We find ourselves now at the beginning of the Month of Nissan, which is the month during which the Jewish People were freed from Egypt.
Before the Jews left Egypt, they were commanded to take a lamb to be a sacrifice, and to tie it to their beds for four days. After four days, they had to slaughter it, paint the doorposts of their homes with its blood, and then eat the lamb prior to their Exodus.
The Ancient Egyptians worshipped sheep as their idol, and these actions were a great insult to the Egyptian religion. The Jews may have been very worried that this would cause the Egyptians to be extremely angry with them, thus bringing on pogroms and murder to many Jews, as has happened many times throughout Jewish History during our Exile. We were expelled from various countries with claims that we were insulting the local religious sentiments. In our times, as well, we see that there are still those who are willing to murder people with claims that the victims were insulting the religion of the perpetrators.
It is worthwhile to contemplate this: Why did Hashem give the Jewish People such a dangerous mitzvah as the Korban Pesach during the time of the First Passover?
The answer is that Hashem needed to make the Jews to want to leave Egypt.
Why? Because once the Ten Plagues began, the Slavery ended, and the situation became quite the opposite of slavery. The Egyptians actually began to respect and show honor to the Jews. After the Plague of Darkness, the Jews became very wealthy through the money that they received from the Egyptians. At the time, Egypt was a very good and fertile land, a veritable Garden of Eden, where one could find more enjoyment than in other lands. There they could sit over big pots of meat, fish and onions, and all types of tasty foods which were available in great abundance.
If that was the case, there was no reason for the Jews to want to leave Egypt and go into a desert, an unsown and barren landscape where nothing could grow. A desert is home to poisonous snakes and scorpions, and there also were marauding bands of thieves and armies from the Arab Bedouins prepared to battle the Jews. There was no shelter to protect them from the scorching heat of the day, the bitter cold of the night, and the mighty winds that blow there. It was a place without food or water, or any of the other necessities to sustain the lives of the millions of Jews who would live and grow up there; men, women, and children. This is even all the more strange when one considers that they left in great haste without any time to prepare food for their journey. It is for all intents and purposes suicidal to go out into a desert without preparing any food for the journey. This was all the more so when considering the fact that they had no place to go, because there were 31 mighty kings ruling over Eretz Yisrael at the time.
This is why Hashem gave them the mitzvah of Korban Pesach, something that, under natural circumstances, would endanger their lives. This is why He told them that the only way He would pass over their homes and there would be nobody dead in the home would be if the blood of the Korban Pesach was visible for all to see on the doorposts of their homes. The Jews believed Hashem and fulfilled the mitzvah with mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice). They all saw that the merit of the mitzvah protected them, when they realized that the Egyptians did not retaliate or even try to do anything to them for this. On the contrary, those who fulfilled the mitzvah did not see even one of their numbers die during the plague of the Death of the First Born that smote the Egyptians. The point was crystal-clear, the Jews realized that if they fulfill Hashem’s mitzvos properly, then the mitzvah will protect them, and there is no power of any nation or group to harm them.
Therefore, when they saw that Hashem saved them in the merit of performing the mitzvah, they were ready to leave into a barren desert, to receive the 613 mitzvos of the Torah, despite their being wealthy and peaceful at the time. Even though they needed to remain and wait in the desert because of the 31 Canaanite Kings, it made no difference to them where they found themselves, because they understood that keeping the mitzvos of the Torah would protect them and save them wherever they went.
And so it happened, that in the merit of receiving the Torah and fulfilling the mitzvos, Hashem helped them in a supernatural manner, and gave them Manna to eat and the miraculous Well of Miriam to drink from. He also gave them the Clouds of Glory that would shelter them better than any house, forming individual private homes for each family. The Clouds provided light throughout the night for each home as well, and it also laundered their clothing for them. The Clouds protected them from bandits and attacking armies, which could come from the various nomadic tribes of the Arab Bedouins that inhabited the Arabian deserts lands. The Midrash teaches us many more benefits provided by these miraculous Clouds. They lived this way for forty years, under the most favorable conditions in a barren desert wasteland, something that never happened before or since in history.
This teaches us how important it is to be diligent and consistent in our study of Halachah, in order that we should know how to perform the mitzvos properly in accordance with Jewish Law. Through this, Hashem, Who is the Guardian of the Jewish People, will cause His Divine Presence to indwell among us. This is why the Sages taught (Brachos 8a) concerning the verse “Hashem loves the Gates of Zion” (Psalms/Tehillim 87:2) that after the Temple was destroyed that the term “Zion” does not intend to refer to a physical location on the map known as Eretz Yisrael, but rather only to the “Shearim hametzuyanim b’halachah” – “the distinctful gates of halachah” (the word “metzuyan” or “distinct” being related to the word “Tziyon” or “Zion”). Hashem loves any place in the world where Halachah is studied and kept, and He causes His Shechinah to indwell in there. This is what we find as that passage in the Talmud continues, that Rabbi Chiya bar Ami said in the name of Ulla: “from the day that the Holy Temple was destroyed, Hashem has nothing else in the world other than the four cubits of Halachah alone.”
It is possible to say that this hints to the concept that we recognize during every Amidah prayer: “Baruch Atah Hashem, HaMachazir Shechinaso LeTziyon” – “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who returns His Shechinah to Zion”, which is stated in the present tense, meaning that after the destruction of the Temple, Hashem causes His Shechinah to indwell in the “distinctive gates of Halachah”.
There is tremendous zechus (merit) to those who learn Halachah in the “Dirshu” program, where they learn the Halachos of Orach Chaim, which are important to every Jew, in order to know how to keep and fulfill the mitzvos of the Torah. HaGaon HaRav Rabbi Dovid Hofstater, shlit”a, is worthy to improve the merits of the many with this great organization. May it be Hashem’s Will that he should be worthy to “s’char mitzvah mitzvah” – “the reward for a mitzvah is another mitzvah”, to widen the efforts of his incredible organization.
There is an extra quality that exists in learning in through the “Dirshu” program. The participants are tested on their learning, which means that they will learn with more diligence and review more carefully and more often with a fundamental goal of understanding and memorization of the facts they learn, as we see with the scholars who participate in the “Dirshu” program. I personally encourage my own family members to participate in the “Dirshu”program, and I see that they have tremendous success in their studies through this program, with Divine help.
Now is the time for anyone who has not yet joined to begin to study Halachah, and in this way there will be more indwelling of the Shechinah in the Jewish community of France.
In the merit of fulfilling the mitzvos, we have no reason to fear the enemies who rise up against us, and seek to destroy the Jewish People physically or spiritually, whether they are from outside our community or from within. We say in the Hagadah, “not only one stood up against us to destroy us… and Hashem saved us from their hands”. May you all be worthy to be protected by Heavenly protection, and to be blessed with all types of good blessings and hashpaos tovos.
The Kalever Rebbe, Rav Moshe ben Raizel, is ill and severely limited in his physical ability to strengthen and help out fellow Jews worldwide. Please beseech Hashem to grant the Rebbe a Refuah Shleima bekorov mamash – an immediate and complete healing.