Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Passover - Pesach
To dedicate this lesson

Pesach Thoughts


Rabbi Berel Wein

Pesach has three divisions of time to it. There is the beginning of Pesach that is highlighted by the story of our exodus from Egypt. The Pesach Seder and in its unique fashion outlines for us the path of the Jewish people throughout the ages. The Seder symbolizes for us the tenacity of Jewish faith - faith in our God and in our future, in our history and in our ancestors. The Seder in effect reinforces within us the core Jewish belief that our grandfathers were not liars and that the tradition of the ages from Egypt and Sinai is true and valid and relevant and vital in all places and times. The timelessness of the words and rituals of the Seder further strengthen our inner beliefs and provide us with optimism and hope for our future in spite of all of the dangers and problems that currently confront us. We have the innate belief that the young ones who sit today at our Seder table will in their good time conduct their own Seder table and thereby guarantee the survival and continuity of the Jewish people. Merely bringing Jewish children into this world at birth is already a declaration of faith in our future and a confidence in the eternity of the Jewish people. And the living memory of an event that occurred to our people 3323 years ago strengthens that confidence and deepens our determination to continue and succeed no matter the difficulties that constantly face us. This above all else is the gift that the Seder table and Pesach night grants to us.

The intermediate days of Pesach - chol hamoed - represent the ability of Jews and of the Torah to treat the mundane activities of life and the world with holiness and a special reverence. I remember that one of my daughters once worked as an actuary in the offices of a large American insurance company. The company graciously allowed her to be absent on the Jewish holidays. However she was never able to satisfactorily explain to them why on chol hamoed she was able to appear at the office and accomplish the work that was necessary to be done that day. The world understands that there can be holy days and that there are days that are not holy. It finds it difficult to comprehend how a day can be holy and somehow less than completely holy at one and the same time. Pesach teaches us that we are to sanctify the mundane, the unholy, the regular activities of everyday life. The trips and tours, the meals and outings that we embark on during the days of chol hamoed are different in kind and spirit than those that we enjoy during the other days of the year. The fact that we are still eating matzo ion those occasions only reinforces for us this uniqueness of the time of chol hamoed. It reminds us of the reason for our exodus from Egypt and the purpose of our state of freedom - to be a special people, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.

The final day of Pesach commemorates for us our miraculous deliverance from the army of the Pharaoh at Yam Suf. The times that the Jewish people have been seemingly on the brink of annihilation over our long history are too numerous to be counted accurately. We have suffered partial annihilation, grievous losses but never total defeat and destruction. From Pharaoh through Amalek, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Latin Christians, Moslems, Germans, Soviets, Arabs, some present day NGO’s and others many have tried to destroy the Jewish people. We are resented for our particularism and when we assimilate we are resented even more. And yet every time that it appears that history’s curtain is ready to fall on us something unforeseen occurs and Jewish resilience drives us to survival and renewal. The drama of Jewish survival at Yam Suf repeats itself in different forms over and over again in the history of civilization. Though many have wondered over this strange and exceptional phenomenon no logical or completely rational answer to this matter has ever been advanced. The Lord has split many seas for us over the past three millennia of our existence. Pesach reminds us of this inexplicable historical truism. Somehow merely knowing this fact of history is alone sufficient to enable us to continue and build and achieve no matter what our enemies say and do. The verse "Plot your plots, they will be foiled; speak your words of promise but they will not be fulfilled; for the Lord is with us." Pesach reminds us of all this.
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