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7 Nissan 5762 - March 20, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Shevii Shel Pesach: How the Depths of Despair Lead to the Depths of Hashem's Lovingkindness

by S. Bilgrei

The most powerful day of Sefiras HaOmer is Shevii Shel Pesach which is a real yom tov. Shevii Shel Pesach was the day of Krias Yam Suf, the splitting of the sea.

Chazal compare Yetzias Mitzrayim to a birth, with similar stages. The initial exodus is described as "nin'ar havlad lotzeis," the baby is aroused to emerge. Sometimes however, there is a crisis called, "Ki bo'u bonim ad mashber veko'ach ayin leleidoh" (Yeshayoh 37:3) -- the birth cannot proceed, creating a life-threatening situation.

The birth began when Am Yisroel started leaving Mitzrayim, but as long as the Egyptians were alive and they related to them as their masters, they were not completely detached and the birth was not complete.

As they were going out, the Jews reached a terrible crisis. The sea was in front of them, the Mitzrim were bearing down behind them, and then came the decisive prosecution in Heaven: "Hallolu ovdei avoda zora vehallolu ovdei avoda zora" -- the Jews worshiped idols just as their oppressors. The birth could not proceed, posing a threat of disaster. Krias Yam Suf was the final, successful birth and that was truly the moment of redemption.

Preceding the arrival of Moshiach, we will experience the same procedure. We don't know when Moshiach will come, but we know that we are in the process. Never was a generation so painfully lacking spiritually -- which is a reflection of the birth pangs. We are in the situation of, "Ki bo'u bonim ad mashber veko'ach ayin leleidoh." We are waiting for the resolution of birth.

What happened at Krias Yam Suf, and how will this repeat itself in our generation? We must analyze and learn what actually split the Sea because that will bring us the final redemption as well.


In order to appreciate the magnificence and the meaning of Krias Yam Suf, it is important to understand the concept of the Shisin, which were the source of the unparalleled joy at the Simchas Beis Hashoeva on Succos. The Shisin were two holes in the Mizbeiach that penetrated to the depths of the Tehome. They were so vital that Hashem created them in the beginning, during the Six Days of Creation. The word "Bereishis" alludes to this Creation, being comprised of the words, "Boro Shisin."

The expression of greatest happiness by the Jewish people was the fanfare on Simchas Beis Hashoeva that climaxed with pouring water into the Shisin.

Water symbolizes life, because nothing can live without water. In the beginning, the entire world was filled with water, with Hashem's endless benevolence of abundance and life. Hashem, however, later limited this water and created partitions to contain this obvious revelation of Hashem's true and endless lovingkindness. The heavens are the partition of the waters above, and the earth is the partition of the waters below.

Man, who lives on the earth, has no access to the full revelation of the boundless chesed. Even rain, which is Hashem's means of infusing life into this world, does not create an open passage for us to perceive the endless truth of Hashem's Goodness.

When Hashem created the world, which hides His obvious Glory, Hashem opened a window called "Shisin" so that there would remain a possibility to connect once a year with the infinite chesed of Hashem. On Succos, Am Yisroel gathered water and spilled it onto the Mizbeiach and the water then connected to the Tehome via the Shisin. This connection brought such happiness and sweetness that they were able to "gather" Ruach Hakodesh and they danced out of ecstasy and love of Hashem because of the connection they found to that boundless kindness.

In contrast, on the awesome day of Shevii Shel Pesach Hashem split the sea and opened a huge rift to the deep Tehome. It was not like on Succos where there is an opening of just two little holes. Rather He split open a broad connection to the Tehome, and the endless, deep, infinite chesed of Hashem was revealed in all its glory.

In Tehillim this journey is described as, "Vayolicheim baTehomos kemidbar" (106:9), Hashem led Yisroel in the depths of the sea as if it were a dry desert. Am Yisroel entered into this Tehome and every single Jew, even the simple maidservants, reached great heights of prophecy.

On Succos, the greatness of the Jewish people opens up the Tehome. After Rosh Hashonoh, Aseres Yemei Teshuvoh and Yom Kippur -- which are days of introspection and purification -- we achieve a closeness to Hashem and spend days of deveikus on Succos. This embrace with Hashem Yisborach breaks open to the Tehome then and we connect to the endless beauty of Hashem.

What breaks open the Tehome on Pesach? The crisis of the tzoroh. Here it is not greatness but suffering that breaks open the Tehome, and only through crisis and suffering can we appreciate the extent of the true love of our Father.

For example, every father loves his child and occasionally he splurges on a big gift, maybe a new bicycle or watch. But when do you know how much he really loves his child? When all of a sudden the child suffers an attack of appendicitis and the father goes all-out to find the top surgeon and lays out ten thousand dollars for the special treatment. The child might wonder, "I didn't know Tatty loved me so much!"

Times of tzoros open feelings that one never knew existed. Therefore, what opened just two little windows on Succos, opens a whole wide Tehome of infinite kindness of Hashem through the tremendous time of crisis.

Shevii Shel Pesach is the yom tov of tzoros, of Jewish pain. We don't say (full) Hallel, and we don't make a blessing of Shehecheyonu, because it is the day that commemorates our greatest danger and we don't look forward to such situations. But it is a yom tov that teaches us what happens to a Jewish child when he's in a tzoroh, and what endless beauty of Hashem is revealed in a moment of strife.


There is the well-known example of the dedicated Jew who refused to eat the treif meat allocated to the Jews in the Nazi camps. One day a Nazi grabbed the Jew and told him, "If you refuse to eat the meat, I'll kill you."

The man staunchly refused. The Nazi began to beat him mercilessly until there was a puddle of blood around him and he gave him up for dead. The man however, was alive, and his companions came to assist him. To their surprise, they saw that the Nazi beat the wrong man. This man was an avowed atheist who ate pork all his life.

They asked him in surprise why he so stubbornly refused to eat the treif meat -- even risking his life -- if he had eaten it all his life. He answered that when he got beaten for it he suddenly understood and it became clear to him that it was wrong to eat treif, and he bravely refused.

Perhaps the most precious matzos in history were baked in the concentration camps with devotion and dedication evoked by the harsh conditions. The greatness that people achieve in times of crisis is unparalleled in other situations. Simple Jews became kedoshim and reached unbelievable heights.

This is what happened at Krias Yam Suf when the wide Tehome was revealed in an obvious revelation of closeness between Hashem and His people, just as a father's heart breaks open when his children are in pain and then his true love becomes apparent.

Now we are in the process of Ikveso deMeshicha. We live in a spiritual holocaust where one can cut the tumah with a knife. When Jewish blood is spiritually being spilled, a Tehome opens up and we witness many baalei teshuva miraculously returning.

This is the message of Shevii Shel Pesach: the greatness of Hashem that we can see when we are in a situation of pain, and the closeness we experience in a time of tzoroh.

When Am Yisroel approached the Yam Suf and heard the Egyptians bearing down behind them, they automatically screamed to Hashem in prayer: "Vayitz'aku Bnei Yisroel el Hashem" (Shemos 14:10). However, Hashem responded, "Ma titz'ak eilai?" Now is not a time for tefilloh. But what else could they do? They were stuck, so they screamed to Hashem.

The Zohar explains that Hashem's natural attachment to this world is through tefilloh. Tefilloh has the same root as the word "naftulei Elokim," which means attachment.

When Odom Horishon was created, he came into a barren world. All vegetation remained under the surface of the ground because there was as yet no man to pray for its growth. Only through his prayers did the world function.

At Yam Suf, there was a terrible crisis caused by the prosecution against the Jews because they too worshiped idols, and the birth could not proceed. Hashem told Moshe: It won't help to scream, because the natural channels are not powerful enough to realize the Redemption. A deeper and greater chesed is necessary to merit the supernatural miracle that is necessary.

Therefore, Hashem said, "Veyiso'u" (Shemos 14:15). Let them proceed straight into the water, because mesiras nefesh is unnatural, and only that can lead to a supernatural redemption. Nachshon jumped in and cried, "Hoshi'oh Hashem ki bo'u mayim ad nofesh" (Save me, Hashem, because the water will drown me), and at that moment the Tehome of Hashem's infinite sweetness and kindness split open -- and that was the birth when all the Mitzrim were finally destroyed and the Jews merited cheirus olom, eternal freedom.


What does this teach us?

That the final birth is so hard because there is such a kitrug. Why should we be redeemed? We could be in the process, but at the last minute there will be a kitrug. We have no Chofetz Chaim, no great tzadikim, and we will be stuck. But the Geulah will come through mesiras nefesh. That is the supernatural means to merit a miraculous redemption.

One way is to jump into the water, but that's the easy way. There was once a chossid who came to a rebbe and pleaded that he wanted to do teshuva for all the unforgivable misdeeds he had committed. The rebbe gravely told him that he had to kill himself. The man concluded that, as a one-time effort it was worthwhile, to atone for all his sins. He started heading for the staircase. The rebbe asked him, "Where are you going?"

He answered that he was about to jump off the roof.

The Rebbe sharply reprimanded him, "What? You'll kill another Jew? I didn't mean you should die. I meant to kill your evil habits and change your lifestyle."

The chossid was crestfallen, "That's much harder!"

Answered the rebbe, "I didn't say it was going to be easy."

Nefesh refers to our wants and natural enjoyments in life. It is our pattern of life. Mesiras nefesh means dedicating our lifestyle so that it is one that manifests our devotion and love for Hashem. Our loyalty to Hashem should be obvious in our pure Jewish homes, free from goyish entertainment like videos and games.

Today our greatest yetzer hora is "fun," because it has become the center of our lives. Life and enjoyment should be connection to Hashem. The deepest connection to Hashem is when we find fun and enjoyment in Torah and mitzvos.

When we find excitement in our Shabbos and yomim tovim, appreciate their exclusive beauty and happily reject the interests of the world at large, then this mesiras nefesh will bring Moshiach.

When learning Torah and tefilloh become the highlights of our day, then this is the catalyst that will split the sea and bring the final Geulah.

"Veyiso'u" is only possible through mesiras nefesh. In our days of spiritual poverty, there are endless opportunities to demonstrate our mesiras nefesh by going against the tide of pursuit of the purely physical and instead finding excitement in Torah and mitzvos.

The deep, endless lovingkindness of Hashem that we had just a peek into on Sukkos, is revealed in all its glory on Shevii Shel Pesach, when we came to the depths of despair but took a plunge which finally led to our yeshu'oh.

We, once again, are standing on that threshold, engulfed by dangers and tzoros on all fronts.

Pesach is the opportunity to take that plunge by purifying our homes to be a reflection of our exclusive relationship with Hashem, to merit the final Geulah this Nisan.

This article is based on a lecture given by HaRav Shimshon Pincus and is dedicated in his memory, and in the memory his wife and daughter, whose first yahrtzeit is the thirteenth of Nisan. Each one was exemplary of true, untiring dedication, and love of Hashem and His people. The demise of a tzaddik is parallel to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh because, just as the Beis Hamikdosh strengthened our emunah by being a physical reflection of Hashem's glory and existence, so too, tzadikim bring us closer to Hashem. However, when we distance ourselves from that reality, we become undeserving of the privilege of having them in our midst. Therefore, their sudden violent death demands introspection and improvement to justify their self-sacrifice on our part. Keeping a super-human schedule, HaRav Pincus and his wife infused our generation with the message, "Hashem is real!" Making Hashem a reality in our lives, whether it's strengthening our tznius or purifying our homes from all that is contrary to avodas Hashem is, Rav Pincus taught, what will bring us the Geulah.

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