Wednesday, April 08, 2020

As I write this dvar Torah for the coming week, I don’t know what will be. Hopefully, we will all soon be together in Yerushalayim with Mashiach and the Beit Hamikdash rebuilt! It’s now the month of Nissan. It’s the month of miracles. Anything is possible.

Ninety years ago, when Rav Shimon Schwab was returning home from the Mir Yeshiva to his home in Germany for Pesach, he stopped in Radin to spend a Shabbat with the saintly Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim told Rav Schwab that the Gemara says Bnei Yisrael were redeemed from Mitzrayim in the month of Nissan and the future redemption will also be in Nissan. Every day, we wait for Mashiach to arrive, but in Nissan, it is even more probable that he will come. Still, the Evil Inclination continues to make us doubt.

In 1938, Rav Schwab hosted the venerable Rav Elchonon Wasserman, the Baranovich rosh yeshiva and a close disciple of the Chofetz Chaim. In discussing the possible imminence of the Mashiach, Rav Wasserman quoted the Chofetz Chaim as indicating that the time of Mashiach is concealed. But the Chofetz Chaim assured Rav Wasserman the future redemption will mirror our experience in Mitzrayim. Just like in Mitzrayim, the Jews could not grasp the words of hope from Moshe due to shortness of breath from their oppressive labor, so, too, in the time preceding Mashiach, stresses will make it difficult to accept words of comfort and consolation. Further, the miracles of the final redemption will be at least on the same level as the miracles in the exodus from Mitzrayim, as it says in Micah [7:15], “…like the days I took you out of Mitzrayim, so I will display for you great wonders in the time of the ultimate redemption.”

We are living in a time of stress, anxiety and uncertainty about our health, our lives and our jobs. As the coronavirus spreads, the world is shutting down around us. Our shuls and yeshivas are closed. Many businesses are shut down.

We need to recognize that the redemption from Mitzrayim came about from the emunah we had in Hashem. “V’ya’ameen ha’am”—the nation believed. Specifically, the emunah of the women drove them to convince their husbands to not lose hope and to continue growing their families despite all the oppression. Today, chattanim and kallot are getting married in backyards with just a minyan. They aren’t giving up. They are demonstrating their faith in Hashem.

In some ways, we’re living in a time similar to Mitzrayim. We’re “locked” inside our homes. Mitzrayim was a place that locked everyone inside; no slave ever escaped. Many of us will be without company for Pesach in order to keep safe. My own parents canceled their visit, and my father-in-law is staying in his home alone.

We say at the end of Maggid in the Seder that everyone is required to view themselves as if they left Egypt personally. In years past, how could one relate to slavery and confinement in America? This year, everything has changed. And the future is unclear.

How did we merit leaving Mitzrayim? While still an enslaved people, we were commanded by Hashem on Rosh Chodesh Nissan that on the tenth of Nissan, we should each take a lamb, walk it openly in the street and tie it to a bedpost, to be slaughtered on the fourteenth of Nissan. We had tremendous courage and emunah; we followed Hashem’s instructions even though the lamb was the deity of the Egyptians

On the night of the 14th, we had our very first Seder—before we left Egypt and were free. Why not have the Seder after being freed the following morning? In the Seder it says, “This matzah we are eating because Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim in a hurry…” They also ate maror (bitter herbs) to remember the bitter time in Egypt. Yet on the night of the 14th of Nissan, they still were not free! Rav Schwab explains that it was precisely because they were still in Egypt and still slaves on the night of the 14th, that their display of emunah merited them to be freed the next morning. Currently, preparing for Pesach and conducting our Sedarim while still in exile, with absolute faith that Hashem will redeem us in the future, is our guarantee of future redemption, as it was in Egypt.

Our current situation, separated from each other in our respective homes, is our opportunity to show our full faith in Hashem while we are not yet “free.” With this emunah, we will witness even greater miracles than in the time of the Exodus. Nissan is here, and the opportune moment for the arrival of Mashiach is being felt around the world. We’re all inside our homes, waiting. This hasn’t happened in thousands of years! Let us have full emunah right now and we may soon meet and greet Mashiach together in Yerushalayim, along with the building of the Beit Hamikdash.

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch.