Pesach brings a unique opportunity to take a deeper look at what our eyes are actually seeing
The tremendous achievements in Eretz Yisrael over the last century caused many of our people to believe that a secular redemption was all we needed. So why did the accompanying ideology fail?
It seems that the world is in a very sorry state. Earthquakes, wars, people fleeing for their lives, and oh yes, Covid is still here too, in case anyone forgot.
In Eretz Yisrael, another wave of terror, an internal war against the very meaning of Judaism, the country’s economy and security in worse shape than it’s been in years, and a government existing in its own bubble of arrogance. We seem to be facing a new world disorder as we prepare for the Seder.
And despite all its efforts at normalization, the State of Israel is still considered not quite legitimate, even in the eyes of other Western-style nations. For some reason, the longer it endures, the more doubt is cast in the international community on its right to exist. In every corner of the world, the local pundits keep asking when the State of Israel will finally disappear.
Some years ago, The Atlantic ran an article predicting that Israel will be wiped off the map before celebrating its centennial. The article listed all the factors that put Israel in critical condition, and actually, they were all true. That article merely made a prediction, but in Europe many voices are calling, almost in so many words, for the dismantlement of the State of Israel as the only way of ending the Middle East conflict. Even Arabs serving as Members of Knesset dare, each in his or her own style, to express hope that this state will fall. And meanwhile Iran is doing all it can to produce a bomb that, according to their agenda, will “uproot the Zionist cancer from the Middle East.”
The would-be destroyers are in our own midst, too, dreaming of the demise of the Jewish State. There are the post-Zionists, the abscess that has spread in our ailing body politic. Ever-diligent and watchful, they seize any chance, any media channel that reaches an international audience, to urge the enlightened public to boycott Israel on all levels, with the aim of weakening the state out of existence. The vicious articles they write, thinly disguised as informed expressions of ideology, shamelessly describe Israel as a Fascist, Nazi state in order to stoke the fires of the nations’ hatred toward us.
One Israeli professor published an article against a foreign investigative reporter who’d written that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is comparable to the South African apartheid. “There is no comparison at all,” the enlightened Israeli wrote in his indignant response. “The State of Israel is ten times worse.”
Many Israelis of a patriotic bent are also feeling pessimistic about the fate of the Zionist dream, as they see the state itself apparently infected by a death wish. They feel they’ve gotten poor returns for the loyalty they’ve invested in their homeland. Someone recently told me, “For 2,000 years we lived in exile, and for 100 years in delusion.”
The self-destruct mechanism is especially blatant in the state’s loss of its Jewish identity, no longer present even as theatrical scenery. For this we can thank the folks who really run the country, not to mention the hundreds of thousands on non-Jews who’ve landed, and continue to land, on Israel’s shores thanks to the distorted Law of Return.
This is a snapshot of Israel in its sorry state as we enter Pesach 5782. What many have called reishis tzemichas geulaseinu, the beginning of the budding of our redemption, looks more like the beginning of the budding of our undoing.
Or perhaps not. Maybe it really is the beginning of the dawning of the light.
Pesach brings a unique opportunity to take a deeper look at what our eyes are actually seeing. We only need to remove the outer cover from the disconcerting events that are currently bombarding us, and the picture becomes clearer and brighter. Something is going on behind the scenes, under the surface of all these apparent catastrophes, and on Pesach we have the ability to get a glimpse of this higher, Divinely-driven reality. For we know from Chazal’s teachings that Geulas Mitzrayim, our first redemption, is the paradigm for the final Geulah as well.
In the Pesach Haggadah we read:
“And I shall pass through the land of Egypt on this night: I and not an angel. And I shall strike every firstborn in the land of Egypt: I and not a Seraph, and upon all the gods of Egypt I shall execute judgments: I and not an emissary. I am Hashem: I and no other.”
Why doesn’t Hashem act through an emissary? The Maharal of Prague explains how a direct act of HaKadosh Baruch Hu differs from His Will carried out by an emissary. The first nine Plagues, carried out through emissaries and not through a full and absolute revelation of Divine Hashgachah, leave room for a human being to seek natural explanations. In its desperate urge to escape from the truth, the human mind is capable of putting forth any theory.
Makkas Bechoros, however, was different. It was a full revelation of Hashem’s power. No natural explanation, even the most intricate, can account for a symptomless plague that target only the firstborn, only in Egyptian households, causing instant death, while their Jewish neighbors were unaffected. This was the manifestation of “I and no other.”
At that moment, Bnei Yisrael, as well as the Egyptians, knew retroactively that the previous Makkos, too, were acts of our Gd and no other power. It was a moment of clarity, of awakening from the illusion of belief in idolatry. This is another level of meaning in the Torah’s words, “upon all the gods of Egypt I shall execute judgments” — not only were the idols physically knocked down and shattered on that night of Divine revelation, but at the same time, their illusory power in the eyes of their worshippers burst like a bubble. Jewish eyes too saw the truth clearly now. They no longer attributed the events around them to anything other than the Borei Olam, the Gd of Israel. They were ready for Geulah.
For the past century, we’ve been confused. The astounding story of millions of Jews who returned to Zion fooled us into thinking that the solution to the Jewish problem lay in normalizing the Jewish People as a nation among all the others. The tremendous achievements that were made in our resettlement of Eretz Yisrael made many of our people believe that a secular redemption was all we needed, that we could reject the Torah and even fight against it.
But Jewish history is imprinted with the eternal seals of am levadad yishkon, and “Hashem alone guided them, and there was no alien power with Him” (Devarim 32:12). As the years pass, it becomes ever clearer that the resettlement of Eretz Yisrael has been more successful than anyone anticipated, baruch Hashem, but the accompanying ideology has failed.
So where does this inevitably lead us?
To the clear knowledge that everything happening around us and among us is not a sign of our imminent demise, chalilah, but quite the opposite. It heralds our release from attachment to “the gods of Egypt,” to all the “isms” upon which we hung our poor, human hopes, every last one of which deceived us. And it heralds our long-awaited recognition that our existence as a People and our standing in the world depend solely on “I and no other.”
Chag kosher v’samei’ach l’chol Am Yisrael.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 907)
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