While visiting London last year, I heard the following story from a 19 year old Jewish girl who 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 remembers how at that moment 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. Every once in a while we all feel a little like this young lady, stuck under water.
Personally, since hearing that story, I lift up my hand, and somehow a miracle occurs. I daven three times a day — but when I really want to daven, I lift up my hand!
The seforim teach us that the way to invoke a blessing from above is to do something — even something small — on our part here below. “Open up an opening, even like the point of a needle, and G-d will send abundance of the greatest magnitude.” In Chasidic language this is called Itaruta d’letata. We cause an awakening below, to merit an Itaruta d’leyla, an awakening and blessing from above.
If we can just lift our hands up in a desperate gesture before G-d, some blessing will be created in Heaven.
At the time of the Exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people had sunk to the lowest depths. We passed through 49 gates of impurity. There was hardly any reason or merit to save us from the inhumane persecution we were living through. Yetziat Mitzrayim started with G-d. It was almost complete Itaruta d’leyla, almost all from above. Our part was tiny: we cried out to G-d — we lifted up our hands.
We stood by the sea with no place to go, and we really didn’t know what to do. What mitzvah is appropriate? Which chapter of Tehilim is correct? What kavanah can we have? Moshe told the people, “Hashem will fight your battle – you can be silent!” All you need to do is open up your eyes and hearts to the miracles of Hashem. This was almost complete Itarusa d’leyla. All we had to do was lift our hand!
Every time we approach the Seder the same energy reappears. It’s not our merit. It’s not our mitzvot. It’s just the opening up of our hearts. “Kan haben shoel”: here the son asks. Just ask! Just lift your hand and an abundant blessing will be created in Heaven.
At the Seder, everything is about seder, or order. We even sing the Seder before we begin the Seder. “Kadeish, Urchatz, …” But the seder seems reversed! Usually, to achieve holiness ,“Kadeish”, we have to prepare ourselves with “Urchatz”, a process of purification. Shouldn’t the seder be “Urchatz, Kadeish, …”?
That may be true the rest of the year, but not on Pesach night. Hashem makes the first move: “Kadeish” first, then “Urchatz”. As long as we are ready — if we just raise our hand, we will be holy!
Today, there are so many things that we need to do for ourselves and for our people. Who knows how? Who has the strength? Who knows the answer? It is as if we are trapped before the sea, with the enemy behind us, ready to attack.
We hear about family tragedies daily. Sometimes when I hear men or women tell me their stories, I really don’t know what to say. Who is the Rav, or even the Gadol, that does know what to say? When there is nothing to say or do — lately I find myself lifting up my hand.
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, make tanks and build skyscrapers — and built a country.
The Jewish people after the Holocaust lifted up their hands, and Hashem saved us — just as He did when we left Egypt. Itaruta d’leyla! It’s all from above!
So if you want to have a Seder this year that will change our situation forever, just lift up your hand! In this way, may we all merit the ultimate gift from Hashem — the final Geula.
Mazal Tov to Pesi Dinnerstien on her upcoming book “The Kabbala of Clutter”.