| Parshah |

Pesach: Praiseworthy

One more generation singing Hallel to Hashem. Perhaps that’s enough

“We still could not thank You enough, Hashem.” (Nishmas)


here’s an apparent contradiction in Nishmas in Hallel. First we say, “Even if our mouths were as full of song as the sea… and our hands outspread as the eagles of the sky... still we cannot thank You sufficiently….”
Yet later we say, “Therefore, the organs that You set within us… and the tongue that You placed in our mouth, all of them shall thank and praise You….”
How strange. If we couldn’t suffice with songs from all the seas, then how do our little mouths suffice? It’s like saying to your friend, “Even if I had a million dollars, I’d never be able to repay you for your friendship. So you know what? Here, take a quarter” (Rav Zamir Cohen, Hidabroot.org).

Growing up, Leil HaSeder was A Lot of Fun. Sure, there were plenty of divrei Torah and chiddushim. But what I remember in the glow of childhood recollections is all of us swinging our pillows over our backs and walking around the table as we “left Mitzraim” after Avadim Hayinu. Inevitably, that led to an intense pillow fight as suddenly some of my siblings became enemy Egyptians and had to be annihilated. I also remember my father’s mock warnings against larceny as he bravely tried to protect the afikomen from us petty thieves. Good times.

Nirtzah, though, took the cake (Pesachdig, of course). At that point all of us in the younger division were wired, overtired, and very giggly. We had “serious” family minhagim for each song, replete with singing contests for Chasal Siddur Pesach and animal noises for Chad Gadya. Afterward, we kids would roll into bed with a feeling of deep contentment, and yes, still giggling.

Let’s explain with a story. There was a non-Jewish king who appointed a Jewish rav as his financial treasurer. As was the custom, the Jew invited the king to a party he made in his honor. It was a beautiful affair, but the king noticed the advisor was very tense and preoccupied while hosting the party.
Perhaps, thought the king, it’s because he’s spending so much money. So he asked the advisor to make another party while offering to foot the bill. At the second party the advisor hosted with a big smile. The king was annoyed. Such a cheapskate… when he’s paying he’s upset, when I’m paying he’s happy. He demanded an explanation.

As I got older, what had been a night of action and fun morphed into something more meaningful. It was then that I began to notice another “minhag” that happened every year. As we started Nishmas in Hallel, my father’s thoughts would become introspective, and tears would come to his eyes.

Year after year, he’d stop after a pasuk and say with genuine awe, “I owe Hashem everything. He saved me and my family. He took us out of our personal Mitzrayim, out of Germany, and gave me the chance to build a Torah home. He chose to save me and my family out of so many others and…” his voice would break, “there’s no way I can thank Him.” Then he’d gesture around the table. “It’s because of His chesed that you’re all here.”

The Jew explained. “When I was paying for the party, I was so worried that I wasn’t doing enough to honor the king; maybe I should have added more meat, more wine, etc. So I couldn’t relax. But when the king was paying for it all, I knew he was definitely getting the honor he deserves.”
That’s our answer to Nishmas. There’s no way we can possibly thank Hashem. But when we’re using “His currency,” the bodies He gave us, then His creation will surely give Him honor.

Decades later, I look at my kids’ bright and eager faces as I join in their giggles and pass on the family minhagim of singing contests and animal noises. But when it comes to Nishmas, my thoughts reflect the mesorah I have merited.

Hashem has given me everything — a home, a family, an opportunity to serve Him in Eretz Yisrael. He saved me, when so many others were lost. He saved me from Covid, from terrorist attacks, from the current war. Such strong feelings well up inside me, but words are insufficient. I look at around my table — one more generation singing Hallel to Hashem. Perhaps that’s enough.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 890)

Oops! We could not locate your form.