Rabbi Shlomo Farhi
Pesach 2020 – in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
There is an incredible opportunity on seder night that does not show its face on any other day or night of the year. What is so powerful about this night?
It’s ironic that the seder night is called ‘seder’ which means order. It talks to us about the order of the night.
Everything has to be in its proper place. Everything is done correctly.
If this is the case, there seems to be something out of order. Not just ‘out of the correct order’, but literally ‘out of order’ (of a person or their behaviour) unacceptable or wrong.
We start with the words ‘Kadesh, urchatz’.
Kadesh is to make kiddush.
Urchatz – washing your hands.
In the Temple, the very first thing a person did before starting a process involving holiness, was to wash their hands and feet. So why don’t we do it this way on seder night? Rav Shlomo Kluger asks why we don’t start with urchatz. Surely before a person makes themselves holy, there is an opportunity to make yourself clean. Why don’t we do it this year?
Strengthening the point – In the words of the pasuk in tehilim – Sur me’rah, v’asei tov. What comes first? First you turn away from bad/evil things and then become holy. You can’t become holy first. So why don’t we wash our hands and then make kiddish?
In life there are 2 ways someone can improve themselves. All of us are trying to figure out what He wants from us. How many people are sick? Of those that are sick it’s everyone – young, old, Rabbonim, chazanim. Everyone. What does He want? What do we need to change?
There are 2 ways a person can change. (1) Sur me’ra – turning from evil. (2) asey tov – doing good.
If you stole money, don’t start giving charity to the poor – give back to the person you stole it from. Don’t give it to a yeshiva or a mikva. So sur meyra v’asey tov – before you do mitzvot turn from your evil.
Another example – if you touched something tamei you need to go to the mikveh to get tahor. But what if you’re still holding the tamei thing. Similar to if you go to shul but the stolen item is in your hands.
So one would think we should do urchatz before kaddish – purify then sanctify.
However, there are times when sur meyra v’asey tov isn’t possible.
Imagine some guy who is addicted to drugs. You’re a good friend and want to wake him up and save his life. You go to him and have a convo with him and say “you’re hurting yourself you’re hurting your family” you communicate everything you want to him. But the guy is addicted. When someone is addicted they can’t just start doing something different. The illness has infected their brain. Coronavirus infects your lungs, but an addiction affects a person’s brain. If you take a brain scan of anyone with any type of addiction – drugs/gambling/alcohol, you will see there is a change in white matter vs grey matter. The person who you’re yelling at to change cannot change – it’s not in his control. He’s trying to make the decision but the place he’s trying to make the decision from is broken.
You have a guy who has stolen every day of his life, and he wants to go to shul because he wants to try a little better, and you send him away because he hasn’t fixed himself yet, you cannot do that. For someone like that, for someone where the YH has penetrated him so deeply that he can’t let go, what does a person like that do? The answer is he starts with Kadesh. Once he’s prayed a little, once he’s given a little bit of tzedakah, suddenly the Yetzer hatov has a little more strength and can deliver some punches to the YH. Suddenly the guy is capable of fighting back a little.
You take the drug addict and you talk and talk and it doesn’t work. But you know what, you start taking him round to others who have a drug problem – you start getting him to speak with other drug addicts. Suddenly the guy starts to realise he’s in charge of his life. Maybe he can do some good things. Maybe he’s not a good for nothing. And the Kadesh slowly allows for urchatz.
No one can teach us this better than the Jews themselves in Egypt. The word mitzrayim doesn’t only mean ‘Egypt’ but also ‘boundaries/borders’. The Jews, just like the addicts, were trapped, and couldn’t get better. They were worshipping idols. They couldn’t break it. So Gd says to them, “My children let Me give you 2 mitzvos. Not to do teshuva, not stop bowing down to idols, let me give you 2 mitzvos – Korban Pesach, Bris Mila”. On this the pasuk says, “And I saw you wallowing in your bloods, and I said to you, “In your blood you shall live, in your blood you shall live””. twice because of the 2 elevations that the JP were able to do when they were the worst. But Gd believed they were only one small step away from being great and beautiful; from being BY.
On a very deep level, this plugs into the heart of every Jew. To know that when I come to the seder the first thing they ask of me is not ‘urchatz – why aren’t you good enough at this, why don’t you do that, why do you eat here, why don’t you don’t pray…”etc. the first thing you have to do to get people involved and excited is to make them feel like they have a part in it. Like they have a seat at the table. Like they are valued. Even if they’re not valuable in their own eyes. Even if they’ve been made to feel throughout their lives like reshaim, still says the hagadda you’re one of my sons.
So let’s talk about the gift of the night of pesach. Where every single person knows deep in their bones that Borei Olam, the Creator of heaven and earth, loves them, and has a beautiful and intimate relationship with them. Not with the Rabbi, which you then have to go to for a bracha. But with them. Your connection with Gd does not go through anyone else. You can connect to Him in whatever language you want. By the way, you don’t even need words. Even the feelings and intimations of your heart Hashem knows.
We say to Gd at the end of the amida ‘may you accept the words of my mouth and the ideas that are only in my heart’. How many times have you wanted to change but you’re afraid of changing. Because we’re all afraid of failure because we have this crazy idea that failing makes you a failure. When actually, all of us know, from experience, that failing makes people successful.
If this is the case, when we are looking deeply at the seder night, and we want to do better, but can’t say it out loud because then other people will comment, so say it in your heart. Hashem knows and sees and feels and counts and rewards for that feeling in your heart.
So all of us, when we read about this wondrous night, to at the very least, open your hearts.
Let’s look at Kadesh and urchatz and how we find a way forward on this night.
Gemara – nedarim 49a. There was a certain matron who said to Rabbi Yehuda, “You’re a judge, and you’ve been drinking?” He says, “I place my own honour in your hands. And I should never be credible if the only time I drink wine during the year is kiddush, havdala, and the 4 cups for seder night, I don’t drink any wine other than that. And after I drink those cups of wine I need to tie my head in bandages, from pesach until Shavuot.” He suffers for the wine he has drunk for 7 weeks. And still he was willing to drink and put himself through it because of the importance of the 4 cups of wine.
Comes Rav Yehuda on this gemara. “What kind of wine was this Rabbi drinking? A 7 week hangover?!” also it’s a bit weird – exactly 7 weeks?
Rav Yehuda hasatka said that the Gemara is telling us something very deep, and is something that the Vilna Gaon teaches. The Vilna Gaon asks why there are 4 cups on the seder, and answers by saying they represent the 4 expressions of geula/redemption
- I will take you out – v’hotzeiti
- I will save you – v’hitzalti
- I will redeem you – v’gaalti
- I will take you to Me to be a nation – v’lakachti
One of the most important things about these 4 is the Kadesh urchatz embedded in it. Surely Hashem should first save us and then take us out? Why did He take us out and then save us?
The answer is that Gd couldn’t save them whilst they were there. He first needed to get them out of there. Once they were out then they could be saved. The addict needs to be in rehab and then be saved. You can’t save him in his own house. You can’t save him whilst he’s holding the bottle.
When did Hashem take us out? Asks the Vilna Gaon, when did Gd take them out? On the first day of Tishrei – on the first day of the year they were no longer slaves to the Egyptians.
When did Hashem save us? But when did Hashem save them? – On the first day of Passover. Not when they were first not-slaves, but when they were free men. Because there is a very big difference between ‘not being a slave’ and ‘being a free man’.
A person can still be a slave even after the door of his cells are open. The majority of the people in prison are people who have offended multiple times. This means that despite the fact the person is no longer locked in a cell, and he has his stuff back, and can start a new life, even though he has left prison, his brain is still there. ‘I will save you’ happens on the night of Passover, when the JP are free to leave.
When did Hashem redeem us? When does Hashem redeem the JP? 12 pm the day after Paro wanted them to leave. In the middle of the day, they went out like Kings, not thieves in the night, at 12 o’clock exactly.
When did Hashem take us out to be His nation? This doesn’t happen now, it happens 7 weeks later at the foot of Mt Sinai, when the JP were given the Torah. It’s important to understand that until that point, until you give this former prisoner direction, the opportunity to see a new path/reality for themselves, even though their back is facing the prison, they’re going back to prison. That’s why these programmes being done for former prisoners are so important. That’s why when Rav Ayreh Levine would visit these people in prison, so when the time would come they would come out they would realise there was a future for them, and a Rabbi who believed in them whilst they were in prison, a Rabbi who loved them and visited them and thought they were beautiful and good, like Gd Himself does to us on the night of Passover. But until they have direction, they haven’t really left at all.
In fact, therefore says Rav Sadka, Rav Yehuda Bar Ilay would drink the 3 cups of wine and would be fine. But that 4th cup gave him a headache. That 4th cup that would not actually be fulfilled until 7 weeks later.
A story is told about guys on their final day of school, they get a bunch of chickens label them 1, 2, 3, 5, and they release the chickens in the school. Everyone is running around trying to catch the chickens, and they’re losing their minds because they can’t seem to find number 4. Until they see the seniors laughing their heads off on the side because they know there is no number 4.
This idea is exactly what is going on here. V’hotzeiti – you drank it you got it. V’hitzalti – you drank it you got it. V’gaalti – you drank it you got it. V’lakachti – you don’t have yet. We are not the people of Gd until 7 weeks later.
Freedom without direction is dangerous.
Think of the summer. Every school is terrified of the summer. Why? Because you take a bunch of kids, and give them freedom without direction. All it does is ruin a person. You need to have something to use your freedom to achieve. So therefore the Rabbi had a headache from the last cup, because the JP had freedom but no direction, and this is poison.
So to everyone, when we’re sitting here at home, and have been granted weird awkward type of freedom, freedom from our jobs, expectations, mortgages, we’re free! But what are we doing with it? Where are we going? What do we want to accomplish with this freedom we’ve now got in our homes and lives and heads? We can finally ask ourselves what we’re doing with this freedom. How have we and our relationships with our families changed?
Where are we going?
Coronavirus, like everything else, needs one focus, one thought that all of us need to carry in our heads.
What is forever love? Forever love couples do things very differently than regular couples. A regular couple is thinking about love now, so they do things to keep the person in love with them. Sometimes there is a little bit of a short circuit in that. Eg let’s say there’s a husband who wants to go away for Pesach but can’t afford it, but his wife agrees and they go. This is not forever love. This is thinking in the moment. Because now it will be expected for next year. You may have some savings you can rely on for this year, but do you have that for every year?
There are things we allow our children to do , because we all want to be good parents, the parents the kids think are so cool. You don’t want them to go but you don’t want them to be that bad parent so you say yes. You’re not thinking forever love. Forever love is do what is good for the kid so when he’s 50 he’ll love you. So that when you die and he’s speaking at your funeral, hopefully after 120, all he can say is that whilst all the other parents were doing the popular thing, my parents were worried how I was going to turn out. Don’t raise a child, raise a grandfather, raise a husband. When you teach your kid to be that way that’s the man he’s going to be. That’s the person they’re going to grow into. This is forever love.
There are so many articles around ‘How to Survive Coronavirus’. We don’t want to survive. Survive is short term. It’s just getting past the situ I’m in. it’s fast-forwarding life. We don’t want to survive. On the other side of this we want to be better off than when we came in. and if we aren’t, why did we have to go through this at all? Do you think borei olam is doing this for nothing? What is the point if we’re not better off? That in 2021 we’re going to look at 2020 and say it was the best year ever, because the way we changed, we never would have changed that way. This was something that forced the world into another place. Forced parents to be different parents and children to be different children. Children, for the first time, are learning what it means to clean a house for Passover. That cannot be a bad thing.
So when the question, “where are we going” is posed, the question is how do we live in this way where the aftermath is that our pockets are full of benefits, of brachos that we wouldn’t trade anything for. How do we do this?
The answer is: direction. The focus on what is coming next. Not of Pesach, but on Pesach thinking about Shavuos. The game is not to be free, the game of freedom was for a purpose and direction, so I could do something. Not just so I could be living a pain-free life, but rather so I could be living a life that is worth having pain for.
There is not a single thing on earth that you acquire without pain. And if you acquired it without pain it’s not valuable. The price you pay for important things is pain and suffering and sacrifice. If you happen to have a great marriage, you probably don’t have a great marriage, you’re just not aware of that yet, because you haven’t hit one of those bumps in the road. Noone just gets a perfect marriage or a perfect relationship with their kids. They just happen to be on the same page enough that they don’t notice they don’t have a good relationship. And Gd forbid, may Hashem protect you from that moment of awakening when all of a sudden you realise it’s not as good as you thought.
Looking at the Haggadah
The haggada tells us “the Torah spoke about 4 different types of children”.
Lesson 1 to learn: Be aware that there is more than 1 kind of child. Most of us want one kind of child. Yes one can be male and female, one can be older or younger, but most of us want one type of child. An exact perfect child that honours me, that does well in school that I’m proud of showing off, that is beautiful. We want one child. The Torah says no, there are 4 types of child.
- Chacham – wise
- Rasha – wicked
- Tam – simple
- Eyno yodeya lishol – doesn’t know how to ask
All these are your children And the things you’re upset at your kid about, you probably did when you were a kid so calm down.
Regarding the child who doesn’t know how to ask, there are many ways in which a child can not know how to ask. One way is that they don’t have the mental acuity to ask questions, but there are also children who don’t know how to ask because of you. Because of me. Because we’ve created an environment in which they don’t know how to ask.
There’s a story where a child says to his father “dad, the sun is so beautiful it’s so full of light how come it’s so full of light?” the father says, “I don’t know!”. Then the kid asks, “How come all the waves are coming to the shore? Who’s pushing them?”. The father once again replies, “I don’t know”. Then the kid asks, “Dad look at all the ants, they’re picking up food and bringing it to their home, how do they know when they’re so far away from home how to get back? Do they have waze?!”, to which the father once more replies “I don’t know!”. The kid thinks the father is getting annoyed so the kid asks, “Dad does it annoy you when I ask questions?”, the father responds, “No of course not! How else will you learn?!”.
This is a father that plays lip service to the idea that it’s very important that they ask questions. Whilst it’s ok, and actually a valuable lesson, that he tells his kid he doesn’t know the answer, the fact he never followed up shows the kid that intellectual curiosity is not valued by his father. And by the way, you happen to be the adult he knows, so he thinks intellectual curiosity is not valued by ‘big people’, by the people who know the world. He will learn that the world does not value someone who is trying to be clever. So who is teaching the kid ‘eyno yodeya lishol’? I did, because I didn’t encourage. And when I did encourage I didn’t try to find him answers. And when he gave me an answer I had my face in my phone.
So there are 4 different kids.
Why is this such a strong feature of this night. You don’t find a mitzvah or halacha that commands you to sit your kids around the table and teach them about any other festival. Only Pesach. Why?
The story of Pesach actually begins hundreds of years before the JP leave Egypt. It begins with Avraham, when Avraham asks Gd how he knows that his children will get the land of Israel, and how he will know that Gd wil still love his kids. He knew Gd loved him, but what about his kids? What if they’re fat and ugly, will Gd still love them? Not fat and ugly face, their soul. What if they’re lazy? What if they’re wicked or selfish or don’t like to pray? How will he know Gd will still love them? Gd says “don’t worry, I will put them in Egypt, and they will emerge from Egypt with a very valuable treasure”. What was the treasure? The treasure was the fact they had been in Egypt. And all that they benefitted from being forged in fire like all of us are being.
And why is Avraham, who starts this whole chain reaction, why is he chosen? The pasuk says that Gd says “because I know him, I know he will command his children and his children’s children to follow in My ways, and they will guard Gds way to do tzedakah and justice”.
Why am I choosing Avraham? Because I know him. He will tell his kids and grandkids after him. And they will follow the way of Gd to do kindness and justice.
Says the mefarshim, HOOOOOOLD UP. This is the same Avraham that when Gd said to him, “Leave your land”, Avraham said “yup will do, chill”. Then when He commands him with 9 other tests, each time he passes with flying colours. Each time the satan throws him a ball he hits it right away. None of that is the reason why Avraham is chosen.
Why is Avraham chosen? Because he’s going to tell his kids, and command them, and command his kids’ kids. And how does Avraham command the future?
There is a great song, sung by eighth day “Avraham are we the children you dreamed of. Are we that shining star you saw at night? You know it’s true, we still call you avinu. Our father of pride we’ve got your soul inside. Take us home”.
Avraham, we call out to him. When you looked out at the stars in the sky, and Gd says “you see those stars, your kids are going to be stars”, when you looked up at them did you see us? Are we, with our phones and houses and holidays and our choices for schools and our choices of clothing and restaurants and money dispensation, are we those stars? Are we your dream? Are we your prayer?
How does Avraham teach us in a way that 4000 years later all of us are on a zoom call for an hour to learn to get in the zone for a seder night. How did he do it and how can we learn from him?
Says Rav Yehuda haSabka, 2 lessons from 1 word. “I know him for he will command his children and his house after him”. The first understanding of that word, ‘after him’, is that Avraham never asked of his kids anything he would not do first. His entire mode of education was ‘after me’. Avraham is running to take care of the guests even though he was in pain. If you don’t show that to your kids, you can’t expect them to want to do it themselves. If you order around your kids like they’re remote controlled, “ok you get him a can of coke, you get him a biscuit”, whilst you’re sitting on the couch, that’s not ok. That’s not how you teach. You teach your kids, “follow me”. I’m first. When you teach by example then your messages are eternal.
When you teach with your words, then you get the second interpretation of the word ‘acharav – after him’. How many parents have kids who follow their ways ‘in front of them’ but not behind their back/after them. When they’re sitting next to dad in shul they have their book open, but the minute they’re not with their parents, or their community, the minute they’re on some cruise or wherever else, all of a sudden everything they’ve learned is out the window.
A guy is flying and they ask him, “What meal would you like?”, “The Kosher meal”, “Sorry we’re out of kosher meals”, “What do you mean it’s a 16-hour flight? You know what just give me the pasta meal”. A guy next to him exclaims he’d never seen him eat non kosher in his life. He replies that the pasuk says he can have it, “lo b’shamayim hi” – Torah is not in the heavens. Right now we’re flying in the heavens – Torah isn’t here.
We’ve all met people who twist things however they want to whatever is convenient for them at that exact moment. I’d rather you said “I’m doing a sin”, than try to justify it within Judaism. Because that way at least you know if you’ve done something wrong you have a chance of fixing it.
Avraham Avinu was the first person to realise that the most important thing a person can do is figure out how to pass it on to his children. Because you and I want to live forever. But none of us will. We’re all going to die at some point and what will be when we are gone? The only thing left of us will have been that which we planted behind us in this world – our children.
Hashem says, “I want to take you to be my people, but I’m not investing in now, I’m investing in forever love. So you want to come out with Me, you want to leave Egypt, get the Torah, have Shabbos, do My mitzvos, be holy, have the Beis HaMikdash, great! But I’m only in if you’re in for the long run, if your kids’ kids are in”. so this mitzvah from the very beginning Gd said, “Bring your kids on board, talk to them no matter how they are, get them close, bring them kadesh even if they’re not yet ready for urchatz, you’ll see one day the rasha at the table will be the chacham if you love him enough, if he has a seat at the table”.
Most people think that these 4 sons are different children. But as parents, you would have worked out that actually that describes the same child in different compartments in his life.
We all have that son/daughter/sister/brother/ourselves, that when it comes to certain things we are such a chacham. The kid who never misses shul, but who also never misses a chance to rip someone off in business. In shul he is a chacham, in the office he is a rasha. The FBI comes he becomes ‘tam’.
This represents the fact that all of us are imperfect in some way. All of us have a part who is a chacham. Eg the kid who learns nothing in school, but the way he treats his friends his impeccable. He is kind, generous, understanding, compassionate, empathetic. The other kid is a know it all but can’t put anyone in front of himself.
Sometimes, we don’t know how to ask ourselves questions. E.g. how come I’m so compassionate when it comes to my friends, but not when it comes to my kids?
It’s important to recognise that when we talk to the 4 children sometimes we’re talking to one kid, and sometimes that kid is ourselves. Like it says in the haggada, that when we talk about children we mean the future. Some of the greatest, most important people that ever lived amongst the JP had no children.
The Chazon Ish didn’t have children. Sara Schnerer who started both women learning, both religious and nonreligious, had no kids. But hundreds of thousands of girls would have been educated because of her.
When we talk about children in Judaism we don’t only mean kids. We mean future. Like chazal tell us “these are the generations of Noach, Noach a tzadik”. What are the generations of a tzadik? His deeds and actions and what he leaves behind.
This applies to everyone, single or married or married with kids. The child you’re bequeathing Emunah in this night is the child in you. Is there not a part of you that is not terrified right now? That doesn’t want to just roll up in a ball and wake up and find up that all this around us was just a bad dream? You don’t have that child in you?
So we talk to this child. We talk to our future selves. We talk to the wise part of us and encourage it. We talk to the rasha part of us and give it a slap. We talk to the ta’am and explain things clearly so you understand what you need to do, and we talk to the part of us that is afraid of failing and we hug it and encourage it, and open up a path for it. Show it how it can contribute. Show yourself what you can do that can make a difference that will make you the stars in Avraham’s sky, that will make you the twinkle in Gds eye. What can I do? Because if Gd put me here there is something that I can bring that no one else can bring. What is it? And what am I lacking in order to be able to bring that out. Is it wisdom? Then let me go learn. Is it the rasha, that I’m just too wicked to fulfil my purpose? Maybe I need to beat myself up a bit. Whatever I need to get across this finish line to be the person that makes a difference.
After all of this, this whole story of the children, thinking about the future, trying to figure out how are we going to get to the other side of Pesach, and we will be recognisable for having been through Pesach – how do we do that?
There is a secret. This secret is perhaps in the domain of the kabalists.
The pasuk tells us, “You will tell your children, you will tell your future bayom hahu – on that day”. Says the Mishna, when do I tell my child about the mitzvah of pesach? At the time when the matza and maror is in front of you – i.e. on seder night. Seder night is the mitzvah to talk to your kids, to inculcate them with Emunah so they understand how much Gd loves them no matter what they’re like. So that they understand that salvation is just around the corner. So that they understand that they have a seat at our table and that they matter. This happens on the night of seder.
Asks the Vilna Gaon,
- “bayom hahu – on that day” – on that How can it be that the Torah is telling us to tell our children at night when the pasuk says bayom, not b’layla.
Asks the Chatam Sofer
- On the night the JP left Egypt, Rashi tells us, “They had the blood of the korban pesach and brit mila”. But you’re not allowed to do brit mila at night. How did they do it at night?
- We know on that night they said hallel, and all of us will say too. The pasuk says, “from the sun rising in the east, till it comes, that’s when you say Hallel”. So this too is during the day. How can we say hallel on the night of pesach?
The answer will blow your mind.
Says the Zohar, quoting a pasuk in tehilim (kuf lamed tet), “Layla kayom yair”. It’s talking about the night of Passover and it says, “that evening, was lit up like the day time”. Says the Zohar, we learn from here, that that night was as bright for them like the middle of the summer. A miracle happened that the sun stood in its place, shone, and that’s how they had brit mila, and said hallell and told the story, because it was day time. What do we learn from this? That that night was actually day time. It was the brightest night. Like the sun in the middle of the summer.
Rav Heshel explains the following. If you go back into bereshit, the first thing Gd creates is light. “And Gd called night day, and to darkness He called evening”. Says Rav Heshel, the word elokim only appears in the daytime. “Vayikra elokim or yom – and elokim calls light day, – v’lachoshech kara Layla – and darkness He called night”. It almost seems like there is no elokim at night. No elokim at night? There is no place or time where Gd isn’t? How can this be? The answer is so piercing and penetrating. It’s not that there’s no Gd at night, it’s that if there is Gd it is not night. There is no elokim in the pasukm now we can talk about darkness, when no one is calling Gds name, now it’s night time.
This idea is hammered home in the pasuk. “It is the night of protection for Gd”. The night of Pesach there is a minhag to unlock the door of our houses – it’s a night of protection, “to take them out of the land of Egypt, that night is for Hashem”. What do we mean this night is for Gd? We mean that only this night is for Gd. There are no other nights that Gd is in. And why was Gd in that night? Because only on that night were they able to see Gd. It was light outside.
Not only physically but metaphorically/ideologically/emotionally. We can turn, on this night, night into day. It was a night of no sleep. That’s why on this night we read about the Rabbis staying up all night. Why? Because there is no night this night. It’s a night that has been turned into day.
Now we can read the Haggadah with new eyes. Their students come to them and say “It’s now time to say kriyat shema of the morning”. It’s interesting these words are used. These are the biggest Rabbis of the generation. Why did their students have to specify that it was time to say kriyat shema of the morning? They would have known because they would have said kriyat shema of the evening. Why specify morning? The students were saying “you’ve done it, you’ve bridged night and day. You’ve chased away the night, the dark, the fear, the doubt, the anxiety, the worry, and replaced it. You’ve done it”. They were tying the 2 together in the domain of Gd.
How do we turn night into day? Because we are all, right now, if that night was day, we are living in many days that are night. We don’t know where to turn, how to deal with our families, what will be with our businesses, not sure how we will pay the things we said we’d pay. We’re living in perpetual darkness. And we keep asking Hashem to turn on the lights. And He’s not.
A deep truth learned from Rabbi Farhi’s child. When Charna was a little kid, they made a chanukat habayit in Israel. She was about 4 or 5 years old. Rabbi Farhi was trying to explain to her what was going on. Lots of people were coming, there was lots of food, there was lots of blessings, so he said to her, “We’re so blessed from Hashem. Who do you think gave us this orange juice that you love?” “Who?” “Hashem!” “Hashem? Wow!” “Who gave us this chocolate cake, the snacks etc” “Hashem”. She’s getting the hang of it, anything he said she would say Hashem. Then he said, “And who gave us this house” to which she enthusiastically responded “Hashem”. So Rabbi Farhi then asked “What do you want to say?”, trying to communicate that the essence of a chanukat habayit is saying thank you Gd for sheltering me, giving me a place to call home, letting me feel I have my own little space in this world that I can come back to, be safe in, be myself, take off my shoes metaphorically. He was hoping she would say, “Say thank You to Hashem”. But “she was so much cleverer than me” says Rabbi Farhi in his shiur. She looked up to the heavens and said “Hashem, do you want to come to my house?”. She made a play date with Gd.
We keep asking Hashem in our darkness to turn on the lights. And somehow we are forgetting that Gd is the light. And that all that needs to happen for the light to go on in our darkness is for us to ask him, “Gd do You want to come over, do You want to play?”.
That is what happens on this night. A night where the night turns to day. A night where if you’re a slave you can be free. Where if you’re suffering you can be joyous. Where I can go from eating maror to matza in a span of minutes (depending on your seder haha). Do you understand? This is the power we’ve been given. We’ve been given the power on seder night to turn on the lights.
Who is with me?
Have you had enough?
The Seforno says, on leil shimurim, “Gd was waiting”. We translate ‘leil shimurim’ as a night of protection, like ‘lishmor’ but we find the word ‘shemira’ in the Torah in the Yosef story when someone was waiting for Yosef’s dream to come true. Gd is waiting to fulfil our every dream. It is a night of fulfilling. Gd is waiting in Egypt, to take them out. He doesn’t want to keep them there anymore, but He did not find the Jews ready and worthy to leave until that night. For that He was waiting, and hoping. It is true back then, but the powers in each of these days are latent even now. And Gd is waiting on leil shimurim. He’s waiting for us. He’s saying, “I’m ready, are you?”. I’ve had enough, have you had enough? Stop praying to Me to end it, you end it. YOU end it. YOU do it. It’s not Me. I want this done already. It breaks my heart.
So what do we need for this to happen?
One beautiful step. Yaaron Yitari is the head of a company called Medtronic. He is the CEO of the Israeli division. On April 1st he made an announcement on TV that he is releasing all of the plans, and inner workings, and ingredients, and CAD forms, everything you need to build a ventilator that they made. Here. Here is my patent. Here is how you make it. This is how you build it. For free. To everybody. At a time where people who have stuff are charging more, making money out of the situation, they’re making it available to everyone. They came to him and asked him why he wasn’t afraid, that he’ll be losing money at the best time. He says, “There is a demand for literally hundreds of thousands of machines, and global production usually runs to a few thousand a month. Medtronic is doubling its ventilator production and is aiming to triple it in a few weeks. But we can’t begin to provide as much as people need, and even if we lose money our goal is to prolong lives, to save lives, this is what is needed right now in the emergency situation we are in and this consideration comes before everything else.
Because freedom without direction is poison. And when you know what you’re direction is, our goal is to prolong lives, to save lives that’s what it’s supposed to do. That’s what that company was set up for. Now it has a chance to save lives and I’m going to think about making money?!
We have a chance now to switch on the lights. Are you ready? What stupid things are we still holding on to? Where we can’t forgive someone that we should forgive. We can’t make peace with someone we should. You want that more than you want this? You’re not paying attention. We need to want this more than anything else and then the lights will go on. And Gd, just like He did at the sea, when we were all praying and saying tehillim non-stop, Hashem was saying “why are you crying out to Me, tell the BY to travel” let them travel and change and welcome Me in. I am the light. Like the pasuk says “I will be for them the sun”. but pull up the darn shades.
There was a man who was living in the barracks with many other prisoners. And although many people lost their humanity whilst trying to stay alive, they grabbed, they pushed, they stole, they lost themselves in the process of trying to stay alive, there was one person they always looked to. He was the rabbi of their town. Someone who never broke or lost or bent, he would brush his teeth with dirty water and theyd say “What are you doing” and he’d reply “I need to remember I am a human being. Even if it’s not making me cleaner I need to remember”. They all thought to themselves when this nightmare is over there will be at least one of us who will take us back to the path to be the people we once were. That rabbi. Then one night the Nazis walked in and took a big metal bowl full of margarine and threw it into the middle of the barracks. They’re living a starvation diet, they don’t have enough calories to survive, 180 calories a day, a little bit of flour mixed with sawdust as bread, a little bit of muddy water that passed as soup or cofffe, that was their food. People would die of starvation. You all of a sudden see fat, you need it to live. So when they threw it in the middle and the bowl lands, all of a sudden everyone falls on it. People are pushing and punching to get some to save their lives. No judgements. Finally it’s all finished. The last bit has been taken and the prisoners step back into their bunks, and the Nazis are laughing. But then all of a sudden from his bed, the rabbi leaps and has his face in the bowl, licking the margarine, it’s all over his face, he has his hands in there and the room is silent. They can’t believe they finally broke the rabbi. Even the nazis who were laughing stopped laughing out of shock. In the silence the rabbi looks up, looks around, everyones eyes are on him, he has it on his hands, his face, his tongue, and he quietly retreats back to his bunk. The nazis pick up the bowl and walk out. As soon as the door clangs shut, the rabbi says, “quick, break me off a little piece of wood from the bed”. They did so. He starts running the wood down his face and hands and tongue until he finally gets a tiny amount of margarine, and he leans down and calls everyone to come. He bends down, puts the piece of wood into a hole in the floor, reachs up into his pyjamas and tears a thread off and puts it in the margarine. He shouts “Baruch ata hashem elokenu melech haolam asher kidishanu bamitzvotav vetzivanu lehadlik ner shel chanuka. Baruch ata hashem elokenu melech haolam sheasa nisim l’avotenu bayamim hahem bazman hazeh”. And he lights a light of Chanukah. In the darkest room. Where everyone thought he had lost his humanity. He waited until everyone else got what they wanted and then he grabbed the opportunity to turn night into day and help them realise there was going to be a tomorrow, because someone would not allow it to stay night time.
Together, can’t we just switch on the lights? Haven’t we suffered enough? This seder night, ask yourself, the kid in you, the different types of kids in each of your kids, ask them, why did Gd save us? Why did Gd bring us here? Did He bring us here to die of corona? Is that why He saved us from Egypt? What does He want from me? What does He want from you? What more can we be doing? What should we be doing a little less of?
Eat the matza and feel that Hashem is there with you, willing to help you with any one of those missions. We could not have left Egypt without Him. And we can not leave here without Him. Says the Seforno, in both scenarios, He was waiting for us.
Are you ready? Are you ready?