Ready to Speak?
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| Published: March 22, 2021
“Mah Nishtana Halayala hazeh mikol haleilot?” What is different tonight from all other nights? Tonight, Seder Night, is the time when we are more than encouraged to speak. “Kol hamarbeh l’saper b’yetziat Mitzraim, harei zeh meshubach, “ whoever increases the time he speaks about the exodius from Egypt, this is considered very praise worthy. On all other nights we are encouraged to truly think before speaking, to be a bit shy in initiating conversation, be careful not to ask too many questions. Tonight, let’s all get ready to speak.
We are looking for simple questions with simple answers. Each year Reb Shlomo taught us that the questions, the storytelling and the answers at the Seder table must be geared towards children. This is their night to speak out and ask. Why? Because they are truly innocent and simple. Children are known to ask questions that adults would never dare let out with. We adults tend think just a little too much for Seder night questions and answers. On this night the dialogue is not about human intellect and wisdom. Tonight is about strengthening our “emunah,” the renewal of our belief in Hashem. As the Slonimer Rebbe calls it, Peasch night is “Rosh Hashanah of Emunah.” The New Year of Belief. Our forefathers, slaves in “Mitzraim,” were on the next to the lowest level of spiritual impurity, filled with idol worship, acting and identifying as “Mitzrim” and not as Jews. In spite of that identity, Hashem took us out. Why? What did we have left to our credit. Simply! We still believed.
On this night we speak to each other only in a supportive manner. We are not looking for proficiency and credit for our egos. We are instead, looking to humbly strengthen our connection to Hashem and each other. There is no other “mitzvah” that requires this additional increased action with it. All “mitzvot,” says The Holy Slonimer, require us to actively complete or refrain from an action. Once you have done it you have filled your obligation. Not so on this night. The amount of conversation encouraged can be infinite. It is all about setting deep roots for our connection and belief in Hashem. As Hashem is infinite, so too we to are encouraged to infinitely seek to strengthen those ties tonight, as a kick start for the entire year to come. When it comes to material gains, the Mishnah in Avot is very clear. There is a limit. We have boundaries. “… ayzehu ashir? Hasomeach b’chelko.” Who is considered a wealthy person, the one who is happy with his portion( Pirkei Avot 4.1 ) .He is happy with what he already has been blessed with. As for spiritual gains, the skies the limit. There is no limit for us to achieve spiritual heights.
One other trait which is promoted on Seder night are the concepts of giving, love and caring . “… kol dichfin yesay vyechol,” all who need a place for the Seder, please come to eat.” Join us. Our home is open to you. Then we dip or green vegetable, karpas,” in saltwater. That saltwater, the Talmud explains ( Tractate Pesachim 114a)represents the tears which expressed our forefathers suffering a slaves in Mitzraim. This is the historical basis for this practice. As we know, Judaism is not a religion which is solely based on or living in the past. Symbolisms must be alive today and have a deep expression of hope for the future. Unfortunately, this reality of existence lives on today. Who is not aware that slavery literally exists in our lifetime, be it physical human slavery, ownership of woman and men for prostitution, child trafficking, and sadly enough the list is long.
In addition, we are living in a time with deep self-imposed slavery to money, power and recognition. “Hakinah, hakavod v’hata’avah , “ jealousy, desires and the pursuit of honor ,” take a person out of this world”( Pirkei Avot 4.21) This person is no longer free, having fallen into slavery and worship of oneself. This is the exact opposite of the goal of the Seder and Pesach. Pesach is about humility, no haughtiness, no “chametz,” no unnecessary rising. I care about the other first. Therefore, we need to remind ourselves of these very unfortunate realities which we tend to ignore most of the year. I am too busy for that. I don’t really believe it is happening. And that list of excuses goes on as well.It is time for true honest change. Renewal. The beginning of a new year. How nice that we get to do this as a family, together, “b’simcha,” with joy and song. An evening totally dedicated, heart to heart.
So am I ready to speak? The prophet Zechairah reminds me of how this must be done if I truly want the “geulah,” redemption, to take place in my time. “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts. Do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this, declares Hashem.”As King Solomon wrote in Proverbs, “ One who watches the words that come out of his mouth will in turn be guarding his life force and soul”( Mishlei 21.23).
It is certainly no coincidence that these words ( from Zechariah) were recently found in an archeological dig the area of the Dead Sea. We are living in times where we all listen and witness the way those who want to be our leaders speak to each other. It simply goes against the grain of what it means to be a Jew. It lacks Jewish identity. It smacks of haughty Mitzri identity. It is time for all of us to take note of who we are, invest in renewing the way we speak to each other and reach for the skies in our blessed relationship with our Creator and each other. All of our blessings for a beautiful period of total renewal of caring and love.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,