Pesach / The Seder Nights
Dedicated in Honor of Our New Baby Boy by Daniel and Estelle Tebele
Pesach/The Seder Nights
An Exciting Atmosphere
This Shabbat begins the holiday of Pesach. As we learned last week, the most important mitzvah on this holiday is teaching our children about the miracles of Pesach. Our Seder tables have to be a festive and enjoyable environment so we can really instill in our children the appreciation for this extra special holiday. Rabbi Azancot told a story about how a young man came to Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz to tell him his story of becoming a baal teshuvah.
There was a young woman that came to America after World War II, and she decided after what she had endured, she would completely renounce Judaism. She got married and had children but didn’t raise them with religion. She didn’t fast Yom Kippur or abstain from chametz on Pesach.
Years later, just before Spring, her oldest child, Jerry, was in college, and he received a package from his mother. He opened it up and found a container with some triangular cookies filled with jam. He recognized them, as his mother made them every year in March, and he eagerly bit into one. He later brought the container to share with his friends while they ate lunch on the campus lawn.
Jerry’s friend Joe helped himself to a cookie and said, “Hey, you’re Jewish, like me!” “Jewish?” Jerry said, “I’m not Jewish.” Joe asked, “Where did you get these cookies?” “My mother made them,” Jerry answered. “Well, then you’re Jewish! These cookies are called hamantaschen and the Jews make them for the holiday of Purim.” Joe explained.
Jerry called his mother, and asked, “Mom, am I Jewish?” His mother was surprised, “Why do you ask?” “My friend explained that the cookies you make are Jewish cookies that they bake for some holiday.” The mother answered, “As a matter of fact, yes, we are Jewish. My mother used to bake these with me every year for Purim, so I always made them for my kids, because I looked forward to eating them as a child.”
Just from that little cookie, Jerry went on to investigate Judaism and soul-search his way to Jerusalem, where he made aliyah, years later, as a kollel scholar. His mother had such nice experiences as a child, baking cookies with her mom for the holiday, that the excitement and enjoyment never left her, and she couldn’t give up the tradition of baking hamantaschen for Purim. This year let’s remember that our Seders should be filled with laughter, joy, and exciting traditions, so that our children will continue that legacy with their children and grandchildren for years to come! Amen!
The Four Sons
The Haggadah presents Four Sons who represent four different types of Jews. The four sons are chacham—wise, rasha—wicked, tam—simple, veshe’eno yodea lish’ol— and he who does not know how to ask. The first letter of each one spells cherut—freedom, which is the central theme of the holiday, Zman Cherutenu.
We learn that no matter what, they’re all part of human nature, and even the rasha can make teshuvah! Why do we say echad hacham achad rasha etc.? This is to show that we have an obligation to teach our children in their own way and at their appropriate level, so they can all reach their potential.
Emunah in Hashem
Rabbi David Sutton explained that on the Seder nights, we should strengthen our emunah—faith in Hashem. The reference to all our emunah is Yetziat Mitzrayim, as stated in the Ten Commandments, “I am Hashem, who took you out of Mitzrayim.” The Ro’sh says that if a person doesn’t believe in Yetziat Mitzrayim, then that person doesn’t believe in Hashem!
There are many lessons to learn from Yetziat Mitzrayim. Two very important ones are:
Hashem can create something from nothing, which we learn when He sent the Ten Plagues to destroy Egypt.
Hashem’s involvement in each one of our lives is on an individual basis. It’s our job to recognize Him from both the open miracles, and the hashgacha peratit—Divine Providence that we all experience in our daily lives.
Emunah is not something intellectual. Rather, it must become instinctive and automatic. When a challenging situation arises in our lives, our reactions must be to have complete emunah and trust in Hashem! The goal of the Seder is to feel as though Hashem just saved each and every one of us from the bondage of Egypt, and now we are on our way to receive the Torah at Har Sinai!
One way we remember this is from the arba kosot—four cups of wine that we drink at the Seder. The gematria for the Hebrew word for cup—kos = 86.
Originally, the Jewish nation was supposed to be in Egypt for 430 years, but they actually only spent 86 years enslaved. Each time we raise a cup of wine, we are celebrating the deduction of 344 total years from galut—exile (430-344=86). Each cup represents another 86 years. 86x4=344, which leaves us with 86 of the 430 years of hard labor while we were enslaved in Egypt.
We must learn to have hakarat hatov—gratitude to Hashem for everything that we have in our lives, because if not for Hashem, we would have nothing! We must look forward to the geulah—redmption to bring us and all of Klal Yisrael to the days of the Mashiach where we, along with the rest of the world, will recognize Hashem as the only one true G-d and the Jewish Nation as His people forever!
The Significance of 15 Nisan
The Haggadah has 1,820 words describing how Hashem came down to save us from the hands of the Egyptians. Hashem’s name appears in our Torah 1,820 times, whereas Moshe’s name is not even mentioned once in the Haggadah. On this night, the spotlight belongs to Hashem.
Not only are we celebrating the night that Hashem saved us from the Egyptians over 3,300 years ago, but the night of Pesach is significant as a “time of salvation” throughout our history as a nation!
On 15 Nisan, Avraham defeated the four kings, rescuing Lot from captivity. The Brit Ben Habetarim, the covenant where Hashem promised Avraham that he will father a big nation who will be redeemed from slavery also took place on the night of Pesach. On 15 Nisan, Sarah was given a salvation after years of struggling for many years to conceive, and Yitzchak was born. Years later, Yitzchak summoned his firstborn, who we know was Yaakov dressed as Esav, and he blessed him with the many blessings of the bechora on the first day of Pesach. Fast forward, and Yaakov was saved from the Satan before confronting Esav on the eve of Pesach, and Hashem gave him the new name of Yisrael, a name that embodies Hashem’s salvation of the Jewish people.
Exactly one year before Yetziat Mitzrayim, Moshe chased a sheep that had escaped, and found Hashem there in the form of the Burning Bush. Hashem told Moshe that He would redeem the Jewish Nation from slavery and save them from Pharaoh.
On the 14th of Nisan, the last and final plague had come for the Egyptians—where Hashem had killed the firstborns—which was the catalyst to the redemption. Over 600,000 men (and millions of people) from B’nei Yisrael were saved from Hashem and began their journey to Eretz Yisrael on the 15th of Nisan. After the miracle of Passover, many other miracles continued to occur on the anniversary of that date.
Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den on 15 Nisan. Miraculously, the lions did not touch him, and he emerged from the den unscathed. Esther had invited Achashverosh and Haman to the first mishteh—banquet on the 14th of Nisan, and it took place on Passover. She and the Jewish people had fasted over the holiday, the very dates of the Exodus, so that they may be offered another major salvation from Hashem. And they were!
Throughout Jewish history, 15 Nisan was a day that miracles happened. It was a day of salvation and hashgacha peratit. After Kiddush on Pesach, parents should bless their children, because the gates of beracha are opened. Friends and family should bless each other. Those that are going through a struggle in their lives should pray, because Hashem is ready to send a salvation on this day of miracles! May we strengthen our emunah, and all be blessed with happiness, health, and success always, and may the Final Salvation of Mashiach arrive now!! Amen!
Chag Kasher Ve Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Amram Sananes, written by Jack Rahmey
Can we remember a time where there was a salvation for us on Passover, like an answered prayer or an instance of Divine Providence?
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