Our Pesach vort is being sponsored by Benjamin and Gina Fishman and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for a Refuah Shlaima for Rivka Nechama bat Gittel Yehudis. To the Fishman family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
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This year will mark twenty years, and my seventeenth Pesach in Eretz Yisrael, in which I have emailed, as it has become tradition with me from prior to my Aliyah, the rendition of Dayenu quoted from the book “Dear Brothers” by former Arutz Sheva columnist Haggai Segal. In each year, Dayenu holds a unique perspective, unlike the perspective of any previous year.
Each year, this author tries to put forth factors that relate to the state of B’nai Yisrael — right here and right now.
And so, the insights and lessons, both current and previous, brought in the quoted rendition of Dayenu are vital now, just as they were in the first year that I emailed this vort out or, for that matter, as vital as they were when it was quoted in Segal’s compilation of the book in its copyright year 1988.
As we approach Pesach 5775, we take time again to ponder this brief section about Dayenu, in light of the recent election campaign and voting just concluded, and ponder what lessons and tests of emunah, Jewish unity and collective Jewish self-esteem that Hashem has handed us or will toss our way as a Klal which might approach or exceed his tests of our forefathers in Mitzrayim; i.e., taking the Mitzri avodah zora — that parody about “Tying the Korban Pesach to the Bedpost Overnight”, then slaughtering it, and applying its blood to our doorposts so that the Moloch HaMavet passes over our Jewish homes… and eating it at the Seder table on the night before going out from Mitzriyim. Are we there? Can we place our mindsets there, as if in Mitzrayim, and internalize the Pesach seder’s meanings , as individuals, as families, as communities and communal leaders, as politicians, media types, etc.?
The Artscroll Pesach Haggadah based on Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic Sources, by Rabbi Joseph Elias (Overview, page xxxiii) provides two citings:
‘Just as in the days of your going out from Egypt will I show wonders to them.’ (Michah Perek 7, posuk 15)
‘In the night of Pesach all that happened in Egypt renews and bestirs itself; and this itself helps to bring the ultimate redemption.’ (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto)
Are we really there? Are we really into having that personal dialogue with Hashem three times daily? Or, are we merely, one-two-six, carrying out the by-rote rabbinic injunction and obligation with Aleinu on-the-fly? And similarly, at the Pesach Seder, Are WE really there? Are WE really B’yachad with our brethren, even on the Seder night and even with our brethren whose Hashkafot, learned from their parents and Rabbonim, may not be totally in accord with that inculcated to us? Can we feel and understand how it was to be in Mitzrayim, how it was to live through the generations following the death of Yosef HaTzaddik and through the evolution of the enslavement and persecution of B’nai Yisrael by Pharaoh and the Mitzriyim? Can we relate, in our times, to possible similarities between today’s tendency amongst many of our brethren, including segments of our religious brethren, to retreat back to within perilous, self-endangering Auschwitz borders, and the post-Yetziyat Mitzrayim (exodus from Egypt) call by many of our ancestors to return to Mitzrayim? As we make the primary focus of our Pesach Seder experience toward the young children, are we adults still able to direct, and relate to, the Seder experience in such a way as to instill, among the other age segments around the Seder table, insights and transplantations such that they feel as if they are/were there and experiencing the dire pain of their ancestors?
What tests akin to the Korban Pesach, or Kri’yat Yom Suf (crossing the Reed Sea) does Hashem have in mind us this Pesach, as Moshiach approaches B’ezrat Hashem? How will HaKodosh Borchu test OUR mettle, both individually and as a kehal, as a nation, as Jews? Do we have the backbone, the strength of conviction to subordinate respective differences to the overriding national priorities, the “fire in the belly” to unify with our brethren who may not be exactly like us and to stand up and physically express in a multitude of ways our Jewish sovereignty, Jewish unity, our connection with and our Divine Mandate of ownership of Eretz Yisrael? Do we have the intestinal fortitude to compel our rabbinic and national leaders’ loyalty to one Jonathan Pollard who has suffered endlessly for over 29 years that Medinat Yisrael would survive and thrive in Eretz Yisrael? Do we have the inner strength and gumption to do right, whatever it takes, by our fellow Jews? Are the modern-day tests akin to the tests, the challenges our brethren faced in the day of Pharoah and Mitzrayim? Or the days of Esther, Mordechai, the evil Haman and King Achashveirosh??
In the Book “Dear Brothers”, the story is told how Pesach 5738 (1968) was approaching when the first group of Pioneers endeavored to establish themselves in Chevron. Among this hearty group were Rabbis Haim Druckman, Eliezer Waldman, Moshe Levinger, Shlomo Aviner and others.
We pick up the story as the participants, “Sixty people sat down to that historical first Seder…” in Chevron:
“Another participant was the author Moshe Shamir, formerly affiliated with the leftist Hashomer Hatzair(the Young Guard). As he did with each of the celebrants during the Seder, Rabbi Druckman asked Shamir to make some comments appropriate to the festival. The others braced themselves for the minor unpleasantness that was sure to result.
But at every Seder since then; other guests have repeated the Drosh that Moshe Shamir delivered that first Passover Seder in Chevron and so I try to give it over each year to my friends and relatives on Pesach via the Internet(MB):
“The fourteen verses in the song Dayenu (It would have sufficed) have drawn the attention of the commentators throughout the ages. Why should we imply that we could forgo even one of the gifts given to us by Hashem three thousand years ago? How would we have gotten along at all without every one of them? The truth is that this part of the Haggadah has only one aim: to teach us how each and every generation of Jews tends to settle for the achievements of the past, to settle for what its forefathers had accomplished — and to rest on its laurels, with no aspiration for anything not achieved thus far. We, too, right here have that same tendency to say Dayenu — ‘It would have sufficed for us.’ The State of Israel? Dayenu. Unified Jerusalem and liberated Hebron? Dayenu. Wasn’t it just last year at the Seder [before the 6-day War — MB] that we said, ‘If Hashem had given us Israel but had not given us Jerusalem and Hebron — dayenu? That’s why we’ve got to know that we’ll be facing many more ‘dayenus’ until we reach full redemption.”
The book recounts that Rabbi Druckman stood up and kissed Shamir’s forehead.
In his vort at that first Pesach Seder in Hevron, Moshe Shamir spoke about generations of Jews settling for what was, rather than aspiring to achieve further and seizing opportunities to fulfill these further aspirations. But today, it seems that not only is there the tendency not to aspire further, but to actually give up, to relinquish that already achieved.
In the Sefer “Inspiration and Insights”, Discourses on the Holidays and Other Themes, by the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal z”l, Rav Segal notes that Parshat Beshalach begins (page 43):
“It happened when Pharaoh sent out the people that Hashem did not lead them by way of the land of the P’lishtim (Philistines) because it was near, for Hashem said: ‘Perhaps the people will have a change of heart when they see war, and they will return to Egypt.’ So Hashem turned the people toward the way of the wilderness, to the Sea of Reeds.” Sefer Sh’mos, Perek 13, posukim 17-18)
Rav Segal then comments (page 43);
The most direct route there [to Eretz Yisrael] was through the land of the P’lishtim. But that apparent advantage was the very reason why Hashem did not lead them that way. Had the journey been direct, the people would have been tempted to return to the servitude of Mitzrayim when attacked by hostile nations along the way.
Could a direct route back to the land of slavery and persecution really be too great a test to overcome? The Ribono shel Olam, Who sees into the heart of every man, knew that it might. Indeed, as Rashi notes, a call to return to Mitzrayim was voiced even after the circuitous path had been taken. (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 14, posuk 4) Hashem would not place the Jews in a situation where the enticements of their yetzer hara
(evil inclination) might be to much for them to withstand.
Therefore, just as the Jews in Bamidbar had to confront and fight off their yetzer hara, it seems that today, even after the current national elections, some segments of Am Yisrael, both secular and religious, as well as prospective governing alternatives manifest suffering from that same yetzer hara and the danger of capitulating to it and thus surrendering the Jewish soul and endangering our Jewish lives and sovereignty in, and over the Land of Israel.
Another commentary in the Artscroll Pesach Haggadah (page 137) cites the Malbim and speaks about Dayenu in this way;
“…The bondage of our forefathers was two-fold — physical and spiritual — and so was their redemption. The physical bondage came to an end on Pesach night, but the spiritual redemption reached it’s climax only with the building of the Temple and Hashem’s self-revelation in his sanctuary.”
“Every step on the road to this ultimate goal was a further act of Divine kindness to us, a further revelation of Hashem’s majesty. That’s why we give thanks for each …favor (MB; kindness) bestowed upon us. For every single step, we say Dayenu — it would have sufficed by itself to give our thanks (attributed to Malbim).”
This does not mean that any one step would have sufficed by itself to bring us to our goal. It does mean, however, that each of the happenings of Yetziyat Mitzrayim, Giving of Torah at Har Sinai, the travels through Bamidbar, entry of the Jewish People into Eretz Yisrael through to the building of the Beit HaMikdash “represented a new remarkable miracle — …that Hashem need not have performed these miracles if he had not
seen a particular purpose for each.”
Dayenu seems to mean building Jewish self-esteem and recognition of the great chessed that Hashem has done for us with every gift that He has given to the Jewish people from Yetziyat Mitzrayim until now, as well as the chessed inherent in the gifts yet to come — B’Ezrat Hashem; Moshiach, Ge’ula Shlaima, Torah leadership and government and an end to the current and often cruel, brutal, heartless, totalitarian, dictatorial governance of Memshelet Yisrael.
What is the spiritual road leading to Jewish self-esteem?? It seems travelled by way of our kavanah (intent) and ratzon (desire) in our tefillos, our Avodat Hashem and common decency toward our fellow Jews — V’ahavtah L’rei’cha Komocha as existed amongst B’nai Yisrael even in the depths of Mitzri enslavement, as well as by way of the strength of our convictions regarding Emunah in Hashem and by striving for the perceived “unachievable”; both inward and outward expressions and manifestations of limitless love for our fellow Jew and for our Holy Land. It also seems to mean breaking out, for some, of their contemporary mold of coercion and dependency, and a mutual recognition and respect for diversity within the realm of halachic observant Jewry.
As writer Moshe Shamir said years ago in his little Pesach vort;
” That’s why we’ve got to know that we’ll be facing many more ‘dayenus’ until we reach full redemption.”
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Good Shabbos, Good Yom Tov! Chag Kosher V’Some’ach and, remember: BE THERE at the Pesach Seder!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.