Dear Family and Friends –
The holiday of Pesach epitomizes one of the traits that has sustained Klal Yisroel throughout our history. On these days, we celebrate a series of history altering miracles performed on our behalf more than 3000 years ago. 3000 years is an awfully long time to celebrate… And look at what has happened in between… In aggregate, we have had about 1,000 years of relative peace and tranquility (and that includes over 400 years of the Second Temple era which were far from tranquil, or peaceful). By contrast, during the same period we had 40 years in the desert, years of conflict with the natives in the land of Israel, civil war, two temple destructions during which millions of Jewish men, women and children were slaughtered in the most barbaric way (un)imaginable, followed by 2000 years of pain and suffering in exile at the hands of crusaders, inquisitors, muslims, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Nazis and the list goes on.
Rabbi Nochum Sauer asked in a shiur this past Motzei Shabbos… “Why do we thank Hashem for our redemption… He put us there to begin with! He enslaved us to Pa’aroh!”
So for 3000 years, we continue to celebrate our miraculous redemption from Egypt – as we undergo murderous persecution. Seems insane… and yet, in mere hours, we will sit as Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses at our royal Seder tables, dressed in Yom Tov finery, leaning to our left as a symbol of our status.
Over the millennia, many explanations have been given to answer the existential question of “Why? Why so much pain and suffering for so long? Why, when You are the Master of Universe, the All Powerful, the All Capable, why do we suffer so…? Why not make it easy?”. Here’s a thought.
Many of us know that we were set upon this world with a specific goal. “Success” in this world is measured with a single measuring stick. As David Hamelech says, “V’Ani, Kirvas Elokim Li Tov – As for I, closeness to G-d is for me the ultimate good”. The goal in this world, and frankly, the goal OF this world is to help Jewish people become closer to G-d. (In fact, in the next world this becomes the “base” of our numbers system for measuring all other accomplishments. Our reward for each Mitzvah derives its intensity from the level of closeness we have achieved in this world.)
Parents love to give to their children. We want them to have the best in life. We do this because of the unconditional love we have for them. We do this to show them our love and to experience feelings and expressions of love in return. Have you ever seen a super-indulgent parent? Have you looked at their relationships with their children? Often, they start out looking wonderful, big smiles from parent to child and child to parent… As life progresses and the child comes to take everything for granted, the parents resent the children, the children resent the parents, respect disappears and people are left saying, “but the parents gave them everything… tsk… tsk…”.
This is true on a national level. When we’ve had it good, we have ALWAYS, every single time, grown complacent. (I don’t need to enumerate the countless examples over history.) We’ve come to expect the “good” to continue and have forgotten that the reason we are given things is to utilize what we are given to come closer to Hashem.
I think the message is self-evident. It is why our people can go through all of the incredible pain and still come out strong. It is how we survive the holocaust over and over again throughout history and still survive as a nation of believers in Hashem.
The journey IS the destination… We are often told that the various experiences of life and history are a test… I don’t think this is whole story. I think each of these experiences, even the most brutal ones, are designed to have us turn to our Father and say, “Abba, please help me! Please, take away the pain! It hurts too much!”
The closeness we feel with family and friends during times of strife and struggle – feel much deeper than those in times of joy. Hashem is telling us, over and over throughout history, you are not close enough to me through your happiness so we have to use other means. But these other means are still to bring you the greatest gift, closeness to Hashem. These experiences are not a test, but rather the test is to realize that these experiences are the same gift as the easy times. These horrible experiences are a “cosmic” gift!
Over the past year, we have come to know this gift of struggle on a deeply personal level. On the second night of Pesach, it will be exactly one year since our family’s journey with Benny began. Many of you have been zocheh to journey along with us. Much like our nation, this journey has exacted a steep price along the way. We have experienced tremendous pain, and periods of intense joy, made all the more joyful from the depths of the pain that preceded them. We have looked at our little boy so bravely endure treatments that would turn the most hardened adult to water. We have seen (and felt) his pain and suffering. We have seen the hurt in the eyes of our other young children when we have had to be away from them so much… When we had so little energy to devote to their lives. We have cried out to Hashem begging Him to stop. Many of you have been through it with us every step of the way. You have all cried out on our behalf – in literally hundreds of thousands of ways – for it to stop. But somehow, I don’t know that this is enough.
I think Hashem wants more. He wants us to change our perspective on the pain and know the reason “why”.
So this Pesach, let’s share the following message with Hashem. Hashem, if you give us the bounty of a good life, we PROMISE not to grow complacent. Once and for all, we will stay “on message” in good times. If You give us health, we will use it to come close to You. If You give us menuchas hanefesh, we will use it to come close to You. If You give us parnossah, we will use it to serve You and Your children. You don’t need to use pain to bring us close anymore. We get it… the journey IS the destination.
This Pesach, hear our cries. Specifically as we don our Yom Tov best in times of trouble. This is the greatest message of who we are – we are the Chosen people. We are G-d’s people.
Our dear family and friends. Please take a moment at the seder – right before the mah nishtana – at the moment of “Kan Haben Sho’el – here the son asks” (thank you Rabbi Ross) – to ask Hashem to give us a chance to come close to him with only brocha, hatzlocha, brius and nachas. Please ask it on behalf of Benny and all the Benny’s of the world.
Ari, Faigie, Yocheved, Rivka Basya, Yosef Tzvi, Yehoshua, Shmuel and, of course, Benny