Rabbi Dovid Fink: Pesach 5784 - The Power of One

By BJLife/Rabbi Dovid Fink
Posted on 04/17/24

As we bask in the afterglow of our Sedarim, where we retold the story of Yitzias Mitzrayim and we prepare for the last days of Pesach, where we mark Kriyas Yam Suf, it is easy to lose sight of the tumultuous days which occurred between these two amazing events.  B’nei Yisroel leave Mitzrayim behind in the distance, only to realize that the Mitzrim have had a change of heart again and were in hot pursuit.  Of course, we would assume that having just witnessed the Maccos and the Multiple Nissim that Hashem had done for them, that Bnei Yosroel would not be afraid – surely Hashem would protect them and punish the Mitzrim again.  Yet, they were afraid, they were “very” afraid.  The Torah tells us that they saw Mitzrayim chasing after them and they were very afraid and they cried out. (B’shalach 14:10) By the next Pasuk they had turned on Moshe Rabeinu and asked “were there not enough graves in Mitzrayim”?   Where was the Emunah of the Am which had just seen such Nissim performed on their behalf?

Rashi points out that the Torah is very specific in emphasizing what B’nei Yisroel saw and feared.  The Pasuk says “Mitzrayim” (singular) was pursuing them, not the Mitzrim (plural).  Bnei Yisroel saw Mitzrayim pursuing them as a single unit, united in purpose and act.  Hakadosh Baruch Hu loves Achdus and Bnei Yisroel were terrified at this unmistakable display of unity.  This is what they feared.

Really?  The Bris Bein Habsorim, the later promises to Yitzchak and Yaakov, Hashem’s instructions to Moshe, Eser Maccos, Karban Pesach, Bris Mila all to be for naught due to the Achdus of the Mitzrim?  Truly we need to more deeply explore this concept for us to make some semblance of sense out of this idea.  The Gemara (Yuma, 9b) says that the Bayis Rishon was destroyed because Bnei Yisroel participated in Avoda Zara, Giluy Arayos and Shfichas Damim.  (The Big Three) But in the time of the Bayis Sheini, Klal Yisroel was Oskin Batorah, Mitzvos and G’milas Chasadim but they also were involved in Sinas Chinam.  From this the Gemara learns that Sinas Chinam is equal to Avoda Zarah, Giluy Arayos and Shfichas Damim. 

With this Gemara we can readily understand our Rashi.  Achdus is the opposite of Sinas Chinam.  When demonstrated, any nation even Mitzrayim, can draw on the infinite love of Hashem.  Conversely, an Am acting with Sinas Chinam is equal to one which engages in the three cardinal Aveiros. 

In my lifetime, there has only been one occasion where we truly saw such Achdus from Klal Yisroel – and we were indeed Zoche to Nisim G’luyim.  That was during the first Gulf War in 1992.  Many of us remember the threats of chemical attacks via SCUD missiles from Sadaam Hussein, friends and loved ones securing themselves throughout Eretz Yisroel in sealed rooms waiting for the “all clear”.  As the SCUD’s rained down, massive community wide Tehilim gatherings were held.  As I entered Shul in Baltimore, I observed a collage of Judaism – Black Hats, Kipot Serugot, Bekeshas and Gartles and even bare headed men praying intently for Hashem’s protection.  OurAchdus did not go unnoticed.  Missiles landed and did not detonate, chemicals failed to disperse, a warhead crashed through an apartment building yet no one was killed, Nissim G’luyim. 

My mother tells me that she remembers one other instance of similar Achdus and that was during the Six Day War in 1967.  There too, Jews of different backgrounds stood shoulder to shoulder praying for the survival of the fledgling Jewish State.  Our Achdus did not go unnoticed then either, as the outgunned and outnumbered Israeli Defense Force repelled the attacks by Syria, Jordan and Egypt and recaptured the Kosel Hamaravi from Arab hands.  To this day it is hard not to be moved by the photographs of Rabbonim, soldiers and totally secular Jews crying together as they touched the Western Wall.

We have many means of appealing to Hashem at our disposal.  Gemilas Chasadim, Torah study and Tefilah.  Yet, our history, our Gemara and Rashi himself tells us of the ultimate power in our hands- Achdus.  Let us remember where our ancestors were at this time thousands of years ago and rededicate ourselves to appreciating every Jew for who he or she is – a Tzelem Elokim and a member of the Am Ha Nivchar.  Perhaps if we can stop looking and emphasizing peoples “uniforms” and “associations” we can bring our ultimate Geula this Pesach and enjoy the next Regel in Eretz Yisroel.