Shira Smiles Shiur – March 18, 2012/Adar 24, 5772

Summary by Channie Koplowitz Stein

Dedicated In honor of Hagon HaRav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg zl


Years ago there was a radio show called You Are There. Through the use of various sound effects and emotional script reading, (remember, this was pre TV) you felt you were actually witnessing the crash of the Hindenburg, for example, and experiencing the horror. Is it therefore impossible for us to contemplate re-experiencing for ourselves the exodus of our forefathers from Mitzrayim, from Egypt? Would the compilers of the Hagaddah have insisted that each person is obligated to see himself as if he personally left Egypt?

While the other mitzvoth associated with Pesach and the Seder itself are rather straightforward and fairly simple, this mitzvah, says the GR”A seems particularly difficult. Certainly one cannot achieve this mindset immediately upon performing the Seder. Rav Gamliel Rabinowitz notes that one needs to  begin the process well before the night of the Seder and build upon multiple experiences involved in preparing for Pesach and for the Seder. If you go through the preparation and the rituals, says Rav Dessler, you may not recognize that you are re-experiencing the exodus, but on a deep spiritual level, your soul knows, for this is the season of our freedom, just as Shavuot is the season that Hashem gives us the Torah. The mitzvoth enter our memory bank and become imprinted on our neshamos so that we can enter the experiential “zone” of this yom tov.

In fact, says the Netivot Shalom citing the Lekach Tov, there are several instances where the Torah commanded us to stand and see: at the miracle of the sea, at the giving of the Torah, and before entering Eretz Yisroel, at Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Eval. At each of these places, continues the Netivot Shalom, it wasn’t just that generation that stood and bore witness to the event, but the souls of all of Knesset Yisroel, past, present, and future were joined in the experience. The soul therefore, never forgets the experience.

The soul may never forget, but as living human beings, we must also engage the body in the experience. Rabbi Twerski does not think this is so difficult. Our imaginations are rich and powerful, he tells us. Imagine yourself mixing the straw; let your mind hear the taskmaster scolding you. Create the imagery and reenact it.

The rituals of the Seder help us taste the freedom of the exodus as well as the oppression of the servitude. Dinking four cups of wine says the Derash Dovid, is certainly an expression of freedom, as is offering a blanket open invitation to anyone who needs it to come and join us for this occasion.

Rabbi Kram quoting the  Maaseh Nisim offers a different perspective. He admits that it would be difficult if not impossible for us to re-experience the salvation of that generation or we would have been commanded to relive every holiday as it was originally experienced. Rather, he explains, we are to experience the kedushah of that time, its holiness, and our commitment to become Hashem’s servants rather than the servants of man, for Hashem took us out of Egypt in order lihiyot lochem leiElokim, to be our God.

Rabbi Dovid Cohen reinforces this idea by examining the timeline of Yetziat Mitzrayim, of the exodus. We started by taking a lamb and consecrating it to be a sacrifice. On the night of Pesach, while still in Egypt, we brought the lamb as the Pascal sacrifice, sat down ready to go, and ate of the offering as God’s presence was felt throughout Egypt. It was not until the next day, in broad daylight, that we physically left Egypt. Yet the Seder is conducted at night, not during the day. What we are commemorating, then, is the redemption of our souls from the impurity of Egypt through the revelation of his Divine Presence. We are celebrating being privileged to see the Divine revelation, and to become close to Hashem through our service to Him.

And for this, says the Abudraham, we need to offer thanks. The Hagaddah is not about history but about gratitude, and therefore most of the text of the Seder comes not from the story of the exodus itself, as related in Sefer Shemot, but from the ceremony of the bikkurim, the first fruits. Therefore, says the Drash Dovid, the Hallel we recite as part of the Seder differs from the Hallel we recite as part of the yom tov liturgy. While we stand during Hallel of the morning prayers and bear witness to the miracles of prior times, at the Seder we sit, for the purpose of that Hallel is to sing praises to Hakodosh Boruch Hu for having saved us and redeemed our souls.

How are we to get closer to Hashem, asks Halekach Vehalebuv, Rav Gedaliah Schorr. Perhaps the best approach is to tap into the Tetragrammaton Name of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, the Name alluded to when Moshe asked for Hashem’s identity. That name clearly states God’s omnipresence in time and space, and transcends time and place. All time is merged in Hashem’s eyes, so that the exodus is happening right now, to me. I can then achieve clarity about my relationship with the Ribbonoh shel Olam.

This is the entire point of the Seder, says the Shom Davar, to teach us that each of us has a personal relationship with Hashem, and that His providence extends to each of us individually and personally. Every detail of the Pesach story points to recognizing that This is my God. Study the plagues. Start with the plague of blood where each Jew had water while the Egyptians had blood. If an Egyptian stole water from any Jew, it automatically turned to blood unless he paid the Jew for the water. Study the last plague. Each firstborn Jew was spared in spite of Death’s rampage against each Egyptian firstborn. And this personal oversight extended negatively as well to the Egyptians. At the Reed Sea, the most evil Egyptian suffered greatly and drowned slowly, while the less evil ones drowned quickly. Learn from the events of the exodus that God orchestrates every second of our lives. Believe that just as we say, “For me was the entire world created,” so are we to believe that, “For me were my forefathers redeemed from slavery in Egypt.”

Before the redemption, Hashem examined each Israelite to determine if he was worthy of redemption. Those who were deemed unworthy, died during the plague of darkness, and only those who were found worthy were redeemed. Since past, present, and future are merged in Hashem’s eyes, we can extrapolate that my forefathers were saved because Hashem deemed me to be worthy of being born generations later. Therefore do we begin our blessing over the second cup of wine by putting ourselves before our fathers, “Blessed are You … Who redeemed us and redeemed our ancestors from Egypt.” I was deemed worthy. I was chosen to have that special relationship with Hakodosh Boruch Hu and to have the privilege of serving Him.

This is the recurring theme of every Passover Seder, says the Mizmor Ledovid, that every year we find ourselves engulfed by the impurities and corruptions of the society of that generation. At the Seder, we have the opportunity to gain the clarity and light to extricate ourselves from these impurities so that Hashem will redeem us. As Rabbi Leff writes in Festivals of Life, Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim, not only from Eretz Mitzrayim. He takes us out of that which constricts us, our individual narrow spaces in every generation, not only from the Land of Narrow Places.

Every generation has its own form of slavery and we are unaware of it, says Halekach Vehalebuv. On Pesach, we ask Hashem to open our eyes and our hearts to recognize the limitations we are putting on ourselves that keep us from even desiring the closeness with Hashem. Is our idol worship today the pursuit of money, or technology, or some other excesses of our materialistic society? These are the “Egyptian” constraints on our soul. When we clean our physical spaces in preparation for Pesach, we must also clean our spiritual spaces and create space for the Godly spirit within us to be active in our neshamos.

We believe with full faith that the final redemption can come at any time. As we prepare to commemorate our earlier redemption, we must remember to continually keep preparing to be worthy as individuals and as a nation for that final redemption, may it be speedily in our day.

Next year in Jerusalem!