June 18, 2024
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Realigning Ourselves Through Important Memories on Pesach

Last year, I was driving on the highway and my car kept veering to the right. I turned the wheel to keep the car straight, but every time I put the wheel in a normal position, the car would start to veer to the right once more. I realized that my wheel alignment was off. Really off. I made my plans for a full wheel alignment.

Seder night is a time when we all realign ourselves. We may have been spiritually off course, but on Seder night, we can get ourselves on track again. It’s also a night that creates memories; it creates deep impressions on ourselves and on our entire family.

Many of the mitzvos that we do are zecher l’Yetzias Mitzrayim, a remembrance of our being taken out of Egypt, such as Shabbos, tzitzis and tefillin. The Torah says “Zachor es hayom hazeh asher yetzasem miMitzrayim, remember this day that you went out from Mitzrayim.” The Ramban says that we even have a mitzvah to remember that Hashem took us out in the month of Nisan, the month of spring.

The Torah places a major emphasis on memories. I would like to present a new insight and understanding regarding the enslavement of the Jewish nation to the Egyptians and the subsequent freedom we were granted by Hashem.

The Gemara relates an episode about Rabbi Elazar ben Arach, one of the greatest talmidei chachamim in his generation. He was called upon to read Parshas Hachodesh from the Torah. When he approached the words “Hachodesh hazeh lachem, this month belongs to you,” he read them instead as “Hacharesh hayah libam, their hearts were deaf.” The Gemara says that since Rebbe Elazar indulged in the delicacies and pleasures of the city of Dyumsus, he therefore forgot his Torah learning. Hence, Hashem caused him to misread the words (by changing the middle letter of each word), which now conveyed that his heart was deaf and he could not even read a simple pasuk in Chumash. The Chasam Sofer cites Rav Shimshon of Ostropoli who explains that the three new middle letters spelled “riv,” the angel in charge of making people forget, which was the angel of Egypt. The original middle letters being replaced spelled “dazach,” the angel in charge of allowing people to remember.

The message Rabbi Elazar was receiving from Hashem, and being broadcast to those who heard the phrase he misread, was that the Jews in Egypt were under the power of Egypt, which was ruled by the angel who makes one forget and lose focus. Egypt had the power to get people to indulge in worldly pleasure and thereby make them lose focus on their purpose in life. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto explains that this result was part of Pharaoh’s plan to make the Jews forget their heritage—by increasing their workload so that they wouldn’t have time to think and focus. When we were redeemed, we reacquired the attribute of zachor—to remember our purpose.

Forgetting is not actually losing the information we have stored in our mind. Rather, it’s losing focus on our priorities. As we say in Shema “v’lo sasuru acharei levavchem v’acharei eineichem, do not stray after your heart and after your eyes… l’maan tizkeru, in order that you will remember.”

Rabbi Luzzatto says in his introduction to Mesillas Yesharim, “I am not here to tell you what you don’t know. The purpose of this sefer is to remind us of what we already know and to make that knowledge part of our consciousness, so that we will live and conduct our daily actions with this awareness.”

The freeing of Bnei Yisrael from Mitzrayim was not the goal in and of itself. Freedom without purpose can be disastrous, since people enslaved do not have the training and discipline to properly utilize their freedom. Fifty percent of convicts released from jail … end up back in jail.

The Sfas Emes says that the ultimate purpose of Yetzias Mitzrayim was to receive the Torah at Har Sinai. As Hashem told Moshe when He charged him with the mission to take the Jews out of Egypt, “Ta’avdun es haElokim al hahar hazeh, you will serve Me on this mountain.”

Nisan is the month of redemption. It is the month where we reorient or realign ourselves, most particularly at the time of the Seder. Seder night is when we are released from the spiritual shackles of Egypt. It is the night that creates inspiring memories for us and for our families for the future. Just as Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim, so Hashem will take us out of this current exile and bring us to our ultimate freedom at the time of the coming of Moshiach.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged, but contributions are always welcome. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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