Sunday, April 8, 2018

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Hidden Till the End - Last Day of Pesach 5778

Below, please find this adaptation of Rav Weinberger's drasha from the last day of Pesach 5778.  Enjoy!

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Rav Moshe Weinberger
Acharon Shel Pesach 5778
Hidden Till the End

Three words from Shir HaShirim contain the essence of Yizkor, the seventh day of Pesach on which the Jewish people crossed the Sea, and the last day of Pesach on which we read the haftarah of the prophecies of Moshiach. This short phrase, which we will discuss later, encompasses the entire nature of our service on this day.

The Gemara (Shabbos 31a) says, “When they bring a person in to judgment, they say to him, ‘Did you hope for the redemption?’” It seems from Chazal that our entire status in the World to Come is defined by our answer to this question. Why is this?

The root of all Jewish redemption, individually and nationally, is the exodus from Egypt. Every Shabbos, we daven for and say this in Shabbos Mussaf, “Indeed I have redeemed you at the end like the beginning.” The final redemption, may it come soon in our days, is rooted in the original national redemption when Hashem brought us up out of Egypt. And each individual redemption, victory, and feeling of expansiveness comes from this original salvation. Everything that happens brings us one step closer to the final redemption, toward Yerushalayim. This makes all of history part of a path leading us toward Jerusalem – toward Moshiach.

But every exile or personal obstacle or point of pain and suffering has its origin in something even earlier than the Egyptian exile. It comes from the beginning of time. “And the land was empty and void. . .” (Bereishis 1:2). Chazal teach that this primordial chaos is the root of all exile (Bereishis Rabah 2:4). The significance of emptiness and chaos is that it is aimless, without direction, meaning, or purpose. As Dovid HaMelech says about the wicked, “They wander in a wasteland, with no path” (Tehillim 107:40). The worst thing in life is to live without direction or a goal.

This is personified by the king of impurity, Pharaoh, who said “I made myself” (Yechezkel 29:3). While this sounds almost comical, his statement has a deeper meaning than just the absurd assertion that Pharaoh actually created himself. If someone believes that he made himself, from his perspective, there is nothing above him. He has no purpose that transcends his present needs and desires. It is the ultimate narcissism. The first thing Hashem says is “not good” is “to be alone” (Bereishis 2:18). This is not only because of the pain of loneliness, which is indeed terrible. It is because when one is alone, he lives only for himself. Life is only worth living when it is for something above and beyond his immediate existence.

If a person lives only for himself, then all he has is his desires, needs, and wants of the moment. That is why the wicked are described as having “no path,” they have nothing larger than themselves to live for. There is no direction or purpose in their lives. All they have is an empty and narrow world in which they can only live to quench their cravings of the moment. And woe is to any person who stands in the way of such a person getting what he wants. L-rd help the gabbai who gives someone else maftir when this person believes he deserves it!

The nature of the salvation of the seventh day of Pesach, on which Hashem split the sea for us, is finding a path and purpose where one previously saw a world with no way forward. The Jewish people felt trapped on all sides. Behind them were the Egyptian hordes, dangerous animals stood ready to attack on both sides, and the churning sea was in front of them. There is no path in the sea, but Nachshon ben Aminadav saw, through his faith in Hashem’s salvation, that there was a way forward into the sea, so he began walking. And Hashem created a path in the sea where there previously was none. The miracle of the seventh day of Pesach, which Hashem repeats for his children even today when we do not see any way forward, is creating a path for us – a way forward when all options feel like they are cut off.

This is what it means when they ask us in shamayim, “Did you hope for the redemption?” While one may truly feel like he has no way forward, that he has no path, being a Jew means hoping for the redemption, knowing that Hashem will create a path forward toward something greater. And just as this is true when it comes to material suffering and challenges, it is equally true when with regard to spiritual challenges. Even if a person feels that he or she has exhausted all of his options, that there is nothing else that can be done to escape the grasp of whatever demon has him in its power, Hashem wants us to ask ourselves whether we still hope in the redemption, whether we still believe we can turn to Him to ask Him to create a path for us through whatever stormy sea is trapping us.

The words from Shir HaShirim, in which are wrapped all of this, are “My beloved, I have hidden away  [צפנתי] for you” (7:14). The root word meaning of the Hebrew word meaning “hidden away” is the same as the word Tzafunצפון, the part of the Hagada in which we eat the matzah hidden away for the end of the Seder. The essence of exile is concealment of the existence of a future. Exile causes us to feel like we are wandering in a wasteland without any path forward, like there is a great sea hemming us in, leaving us without any options.

By recognizing that Hashem has hidden away a great future for us, by hoping in the redemption, a Jew brings his future into the present. Knowing that, regardless of what we are going through now, Hashem has a future in store in which even the most horrible present is building toward a greater future, gives us the strength to live in the darkest times.

All of us are mourning the chosson and kallah who were horribly killed by a drunk driver during Chol HaMoed. I personally have a connection to the chosson’s family and one of my daughters is close to the kallah’s family. There are no words to describe the tragedy in which a fire in the car burned their bodies almost beyond recognition, as the passuk says regarding Nadav and Avihu, “the conflagration that Hashem has burned” )Vayikra 10:6). And the parents and siblings of the chosson lost another son less than three years ago. There are no words for the darkness we sometimes face in this world. It sometimes feels like it is completely beyond us. How does one go forward after such a terrible tragedy? How did the father of the chosson at the levayah quote Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev zy’a, and, with his words and tefilos, attempt to bring salvation down into the world despite everything he must be going through right now? How is he able to find a path forward through the raging sea?

Rav Gudel Eisner zt’l, a gerrer chassid who survived in concentration camps throughout the War and went on to become mashpiah in Yeshivas Chidushei HaRim in Tel Aviv, explained how he lived through the last days before the liberation. The Nazis, may their names be blotted out, realized that their time was running short and that the Americans were approaching. They decided to move all of the remaining prisoners to another camp. But instead of marching them, like they did in many other camps, they forced the Jews to run the entire way. Although the malnourished, weak Jews did not know how long the run would be, it turned out to be 14 kilometers. The “game” was that if a Jew slowed down, he was shot. If he collapsed, he was trampled upon and then shot.

At one point during this run, Rav Gudel said that his legs simply stopped working. No matter how hard he tried to command them to keep running, they simply would not obey. He resigned himself to simply kneeling on the ground and saying Shma before being summarily shot. As he began to slow down, he said that another Jew running a couple of rows behind him saw that he was slowing down and yelled out, “Gudel! Gudel! Run!” When he heard those words, although he did not understand why, his legs began working again and he was able to complete the run and survive. He heard one of his Jewish brothers saying, “There is a path forward. There is a future,” and somehow that gave him the strength to move forward.

May the light of the final day of Pesach show us how to live not only for the present moment, but for the path Hashem has placed before us. May He show us a path through the mighty sea of confusion and temptation all around us to wait for the great future he has hidden away for us from the beginning of time. And may Hashem send the ultimate redemption this year so that this will be the last Pesach we spend in the darkness of exile!

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1 comment:

AishKodesh said...

Wonderful. כל ברכות והצלחה לך ומשפחך.

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Kol Tuv!