We will now be celebrating Shavuos, receiving the greatest hidden treasure from Hashem Yisborach, the Torah Hakedosha. Shavuos and Pesach are very much connected, as Shavuos is the culmination of Yetzias Mitzrayim. Also, Matan Torah is the reason Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim; we became Hashem’s servants to carry out our mission and bring the Shechinah into this world.
After so many years, I was waiting with great anticipation to be at my father’s Seder this year, but my dear father, zichrono livrocha, passed away on the 9th day of Nissan. The 7 days of shivah were shortened to 6 days by the Yom Tov of Pesach. Like dark clouds merging together, the routine of sadness and mourning threatened to interfere with the mitzvah of simcha on Pesach.
This made me ever more determined to fulfill the ratzon Hashem and make the Seder the way Hashem wanted me to do it. Seder night is reserved to praise and thank Hashem for taking us out of bondage, which I personally feel every day, and giving us so much good.
To the delight of my children and grandchildren, the Pesach Seder was full of life and joy and a lively Seder they will remember.
We sat down. I looked around the table and saw the little faces of the next generation sitting in front of me. This was the moment I yearned for so many years sitting in a place called prison and Hashem made a neis for a personal Yetzias Mitzrayim. This was the time to fulfill Hashem’s command and tell my children about going out of Mitzrayim the same way I heard it from my father and he heard it from his father, etc. I asked Hashem to give me the koach to make this moment of going out of Mitzrayim “real” for myself and for them.
Pesach strengthens our emunah that Hashem is with us. We are never alone. Pesach strengthens our bitachon that Hashem hears our tefillos and helps us even when the tzarah seems impossible to change, as going out of Mitzrayim. I wanted My children to relate to the story of Hashem’s miracles as it was “then” in order to know that Hashem is also with us “now” and have emunah, bitachon and, by extension, simcha.
They were inundated by a routine of negative world news. They needed to break that routine by knowing that we, Yidden, are connected to Hashem and above the limitations of the world.
So, the point was: “Go out of your limitations.” I did not limit myself to reading the Haggadah, or even only explaining how His kindness continues with us till this very day. The feelings inside are going to be expressed, so after an inspiring part of the Haggadah, I paused to sing: “Thank You, Hashem, for everything You do! Thank You, Hashem, we love You!” At first, they giggled. This was different, but the children quickly caught on and happily sang along, at first with me and then on their own. This song became the mantra for the whole Pesach. The children needed to see how Hashem’s kindness makes us free and happy.
With emunah, bitachon and simcha, we had the koach to break the “routine” set upon us by the barrage of sad news and separation, and quarantine orders, accompanied by fear and loneliness, become the norm, magnified during the days of shivah.
Our emunah and bitachon were rewarded with an open miracle. Immediately after Shabbos, my family showed me the email notifying me that the last few limitations of the supervised release I had to endure were over. The case was completely discharged, with complete freedom to travel and speak to anyone. This all happened on the first day of Pesach, the day we were freed from Mitzrayim. With great emotion, we all began singing. “Thank You, Hashem, for everything You do. Thank You, Hashem, we love You.”
Emunah and bitachon bring the geulah. Alef, Bais, Gimmel!
My father did everything for his children. Now it was my turn to do for my father z”l, helping him ascend to higher and higher levels of kedusha by saying Kaddish, which brings me to today, the 27th of Iyar.
The shuls were allowed to open, but it was a struggle to make the minyan. After davening, I noticed a mispallel in the other room, dressed in tallis and tefillin and davening by himself. I walked over and respectfully asked him if he could come tomorrow to daven with a minyan. He looked up and sheepishly said, “Um um um, I need to readjust my routine…” Unsure if the routine was work-related, I said, “I am only asking if you are able to come, but if you’re working or something, then it’s okay.” He showed a relieved smile and said, “No, it’s not that. I really should come to the minyan…and truthfully, thank you for asking, because it’s what I really needed to hear….”
He finished with noticeable relieved emotion. Obviously, he had developed a new routine in life and wasn’t happy with it.
I had seen him in shul many times when his Yiddishe routine aligned with serving Hashem. Now he was struggling to get out of the worldly routine forced upon him for so long. Then a fellow Yid asked him for a chesed, and this gave him the koach to break out of his “routine.”
One of the most potent weapons in the arsenal of the yeitzer hara is getting a person used to a routine that is not in line with the ratzon Hashem. The reason a “routine” has such a powerful pull on a person is because it develops into a “second habit,” which is very hard to change, but it could go two ways, building a kedusha way of life or the opposite.
For more than two months, forced routine changes were placed on Yidden. No shuls to daven or learn. No minyanim in holy places. No yeshivah, etc.
Make no mistake. The changes to our routines are not passive. They aggressively, albeit quietly, change a person’s likes and dislikes. The newly-found routines become hard as stone, a second nature, blocking out attempts to change to a “new” routine, which is really what we were doing before. Arguments based on healthy logic or emotions find it difficult to overcome the challenge of “I understand, but this is ‘my routine.’”
Which brings us to Shavuos and bitachon.
The most basic lesson from Shaar Habitachon in Chovos Halevavos is the need to see and understand the world as explained through our Torah Hakedosha to the point that it’s our “routine” way of thinking.
Shaar Habitachon is the fourth part, which comes after: 1) Having strong emunah in the oneness of Hashem. 2) The ability to ascertain Hashem’s kindness and greatness through observing the wonders of His creation. 3) The inevitable conclusion to be an eved Hashem, since bitachon is needed the most in order to serve Hashem. Bitachon will help a person in his avodas Hashem, as well as in his material needs and existence.
Living with the Torah way of thinking allows a person to see the good and sweet apart from the bad and bitter and make the right choices. Bitachon means trusting only Hashem Echad and canceling out any other force that can affect us. Bitachon means seeing life as it truly is and not in the narrative of the world.
Since Hashem wants our avodah to be with effort, Hashem places us in a world that, in its external form, challenges the Torah “routine” with claims that deny the above. On Shavuos, Hashem gave us the Torah ohr, enabling us to see the truth.
There are times when it’s easier to discern the truth from the falsehoods and times that are dark and more difficult. But at all times, we need to say the truth without the fear of being shamed. We need to have bitachon in Hashem openly, without fear of being shamed, and this alone brings the yeshuah we need from Hashem in a miraculous way.
In Tehillim 22:5-6 we say:
“Becha botchu avoseinu – In you, our fathers trusted.”
“Botchu vatefalteimo – They trusted and you delivered them.”
“Ailecha za’aku venimlatu becha botchu velo voshu – To You they cried out, in You they trusted and were not shamed.”
The Ben Ish Chai asks riveting questions:
Why are the words of trusting said three times for one idea that our fathers trusted in Hashem and were saved?
There are three differences: The first time, it doesn’t say they were saved. The second time, it says they were saved. The third time, it says, “They cried out to You and were not shamed.”
He explains that there are three levels in bitachon:
Level One: This is a person who is in a tzoroh and trusts that Hashem Yisborach will make a neis and save him from his tzoroh. However, because he doesn›t truly rely on this trust and is uncertain whether Hashem will make the neis for him, it›s not a true and strong bitachon. Even as he continues to think that Hashem will make the neis, it›s only because what does he have to lose by thinking so? It makes him more at ease and is a better option than despair.
In truth, this is a weak bitachon. Therefore, he worries and is in pain from the tzoroh. So, it says, “Becha botchu avoseinu – In You, our fathers trusted.”
Level Two: This person’s trust is complete and he does not worry or have pain; rather, he is certain that Hashem will make a neis and save him.
His trust is strong because he has experienced nissim in the past, when Hashem saved him from other tzaros he had.
However, even though it’s a true and strong trust, this bitachon is not spoken of and is only in his heart; others don’t see or know about this trust, as in the story of the wife of Rav Chaninoh Ben Dosa and her neighbor in Gemara Taanis 25a. She completely trusted in Hashem, but it was something in her heart. This is a strong level of trust that brings a neis, so the posuk says, “Botchu vatefalteimo – They trusted and You delivered them.”
Level Three: This is a person whose bitachon in Hashem to make him a neis is so strong that even before the neis, he reveals his trust in Hashem to others. Even before the neis, he will do an action that is based on this specific neis. He has no doubt about the neis. He doesn’t think that maybe he won›t merit the neis and he will have shame and embarrassment from what he did based on his trust.
The Ben Ish Chai relates a story in great detail about the great tzaddik, Rav Moshe Galanti. There was a drought in Yerushalayim. The crops were in danger of failing and a famine was going to ensue. The mayor of Yerushalayim summoned the rov and warned that he will expel all the Yidden if it didn’t rain within three days, arguing that it was the Jews’ fault that there was no rain.
The rov called for a three-day fast and to gather in shul to daven and cry out to Hashem for rachamim. The afternoon of the third day, he gathered all the Yidden to go on a long walk to daven at the kever of Shimon Hatzaddik. The rov demanded that all the Yidden come dressed in raincoats, boots and other rain gear.
The sun was high, without a cloud in the sky, and it was a sight to see. The Arabs laughed at the Yidden, who were walking as if it was going to rain. One guard even hit the rov for making fun. He didn’t respond and kept on walking.
The Yidden arrived at Shimon Hatzaddik’s kever and davened. The rov said something quietly and suddenly there was a great wind that shook the olive trees. Again, the rov said something quietly and the rain came down in quantities that filled up the reservoirs and saved the crops. The guard realized that he hit a holy man and came running to ask forgiveness. The mayor announced that it was the Yidden’s davening that stopped the famine. The Yidden went to shul to say Hallel to Hashem Yisborach. The Arabs admitted that the Yidden are the chosen people and that Hashem answers their tefillos.
The Ben Ish Chai says that this is the third level of bitachon. The Yidden needed a big neis, so their bitachon needed to be stronger than the first level, which is not so strong, and also stronger than the second level, which is kept inside a person›s heart. They needed a level of bitachon, which is openly proclaimed to the world and without fear of being shamed.
The rov made sure that everyone – men, women and children – wore rain gear to show that they are doing an action based on their bitachon in Hashem that He will bring the rain they needed. It was a hot day, without a cloud in the sky. Had they gone to shul and davened at the kevorim and not been answered, there would have been consequences of shame because all the other religions did the same. The shame would come because only the Yidden put on raincoats and boots on a perfectly sunny day.
The rov knew the great busha that they would have if there was no rain, but he still leaned on his trust, his bitachon in Hashem, and he performed a public action demonstrating that rain would surely come. This type of public bitachon brought the Yidden a neis that was openly seen by all people. The Yidden were not shamed; rather, they became much more respected and honored by the non-Jews.
The lesson is simple: We will be zoche to a big neis when we have bitachon openly without the fear of being shamed for our bitachon. This can›t be done through words. There needs to be an action demonstrating that we trust in Hashem to protect us.
On the way to Har Sinai, the Yidden needed to have the neis of Krias Yam Suf – a huge miracle. This is why Hashem tells the Yidden to travel on, publicly doing an action that they could be mocked for. “Go into the water even before it splits.” In the zechus of this third level of bitachon, Hashem makes the neis of Krias Yam Suf.
We all need big nissim in all areas – parnassah, health and nachas from our children. Let’s learn from the Shaar Habitachon and the Ben Ish Chai and openly show our bitachon in Hashem by rejecting the routine forced upon us. With renewed vigor, adopt the Yiddisher routine of the way we davened, the way we learned, and the way we were mechanech our children, and Hashem will give us all the nissim we need to see his protection and salvation. May Hashem Yisborach give you all his brachos, b’gashmiyus ub’ruchniyus, in a good revealed way with the coming of our geulah sheleimah, bemeheirah beyomeinu.
Ah gutten, freilichen Shavuos, Kabbolas HaTorah b’simcha ub’penimiyus.