Pesach – Letters of Courage

BS”D
Dear Chevra,

Pesach, named such because we slaughtered the lamb, the object of Egyptian worship, and applied the blood to the doorposts of our homes (and in that merit, Hashem skipped over – “Pasach” – the doors of our ancestors when he brought the final plague upon the Egyptian firstborn). This slaughter was a bold, defining act of defiance. The Jewish people, small in number and enslaved, slaughtered the most cherished symbol of the Egyptian people, of our slave lords, in front of them. We engaged in this civil disobedience because Hashem commanded. Despite fear and without protracted contemplation, we acted on the word of Hashem.

We enter Pesach in uncertain times, we each seek liberation from our particular enslavements and hardships – hardships that are task-masters over us. Yet we dutifully call the Yom Tov of Pesach upon us sanctifying the seder with Hallel. We leave our hardships at the door as we arouse ourselves to joy and sublime contemplation of the grandeur of Hashem and of the greatness of the miracles He bestows upon us, both then and now. Like slave-drivers, our hardships demand our constant attention and involvement, in thought, speech, and deed. But on this night, we are free. We put aside our hardships, we dismiss our task-masters, we enter into freedom. Grabbing freedom from slavery takes boldness and courage. It is with this courage and boldness that we liberate ourselves from everything mundane; giving ourselves, and all that is ours, entirely over to Hashem.

Once when visiting his Rebbe, Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, Reb Moshe Leib of Sassov was asked to speak. He stated that we are to understand the word pesach (doorpost) as posaeach (to skip, to dance). In other words, when Hashem would find a Jew living amongst the Egyptians, He would dance on the rooftop of that Yid’s home calling out in excitement, “A Jew lives here! A Jew lives here!” With that, Reb Moshe Leib Sassover jumped on the table and began yelling out in otherworldly enthusiasm “A Jew lives here! A Jew lives here!” Although at the time of redemption the Jews had no mitzvahs other than the mitzvah of slaughtering the paschal lamb, by slaughtering the deity of their Egyptian slave-masters, our ancestors climbed out of the smallness of slavery into the bigness of servitude to Hashem; and Hashem had joy and Yiddishe Nachas, Jewish pride, from His beloved children.

Chazal teach us that the word Mitzrayim is similar to the word maitzar, narrowness. Focusing on our hardships keeps us limited to the scope and subject of our problems. Being big is focusing on Hashem. Do we focus on the smallness of our tzoras, of our hardships, or do we focus on the Bigness of Hashem (and in so doing, become big). There is a principle of Eved Melech Melech. A servant of a king is also a king. Slavery is being a servant to our hardships, but on this night of Pesach, as we sit around the seder table, we liberate ourselves by choosing to be servants of the King; as we also become kings.

Turning away from hardships and towards Hashem, our ancestors boldly offered the Korban Pesach, the Paschal Lamb. On the seventh night of Pesach they disregarded the apparent hardship of the vast, deep sea that lay before them. They walked. We walk. The sea split for them. The sea splits for us. May our joy increase over the seven days of Pesach until, with great joy, we call out the verses, “Be not afraid! Stand firm and see Hashem’s Salvation that He will perform for you today! You may be seeing the Egyptians today, but you will never see them again! Hashem will fight for you, but you must remain silent!” With these verses may our hardships shatter and dissolve as we enter the freedom of lives lived with absolute, unwavering certainty in the goodness and salvation of Hashem and in the greatness of being a Jew!

Wishing you a chag kosher v’sameach,

Binyamin Klempner

About the Author
At the age of 17 Binyamin Klempner left Teaneck, NJ to pursue a simple existence on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Northern Montana. While residing on the Blackfeet Reservation he discovered the beauty of his Jewish Heritage and traveled to Boston to learn about Jewish life from the Bostoner Rebber, Reb Levi Yitzchok Horowitz, zy"a. From Boston he traveled to Zichron Yaakov where he studied in Yeshiva for a number of years. From there he married and lived with his wife in Milwaukee, WI while studying under HaRav Michel Twerski, shlita. During this time Binyamin also earned a Masters Degree in Social Work. After working as a social worker for several years he moved with my wife and kids to Tiveria, Israel where he works as an organic farmer and homesteader.
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