Pesach In A Strange World
Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita
Ahh, its Pesach, that most cherished of Yomim Tovim. The whole Jewish world celebrates this special holiday. Those who never touch base with their Yiddishkiet, buy matzos and sit with their family. They take out the family heirloom Hagodahs and somehow join with the entirety of Bnei Yisroel in remembering the miracles we experienced all the way back then. Songs are sung, family shtick takes place, and most vital of all, memories are created.
Well this Pesach is defiantly going to be celebrated with a whole new twist. Speaking to a Dayan today I remarked that till now people had more or less pedestrian questions and pretty staid answers. This year we face a whole new lexicon of queries that are certainly stretching our abilities.
Beyond all this, comes the greatest question, How? How can we celebrate the Redemption of the Bnei Yisroel from Egypt, whilst we are in isolation? Nothing is as we have always experienced. Truth is, behind all these seeming limitations, is a tapestry of fear and worry. And it is this that is the greatest danger.
The Rambam was one the greatest Torah leaders of his generation, but besides this, he was a renowned Doctor whose patients included the Sultan. Sadly, as is often the case, he faced jealousy and violent anti-Semitism. Never secure in his position, he was often challenged to prove in medical prowess by anti-Semitic usurpers. One such Confrontation came from a doctor who challenged the Rambam that each of them should create the most powerful poison he can conjure up. Then, each would drink the others mixture and try to cure himself before the toxic mixture had its effect. The Rambam was first and after drinking his opponent’s potion, figured out an antidote that worked with lightning effect. Now it was the turn of the anti-Semite, he swallowed the Rambam’s mixture, and quickly took a turn for the worse, the Rambam offered advice on how to cure himself but the fellow refused all suggestions, soon the foolish fellow died, foaming at the mouth and in obvious pain. The Rambam sighed deeply, he turned to the Sultan and told him, “Your Majesty, allow me to tell you that I gave that man a totally safe drink, it was made of water and sweet wine. The foolish fellow died because of the fear he had of what I gave him. There is nothing more toxic, than fear”.
Chasidisha Tzadikim taught, “Tracht git vet zien git” “Think good and it will be good.”
We are all sucked into an experience never dreamt of before. Day melts into day, we lose track of where we are holding, and then, Pesach has arrived. The Seder table set (with less place settings than usual because grandchildren haven’t been able to travel). We sit and wonder, how will it be possible, this strange Seder with so much stress?
Think positive! This will pass, yeshuous are about to burst forth, we will see great things.
The Arvei Nachal remarks that fear is like a magnet that attracts metal. It has the ability to direct the object of a person’s fear toward that person. That is the nature of fear: it draws forth the object of a person’s dread and makes it real.
Sweet Klall Yisroel, let us all rise above the here and now, and remind ourselves of what we are, a nation of believers.
I remember hearing from the Bobover Rebbe Ztl many times about his close calls whilst escaping the grip of the Nazi tormentors. One episode stands out in my mind today, so I guess I’m meant to share it.
The Rav and his son Naftul’che (his sole surviving son, The Rebbe Rav Naftali Ztl, who became Rebbe after Rav Shlomo’s petira). At this time Naftul’che was a youngster, and had seen more horror than any child should ever have to experience. They were trying to be smuggled over the border from Galitzia into Romania, and held forged papers. They were stopped, and the Nazi’s dragged them into a small cell. The officers wanted to know who gave them the papers, and obviously the Rav wasn’t telling. They tried to get the couple divulge the secret and finally threatened them both with torture and death. After some time, the tormentors left saying that they would return at first light and that they would be forced to talk or killed.
As the cell door closed the Rav turned to his young son, “Naftali, we may die tomorrow, al Kiddush Hashem, but first they will try to get us to talk, they will beat your Tatishi, they may beat you as well, all this to make us tell them that which they want to know. I ask of you one thing, don’t, don’t lose heart, and don’t fear them. Everything is in Hashem’s hand, and He will lead us where we must be. I want you to remember the good times. The dancing at the tish, the avodah on Simchas Torah, the gathering of Mayim Shelonu before Pesach. Sweet son, remember how you felt by Ziedy’s Seder asking the four questions. Just think of all the good times, and this will find our escape.” The two holy souls spoke all night and davened, the child and his special Tatty…. In the morning they were dragged out into a square, and again the questions were asked. It seems the evil Reshoim had grown weary of their sport and stood the two Holy Yidden against a wall. Just then, an officer came running over to the Nazi in charge, He had been ordered to take the two “criminals” back to Bochnia, for further questioning.
They were saved, and eventually survived to build a Torah empire that thrives on the warmth and love of being a Yied.
We are not on the firing line, but we certainly are feeling vulnerable.
Hashem is stretching us, so we can grow, let us all “tracht git,” and it Will be good. Amen