By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
Pesach has arrived and, of course, the lingering question, have we arrived? The answer is probably a resounding yes. The shelves are lined with contact paper, the Seder table is set, any slight remains of chometz have been eradicated, and everyone is exhausted, yes we have arrived! Yet, truthfully, we must examine if we are really prepared or we may have just coincidentally arrived due to the calendar date. How can we determine whether or not we are in the right place at the right time or not?
When Hashem commanded Moshe to lead the people out of Egypt, Moshe was dubious. After all, these people had been slaves for many years and with what merit did they deserve to leave? The answer was that when they will leave Egypt, then they will serve Hashem at Mt. Sinai. First of all, what service did the nation perform at Mt. Sinai? Secondly, if they did not deserve to receive the Torah at this time, then why was Moshe decidedly taking them to Mt. Sinai? Sforno explains that when they left the environment of Egypt where they were surrounded by people who denied Hashem’s presence, then they would be able to receive the Torah despite the fact that they were not yet at the level required for that to happen. Rashi refers to this as a merit for the Jewish people. This is difficult to understand because usually one who merits something first attains the merit and then subsequent to that is entitled to receive that privilege. However, in this instance receiving the Torah was the merit itself and nothing else preceded the event of Mt. Sinai!
Perhaps we may suggest that although the nation was presently unqualified to receive the Torah, however, they had the capacity to improve their lives and reach a level that would be satisfactory for receiving the Torah. When Hashem told Moshe that the nation would serve Him, perhaps this is what is referred to. We know that the people underwent intense preparation to merit receiving the Torah once they arrived at Mt. Sinai. Furthermore, their degree of anticipation in order to become proper recipients was such that they said that they would observe every detail of the Torah even before they fully understood the depth of their present obligation and their forthcoming commitments. However, the upshot is even more electrifying. Hashem was informing Moshe that we must not always look at the here and now, but rather the potential for growth and expansion that is present must be perceived and acted upon. Would Moshe’s initial judgment of the nation have been the accepted perception, then, there never would have been an exodus from Egypt and a subsequent acceptance of the Torah at Mt. Sinai since we were not worthy of either occurrence. However, Hashem enlightened Moshe and provided him with a glimpse in to the tremendous capabilities that we possess. One needs only to focus on that potential and then we can assess the necessity to allow its certainty.
This is then the importance of the Seder and the entire scope of Pesach. We do not look at the bondage of our nation as a period in our history to be viewed unto itself. Rather, the difficult stage that we endured as a people in Egypt served as an impetus with which we eventually elevated ourselves from slavery to freedom in the fullest sense of the word. For one who imbibes Torah is truly a free person as is stated in the last chapter of Pirkei Avos. We climb out of the cellar of our vices during the Seder and recapture the victory of our ancestors as they left their physical and spiritual bondage. The apex of the Seder is accessed as we recite the Hallel near the end when we recognize our ascent and attempt to crystallize our simcha in to a thanksgiving prayer to Hashem. As we chew on the matzoh we savor the flavor of freedom and longingly maintain its message as we do not indulge in anything else after those precious bites which eternalize our future as true servants of Hashem.
A BYTE FOR PESACH
The more that we expound about the exodus from Egypt the more it is praiseworthy. All the greatness that we have achieved from that time onward is solely on account of Hashem’s benevolence as He extricated us from the grips of a culture that was antithetical to what we became to represent. Therefore, the inherent magnitude of that event is truly magnified as we expand on the enormity of what transpired at that time.
GOOD SHABBOS AND YOM TOV