When something happens, it does not simply happen nor is it by a coincidence. Things happen for a reason, for a purpose.
On the first day of Pesach as I took my usual seat in the synagogue I found on my seat a small book with a maroon and white cover. There was no name inside to identify the owner. No one who sits near me knew anything about the book. But nevertheless…. There it was. On my seat.
I took it home and began reading its 85 pages, pages filled with in-depth knowledge of the meaning of Pesach and the seder, a small book about the greatness of God and His love for the Jewish people.
The title of the book was “The Season of Our Freedom: Insights into Pesach, the Haggadah and Jerusalem”. Its author is Rabbi Reuven Sason, the Dean of the Yeshivat Ramat Hasharon. Written originally in Hebrew, the book was translated into superb English by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf.
I am not familiar with either of the two scholars but I am extremely impressed with their thoughts.
I must assume that Rabbi Sason is a kabbalist because in his book he makes several mentions of the Zohar, the holy book of the kabbalah.
Each aspect of the Pesach seder is explained with examples for the present moment. When we recite “Avadim Hayinu b’Eretz Mitzrayim”…. We were slaves in the land of Egypt, Rabbi Sason translates it into the personal. Not simply “My ancestors were slaves”. Not simply “We were slaves”. But on the deepest element in the cells of our body…. “I was a slave”. Not WE… but I. First person singular.
I cried unto God and He heard my cries and He saw my affliction and He sent Moses to bring me out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, to bring me to the land of God’s promise. (translation mine).
One sentence in particular took me back some seventy-six years ago when I was a child of ten years.
My father often told me that when a Jew dies and goes to heaven, the very first question he/she is asked is “ma shemecha/ma shemaich”… what is your name ?
I thought it was a silly question. “God knows my name. Why does He have to ask? My name is Esor ben Yakov Lev”.
“No, tateleh”, my father responded. “When the angel at the gates of heaven asks you for your name you must reply ‘my name is aileh ba rechev v’aileh ba susim v’anachnu b’shem Hashem Elohainu nazkir’. It is from chapter 20 verse 8 in the Book of Psalms. And when the angel asks who’s son are you, you must reply ‘yaancha Hashem b’yom tzara yesagevcha shem Elohai Yakov’ from chapter 20 verse 2 in the Book of Psalms”.
I could not at that time, a boy of ten, remember the long names my father had recited to me, so I asked him to write it in Hebrew for me. And for some reason unknown to me then and even now, I do not know why I have kept that piece of paper in my siddur (daily prayerbook) for the last seventy-six years.
So it shocked me to read Rabbi Sason’s mention of it, citing it from the Zohar of the kabbalists.
Now I know that things don’t just happen. There is a reason to explain all things even if we do not clearly understand that reason.
Because of personal experiences in my life, I am a firm believer in “hashgacha pratit”, Divine intervention. It is the Hand of God directing us to enable us to do His will.
In 1960 I had booked passage on a ship sailing from Haifa to Istanbul. For a reason I did not understand then, I arrived at the port of Haifa too late. The ship had sailed without me.
The shipping agent refunded my money and issued me a new ticket for an Israeli ship sailing the next day to Naples, Italy and finally to Marseilles, France.
It was on board that ship that I met the beautiful young lady who was to become my wife ! It was that first meeting that convinced me that things don’t just happen. There is a reason for everything.
I do not pretend to understand the Kabbalah. I have never read the Zohar. It would probably have driven me into madness.
But the belief in Divine intervention is very strong in my life. I don’t know who put Rabbi Sason’s small book on my seat, but as he writes in his very own words, “Give thanks only to God”.
I did on that day. I do on all the days which follow.