Shabbat Pesach| 5764
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Serve Hashem with Both of Your Inclinations - Condensed from Drashot L’y’mei Hapesach, pg. 104-106
The prohibition against chametz on Pesach is among the most severe and strict in the Torah. What is its internal connection to our liberation from Egypt?
“It is known to You that it is our desire to do Your will. So what deters it? The yeast in the dough and the subjugation of the gentile kingdoms” (Berachot 17a). What does the yeast in the dough represent as a deterrent to proper Divine Service?
The obligation to serve Hashem needs to be done “bishnei l’vavecha”- with both of your inclinations (Berachot 54a). In other words, even our yetzer hara should be involved in our Divine service. Serving Hashem with our yetzer hatov and yetzer hara seem to be mutually exclusive, but they both have sources in the Torah. On one hand, we are told that we are Hashem’s servants. We must make ourselves totally servile to His will. Indeed, Moshe reached his great status by being the most humble man on the face of the earth. On the other hand, we see that it is a praise to be described as “He raised his heart (a phrase that usually refers to the haughty) in the ways of Hashem” (Divrei Hayamim II, 17:6). One needs this trait to stand up to those who scoff at the righteous and take on those who strive to promote evil.
When the Torah warns to avoid the abominations of the nations of the world, it uses the example of the Egyptians and C’na’anites (see Vayikra 18:3 and Rashi, ad loc.). Let us investigate the source of the lowliness of these nations. C’na’an was cursed as a slave of slaves (Bereishit 9:25). As a slave, he reached abominations by his lowliness and animalistic tendencies. Without a normal family life and a striving for respectful behavior, he is undeterred by embarrassment, which might keep another from degrading himself by such behavior.
On the other hand, the Torah is replete with references to the haughtiness of Egypt (see Yeshaya 30:7 and Yechezkel 29:3). The greatest technological advancements of ancient times took place in Egypt. On the other hand, they used their station among the nations to subjugate others. In our days, we see nations using their advances in the sciences for creating societies where the interest is to enable their citizens to concentrate on fulfilling their animalistic tendencies.
What is the message for Bnei Yisrael? On one hand, in order to be fit to accept the Torah, we need to follow the lead of Har Sinai and have true humility. We have to be willing to be “servants of Hashem, not of Paroh.” That requires, on one hand, the willingness to be subservient, but, on the other hand, the self-esteem to reject the attempt of other cultures to swallow us up.
The Torah told us to stay away on Pesach from chametz. Chametz represents the self-inflation connected with haughtiness. We were not liberated so that we would consider ourselves too great to have any master. We should embrace a Divine master, just not a human one. On the other hand, we learned that subjugation to the nations of the world holds us back from serving Hashem properly. This is not only physical subjugation, but refers to our difficulty in asserting our cultural and spiritual autonomy. The gemara says that destruction befell us because we did not make the blessing before learning the Torah (Bava Metzia 85a). What does it say in that blessing? “He chose us from among the nations.” If we do not remember that we are and must be special and unique, we cannot reach our spiritual destiny.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is
This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld