A PASSOVER LESSON
As we approach the beautiful holiday of Pesach, Passover, let us reflect on the glorious Exodus from Mitzrayim, Egypt. After the Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim, they traveled in a circuitous route in the Sinai Dessert. Pharaoh, the King of Egypt set out with his army in hot pursuit of the Bnei Yisrael to return them to Egypt as slaves to Egypt. At this point, the Bnei Yisrael are at a perilous impasse; before them lay the great expanse of the Yam Suf, Reed Sea; behind them, the pursuing Egyptians are quickly approaching, and on either side of them there are wild animals. They are left with no place at all to run.
What were they to do?
The Torah tells us: “And the Bnei Yisrael cried out to Hashem.”
What should Jews do when they are in trouble?
As the Rashi eloquently states: “They embraced the profession of their forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov” and davened.
Tefila is not just something that we do when we are in trouble. It is considered “our profession”. Jews are always found praying, and it is this activity of prayer that is our greatest virtue. As the Torah states: “for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations, who, when they shall hear all these statutes, shall say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who has God so near to them, as Hashem, our G-d is, in all things that we call upon him for?” (Parshas V’Eschanan – Devarim, 4:6,7)
The story of Yrtzias Mitrayim and Krias Yam Suf teaches us the great principal stated in the Talmud by R’ Elchanan and R’ Elazar: “Even if a sword’s blade is resting on a person’s throat, he should never give up praying for Divine mercy, as it states, ‘Though He slay me, I would pray to Him’” (Iyov 13,15, cited in Tractate Berachos 10)
When a Jew is left with no options, no hope of salvation, Yitzias Mitrayim and Krias Yam Suf remind him that there is an all-powerful G-d that watches over His people and can bring salvation at any given moment.
Rabbi Shlomo Brevda, shlita, related in a lecture the story of a Rebbi in a Hebrew Day School and his wife who worked at a part time job. Between these two occupations the couple had the means to make ends meet.
One year, shortly before the holiday of Pesach, the husband was discharged from his teaching position. At the same time, the wife lost her job, the only remaining means by which the couple was sustained. They were heartbroken at the turn of events.
On the first night of Pesach, as the couple sat down to the Seder, melancholy enveloped the Seder table rather than the customary mood of rejoicing and celebration. They could not bring themselves to begin the Seder.
After a while the husband turned to his wife and said: “Pesach is when we commemorate Yetziyas Mitrayim, are we any worse off than our forefathers were at the brink of the Sea? The Jews were cut off from all sides. They could only rely on their emunah, faith. And their emuna and bitachon, trust in G-d sustained them. When Hashem saw that their emuna and bitachon came to the fore, he brought about their salvation and immediately caused the sea to split! Let’s draw chizuk, strength and encouragement, from the Bnei Yisrael’s experience and celebrate this Yom Tov of Geulah like we’re supposed to. Hashem will surely come through for us.”
Having said that, they were able to commence the Seder.
As things turned out, after the holiday, the husband found a new job in a better atmosphere than previously. He taught for many years thereafter and produced many fine talmidim.
The moral of the story is, that Hashem is very close to us. Hashem doesn’t need our tefilos. But we need to daven. It’s in our best interests to daven. Tefila refines a person and makes us realize that there is only one supreme power, as David Hamelech says in Tehilim, “Hashem is my rock, and my fortress, and my savior; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower”. (Tehilim 18:3)