Rav Hirsch z”l, the B’nai Yisrael and “Being There” at the Pesach Seder

Shalom and Chag Same’ach Friends;

This Author has been very into R’ Shimson Rafael Hirsch z”l as is evident from citings from the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Rabbi Daniel Haberman) included my various Parshiyot HaShavua’s. Have also been learning R’ Hirsch’s “Nineteen Letters”, translated with commentary by Rabbi Joseph Elias. There are some passages from the text of Letters # 8 and 9 of “Nineteen Letters”, as well as commentary on the letters which seem to speak loudly in contributing to an ADULT’s focus in Being and Feeling as if “There” — being with the rest of Am Yisrael in Mtizrayim, feeling their pain of persecution and enslavement, as well as their euphoria upon Yetizot Mitzrayim.

Here’s hoping that by doing this exercise, that this author has helped to make your Seder more meaningful.


Moshe Burt

“Nineteen Letters,” Letter # 8, pages 114-115:

Hashem revealed Himself in the lives of these individuals as the “invisibly ruling Providence”, until they grew to a family of seventy, the nucleus of the nation-to-be. Starting with this nucleus, however, this people still had to be trained in order to be able to carry out its future mission. Unlike other nations, it could only attain nationhood only in the school of suffering. Hence, it had to be deprived of everything that makes a people a nation — in fact, even of that which, superficially seen, makes them men. Until the time of its liberation, this nation was to lose everything — except its morality, the promise of a better future and its trust in the One Alone — only to receive it all anew from His hands when it was freed.

The crucible of suffering in which Yisrael was to be forged in order to fulfill its future mission was Egypt, the country which then enjoyed the highest standard of civilization and which considered its land and its river to be its gods. Yisrael had been invited to Egypt in reward for a favor rendered by one of its members. Initially a guest, Yisrael established itself there. Egypt, however, worshipping material wealth only, did not acknowledge the One Alone and did not consider all men to be His children. In the arrogance of its power, it flouted the rules of hospitality and human rights, and made Yisrael its slaves. Yisrael, by now grown into a people, was reduced to the lowest level of human existence; and it was confronted by an Egypt that was in the full flowering of its might, proud of its greatness and contemptuous of the oppressed. At this moment, the One Alone appeared.

“Upon a light cloud, He appears… and Egypt’s gods tremble.” (Yeshayah perek 19, posuk 1)

He reveals Himself as the sole Creator, the Lord of nature…. he reveals Himself, too, as Lord over the life of nations, as Vindicator of the oppressed, as Judge of the arrogant. Egypt’s glory collapses before the majesty of a people that has nothing but Hashem alone. Hashem speaks — and the walls of Egyptian prison tumble down; and the people… is free to march out.

From the hands of Hashem it obtained its freedom and nationhood, and the goal of its liberation, the revelation of how Hw wants man to live — the Torah. From Yisrael’s schooling in Egypt and its training in the wilderness, one basic trait was to be forged: Emunah, rock-like trust in the One Alone Whom it had come to know, no matter along which paths His providence would lead it.

Commentaries on Letter # 8:

4. Suffering, page 120:

Rabbi Hirsch stresses, the suffering in Egypt was necessary so that the Jews themselves, as well as the entire world, would realize that they [the Jews] were redeemed, and thus became a people, purely by miraculous Divine intervention. All this had to take place in Egypt because it was both the most powerful and the most civilized nation of the time.

5. Still in its fetters, page 121:

“The fact that they were driven out of Egypt and that they could not even prepare the necessary bread for the journey… impresses forever on this exodus the stamp of its being exclusively the act of Hashem… they were still, even at this moment of their exodus, completely, as before, in the power of their oppressors and it was Hashem alone Who was directing matters…” (Commentary on Sefer Shemot)

6. Wilderness, page 121:

The Torah was not given in Egypt, some commentators declare, because it might have been felt in later generations that the Jews would have consented to anything to escape from the house of bondage. On the other hand, [as cited from R’ Sa’adya Goan re: Letter # 7] R’ Hirsch indicates, the Torah could not be given in Eretz Yisrael because it had to be made clear that the Jews would become a nation without any of the appurtenances, such as a common territory, that usually are necessary for the emergence of a nation. (Commentary on Sefer Devarim)

At the same time, the giving of the Torah in the desert was intended to make it clear for all generations that the Torah does not depend on any material conditions (see Maharal, Derush al ha-Torah), just as the survival of the Jewish people does not depend upon them. The Torah and the Jewish people are inseparable and unaffected by the vagaries of time…

8. One condition, pages 122-123:

Even though the existence and nationhood of the Jewish people do not depend upon the possession of land and state (Letter #7), the land of Yisrael has a crucial role to play as the Jew seeks to fulfill his Divine mission.

The land was to be received by the Jewish people for the realization of its national ideal: a state ruled by Hashem’s Law…. Eretz Yisrael was to be a Gan Eden for a people serving Hashem, and in return, receiving the Divine blessings of material and spiritual prosperity Commentaries on Sefer Devarim). On the other hand, if the Jewish people failed to live up to its duties, Divine providence, which is particulary manifest in this land (Sefer Devarim Perek 11, posuk 12), would cause it to become barren and desolate of its inhabitants who would be exiled. (Commentaries on Sefer Breish’t, Devarim) “This Jewish land, in its prosperity and in its ruin, is the pledge of the special historical position oof Israel on earth… The Divinely promised land can only be visualized in the context with the covenant [of Avraham] and the Torah.” (Commentary Sefer Devarim)

That the fate of Eretz Yisrael depends on our obedience to Hashem, rather than on political power and military might, is shown not only by the fact that in due course, “we were exiled from our land because of our sins” but also by the fact that we were given a number of Mitzvot that particularly tested our trust in Hashem rather than in military and economic calculations…

It should be clear, of course, that our eagerness for the return to Zion has never been due to a desire for political independence and material prosperity as ends in themselves, but to our longing to regain the closeness to Hashem’s Presence that the Beit HaMikdash, “the sanctuary of the Torah, the seat of Hashem and the Divine word.”

Letter # 9, pages 125-126:

…As a state Yisrael had committed no sins other than those evident among all of the other nations; but that which could be tolerated in the case of the other peoples could not be excused in Yisrael, for the entire purpose of its existence was to remain pure of such aberrations , since Hashem was its G’d! The collapse of the state, then served in its way to educate Yisrael just as much as its former prosperity had done; and its dispersion opened a new, great and far-flung field in which to carry out its mission.


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 — restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage, backbone and moral stength of conviction to prevent both the eviction of Jews from their homes in all of Eretz Yisrael and the handing of Jewish land over 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 — the Ultimate Redemption bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim” — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!