27 Mar 2018 Chag Ha’Pesach – From Ancient Foe to Final Freedom
Chag Ha’Pesach is here once again. Zman Cheiroseinu – the time of our freedom; Chag Ha’Matzos – the festival when we eat matzah; Chag Ha’Aviv – the holiday that must always be celebrated in the spring season.
This layl Shabbos (Friday night), we will sit down with friends and family, and celebrate Pesach and our freedom at the Seder table, on one of the holiest nights of the year. With the text laid out in the Haggadah, we will tell the story of our nation, our people, our destiny, our hopes and fears, prayers and longings, redemption and triumph.
While so much of the Haggadah focuses on our freedom, much also relates to the wicked enemies who strove (and strive) to destroy us. From Lavan to Pharaoh, from those in each and every generation to those who do not call out in G-d’s Name, from the taskmasters of antiquity to the slave drivers of more modern times – each enemy has its place in the story of Layl ha’Seder and the pages of the Haggadah. It is from their wicked hands that G-d saves us time and again.
R’ Yisrael Meir Lau writes, “The hatred of (the nations of the world for the Jews) is one which utterly exceeds any logical reason and has no basis. This can be seen throughout the generations: Once the Jews were hated because their lifestyle, language, dress and customs were different, and the Jews were ‘strange.’ Another time, the Jews were hated because they were too involved in the general society and occupied too central a place in the country’s life – in the government, in science, in commerce, art, etc. Other times, it was claimed that the Jews did not belong to their country, but were simple ‘tenants’ there. The Jews, on their part, countered and said: ‘If we only have a country of our own, they will not hate us.’
“And after we attained our own independence in our own country, the hatred comes from the opposite pole: for daring to be an independent nation after all these generations of exile, with a country of our own!
“This rapacious germ is highly contagious, and can spread like an epidemic, and is almost impossible to fight using the tools of plain simple logic. (Even after all the miracles that G-d wrought against his people and his country) Pharaoh changed his mind, and within a week, began to pursue the Jewish people until he reached them at the Red Sea… It was totally irrational on his part.
“I have a photograph of the will of the arch-fiend of all times, the leader of Nazi Germany, and the last sentence in that will does not deal with his own nation, which had almost been destroyed by the end of WWII nor does he speak about his family or friends – the last sentence in his will is addressed to the leaders of Germany, to fight mercilessly against ‘the greatest enemy of mankind,’ which ‘endangers all of mankind,’ namely the Jewish people. That is how his will ends – totally against any logic…
“There are many different countries (who rise to destroy us, yet themselves are enemies), yet when it comes to devouring Yaakov, they all-too-often are united… Just as they know how to unite in order to destroy Yaakov, Yaakov must unite in order to fight for its life. Just as charity begins at home, peace must begin at home” (Haggadah Shel Pesach – Around the Seder Table, p.140,143).
R’ Lau writes that, “The most difficult Seder in my life was the quietest Seder of all. It was a Seder in a military auditorium in Tel Aviv, arranged by the Ministry of Defense for families who had lost loved ones in defense of the country. There were about 600 people at that Seder, including parents who had never left their homes for a single night ever since their loved ones had been killed. It was a terrible sight, to see children who had lost their parents in the recently concluded Yom Kippur War sitting side by side parents who had lost their children in the War of Independence…
“In the terrible time that the Jewish People has endured in the last few generations, the Holocaust, we were subjected literally to the parchment of countless Torah scrolls being burned, but the letters (of the Torah scrolls) – our Jewish faith, the Torah, and the very soul of the Jewish People – still exist, and in fact, we flourish (see A”Z 18). Through your blood you shall live.
“That Seder night I saw the pain of Through your blood you shall live. Indeed, the war for our very existence and renewal of our Jewish independence and the promise of ‘the children will return to their border’ (Jer.31:14) is an unending battle” (Around the Seder Table, p.69-68).
And yet, despite that fact that in each and every generation they arise to destroy us, in each and every generation, Jews the world over sit down on Layl ha’Seder and commemorate our freedom. From foe to freedom, from ashes to glory, from bewilderment to clarity, from destruction to rebuilding, from exile to redemption: we sit down and we rejoice. From millennia to millennia, from century to century, from generation to generation, from year to year, we lift the cup of salvation and declare: It is this that has stood for our forefathers and us, it is this that has sustained us, it is the Almighty Who saves us from their hands.
The “this” that sustains us is the secret to our survival and the answer to each and every fiend and foe. Despite it all – from Eisav to Amalek, from Lavan to Pharaoh, from Nazi Germany to Arab terrorism today – we sit down, we transmit the mesorah (Jewish tradition), we celebrate and rejoice. What is the “this” that is our great merit?
Perhaps the answer is the Seder itself.
For סדר = סד דר. The Seder, representing our faith and trust in G-d, our hopes and prayers for the final redemption, is the secret that sustains the generations. Despite all that we have gone through and all that we have faced, all that we have loved and all that we have cried, all that we have lost and all that we have overcome – the greatest secret to the survival of the generations is that this Pesach, like countless ones before, Jews the world over will sit down together, and declare and affirm our stalwart faith in G-d.
Indeed, it is this – this Seder, which represents the secret of the generations, סדר = סד דר, that stands for our forefathers and us.
May we merit that great and awesome day when the secret of the generations will be revealed to all, as the Truth of Hashem’s Oneness is accepted the world over, as He pours out His wrath on the nations who do not know Him, and upon the kingdoms who do not call in His Name.
For on that great day, Hashem will be One and His Name will be One. And then, finally, with our enemies destroyed, the nation of Israel will flourish in safety, security, peace and tranquility in our land and our home: וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר נָשָׂאתִי אֶת-יָדִי, לָתֵת אֹתָהּ לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב – And I will bring you to the land that I have raised My hand to give it to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov…(Shemos 6:8), and the 5th and final cup will be ours to drink.
בברכת חג כשר ושמח,