From The Editor – A Jewish Press Article On Pesach

In his usual dynamic fashion, Charlie Harary, in one of his lectures delivered a magical message that pinpoints the subtle and nuanced relationship that we all share with G-d.

Harary mentioned the Rashi regarding Yosef HaTzadik which brings down that when Yosef was sold to the Yishmaelim traveling to Mitzraim, the wagon contained pleasant-smelling spices. Harary asked a powerful question: namely, how does this seeming bit fact of minutiae play into the greater narrative of a rage-driven sale by the brothers and ultimate unfolding of events in Egypt?

Before providing his answer, it’s worthwhile to investigate the nature of Pesach and what sets it apart from all the other Yomim Tovim, as well as how to understand miracles in general.

I would label Pesach the Yom Tov of the “individual,” and the other regalim as the “collective” Yomin Tovim. Pesach, in its essence and name means that G-d individually skipped over our homes, saving our firstborns from death. In contrast, Sukkos saw a collective intervention with the clouds of glory and Shavuos is all about a collective experience at Har Sinai.

No greater reason exists for the line in the Haggadah that declares: “In every generation we must view ourselves as if we left Egypt ourselves.” Right before we left, we experienced unparalleled individual attention.

There’s a famous Ramban at the end of Parsha Bo that really conveys the fundamental teaching on how to understand miracles. He says, in essence, that every natural occurrence is a (hidden) miracle. It’s just that G-d show-cased open miracles in our liberation from Mitzraim and what followed thereafter in order to embed a piercing belief in our souls that opened the gates to a later appreciation of all miracles.

In his lecture, Harary added the final majestic layer of how to internalize our relationship with the Creator. Returning to the original question of the spices, he explained that G-d was sending a subliminal message to Yosef, who had just endured a lone battle against his mighty brothers. To that end G-d infused a pleasant smell I the wagon to let Yosef know in nuanced fashion that He was with him.

Many years ago I was looking for an apartment and finally found a reasonable deal. The rent was $900.00 a month, so with an extra month’s rent of rent and security a total of $2,700.00 was required to secure the apartment. That $2,700.00 was a number that rang in my mind and I wondered how I would hit that amount. I vaguely remembered that I was due some salary and a bonus from my previous job, but wasn’t sure the precise figure I was to receive. It turned out that I got a check of just about $2,700.00. This was my “spice of life” incident.

There’s no doubt that every person experiences these “spice of life moments” on a continual basis. Such moments are symbolic of a nuanced and personal relationship with a personal G-d who is trying to constantly enrich our lives with subtlety and thoughtfulness and assure us that we are moving in the right direction.


Moshe Stempel – Purim And Pesach

Our Sages tell us that we are supposed to increase our level of joy when the month of Adar arrives. This is because the month of Adar ushers in the miraculous times of Purim and Pesach.

In Mesechta Rosh Hashanah, there is a Tannaic debate as to when the world was created. R’ Eliezer maintains the view that the world was created in the month of Tishrei. On the other hand, R’ Yehoshua maintains that the world was created in the month of Nissan. Tosafos reconciles these two views by explaining that G-d had the intent to create the world in Tishrei but didn’t create it in a physical sense until Nissan.

The Sfas Emes explains that the name “Elokim” is used to describe G-d in the account of Creation since G-d originally intended to create the world subject to the attribute of strict justice. However, when G-d created the world in a physical sense, He realized that it could not continue to exist unless He exercised His attribute of compassion. Therefore, the name “Hashem” is used in the Torah to describe G-d later on in the Torah.

R’ Akiva was such a great individual that he was able to live subject to G-d’s attribute of strict justice. For this reason, he met such a terrible fate at the hands of the Romans, despite his tremendous righteousness. Based on the mystical concept of G-d’s original intent before He created the world, there are those who maintain that thought has a certain superiority over deed. For this reason, the thought of transgressing a certain precept of the Torah is on some level more severe of a transgression than performing the transgression itself.

When repenting for our sins, there are two forms that our repentance can take: repentance out of fear and repentance out of love. Repentance out of fear requires that one regret his past misdeeds, completely reform his behavior, and break his negative attitudes and habits. This is a very difficult form of repentance to do. Repentance out of love, on the other hand, is done out of appreciation for miracles that we experience. When G-d performs a miracle to give us a new lease on life, we can receive atonement for all our past misdeeds if we use our appreciation to sing praises to G-d and to repent. After contemplating all the miracles that took place for our ancestors at this time of the year, it is our obligation to repent out of love to G-d.

R’ Bamberger related that he once witnessed a large black SUV skid on a patch of ice and slam into six cars. There was broken glass everywhere and car parts littered the entire street. R’ Bamberger was amazed when the driver of the SUV walked out of his vehicle a few seconds later and called his employer on his cell phone. Unfortunately, the driver of the vehicle was completely unfazed by the miracle that he experienced.

One question remains unanswered: What is the connection between the miracles that took place on Purim and those that took place on Pesach? The Purim miracle was completely hidden in nature, while the miracles associated with the Exodus from Egypt were all openly revealed. The answer is that hidden miracles are no different than open miracles. We perceive certain miracles as being hidden in nature only because we are used to them. When a person reaches the recognition that G-d controls every aspect of Creation, he will undoubtedly repent out of love for G-d.