Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  LifeLine
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Pesach

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

The Shem MiShmuel, a Chassidic Rebbe and scholar, offers a beautiful insight into an apparent contradiction in the Haggadah. The Haggadah says, "Had the Holy One, Blessed be He, not taken our forefathers out of Egypt, then we and our children and our children's children would remain subservient to Pharaoh in Egypt."

First of all, the Pharaohs are long gone, so it is unlikely that the Jewish people would have remained as servants in Egypt even had the Exodus never occurred. But in addition, if we do not wish to set this passage aside as simple hyperbole, then it appears to contradict a central element of traditional Jewish thought: that the entire world was created for Torah, to permit us to pursue spirituality and to come close to G-d.

Without Torah, the world would lack all purpose. So according to the Medrash, G-d created the world with a condition in mind: "if Israel does not accept my Torah, then I will return [all of creation] to 'tohu vavohu,'" referring to the initial state ("without form and void") mentioned at the beginning of Genesis. So had He never removed us from Egypt, then the Torah would never have been given, and the world would have quite literally come to an end!

If so, then both Pharaoh and Egypt would have ceased to exist, along with the Jews.

So the Shem MiShmuel offers an answer based (quite appropriately) on Chassidic thought. He explains that 'tohu vavohu' is not simply the absence of anything, but is rather is a creation of its own, a pre-developed state. Had Israel not accepted the Torah, then the world would have returned to 'tohu vavohu' in order to emerge again, but not as a place for Torah. That world, explains the Shem MiShmuel, would be a "bad" world, as it were, dominated by the physical, without opportunities for spiritual development, or approaches to the ultimate good found in G-d and Torah. So although human souls would exist in that world, they would have no opportunity for growth or self-perfection. This is precisely the environment that Pharaoh sought to create for the Jews in Egypt, oppressing them with physical work and leaving them no time for other pursuits. So although those forces might appear in different garb, they would still dominate the Jews today had we not left Egypt. This is what the Haggadah means, that "we and our children and our children's children would remain subservient to Pharaoh in Egypt."

Besides the fascinating outlook on the Haggadah and our world, the Shem MiShmuel's explanation should help us to appreciate and focus upon the opportunities that we have. We are not so overwhelmed with physical work that we have no time for the spiritual. We can and must find opportunities to pursue the eternal, even in our busy lives.

Pesach is an especially good time for growth and change. "In each generation, every person is obligated to see himself as if he went out from Egypt, as it says [in the Torah], 'you shall tell it to your sons on that day, saying "because of what HaShem did for me during my departure from Egypt."' Not only our forefathers did the Holy One, Blessed be He, redeem from Egypt, but even us He redeemed with them." Our Sages taught: Pesach offers us the opportunity to break free of whatever bonds have held us until now, and to grow beyond all limitations.

May we all take advantage of opportunities for growth, those that we find on Pesach, and those offered every day of the year!


Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author is the Director of Project Genesis.


 






ARTICLES ON NETZAVIM AND VAYEILECH:

View Complete List

Reading Between The Lines
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764

Standing Still and Moving Up
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5760

Our Doting Father
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5766

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Just One More!
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5756

The Three Books
Shlomo Katz - 5758

Parting Words
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5757

> Lessons to be Learned from the Jealousy of Moshe Rabbeinu
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5766

Waking Up in Time
Rabbi Label Lam - 5762

So It Is Written
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

ArtScroll

Plenty of Redeeming Values
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5759

Can the Sun Just Not Rise?
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

Lost in Translation
Rabbi Label Lam - 5769

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Parshios Netzavim & Vayeilech
Shlomo Katz - 5771

Do It For the Kids
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

It's Never Too Late
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5765

Casting the Mold for Next Year's Blessings
Rabbi Yosef Aryeh Schlussel - 5761



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information