Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Yetzias Mitzrayim, 2024

 

One of the vivid memories that I have from my childhood is of the ne’ilas hachag on Pesach at Agudas Yisrael of Toronto, the shul where I davened growing up.

Towards the end of the ne’ilas hachag, we would always sing two niggunim: Vehi She’amda and Chasal Siddur Pesach.

In those days, the majority of those who davened in the Agudah were Holocaust survivors, most of whom were from Poland and Galicia and had lived through more than five years of the Nazi gehennom. There were also some from Hungary. When everyone would sing Vehi She’amda, I would notice their weather-beaten faces. I would see the words of the song play across their faces and their eyes: “ela shebechol dor vador omdim aleinu lechaloseinu, in every generation, they stand up against us and try to destroy us, v’Hakadosh Boruch Hu matzileinu miyodom, and Hashem saves us from their hands.”

They Lived the Words

I remember seeing the words come alive in their eyes. They weren’t just saying the words. They were reliving them. They had seen what “omdim aleinu lechaloseinu” means. They had seen how our enemies almost succeeded. They had seen how we were just a hairsbreadth away from annihilation.

Back then, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, these same Yidden were witnessing the rebirth of Yiddishkeit after the churban. The shul was full of yeshiva bochurim. A new dor had sprouted forth, and although perhaps it wasn’t exactly like the doros they remembered in Europe, it was still a beautiful dor.

I remember one such Yid in shul named R’ Yechiel Anisfeld. He was a special Yid, one who represented the aristocracy of pre-war Krakow. I remember how, on Shabbos Chol Hamoed, he would always buy the aliyah of maftir and the haftarah of the atzamos hayeveishos, the nevuah of Yechezkel Hanovi describing the dry bones coming to life. He would invariably buy this aliyah for one of his children. To him, they were the embodiment of dry bones, the post-Holocaust survivors who emerged with nothing coming to life again and producing new generations of bnei Torah who would perpetuate the golden chain of Yiddishkeit.

This year, I am thinking about those Yidden, the way they said “Vehi She’amda,” and how they didn’t just say it, but how they lived it.

Today, Too, We Are Living It

I feel that in some way, this year we are also living it. Until now, every year, when I said “Vehi She’amda,” I did so with emunah – the emunah that I understood that in every generation they try to destroy us. But I never really lived it.

This year, in some way, I feel that we are living it again. Let me explain.

This year, on Simchas Torah, we experienced the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust. The attack was perpetrated against Jews for one reason – just because they were Jews. There was no other reason for why those Yidden were attacked. They were attacked, dismembered and tortured for one reason – because they were Jews.

In the aftermath of the attack and the cruel hostage-taking of so many innocent civilians, many of them citizens of foreign countries, we thought that the world would finally understand the barbarism of our neighbors. We thought that the world would finally understand that it isn’t a dispute about lands or “about two states for two peoples,” but that we were facing a genocidal enemy not unlike the Nazis. We naively thought that the world would finally allow the Israelis to finish the job in a way that they could secure some degree of protection for Israel.

Little did we realize that within a few months, we, the innocent victims, would be the ones accused of genocide for defending ourselves! Not only that, but the accusation would come from those who were ostensibly our “friends,” including the president of the United States.

What we are seeing today is totally unprecedented since the war. Even democracies that have always stood up against barbarism are instead siding with those who want to murder every last Jew in cold blood. All they do is tell the Jews to back off. They don’t even mention the hostages or the fact that Israel was forced into a defensive war.

Permission to Be Victims, But Not to Defend Ourselves

Yes, we have learned the bitter truth.

The world has a very, very low tolerance level for Jews who kill goyim, but a very, very high tolerance level for goyim who kill Jews.

We are permitted to be victims, but we are absolutely not permitted to defend ourselves.

I was thinking again about “Vehi She’amda” this week in the aftermath of Iran’s massive attack and its attempt to hit Israeli population centers. As Israel sustained a direct attack from Iranian soil upon its cities, one might think that, at the very least, Israel’s allies would recognize the need for deterrence and thus encourage or at least tolerate an Israeli counterattack. After all, anyone who knows anything about the Muslim world knows that the last thing that anyone who wants to win should do is project weakness. But no. We already learned on Motzoei Shabbos that our “friend,” President Biden, unequivocally warned Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu that he better not retaliate.

Chas veshalom for any Muslim country to be attacked by the Jews! After all, if we (the Americans) let them (the Israelis) do that, then all those wonderful American citizens in Dearborn who have been screaming, “Death to the Jews! Death to America,” might abstain from voting for the octogenarian senile president in November.

My friends, do we need any greater reminder of “ela shebechol dor vador omdim aleinu lechaloseinu”?

Yes, the Iranians are dedicated to our destruction – every last man, woman and child. Yes, the Palestinians, the European savages in suits populating the UN, and, sadly, even our American friends couldn’t care less if we are destroyed and are actually enabling those who wish to destroy us.

Yetzias Mitzrayim is Not History. It is Current Events.

This year, as we sit at the Seder table, when we come to “Vehi She’amda, it is worthwhile to give a bit of a history lesson and a current events lesson to the younger generation. They weren’t zocheh to hold the Auschwitz-tattooed arms of Holocaust survivors and dance with them during the ne’ilas hachag, while seeing the faraway look in their eyes as they said, “Ela shebechol dor vador omdim aleinu lechaloseinu.” We must impress upon them that this is part of golus. It is not easy, but we must always realize that “Hakadosh Boruch Hu matzileinu miyodom.” He will save us from the Khameneis, the Sinwars, and even the Bidens and the bogdim like the Schumers.

We read in the Haggadah that Lovon was in some ways worse than Paroh. Lovon wanted to uproot everything – our Yiddishekit and our connection to Hashem. Hashem will save us from the Lovons too. He will save us from the Israeli Supreme Court, from the Lapids, from the Liebermans, and from all the others who want to be oker es hakol.

This year, when we are sitting at the Seder on the holiest of nights, it is important that we impress these lessons upon our children – and ourselves. Yetzias Mitzrayim is not just some event way back in our history that we are quaintly commemorating on the Seder night. Yetzias Mitzrayim is current events. It is the same thing in 2024. It is being reenacted. There is Paroh, Amaleik, and even the Eirev Rav. Nothing has changed.

Our task is to internalize the lessons and daven that Hakadosh Boruch Hu save us from their hands before they are allowed to do too much damage.

Kein yehi ratzon.

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