My publisher informed me that this week would be their “Pesach issue,” and I was racking my brain to come up with something to write about. Since my articles generally follow the pattern that something happens, I think about it and then share a lesson, focusing it to be about Pesach is hard unless I happen to be hit on the head by a falling box of potato starch in the supermarket.
As I was running a few errands on Sunday morning, I asked Hashem to give me something to write about. Soon, however, I had more urgent things to worry about. About a week or two ago, one morning after shul, I started my car and was greeted by a man speaking enthusiastically about the Bible. Or it may have been about fried chicken, or tulips or male pattern baldness. I really have no idea what he was talking about because he was speaking Korean.
It seems that my radio had reset to factory defaults as if the battery had been dead. However, since I had driven to shul less than an hour earlier, and it started on the first try afterward, that seemed odd. I also noticed that the heat had been cranked up to the highest setting. Weird.
Later, when I got into the car, the temperature magically set itself to 62 degrees, a lot cooler than I had previously set it. Something was definitely amiss, but I didn’t have time to get it checked. Until today. On my errands, suddenly two warning lights began to flash. They were unrelated items so I believed it must be electrical. By coincidence (as if!), this happened when I was two driveways from my usual mechanic. I deftly pulled in and asked them to test the battery.
They checked the alternator and said it was charging fine. That’s good. Then he tested the battery and it read “OK.” He retested it and it failed. Aha! We were onto something. I knew the battery was only a few months old, but things can be defective, right? He told his boss, who came to look at it. He found it hard to believe the battery was bad because he knew this brand was reliable.
Sure enough, it turned out that the connection to the battery was loose, and the terminals had corrosion on them. They used a wire brush tool to clean the terminals and recrimped the connection so it was tight. No more warning lights and hopefully no more Korean newscasters.
So, what does this have to do with Pesach? Everything!
On Pesach we go back to basics and review the story of how we were slaves in Egypt until Hashem took us out, lifted us up and set us on the path to freedom. We reinforce that Hashem is in control of the world by recounting the miracles and details of each event and marveling at what He did for us.
So, let’s say Hashem is the alternator. He’s the source of all power and He constantly generates a charge we can use. The Torah and mitzvot are the battery, harnessing and storing that charge so they can deliver the power we need to live happily and properly. Sometimes, though, we don’t feel the boost. We can go on the fritz and feel drained. It’s not because there’s something wrong with Hashem or the Torah, chas v’shalom, because those are completely reliable. The problem is that our connection to the source has become loosened.
The Seder is precisely calibrated to tighten our connection. When we speak of the miracles, we brush off the corrosion of time and cynicism. When we imagine ourselves there during the Exodus, we restore our hearts and minds to factory-condition—the day we rolled off the “assembly line” of nationhood.
By tightening our connection on Pesach, we get the benefit of the unlimited power of Hashem and can use this to continue our journey of life. R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky, z”l, actually says that when Moshe ask Pharaoh to let the Children of Israel go to the desert for three days, we were originally supposed to go back to Egypt to finish the 400 years, and that Matan Torah would only be a spiritual retreat to recharge our batteries. (When Pharaoh balked and made us work harder, he used up the labor of the 400 years, leading to a permanent exodus.)
The best part of this lesson, however, is that we don’t need it to be Pesach. It teaches us how to do a factory-reset. Any time we feel drained or disconnected we can go just back to the source, wipe away the things that corrode our emunah, and get right back on the road to redemption.
By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz
Jonathan Gewirtz is an inspirational writer and speaker whose work has appeared in publications around the world. You can find him at www.facebook.com/RabbiGewirtz, and follow him on Instagram @RabbiGewirtz or Twitter @RabbiJGewirtz. He also operates JewishSpeechWriter.com, where you can order a custom-made speech for your next special occasion. Sign up for the Migdal Ohr, his weekly PDF dvar Torah in English. E-mail [email protected] and put Subscribe in the subject.