1. Torah teaches, “Begin with a blessing.” The appropriate blessing at present is the wish that each and every Jew, including those present here and those throughout the world, have a kosher and happy Pesach and that their preparations for Pesach be carried out in the best, most kosher, and happiest way possible. This, in turn, will bring about added kashrus and happiness throughout the entire year. The AriZal declares that one who is careful in regard to even a tiny amount of Chametz on Pesach is assured of not sinning throughout the entire year. Just as such a person will not encounter any undesirable influences in regard to spiritual matters as a result of this behavior, he will also not encounter any undesirable influences in material affairs.
At present, we find ourselves in a propitious time. Today is the Yahrzeit of the Tzemach Tzedek and also of Rav Yosef Karo, the Rabbinic Master of Israel. Also, the 14th of Nissan (and in Torah the night is related to the following day) is the birthday of the Rambam, a Halachic master whose opinion is accepted both in Israel and in the Diaspora and who also acted as a “guide to the perplexed.” Hence, the present occasion is a fitting time to raise the following issues.
In the days of the exodus from Egypt, on the thirteenth of Nissan and even on Erev Pesach, the Jews were still in Galus. However, even in Galus, “Behold, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers or sleeps.” Similarly at present, we are watched by the Guardian of Israel. Furthermore, the efforts of the children to “turn the hearts of their fathers” have increased that protection. Likewise, the efforts of G-d’s children, our deeds and service in the physical world, turn the heart of our Father in Heaven to us and thus add strength and power to the manner in which He watches over us.
The above is particularly true in view of the present situation, which is constantly ‘Shuklin’ — fluctuating. This is especially so in Israel, where in regard to national security — the preservation of safe borders — and in regard to the economy, a very shaky situation prevails.
Because of this situation, we are in greater need of the protection of the Guardian of Israel. Our very need further awakens the promise, “The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers or sleeps.” This is particularly true in Israel, which is described as “the land which... the eyes of G-d are always upon from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.”
What is the reason for this unstable situation? Because we are constantly fluctuating back and forth in regard to Yiddishkeit, Torah and Mitzvos. Rather than holding steadily and firmly to the straight path, the way of our holy Torah, the Torah of truth and the Torah of life, there are those who fluctuate back and forth — sometimes following the guidance of Torah and sometimes ignoring it. There is a clear Torah judgment in the laws of Shabbos, chapter 329, that clarifies the proper position to be taken regarding national security. [The Shulchan Aruch declares that if gentiles approach a Jewish settlement and demand even hay and straw, arms must be taken up against them even on Shabbos, lest the entire land be opened up before them.] Yet despite the fact that this is a clear decision of Torah law, there are those who fluctuate back and forth. When we follow the directive of the Torah, we can feel secure because of the strength of Torah, as our sages declared: “There is no strength other than Torah.” Surely, the land will not be opened before them.
According to the principle, “One Mitzvah draws another Mitzvah (after it),” it follows that the fulfillment of the above law will bring about an increase in the performance of all the Mitzvos, particularly those Mitzvos that are relevant at present: those connected with the preparation for Pesach. The preparation for Pesach is related to the preceding Shabbos, Shabbos HaGadol — the great Shabbos — which is called by that name because of the great miracle that occurred then — “the smiting of Egypt through its first-born.”
Since the word “Mitzrayim” — Egypt — is related to the word “Maytzorim” meaning boundaries and limitations, the totality of this physical world can be referred to as Mitzrayim — Egypt. Physical plenty and prosperity can be regarded as the first-born (the major power) of Egypt. Shabbos HaGadol teaches us that we can “smite Egypt with its first-born,” i.e. use physical prosperity for spiritual purposes, thus transforming darkness into light, which in turn makes us vessels to receive G-d’s infinite grace.
2. To counteract the shaky situation — a situation where Jews are fluctuating and where their fluctuation has caused the entire world community to begin to waver — there is confusion everywhere. And it is very necessary that Moshe’s request “that we be singled out from all the peoples of the earth” be fulfilled in a revealed manner: it is necessary to take actions that are within the natural order. However, even “the natural order” of the Jew is related to Torah and Mitzvos. Therefore, to counteract the abovementioned fluctuation it is necessary to make a firm decision to increase our efforts in the study of Torah, both Nigleh and Chassidus, the fulfillment of Mitzvos B’Hiddur, and the spreading of Torah both Nigleh and Chassidus, until “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, as the waters cover the sea.” These efforts should begin with the preparations for Pesach which essentially consist of getting rid of Chametz — leaven. The spiritual parallel of that service involves negating the influence of the Yetzer Hora, which is called ‘Chametz.’ Thus, turning away from evil increases the amount of good which we do.
These efforts force those who have been fluctuating in regard to the security of Israel to change their approach and to adopt a strong and resolute position. Even though free choice is never taken away from a Jew, just as there are those who at times are “forced” by the overpowering influence of the Yetzer Hora, there are times when the Yetzer Tov can become an overpowering influence and “force” someone to carry out its desires. This resolute position will in turn negate the confusion and difficulties brought about by the other nations. Those difficulties came about only because of the shakiness of Israel’s position. Once a stronger stand is made, they will cease to exist.
Furthermore, our efforts to spread Torah, both Nigleh and Chassidus, throughout the world — creating a situation parallel to the Messianic age when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, as the waters cover the sea” — will bring about the actualization of another of the prophecies of the Messianic age: “and kings shall be your foster fathers and their queens your nursing mothers.” Not only won’t the gentiles disturb the Jews; they will help and assist them in all matters of Yiddishkeit. Their first-born — their best — will be given to the Jews and they will do all they can to make sure that Jews be provided with all their needs. Furthermore, we will receive the blessing of G-d’s full, open, holy, and broad hand.
All the above — the effect on the Jews (forcing them to adapt a firm position), and the effect on the gentiles (causing them to help the Jews in all ways that they need it) — will come about as a result of our firm adherence to Torah and Mitzvos, and particularly our efforts in Mivtzah Pesach. This is particularly true in view of the meritorious nature of the present day — the Yahrzeit of the Tzemach Tzedek and Rav Yosef Karo and the birthday of the Rambam.
Before the redemption from Egypt, even when the Jews were still in exile, “all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings” and with that light they were able to spoil Egypt taking out “vessels of silver and vessels of gold.” So too in the present Galus, the gentiles will give all their best to the Jews, and we will leave exile “with great substance,” elevating all the G-dly sparks within the world — and greet Mashiach.
3. The Jews were redeemed from Egypt because they are G-d’s children, as the Torah declares: “My son, My first-born Israel... send forth My son that he may serve Me.” The relationship between G-d and the Jewish people is even deeper. The prophet Hoshea (11:1) declares, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him,” comparing the Jews to a young son for whom the father has a great love and who can cause his father to do anything he wants. In order to arouse such love from above, we must act in a similar way, as our sages declared: “According to a way one measures, so it is measured for him,” making special efforts to reach out to young boys and girls.
Therefore, it is proper to give warm thanks and special blessing to all the children who have taken an active role in the campaign to “return the hearts of the fathers through the children” in general and particularly in regard to the preparations for Pesach. Surely, they will continue their efforts in the future and use the time remaining until Pesach, and the days of Pesach itself, to enhance the joy and kashrus of the holiday. By “returning the hearts of the fathers through the children,” we will cause our Father in Heaven to turn His heart to His children, the Jewish people. We must see ourselves as small, as the verse declares, “Israel is a child,” and not boast how “my strength and the power of my hands has brought success.” We must view our success as coming from G-d, who possesses everything and gives to the Jewish people and each individual Jew with His “full, open, and holy hand.”
The efforts of the children will further negate the shaky situation described above. On the contrary, the Jews will “not bow and not bend.” In this context, we can appreciate another significant event that occurred on the 14th of Nissan. After Haman’s decree, Mordechai’s efforts to “go, collect together all the Jews” began on the 14th of Nissan. The activity in the succeeding three days, which stressed Ahavas Yisrael, caused the downfall of Haman, his sons, and all his followers.
We will enjoy similar success and celebrate the season of our rejoicing, and even while in Galus, we will have “light in our dwellings” and receive “the great substance,” with which we will, with happiness and good feeling, leave Galus.
From the above, it is understood why there is the great necessity for efforts to involve more Jews, and particularly more Jewish children, in the observance of Pesach, and after Pesach to involve them in all aspects of Torah and Mitzvos. And thus, “with our youth and with our elders” we will proceed to the ultimate redemption when “He puts an end to darkness,” the darkness of Galus.
4. To summarize the above: All Jews — men and women, and especially boys and girls — should know that through stopping their fluctuation in regard to Torah and Mitzvos, and by proceeding on “the path of G-d to do charity and justice,” they will cause those who are responsible for Israel’s security to stop their fluctuation. Then “kings” and “queens” will realize that their function is to be your “foster fathers” and “nursing mothers.” We will approach the time when a “a king will arise from the House of David who will force all of Israel to follow in its path (the path of Torah) ...and fight the wars of G-d and be victorious, build the Temple on its place, and collect the dispersed of Israel.”
The strong stance taken by the children will also negate the fluctuation of their counselors and leaders. When they see that children stand firm, and without shame declare that it is an open prohibition to do anything that will cause even the slightest breach of the Torah it will effect them. Since “G-d looked into the Torah and created the world,” it follows that there is a directive in Torah for everything in the world. There is a clear directive in regard to Shleimus ho’Oretz — the complete state of the land of Israel — that it is an open prohibition to allow the possibility of “opening the land before them.” Likewise, there is a clear Torah directive in regard to Shleimus ho’Om — the complete state of the Jewish nation — that conversion must follow Halachah. The Rabbis have the responsibility to become “guides to the perplexed,” showing all those who are confused, and who hence fluctuate back and forth, how to act. (This is the connection to the Rambam, “the guide to the perplexed” of all generations.) Every Rav who has ‘Smeicha’(rabbinical ordination) and makes decisions according to Shulchan Aruch does so on the strength of the ‘Smeicha’ which can be traced back, from one sage to another, to Moshe Rabbeinu. This, in turn, gives the potential for each of his followers to live according to Torah and do so with firm resolve — in the words of the Shulchan Aruch, “showing the strength of a lion” and in the words of the Ramah, “placing G-d before him always.” This, in turn, allows him to proceed in worldly affairs with success.
Just as during the exodus from Egypt the children recognized G-d first, so too the present redemption will begin with the efforts of Jewish children and their attempt to influence their parents to increase their Jewish involvement, beginning with the preparations for Pesach. And then the children will ask the four questions, which will arouse the fathers to answer, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and G-d took us out from there” and to continue the Haggadah till the conclusion of the Berachah, “Asher Go’alanu” which declares, “So He will bring us to other festivals and holidays ...rejoicing in the building of Your city, glad in Your service.” Thus, “we, your nation, the sheep of Your pasture ...will relate your praise from generation to generation.”
The above is enhanced by the meritorious nature of the present date. It is one of the days of Nissan, a month in which “it is customary to make the entire month holy” (Shulchan Aruch Admur Hazaken 429:9); it is the Yahrzeit of the Tzemach Tzedek, who made Torah decisions in both Nigleh and Pnimiyus haTorah; the Yahrzeit of Rav Yosef Karo who authored the Shulchan Aruch in the realm-of Nigleh and the Maggid Meishorim in the mystic realm of Torah; and the birthday of the Rambam. The latter begins the epic work called by his name with the phrase: “The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of all wisdom is to know that there exists a Primary Being ...and all beings ...were created from the truth of His being.” He concludes it with the prophecy, “And the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, as the waters cover the sea.” May that prophecy be fulfilled with the true and complete redemption led by Mashiach.
- (Back to text) Since this year is a Shemitah year, a year that is “a Shabbos unto G-d,” all the laws of Shabbos (including the above law) apply with more power than in other years.
- (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch declares that in addition to the obligation of each wise man to teach his students the laws of the festivals thirty days before the holiday, he also has the responsibility to “give a discourse on the laws of the festivals” on the preceding Shabbos.
- (Back to text) Nigleh — the exoteric, legal realm of Torah study — is called the “body of Torah,” while Chassidus, Pnimiyus haTorah, is considered its soul.
- (Back to text) In the Siddur of the Baal Shem Tov, instead of the word Kedushah — holy — the word Gedushah — overflowing — (more than full) was printed.
- (Back to text) The Talmud declares that “they also were included in that miracle” and “because of the merit of righteous women ...Israel was redeemed from Egypt.”
- (Back to text) The Talmud states that Israel is like the moon. The moon has no light of its own, receiving only from the sun; similarly, the Jewish people receive from G-d.
- (Back to text) The Baal Shem Tov commented that the Hebrew word for “placed before me” — “Shivisi” — can also be interpreted as “I made equal.” All worldly affairs are equal: i.e., none stimulate interest, and G-d is the only subject of attention.
- (Back to text) The Yerushalmi (Berachos 2:4) declares that Mashiach will be called Tzemach.