What is Important?
of Days to Come
week, two people arrived in Israel; both were greeted with immense welcoming
and salutation. One came to stay and one to soon leave; one to rest and one
Bush came to make peace, and, in an aura of naiveté - and sacrificing our
holiest city in the process - he believes he will be successful by year’s
Shmuel Berenbaum, LaHavdil, came to rest.
fact that some here may not have heard of Rabbi Berenbaum speaks greatly to
who he was and what he represented. This will not be a eulogy, rather a
celebration of a lifestyle, a belief, which has over time been diminished.
this is it. After reliving the life of our forefathers, after finding
ourselves in great power in a foreign land, and after being dismissed with
time and later turned in to slaves, it is now that we are freed. Everything
that we have been promised from the days of Avraham, everything that Moshe
assured us of, was about to come to fruition. Today, the Exodus knocks at
after a dialogue with the A-mighty, turns his attention to the children of
Israel: he teaches them what they must do in order to be saved, a sacrifice,
its blood, Matza and Marror. Then, (12:24) he informs Israel that this Law
shall remain in effect indefinitely, “…for you and your children. And
behold when you come to the Land that G-d will give you…your children will
say to you- מה
לכם?...and the people bowed and prostrated themselves.”
(Indeed, many have wondered why we seemed grateful for this information if,
as the Hagadah teaches, this is the question of the wicked son, however, as
the Chasam Sofer points out (Drashos 3: pg 66) the Pasuk begins by
addressing the plural, “your sons”, not the individual as does the
Hagadah, and, as the Talmud (Rosh Hashana 24b) teaches we give a group the
benefit of the doubt for clearly there must be an explanation if a group all
asks the same question.)
However, another question arises: Why here? What is it about this Mitzvah,
as opposed to the many more “questionable” and difficult, that we are
challenged? What is different about this Mitzvah when we remember then, let
us say, Shabbos or Sukkos.
Indeed, we can ask further, why here? Why here, when we are commanded about
the Pesach, Matzah and Marror that will redeem us are we also taught
about a Holyday remembering what has not yet happened, and doing so in such
detail as do give us parenthetical advise on the children sitting by those
future tables? Were we told, before Nesinas HaTorah about the Holyday
to come, based on events that will happen?
Let us even go further: We are not commanded on Shavous to separate from our
wives three days before, or on Sukkos, to imitate the deeds of Aaron in
whose merit came the clouds of glory –so, why would Pesach be different in
that we recall and do exactly what we did as opposed to celebrating what
was done to us?
And finally, a question we have
perennially asked: Why do we celebrate the Exodus, whose whole point was to
get us to Israel, and not commemorate our victory and arrival to the Holy
One of the more famous secular books written about the Jewish people is Paul
Johnson’s History of the Jews. It is an extraordinary feat and
accomplishment. Starting before the days of Abraham, it tells the story, in
riveting detail, of a nomad nation’s rise to amazing achievement and
His history, in many ways, is our history: The creation of the Talmud, the
views of R’ Saadia Gaon, Rambam, Ramban, the Baal Shem Tov, R’ Yonason
Eibeishitz and R’ Yaakov Emden, the philosophy of Ramchal, the brilliance
of the Vilna Gaon, etc, etc, etc.
However, something in the last quarter of the book shifts dramatically:
after we arrive to these shores and meet freedom face to face for the first
time, after we taste success unparalleled, after we gain acceptance in the
modern secular world, instead of continuing as he had started, he sees our history
change, where no more is the Torah, philosophy, religion, faith, brilliance
the centre of our reality, no, no, it is not the Brisker method or how
Halachah dealt with Medical Ethics, it is not the Gedolim of Mizrachi’s
view vs. the Chareidi world, our history in Mr. Johnson’s eyes, is solely
about Albert Einstein, Golda Meir and Sid Ceaser –all of whom should
and must be discussed in great detail (well, perhaps not the last), but
not at the expense of completely and totally ignoring, even shunning, how
the history Mr. Johnson so beautify articulated and woven thus far was
carried over to these shores and continues in B.M.G., Y.U., Mir and others,
and how magnificent philosophical debates by amazing scholars continues on.
It is as if all that he had
chosen to focus on and confessed his admiration to, their brilliance and
importance, simply vanished or became no longer interesting in the face of
Hollywood and Harvard’s acceptance of Jews.
The child wants to know what we want to know: why are you performing the
actions that caused the Exodus and not celebrate and focus on the
is this action to you, to us, we need not the redemption through this act.
This medication is no longer relevant.
As the Pasuk teaches, we answer that we indeed are not celebrating
the Exodus, rather we celebrate that we earned the Exodus: “You
shall say (to these children) ‘It is a Pesach feast offering to G-d, who
skipped over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when he smote the
Egyptians, but he saved our houses (in that merit)’, and the people
Pesach is different than
all other nights: we do not celebrate that we left, rather we
remember, why and how we left. Indeed this may answer the famous
question of R’ Chaim (that we based our Shabbos Hagodel Drasha on several
years ago) asking why is Pesach night different then all others when we need
to recall the exodus – Pesach night is different for we do not
recall that we left rather how and in what merit did we leave.
We perform every year the actions in whose merit we were saved to remind
ourselves that even that which is not tangible, what does not exist in the
physical world, has its place in our reality.
This had to be taught to Bnei Yisroel now so they too could be aware of what
precisely was happening and what they were doing and why: yes G-d’s
benevolence is real but it is our actions that will be the catalyst –upon
hearing this answer they bowed in gratitude to a faith
and a G-d who sees the unseen and translates the physically indefinable into
the spiritual importance.
Pesach, as opposed to Sinai and the Annai HaKovad, was not about the
benefits of the here and now; the Exodus itself was meaningless on a religious
level. It was about where we are going. The eventual conquering of Israel
too was a celebration of the moment we earned Israel. Parshas Bo.
Rabbi Shmuel Berenbaum as a young boy walked into the Beis Medrash and never
left. As the New York Times put it, he never repeated himself because there
was always something new for him to teach. He never looked for leadership
roles, never sat on committees, never ran organizations. Yes, without
leaders we will wither on the vine, without the necessary role we must and
do play in the “real” world we shall falter. However, what we must never
forget, and what his life reminds us of, is that that which can not be seen,
the Mitzvah, the deed whose chain reaction is not visible to the naked eye,
is a critical element to our survival.
We need our fighters on the battle field, our politicians in office, and we
need our Talmidie Chachamim who do nothing but study.
Let us embrace our roles and honor the roles of others.
Yomi takes place nightly at the Young Israel of Greater Buffalo, 105 Maple Road,
after the evening services. For complete schedule call 634-0212 or visit their
web site at yibuffalo.org