Talk given in Baltimore, MD, 3/25/2006 in Congregation Bnei Torah Shaarei Zion
While visiting London a few months ago, I heard the following story from a 19 year old Jewish girl. She was vacationing in a beach house in Thailand when the Tsunami hit. Within moments she was underwater. Running on pure adrenaline she tried to get her head above water but couldn’t. The debris that was floating on the water prevented her from lifting her head to breathe air. As she desperately looked for a break in the debris she realized that she was going to die. Her life, her family, and G-d flashed through her mind. As her strength began to diminish she impulsively found a way to lift her hand through the debris. She still couldn’t breathe but she felt a fresh breeze on the palm of her hand. Somehow just touching life gave her hope. At that moment a miracle took place. A rescue worker somehow saw her hand, grabbed it and saved her life.
Life is not always simple. Sometimes we get between a rock and a hard place with no place to go, no one to turn to, and no air to breathe. Personally, changing countries, careers, financial positions, children’s schools, etc, has created scenarios where I felt something like this young lady stuck under water. Since hearing that story, I lift up my hand, and whenever I do some miracle happens occurs and I am miraculously saved. I daven like you three times a day – but when I really daven I pick up my hand!
The title of this Dvar Torah is “A Chasidic Seder”. What is a Chasidic Seder? The seforim teach us that the way to invoke a blessing from above is to do something on our part here below. “Open up an opening like the point of a needle and G-d will send abundance of the greatest magnitude.” In Chasidic language this is called Isarusa D’lesata. We cause an awakening below, to merit an Isarusa D’leyla, an awakening from above.
The exception to this rule was the exodus from Egypt. The Jewish people had sunk to the lowest depths. We passed through 49 gates of impurity. There was no reason or merit to save us from the inhuman persecution we were living through. Yitzias Mitzrayim started with G-d. It was complete Isarusa D’leyla, all from above.
When we stood by the sea with no place to go, we didn’t know what to do. What Mitzvah? Which chapter of Tehillim? What Kavanah? Moshe told the people, “Hashem will fight your battle – you be silent!” All you need to do is open up your eyes and hearts to the miracles of Hashem. This was complete Isarusa D’leyla. Just raise your hands!
Every time we approach the Seder the same energy reappears. It’s not our merit. It’s not our Mitzvos. It’s just the opening up of our hearts. Kan HaBen Shoel! Just ask! Just raise your hand!
At the Seder, every thing is about seder, or order. We sing the Seder before we start. “Kadesh, Urchatz…” The seforim explain that in order to achieve holiness we usually have to prepare ourselves with an urchatz, a process of purification. The Seder should be “Urchatz, Kadesh…” The answer is that although that may be true the rest of the year, it’s not true on Pesach night. Hashem makes the first move. Kadesh first, Urchatz second. As long as we are ready – we will be holy.
I was thinking about the tabernacle we built in the desert. How did we build a Mishkan with delicate gold carvings, intricate weavings, and complicated measurements? We had callous hands and never even touched a piece of art! The answer is in the Chumash. “Every person whose heart had elevated him…” There was energy from Shamayim. Anyone who wanted to be an artist became an artist. If you wanted to become a goldsmith you became a goldsmith. We only needed to open our hearts and raise our hand.
Today, there are so many things that we need to do for ourselves and for our people but who knows how? Who has the strength? Who knows the answer?
We hear about family tragedies daily. Sometimes men or women tell me their story and I really don’t know what to say. Who is the Rav or even the Gadol that knows what to say? When there is nothing to say or do – lately I find myself picking up my hand.
There is so much that we can become with no credit to ourselves. Jews that never went to Yeshivah are finishing Shas. Jews that had nothing to eat a generation ago are building institutions larger and more beautiful than during anytime in history.
When I look out of my window in Yerushalayim at the hundreds of buildings and tens of neighborhoods I ask myself – where did this come from? It wasn’t even there when I was a Yeshivah Bochur! Groups of emaciated concentration camp survivors organized an army, learned how to fly jets, build tanks and skyscrapers and build a country. The Jewish people after the Holocaust picked up their hand and Hashem saved us – just like we did when we left Egypt. We built a Mishkan with our hands just like we did when we left Egypt. Isarusa D’leyla! It’s all from above!
So if you want to have a Chasidishe Seder this year, my suggestion is to open your hearts and the hearts of your children, pick up your hand and lean to the left. Let us all merit to the ultimate gift from Hashem – the final Geula!