Why is an egg an integral part of the Pesach Seder?
I heard a beautiful answer from the beloved rosh yeshiva of Sh’or Yoshuv, Rabbi Naftali Jaeger, shlita.
An egg is unique. Other births are one step: the baby is born. But an egg is a two-step process: the egg is laid and then the baby must work hard, pecking its way out from within.
This symbolizes what happens between Passover and Shavuot. On Passover, the nation of Israel was released, like the egg. We appeared as a new entity. But we were not yet born. We began the process of emerging from within the egg, from darkness to light, preparing ourselves to assume our true role as the servants of Almighty God.
And we had to work. Forty-nine days of exertion.
It is dark inside that egg. Sometimes it seems we are surrounded by darkness.
During Sefira, we adopt an attitude of semi-mourning. It is not unusual to see an otherwise very neat Jewish man going around with a three-week growth of beard.
What do others think? Perhaps they say, “Why do these Jews look so messy? Don’t they care about their appearance?”
In fact, I would suggest this is an integral part of our preparation for accepting the Torah. We are the nation that clings with total devotion to God, despite the taunts and jeers of the entire world. They go their way and we go our way.
The first blessing of Shemoneh Esrei ends with the words “magen Avraham.” Why only Avraham? Isn’t God also the Shield of Isaac and Jacob? Perhaps our rabbis are reminding us how our nation began. Avraham was entirely alone in the world. Alone! There was no Jewish community, no gedolim to guide him, no roshei yeshiva, no Vaad, no Jewish structure – in fact, no Jews at all.
Our father Avraham was alone with his God, alone in a hostile and predatory world, and God protected him. God was his shield.
And so it is with us.
We should know we are also alone in the world. We have basically no friends, despite what they may say. Our only friend is God. For two thousand years we have been execrated and mocked, shoved from one alien culture to another. And yet God has saved us every moment. God, the Shield of Avraham, is also our Shield – the Shield of Avraham’s Children.
Now, when the nations of the world surround us with their pretensions of power, we must remember that our Father in Heaven is the Ruler of the world. The pope comes to our Holy Land and declares that he is in favor of a state for our enemies. The president of the United States attempts to coerce the Children of Israel to give away that Holy Land to our enemies.
Children of Esau, the Torah warns you: the Creator of the Universe bequeathed that Land to the Children of Israel and not to anyone else. As Rashi comments on Genesis 1:1, “If the nations of the world will say to Israel, ‘You are thieves, for you conquered the lands of the seven nations [who inhabited the Land of Canaan,’ then Israel] will say to them, ‘The whole earth belongs to the Holy One, Blessed is He. He created it and He gave it to the one found proper in His eyes. By His wish He gave it to them, and by His wish He took it from them and gave it to us.’”
My wife and I were recently in the Pacific Northwest, where we saw Mount St. Helens, which erupted in a volcanic cataclysm at 8:32 a.m. on May 18, 1980. The insides of that mountain blew 80,000 feet in the air and four states became dark as night.
That is but an infinitesimal example of the power of the One Who created the universe.
Do you, alleged rulers of nations, believe you can interfere with the will of the Ruler of the Universe? Do you think you can prevent God from bringing His children back to their Land to live there eternally in peace and sanctity?
Your time is growing short, arrogant ones. Your mountain is about to explode. If you dare to stand in the way of the Eternal One, your world will be pulverized, just as God pulverized the Generation of the Flood, the Generation of Babel, Pharaoh, Haman, and all His enemies through the ages. One minute you strut before the world; the next minute you are dust and worms.