’s faith gets strengthened in the belief of the A-lmighty.
It is worth all the efforts on this night to achieve faith in Hashem. This night is called leil shimurim l’Hashem - lit. a guarded night for Hashem and leil shimurim l’dorotam –a guarded night for generations. On this night a person becomes aware of what is guarded within him, his true essence. Consequently, he will sense true liberty, as opposed to being a slave to his yetzer. He will subjugate himself to Hashem and recognize His exalted glory. All feelings of selfishness will vanquish and his heart will be filled with the love for Hashem.
This explains what Chazal say, “The more one discusses the Exodus in length, the more praiseworthy he is.” This is because he increases his emunah in Hashem and talks about the miracles that Hashem performed for Bnei Yisrael. Thus, his belief in Hashem grows and grows. In this way he achieves true liberation. This is why we are obligated to speak at length about the Exodus from Egypt and observance many mitzvot on this night.
Walking in Their Ways
Charity Saves from Death
The following story was publicized throughout the world for its strong message. It resulted in a tremendous kiddush Hashem. Two wealthy brothers pledged to give me the sum of nine thousand dollars for kimcha d’Pischa. Some time passed. Pesach was coming shortly, but there was no sign of the money. It seemed as though the brothers simply forgot about their pledge. I therefore sent a messenger to remind them in a respectable way, and get the much-needed funds from them. At first, the messenger refused to go. He was not used to doing this type of thing. Generally, those who wish to contribute to our institutions do so of their own volition, without reminders. It is very uncomfortable to approach a potential donor and ask him for charity. But the man finally agreed to my request, since Pesach was looming on the horizon, and the needy lacked the most basic provisions for the holiday.
The brothers met him with obvious pleasure. They even declared that they wanted to double their pledge, making their donation eighteen thousand dollars, the numerical equivalent of ח"י (chai – life). They handed him all of the money on the spot.
The very next day, the wife of my host in Israel called me up, shaken to the core. She excitedly reported that these brothers had been flying in their private plane and it crashed during landing. Both pilots were killed, but the brothers survived. They lay unconscious in the hospital.
After they regained consciousness, I told them that they were living examples of the maxim “Tzedakah saves from death.” Hashem, in his infinite mercy, arranged that their donation on behalf of needy Jews take place one day before their flight, so that it could save them from certain death. Doubling their donation to the sum of chai granted them just that – life.
The haftarah of the week: “At that time” (Yehoshua 5:2)
The connection to the parashah and to Pesach: In the haftarah we read about the korban Pesach that Bnei Yisrael brought when they arrived to Gilgal, which is connected to Pesach and the parashah, since we read about the mitzvah of korban Pesach.
Guard Your Tongue
A Ticket to Gan Eden
There is another benefit that results from guarding one’s tongue, since every time he guards himself, he merits rising to loftier heights in Gan Eden, as the Gaon Rabbeinu Eliyahu, z”l, states in the name of the midrash, “For every second that a person remains silent, he will merit “a hidden light” (reward of a magnitude) that is beyond the comprehension of even malachim (celestial beings).”
He will also be saved from Gehinom (Hell), as is stated in the Midrash Tanchuma, “Hashem says: If you wish to be spared from Gehinom, distance yourselves from lashon hara, and you will be worthy of [blessing] in this world and a portion in the World to Come.
Tuv Taam – Insights
The reason why we call the Chag Hamatzot, as referred to in the Torah – Chag HaPesach is because we relate the praise of Hashem. However, Hashem relates the praise of Am Yisrael, as it says, “I am my beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.”
Thus, Hashem relates the praise of Am Yisrael, who left Egypt hastily and ate the matzot in the Wilderness. So Hashem refers to the Chag, Chag Hamatzot. But we refer to the Festival as Chag HaPesach to praise Hashem, Who passed over the homes of Bnei Yisrael when he struck the Egyptians, and our homes He spared.
Prose of Rabbi Chaim Pinto Zatzal
פיוט לחג הפסח
סימן: חיים בר שלמה פינטו חזק
דְּעוּ כִּי הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, הוּא יוֹם זִכָּרוֹן, לְדוֹרוֹת עוֹלָם זִכְרוּהוּ
חֵן נָתַן הָאֵ-ל גַּם שֶׁאֶת וְיִתְרוֹן, לְיִשְׂרָאֵל כִּי קָדוֹשׁ הוּא
ה' בָּחַר אֵלָיו עֲדַת יְשׁוּרוּן, מִכָּל הָאֻמּוֹת כִּי טוֹב הוּא
יוֹם זֶה אוֹר גָּדוֹל בּוֹ, נִגְלָה כַּיָּדוּעַ לַחֲכָמִים
מְאֹד רָם הוּא וְנַעֲלָה, לִפְנֵי אֵ-ל רָם עַל רָמִים
בּוֹ יָצָאנוּ מִן הַגְּדוֹלָה, מִמִּצְרַיִם עִיר הַדָּמִים
רָעַת הַנָּחָשׁ נִמְשְׁכָה לָנוּ לְדוֹרוֹת, אַדִּיר אַדִּירִים שָׁתְלָהּ
שָׁמָּה הָרֶשַׁע גַּם חֹשֶׁךְ רַב וְשַׁחְרוּת, וְהוּא חֵלֶק הָרִשְׁעָה כֻלָּהּ
לָכֵן יַגִּיעוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בִּזְהִירוּת, לְבֵרוּר קְדֻשָּׁה עַל תִּילָהּ
מַה טוֹב חֶלְקֵנוּ, הֵן לְשׁוֹנֵנוּ תָּרוֹן, אֱ-לֹהַי אַרוֹמְמֶנְהוּ
הִכָּה אוֹיְבֵינוּ אֵ-ל בְּעֶבְרָה וּבְחָרוֹן, מַכּוֹת עֲשָׂרָה כִּי רַב הוּא
פַּרְעֹה הַכּוֹפֵר נִסְפָּה גַּם בְּעִוָּרוֹן, וְאָמַר מִי יְדִינֵהוּ
יָ-הּ עָמַד בַּדִּין לְמָעְלָה, נֶגֶד שַׂר עַמִּים
נֶפֶשׁ מִיכָאֵל נִבְהָלָה, מֵהָשִׁיב וְעָמַד מַשְׁמִים
טָפַל שֶׁקֶר שַׂר בֶּן עוּלָהּ, נָפַל וָמֵת בִּשְׂפַת יָמִים
וְאָז שׁוֹרְרוּ בְּשִׁירוֹת וּזְמִירוֹת, עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל עַם סְגֻלָּה
חָמֵץ נֶאֱסַר בְּחַג זֶה, עַד סוֹף הַדּוֹרוֹת, מַשֶּׁהוּ אָסוּר בַּאֲכִילָה
זָכְרֵנוּ בְּזִכְרוֹן טוֹב, עֶזְרָה בְצָרוֹת, כְּקֶדֶם וּכְבַתְּחִילָּה
קַדֵּשׁ שִׁמְךָ אֵ-ל וּבְנֵה עָרִים בְּצוּרוֹת, כָּל נְשָׁמָה תְּהַלֶּלְךָ סֶלָה
Words of Wisdom
Miracles wrought by the Grace of Heaven
“In each generation, one must view himself as if he personally left Egypt.”
The times that the Torah designated, Hagaon Rabbi Zalman Rotberg, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivat Beit Meir explains are not just historical dates, but every year at the same time there is a renewal of the same potential event to occur. Through performing the mitzvot required at that time, we merit revisiting the same event.
This is what is meant by “In each generation, one must view himself as if he personally left Egypt.” It is a man’s obligation to reach the same spiritual heights of the Exodus from Egypt, since the potential for this event recurs each year.
The source for this idea is found in the enlightening words of Rabbeinu Chaim ben Atar, zy”a, (Ohr Hachaim, Bamidbar 23:22) on the pasuk, “It is G-d bringing them out of Egypt”:
“It says, ‘bringing’ and not ‘brought’… It seems that this concurs with what Chazal say (Pesachim 116b), ‘In each generation, one must view himself as if he personally left Egypt.’ Therefore, those who understand the depths of the Torah explain that every year on the eve of Pesach a process occurs whereby the powers of kedushah are filtered from the kelippah (negative forces) and join Bnei Yisrael. This [process] is similar to the Exodus of Egypt, and therefore it is written ‘bringing’ [in present-tense], because it was not just a one-time Exodus, but the Exodus recurs every year.
In this festive edition, we will deal with the special significance of the Leil HaSeder and the Festival of Pesach from an educational point of view. We will learn how to take advantage of the Festival and utilize it to solidify the family structure.
Pesach is also known as the “Festival of Transmitting Tradition.” It highlights the validity of faith in Hashem and Moshe, His servant. Already when a child begins to speak, and consequently begins to receive guidance from his parents, he views them as leaders and important people who he can trust. The mitzvah which is incumbent upon the parents at this time is to teach him the foundation of faith, as in the pasuk “The Torah that Moses commanded us is the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob.”
The parents include the Third Partner of man to the joint partnership. The father and mother provide him with all his needs – only by the grace of Hashem. They are dependent and rely on Hashem. Their overall conduct is according to the Will of Hashem. Hashem is the One Who protects us from all harm. And the like.
When parents believe the above truths and repeat them constantly, they weave the ideals of belief into their household, and strengthen the belief in Hashem and His Torah.
Already from a young age, the Jewish child views himself as part of a wider, extended family of parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents. When he matures, he begins to feel a strong connection to the entire klal Yisrael.
This is actually the essence of the story of the Exodus from Egypt that we relate on the Seder night. On the very night that we were forged as a nation, the most important thing that we are obligated to do is to introduce our children to the spiritual ideals that are unique to Am Yisrael. From a young age, a Jewish child must view the course of his life as part of the supervision of Hashem on all of all Am Yisrael, and to realize the meaning of the words “Our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers.”
Therefore, the Torah commands us: And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, “It is because of this that Hashem acted on my behalf when I left Egypt.” The emphasis is on “It is because of this” – when the matzah and maror are placed before you, which is on the Leil HaSeder.
Along with visual aid of the mitzvah, and the enchantment of the family gathering, the parents transmit to the child the educational message that he belongs to Am Yisrael, and subsequently he will begin to include himself among the people of Hashem.
The idea of belonging is an important factor in the education of the child in building his future. If his faith is broken, this could jeopardize his future and his spiritual realm.
A child, whose inherent faith in his parents becomes undermined, may lose his faith altogether, since parents represent for him the concept of faithfulness. If he feels rejected or hurt by his parents, to the extent that his faith in them is undermined, this creates a disastrous situation which requires intensive therapy of unconditional love and devotion that could eventually restore the child to his faith.
Men of Faith
Reality or Dream?
Rabbi Chaim Hagadol was noted for his hospitality. Many guests from all over the world ended up staying in his house. The tzaddik would treat each one with kindness and good cheer. He never turned anyone away for lack of place.
Once, Rabbi Yitzchak Shapiro, a shaliach from Eretz Yisrael, came to Rabbi Chaim’s house. He was an outstanding Torah scholar, whose fame had spread far and wide. Rabbi Chaim went out to greet him and received him cordially, as befit his distinction.
Since it was close to Pesach, Rabbi Shapiro naturally remained in Rabbi Chaim’s house to celebrate the festival and joined him at the Leil Haseder. Suddenly, the members of the family noticed tears flowing from Rabbi Shapiro’s eyes. Rivers of tears fell down his cheeks, accompanied by stifled sobs.
Rabbi Chaim tried to comfort him, but the shaliach continued to cry. “Please, tell us why you are crying and I will try to help you,” Rabbi Chaim told him. “Your pain is our pain. We cannot sit joyfully at the Seder table while you are crying.”
Rabbi Shapiro listened, but continued sobbing. Rabbi Chaim tried once again to calm him down, “Rabbi Shapiro, if you are troubled because you need something, I will try to help you. Why should you spend Leil Haseder crying?”
The shaliach calmed down a bit and began to talk, “I left Eretz Yisrael on my own. Every year, I would joyously sit with my family members at the Seder table. When I saw the matzot, wine and the Haggadah, I remembered my family. I do not know how they are doing. Are they happy? Are they distressed that I am not with them? Is everything all right in Eretz Yisrael?”
Rabbi Chaim empathized with his agony and comforted him, “Do not worry. The salvation of Hashem comes speedily, like the blink of an eye. Let us go to my study. I wish to show you something.” The two of them entered Rabbi Chaim’s study, and then Rabbi Chaim said, “Just watch.”
The man peered in the darkness and suddenly he saw clearly in front of his eyes the figures of his family members, sitting around the Seder table, rejoicing in the festival.
After he recovered from the wonderful spectacle of seeing his family, who were hundreds of miles away, his happiness was restored. He left the room with Rabbi Chaim in order to continue the Seder. However, Rabbi Chaim wanted first to confirm that Rabbi Shapiro had fully comprehended the implication of his vision.
“When you return, with Hashem’s help, to Eretz Yisrael, ask your family how they felt at the Seder during your absence and verify that everything you saw in my study, the beautifully set table and festive clothing, was real and not a dream.
In addition, Rabbi Chaim requested, “Please try to recall every detail of what you saw, including the seating order of the family members, how the table was set, and what was on the table. After confirming with your family how they fared on Pesach, especially on the Leil Haseder, send me a letter informing me exactly what they told you.”
At the conclusion of the festival, Rabbi Shapiro bade farewell to Rabbi Chaim, thanking him for his outstanding hospitality, which made him feel like a member of the family. He left Morocco, and safely arrived home in Eretz Yisrael. After greeting his family, he asked them how they had fared while he was away and how they had felt at the Leil Haseder.
They recounted to him that right after he left, they had been downhearted about being alone. However, when the Leil Haseder arrived, they suddenly felt uplifted and celebrated the festival with great joy.
Rabbi Shapiro listened to their account, and his heart filled with joy. He hurried to send a letter with a detailed description to Rabbi Chaim Pinto in Morocco, as he had promised, emphasizing that everything that he had seen in his study had not been a dream, but had actually transpired