Shabbat Parashat Vayikra| 5765
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Drasha for Shabbat Hagadol-5711 - Part I - Based on Drashot Liy’mei Hapesach, pp. 52-54
In two prominent places (Devarim 6:6; ibid.11:19) where the Torah gives the general mitzva to educate one’s children, it says to do so “b’shivt’cha b’veitecha, u’v’lecht’cha baderech” (when you sit in your house and when you go on your way). In other words, not only is concern for a child’s education applicable when everyone is together in the home, but even when one is on the road and unable to teach his child, he should appoint an agent, a melamed (teacher), to do so on his behalf. But there is another opportunity to teach one’s child where the expectation is that the father should do so himself within the framework of the home. This is the instruction to the father, “And it shall be when your child will ask you…[about the significance of the Pesach seder]” (Shemot 13:14). The seder has always remained a most fundamental possession of the Jewish home, per se.
In the haftara of Shabbat Hagadol, we read: “Behold, I am sending to you the prophet Eliya before the coming of the great and awesome day of Hashem. He will return the heart of the fathers toward the sons and the heart of the sons towards the fathers” (Malachi 3:23). The prelude to the so eagerly awaited redemption puts such stress on the uniting of the hearts and minds of fathers and sons. This implies that a major part of the cause of the extended exile is a schism between father and son, which is overcome with their coming together. Teshuva is needed for redemption to come and Eliyahu is needed to bring teshuva (Yalkut Shimoni, Malachi 3) and unifying the generation is one of his major tasks. [Ed. note- Rav Yisraeli seems to explain the return as both an improvement of the relationship between generations and the return of both to Hashem.]
So what is the problem between the generations? “‘And it shall be when your children will say to you, What is this work for you?’ (Shemot 12:26). This is a bad tiding that Bnei Yisrael were told that the Torah would be forgotten. Others says that this is a good tiding that they were told that they would merit to see children and grandchildren” (Yalkut Shimoni, Shemot 12). These two opinions seem startlingly different from each other. It is also difficult to take the pasuk of the wicked son as a sign that the Torah would be forgotten. After all, he did not forget the Torah; he rejected it.
The Haggada brings the following pasuk as the response to the wicked son’s cynicism: “Because of this Hashem did for me when I left Egypt” (Shemot 13:8). The only legitimate response of the father is to show his own personal, emotional involvement and act as if he left Egypt. If he acts as a truly free man, in body and in spirit, then his example to his son is a proper one. But if he celebrates Pesach as some sort of hollow ceremony, then the son’s question is a legitimate one. “What is the work for you? Even for you, father, the holiday seems as a burden and a nuisance.” How then can we expect the son to get all excited about it himself? This lack of passing on the proper spirit of mitzvot in general and Pesach specifically is a root cause of the schism between generations, which Eliyahu will have to heal.
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