We’ve spent two full years waiting for a modern plague to dissipate. While restrictive approaches to handling the pandemic may have lifted, the heavy numbers of serious cases and fatalities has continued to ebb and flow, with no clear end in sight.
The “rabbi’s rabbi,” Rav Chaim Kanievsky, zt’l, the Torah giant of our generation, passed away just two weeks ago. Yet during these trying years of Corona we also lost Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt’l, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, zt’l, and Rav Avraham Twersky, zt’l, among so many others. These lights of Torah wisdom are lost to us in this world.
War has broken out in a way that most in my generation did not believe could happen in our lifetime. Having been raised in the United States on a mantra of “never again” and living through a relatively peaceful era gave us a false sense of security that these types of wars were behind us.
In the past week, there was an upsurge of terror on the streets of Israel. Eleven people were needlessly, ruthlessly murdered, but countless more lives have been shattered by their loss.
This paints a bleak picture of an extremely trying time. And yet we have also seen Jews coming out in full force in both the United States and Israel to aid Ukrainian refugees. We have witnessed the historic signing of the Abraham Accords, with the ongoing fruits of that brave step in peaceful cooperation that many believed could never be. We have experienced such a rapid rate of innovation that solutions to addressing Corona could be made available, saving hundreds of thousands of lives in a way no previous generation in history could have imagined.
Pesach is almost here. The need to go to such great lengths to reenact and emotionally re-experience annually one pivotal moment in our history as a people is in great part because the lessons the Pesach story teaches us are ongoing, cyclical, infinite and unending.
Pesach is ultimately a story of the birth of the Jewish nation. A tribe went down to Egypt, became many, and were forced into brutal slavery. The people of Israel fled Egypt and wandered the desert for 40 years – a part of the process of transformation from an extended family into an eternal people.
The tribe that went down to Egypt knew of G-d’s omnipresence and omnipotence. It was a family tradition. Yet during the years of foreign exile and brutal oppression, that was lost. Moshe’s return to redeem the Jewish people, his advocating in the name of G-d for us, and the slow unfolding of the plagues, were all G-d’s revelation to the people in a manner requisite to our transformation into a free nation.
Pesach shows us what faith looks like. Faith in our people, faith in Moshe Rabbeinu, faith in G-d, and, of course, faith in the idea that things can and will get better. However, the story also shows us that it’s not easy. It’s not easy to believe in a future we cannot see, and it’s not easy to get to a better place, a better situation. It takes time, effort, guidance, and the right mindset.
One of the lessons we need to relive and relearn each year at Pesach is that Hashem has a Divine Plan. The Almighty is aware of where we need to go and the hardships and struggles that we must endure along the way that are a part of that Divine Plan. The celebration of our freedom comes with a lengthy discourse that reminds us that as a free nation we have freedom of choice. We are not enslaved to any other nation.
At the same time, we are living out history in the way that the Almighty deems necessary. Which means we must accept the plagues/pandemics, war and suffering that come with our existence in the natural world, while understanding that the Almighty has given each of us the freedom to choose how we respond to each of these challenges, and to what we will do to address the problems of the world and be his partner in fixing them.
Chag Kasher v’sameach.