One of the highlights of the Pesach Seder is the delightful chanting of Dayeinu. One of the stanzas in this song goes like this. “Ilu keirvonu lifnei HaSinai, v’lo noson lonu es HaTorah, dayeinu – If You had brought us close to Sinai but did not give us the Torah there, this too would have been enough!” The obvious question is, “What good would have been accomplished by merely coming to the mountain if we would have walked away empty handed, without the Torah?” The Vilna Gaon, zt”l, zy”a, answers that it would have been more than worthwhile to come to Sinai just to experience the national achdus, togetherness, that we achieved at the mount. As the Torah testifies, “Vayichan sham Yisroel neged haHar – And the Jews camped there opposite the Mountain.” Rashi comments on this verse that although we were three million strong, the Torah says, ‘vayichan’ in the singular. This, he explains, is to emphasize that at that moment we were, “Ish echad b’lev echad – Like one man with one heart,” having achieved total peace and unity.
This aim is also one of the fundamental lessons of the Pesach Seder. It is because of the overwhelming importance of the mission of achdus that we include all four types of children, even the rasha, the wicked child, at our Seder table. It is also the reason why we went down to Mitzrayim, because of the sin of hatred amongst brothers – namely the sale of Yosef, and it was the incredible love of two brothers, Moshe and Aharon, which spearheaded the Exodus. In the same vein, we are taught that at the time of the Exodus there were no daleitorah, informers, amongst our people. At the time of the great miracle of Purim, the Jewish People achieved wonderful unity in a similar way led by the spirited example of one of their leaders, Mordechai, who, the Megillah testifies at the very end of the Megillah, was a “Doreish tov l’amo, v’doreish tov l’chol zaro – He sought out good for his Nation, and he spoke peace for all his seed.”
On Daf (folio) number 28 of Masechtas Megillah, there is an incredible agadata Gemara. There, the Gemara discusses a series of Sages who enjoyed unusual longevity. The Gemara then fascinatingly explains in what merit each of these Sages earned the coveted gift of long life. Here is a sampling of some of these life-giving ingredients:
- Miyamai, lo hikpad’ti b’soch beisi – I never got angry in my house.
- Batran b’mamoni ha’isi – I was generous with my money.
- [L’olam,] lo olsah al mitosi kil’las chaveiri – I never kept a grudge against a colleague overnight.
- Maavir al midosov – I looked away and didn’t stand upon my own rights.
It is not too hard to find a common denominator between all of these sparkling traits. They all are obviously characteristic of a peaceful tolerance and gentle nature.
There is another interesting Gemara in Masechtas Eruvin. There, the Gemara makes the fascinating statement that “Eilu v’eilu divrei Elokim Chaim – All opinions cited in the Talmud are the words of the Living G-d.” There are kernels of truth in all of the differing positions cited within. If so, asks the Gemara, why do we always decide the halacha according to the Beis Hillel? The Gemara answers with the fundamental lesson, “Mipnei sh’nochin b’ne’elovin – They were gentle and tolerant.” Thus, we see that halacha is dictated by those who choose the path of peace.
The Keren Ora, in Masechtas Megillah, explains that all those aforementioned tips for long life helped to create a receptacle within one’s body that is similar to Heaven for, as we know, Heaven is a place of peace. As we say in our Kaddish prayers, “Oseh shalom bimromav – He makes peace in the Heaven.” Indeed, the very name for Heaven, shamayim, is a composition of aish and mayim, fire and water, which though usually in opposition are fused together peacefully in the Heavens. The Keren Ora continues that our soul is homesick to return to Heaven for the neshama originates from Above. We, however, in our physical bodies, desperately do not want the soul to return to Heaven for, without the soul, one is left lifeless. The Keren Ora concludes that if we make our bodies a place of gentleness, tolerance, and love, the soul is quite comfortable to remain with it for one hundred and twenty years. Thus, a peaceful lifestyle is a good prescription for longevity.
On the morning of erev Pesach, when we go out to burn the chometz, the custom is to take the wooden spoon, the feather, and the candle used in finding the chometz the previous night, and burn them as well. Why is this? Most people would say that it is merely convenient to use the wooden spoon to start the fire. The Vishnitzer Rebbe, however, has a much more exciting explanation. He says that the Gemara tells us that chometz, leaven, represents the yeitzer hara, the Evil Inclination. Thus, when we engage in bedikas chometz, the search for leaven, we are actually on a seek-and-destroy mission to ferret out all of the areas where the yeitzer hara tempts us in our life. When we check our pockets, we should think about whether our money was honestly earned and whether or not we empty our pockets for charity. When we check our kitchens, we should have our kashrus in mind. When searching in the master bedroom, we ought to consider sincerely our shalom bayis, and the list goes on and on. This is a lofty pursuit but the Vishnitzer Rebbe concludes that the candle and the spoon were the instruments that helped up to ferret out the bad and anything that looks for the bad in a person, he says, deserves to be burned. This is a powerful message. We must train ourselves to see the good in others. It is the acquisition of this trait that can really make a person into a man of peace.
There is a title that is awarded to one who is able to see the good in others. Such a person is called a chacham, a wise man or woman, for the mishnah in Pirkei Avos says, “Eizahu chacham? Halomeid mikol adam – Who is wise? He who can learn something from every person.” The only who is able to achieve this is one who sees the good, and not the bad, in those who are around him.
May it be the will of Hashem that we embrace the Pesach lesson of achdus, may we have the skills to educate our children and grandchildren in this type of lifestyle, and in that merit may Hashem bless us with long life, good health and everything wonderful.