When Rav Moshe Leib Sassover was still under the wings of his venerable rebbe, the Noam Elimelech, Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk, the rebbe was mechabeid him to recite a devar Torah. Rav Moshe Leib, well-known for his tremendous love of every Jew, said the following. In explaining the reason for the bringing of the Korban Pesach, the Torah says, “Va’amartem zevach Pesach hu L’Hashem asher posach al botei Bnei Yisroel b’Mitzrayim ve’es boteinu hitzil… You shall say it is a Pesach feast offering to Hashem, Who passed over the houses of the Bnei Yisroel in Mitzrayim when He smote the Mitzriyim, but He saved our households” (Shemos 12:27).
Why does the Torah say “asher posach al botei Bnei Yisroel,” which implies Hashem being on top of the Jewish houses? Would it not have been more appropriate to say “asher posach me’al botei Bnei Yisroel,” that Hashem skipped over the Jewish homes but was not actually on top of them?
Rav Moshe Leib answered that Hakadosh Boruch Hu’s love for every Yid was so great, and He cherished every Yid with such passion, that when He came to a Jewish home, Hashem didn’t merely skip over them, but rather danced on top of the roof with tremendous simcha, saying, “Du voint ah Yid! Du voint ah Yid! Here lives a Jew! Here lives a Jew!”
As Rav Moshe Leib was giving this explanation from the depths of his heart, those around him could clearly see a fiery passion for every Yid that burned so strongly in his heart. From one moment to the next, his emotions became more and more aroused, until he jumped onto his rebbe’s table and started dancing with ecstasy, singing, “Du voint ah Yid! Du voint ah Yid!”
Throughout our illustrious history, there were countless times when Hakadosh Boruch Hu had reason to dance upon Yiddishe homes with great simcha and sing, “Du voint ah Yid!” This was certainly the case in times of hardship, when under the most trying circumstances His children continued to serve Him with the highest level of devotion. But even when times are good and peaceful, the Yiddishe home is filled with chinuch, kedusha and chesed, and merits this dance. One can certainly point to this period, when we are going through a difficult nisayon. Celebrating a Pesach like none other in our lifetime, this dance was repeated over and over again.
It started right after Purim, before we had an inkling of the severity of this plague. The schools were closed as a precautionary measure, but this did not stop rabbeim and talmidim from continuing to learn over the phone. In addition, countless shiurim in all areas of Torah were listened to by phone and the voice of Yaakov was not silenced. In those very same homes, mothers had to use ingenuity in performing a juggling act. Mommy now became Morah Mommy, having to entertain kinderlach of all ages quarantined at home while at the same time performing the Herculean task of cleaning and cooking for Pesach. And seeing this, Hashem sang, “Du voint ah Yid!”
Suddenly, it dawned upon us that the situation was much more serious than had been anticipated. In all of our communities, one could constantly hear Hatzolah sirens coming to aid people in their homes or taking them to the hospital. They put their lives on the line to save others. Yidden are rachmonim and gomlei chassodim. The number of chassodim that took place in so many different areas is beyond description and would be impossible to record in many volumes.
The Medrash says that in the past, a person would do a mitzvah and the novi would write it down. Nowadays, who records the deeds of Klal Yisroel? Eliyahu Hanovi and the Melech HaMoshiach, and Hakadosh Boruch Hu signs on it (Vayikra Rabbah 38:8). The fact that Eliyahu, the mevaser tov, and Moshiach sign on this indicates that every one of these deeds brings Moshiach closer. Then it will become known to all the heroism and dedication of each and every one of these baalei chesed and how they contributed to bringing the geulah. And upon the homes of these heroes Hashem rejoiced, “Du voint ah Yid!”
As time moved on, the situation rapidly became very grave. We heard news of people who desperately needed yeshuos and those who had succumbed to this dreadful malady. We heard the sad news of friends, neighbors, and relatives, fine, upright baalei batim, credits to their communities, to great talmidei chachomim and all the way up to our gedolim. Inside, we were shattered. We woke up in the morning with knots in our stomachs, afraid of what the next day would bring. When would it strike next? There was the fear for the welfare of elderly relatives who lived alone and could not be visited because of the danger of transmitting the disease. Over the phone, there were many recitals of Tehillim for cholim…and unfortunately the levayos that could not be attended in person.
How can I not mention my pain at the loss of a close friend and colleague in Mesivta Ohel Torah, a rebbi who was beloved by all, Rav Avrohom Littman zt”l, the twelfth grade maggid shiur in our yeshiva? We were totally unprepared for the shocking news just a day after we had a tzibbur reciting Tehillim on the phone.
Rav Avrohom was a prolific talmid chochom whose in-depth shiurim elevated the level of all of his talmidim. In addition to being a great lamdan and being proficient in various areas of Torah, he was blessed with a keen intellect and a fine sense of humor. He was warm, he was friendly, and he was a very caring rebbi. All of these attributes very much endeared him to his many talmidim.
It is amazing that Rav Avrohom became who he was despite growing up in America in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when the ruach haTorah was not nearly as widespread as it is today. The spirit of the times, especially for children of survivors of World War II, was to pursue secular fields for parnassah and there was overwhelming pressure to go to college. Rav Avrohom overcame this challenge and remained in yeshiva, excelling wherever he learned. From Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway under Rav Mottel Weinberg to learning by Rav Shmuel Berenbaum in Mirrer Yeshiva, he went on to learn in Brisk under Rav Berel Soloveitchik. Wherever he went, he was from the lions of the chaburah.
He and his rebbetzin, an isha chashuva in her own right who predeceased him by two years, built a beautiful family of talmidei chachomim and yirei Shomayim, a source of pride and joy for Hashem and Klal Yisroel. May they be melitzei yosher for them and for all of us.
A few days later, our yeshiva suffered a second loss, a loss to the entire city of Monsey, with the passing of the mashgiach of our yeshiva and rov of Agudas Yisroel of Monsey, Rav Yosef Meir Kantor zt”l. Rav Kantor was for many years a pillar of our community. One did not need keen vision to realize that the Shechinah rested upon him. This writer personally felt that his presence in our community was a shemirah for all of us. Much more should be written about his avodah and chassodim. May he be a meilitz yosher for his wonderful mishpacha and all of us.
How does one enter Yom Tov with all of this horrific news coming from all sides and with worry in their hearts for the future? How could they express their joy and emunah in Hashem under such difficult circumstances? Ay, the beauty of our nation. In the toughest of times, under the direst of circumstances, they hold on to Hashem. They don’t complain. They don’t question. They just beseech Hashem to have mercy upon them and bring salvation. They are the consummate sh’eino yodia lishol; they don’t know how to question Hashem or to doubt His actions. And because of that, At pesach lo, Hashem then opens up the gates of blessing for them (Imrei Yehudah).
In addition, families could have used the spirit of togetherness and the happiness that ainiklach bring for chizuk. But most families were spread apart because of the quarantine. Many young couples, some recently married and the elderly who live alone, had to have the Seder by themselves. For many, it was unpleasant and lonely, but they managed, they moved on, and they did their best. Numerous people expressed that despite the fact that it was lonesome, they felt more in touch with Hashem, feeling the Yetzias Mitzrayim experience more intensely and celebrating with Him more directly.
There were many more Sedorim held this year, as children could not join their parents for the Sedorim. In addition, because the shuls were closed, each house now became a separate individual bais haknesses. Chazal say that in the future, the botei knesses and botei medrash of Bavel and all of chutz la’aretz will be reestablished in Eretz Yisroel (Megillah 29a). It is said in the name of Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev that every Yiddishe home that conducts itself with kedusha, where tefillos and divrei Torah are said, and whose chinuch is al taharas hakodesh is considered a mikdash me’at that will also be replanted in Eretz Yisroel. And upon each and every one of these homes Hashem celebrated, “Du voint ah Yid!”
What does all of this mean for us? The separation that we are experiencing now, being apart from neighbors and friends, should give us pause for thought. How much do we appreciate each and every Yid? How happy are we to see them and hear from them? Do we appreciate meeting them and value their presence or are we in too big of a rush and secretly wish that the conversation would soon be over so that we could be on our way? Or maybe the pleasant conversation ends abruptly because the heilige cell phone is ringing. People who were quarantined for weeks say that they were thrilled to see through their window any Yid walking in the street, even someone they did not know. They were so happy to hear the sounds of Yiddishe kinderlach playing outside.
Every Yid is special. Every Yid is a holy neshamah, a microcosm of Hashem. Each and every Jew is beloved by Hashem, Who loves those who love His children. When Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l would walk in the street and pass Yiddishe-owned houses, he would give brachos that these families should all have hatzlacha. He felt true simcha that “Du voint ah Yid!” When one blesses another Yid, in addition to fulfilling the mitzvah of ahavas Yisroel, the seforim say that by giving another Yid a brocha, one brings brocha upon himself.
This is a lesson so pertinent especially in these days of Sefirah, when the talmidim of Rabi Akiva died for not according each other proper honor. The Torah warns us to take care of our physical bodies properly, for the body contains the neshomah, the value of which is beyond our understanding. Klal Yisroel is the body that houses the Shechinah. When we are in a state of achdus and honor and value each other, the Shechinah dwells amongst us and brings us infinite blessing.
It was a scene I wish I could have experienced. It was a Friday night on a street in Bnei Brak, where, because of the virus, the shuls were closed. So, each individual family stood by their windows while the shliach tzibbur stood alone in the street, leading the davening. From every window, voices rang out, blending into one beautiful harmony. “Lecha dodi… Come let us greet the Shabbos. Mikdash Melech… O Sanctuary of the King, royal city, arise and depart from amid the upheaval.” What a treasure. What achdus. What holiness. The heavens above them must have surely opened wide that evening. And from up above, Hashem sang, “Du voint ah Yid!”