By Daniel Keren
A special Pre-Pesach Kinus was held by Hakhel this past Sunday night at the Agudath Israel Bais Binyomin of Avenue L in Brooklyn in order to serve as a zechus for a refuah sheleima for Harav Elyashiv, Harav Belsky and other Gedolei Yisroel. Hakhel is a Flatbush-based organization dedicated to promoting a greater awareness of Torah-true values in our community.
The Flatbush Hakhel Kinus began with Rav Moshe Tuvia Lieff, the Mora D’Asra of the host shul leading the hundreds of men and women who took time off from their hectic Pesach-cleaning preparations in the recital of Tehillim as a request to Hakodesh Baruch Hu to alleviate the matzav confronting Klal Yisroel around the world.
The Pesach Seder Doesn’t Just Happen
Rav Lieff spoke on the topic of “The Heart of the Seder and the Essence of Pesach.” He began his lecture by emphasizing that the Passover Seder doesn’t just happen. There has to be an aura of kedusha in the preparation. It is an avodah or spiritual service of the heart.
And for that one needs proper preparation. A Seder based on such a careful and meticulous planning has the power to transform the life of an even an am ha’aretz into an entirely new personality who will be able to serve Hashem in an incredible manner.
Strive to Keep the Seder Simple
One must keep the Seder simple. The focus is to tell the story of Yetzias Mitzraim to your children in the style that even a six-year old can understand. Rav Lieff said that you should not let your kids take over the Seder. There is an established Mesorah. \
You as the parent have to legadita li-bincha, give over the story of our departure from Egypt to your children. Of course, you have to let your children ask questions but don’t let them give over Divrei Torah for four hours at the Seder.
Transforming this World with Simcha
The purpose of the Seder is to transform this world with simcha. The Pesach night ritual if done properly has the power to change not only your year but even your life for the better.
Why isn’t there a brocha to be said before our recital of the Seder. Rav Lieff explained that according to the Rosh, the Seder is about hoda, giving praise and hakoras hatove to the Ribono shel Olam.
Expressing Our Gratitude to Hashem
Rashi explains that a korban toda or thanksgiving sacrifice must come from the heart. So how can we be commanded by Chazal, our Sages of blessed memory to recite a brocha on conducting the Seder that itself symbolizes our ultimate gratitude to Hakodesh Baruch Hu? Indeed we utilize the consumption of food and drink at the Seder as a manner of kedusha in expressing our gratitude to Hashem for taking us out of Egyptian bondage.
Rav Lieff also emphasized the importance of bentching Birkas Hamazon with proper kavanah and said that to do so is a segulah for wealth. Why is this so? The explanation is that when one desperately is in need of something, whether it be parnassah or a shidduch; it is not an accomplishment to turn to Hashem and daven sincerely for your needs.
Causing Hashem to Want
To Give Us More Wealth
However, once one has eaten a good meal and is satiated or full, if one can then still make the effort to come closer to Hakodesh Baruch Hu by reciting Birkas Hamazan with proper concentration, this action in and of itself causes great pleasure to Hashem. It actually results in Hakodesh Baruch Hu wanting to come closer to us and reward us by giving us more wealth as we have proven that we know how to properly respond to His initial bequest of sufficient food for us to enjoy.
Rav Lieff reiterated that the Pesach Seder is a microcosm of the entire year to come. He encouraged fathers to personalize the Seder by recounting how you saw your father or grandfather conduct the Seder in their homes when you were a young child.
Reflections of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach
Above all, the Passover Seder is a time for savlonis, patience. You have to be patient and Rav Lieff recalled hearing from the children of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l how he so clearly demonstrated patience at the Seder. Also on that holy night, Rav Shlomo Zalman would bring out all his valuable and fancy silverware and display them on the Seder table. The rest of the year they were hidden away. In this way he highlighted the importance of this special night and its ability to transform our avodas Hashem for the rest of the year.
Also speaking at the Hakhel Pre-Pesach Kinus was Rav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, Rosh Hayeshiva of Telshe Yeshiva and Mesivta of Lakewood. The topic of his discussion was “From Purim to Pesach: Learning to Breathe Emunah in Times of Trouble – Practical Guidance and Advice.”
Believing in Hashem and Moshe His Servant
Rav Sorotzkin quoted the pasuk in Chumash that tells us that when Klal Yisroel came to Yam Suf and saw the Mitzrim destroyed, this resulted in their gaining emunah or faith in Hashem and in Moshe His servant. Furthermore, they were rewarded by Hashem with the gift of prophecy and their being able to sing Az Yashir with Moshe Rabbeinu.
What does this mean that at Yam Suf the Jewish nation became believers? Didn’t they leave Egypt in the zechus of having emunah in the Abishter as a result of having witnessed the incredible Makkos or plagues brought as a punishment upon the Mitzrim for their cruel oppression of the Hebrew slaves and their refusal to let the Jews go to serve Hashem in the wilderness?
The Pinnacle of Emunah at Krias Yam Suf
According to Rav Sorotzkin, the explanation is that their status of emunah, believers in Hashem only reached its pinnacle at the nes of Krias Yam Suf. The Mechilta teaches us that the Bnei Yisroel, the Children of Israel were before Krias Yam Suf only at the level of being “small believers” in Hakodesh Baruch Hu.
Even when they were safely crossing the Yam Suf, the Jews thought to themselves that perhaps their nemesis, the Egyptians were also crossing safely in another section of the Sea of Reeds that they were unable to see.
The Concept of Seeing is Believing
Therefore Hakodesh Baruch Hu commanded the Sea to spit out onto the shore all of the drowned Mitzrim. It was only at that moment when the Yidden beheld their former oppressors dead on the land that their emunah reached its pinnacle. Seeing is believing
Rav Sorotzkin noted that when we bench at the seuda of a bris, there is one blessing that we give to the newborn child in which we wish that its hands should have emunah. This means that the baby’s future faith in Hashem should be so clear as if you were looking at your own hand. One’s emunah in the Abishter should be as real to you as your own hand is.
A Lesson from the Chofetz Chaim
Reflecting on obtaining such a high level, Rav Sorotzkin spoke of a former talmid of the Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, who spoke about how his teacher had such a strong emunah in Olam Habah that it was as if what he learned about the rewards of the next world were just as real to him as if the Chofetz Chaim had seen it with his own eyes.
Chazal teach us that at Krias Yam Suf, the melachim or angels in heaven also wanted to sing songs of shevach, praise to Hakodesh Baruch Hu. However, the Ribono shel Olam silenced them and declared – “How can you sing My praises when the handiwork of My creation is being destroyed?
Why We Don’t Sing Complete
Hallel Throughout Pesach
Rav Sorotzkin noted that we learn one explanation from Chazal as to why we do not sing the whole Hallel on all eight days of Pesach. We only recite the complete Hallel on the first day of Pesach in Eretz Yisroel and the first two days in the Diaspora.
The explanation is that on Chol Hamoed and the last days of Yom Tov Pesach we don’t recite the complete Hallel because it is not proper to do so when some of Hakodesh Baruch Hu’s creations were destroyed at Krias Yam Suf.
The King Who Saved a Woman in Distress
The example is given of a king who saved a woman in distress who was attacked by hooligans when travelling on the road. The king was impressed by this woman and wanted to marry her and develop an enduring relationship. However, once she was rescued, the woman wanted nothing to do with the king and wouldn’t even talk to him.
What did the king do? He arranged for his agents to pretend to attack and threaten this woman the next time she went out to travel. She therefore cried out for help and again the king came to the rescue. This time, however, she recognized her true need for the protection of this benevolent king. She truly desired to establish a serious relationship with this king.
The Explanation of the Mashal
The mashal is that the king symbolizes the Ribono shel Olam. This is what occurred to the Bnei Yisroel at Krias Yam Suf. The king (Hashem) originally saved the woman in distress (Klal Yisroel) when He abruptly ended their slavery to the Egyptian and took them out of Mitzrayim. However at that time, the Jews no longer desired a relationship with the King.
Therefore Hashem had to orchestrate events by having Pharaoh and all his chariots come after the Jews to attack them. Seemingly trapped with nowhere to run away to, the Klal Yisroel again cried out to Hashem and this time realized their great dependence on the King, thus reaching the pinnacle of emunah in Hakodesh Baruch Hu.
Forcing the Abishter to Bring Tzoras Upon Us
Throughout our history if we fail to have the proper hakoras hatov and emunah in Hashem, we force the Abishter to resort to bringing tzoras upon us in order to make us realize our dependence on Him. Even when things are going smooth for us and we are successful in our endeavours that is the time for us to understand that it is not us, but rather Hakodesh Baruch Hu who is helping to succeed.
If we could reach such a level, there would be no need for Hashem to bring tzoras upon us in order to bring us closer to Him. However, since we are not on that level, Hakodesh Baruch Hu’s master plan includes giving us tzoras for our own benefit to make us realize our dependence on Him and to inspire us to call out for His help.
A Way to Strengthen Each and Every Jew
We should understand that the unpleasant realities are part of Hashem’s effort to strengthen the individual Jew and Klal Yisroel to become even greater in our spiritual service by revealing the presence of the Ribbono shel Olam to the rest of the world
If by understanding the above concept we can stay firm and strong in our emunah in the Abishter as was the case with our ancestors at Krias Yam Suf, then we will be worthy of shortly witnessing the ultimate geulah we all so much desire. The reason that the Jews so joyfully sang Az Yashir was that at that moment they were able to connect the dots and realize that what had happened before during their bitter slavery in Egypt was ultimately for their greatest benefit as it led them to the geulah and more importantly towards receiving the greatest gift of all – the Torah at Har Sinai.
No One to Trust in But the Ribone shel Olam
We have to realize, Rav Sorotzkin said, at such moments when our tzoras appear so overwhelming that this comes to teach us that we have no one to trust in but the Ribono Shel Olam. Today we are experiencing unprecedented acts of hatred and brutality from the goyim in places such as France, Eretz Yisroel and Iran. It is vital for us to understand that these are all being orchestrated by the Abishter in order to bring us closer to him by making us cry out to Him in tefillah.
We are now in the month of Nissan, a chodesh full of miracles. And if we would only take advantage of our tzoras to grow spiritually in levels of emunah as we should, the geulah would again come to us as when we were in Mitzrayim. We only need make a commitment to daven properly and make an effort to better understand the words of tefillah that we are reciting.