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Pesach 5778 - Genuinely Inspiring Others

By BJLife/Moishy Pruzansky

Posted on 03/29/18

A primary purpose of the Seder is to inspire our children, family and guests with a love for Hashem, the mitzvos and the Torah. How can we best accomplish this monumental task?  


We can answer this by addressing two more questions: the Torah states that specifically after the plague of darkness, the Jews found favor in the eyes of the Egyptians and earned their respect. What happened by this particular plague that elicited this reaction? Additionally, after the plague of hail, Pharaoh admitted to Moshe for the very first time that he had sinned and that he now recognized Hashem as G-d. What was so miraculous about that particular plague, more than any other, that caused him to finally do so?


R’ Yissocher Frand relates the following story:


One day, an important Jewish businessman headed to the airport to board a flight that would bring him to a crucial meeting. The man was running late, and he rushed as fast as he could to the security checkpoint. When he got there, he took off his shoes, like everyone else on line, and placed them on the x-ray conveyer belt. After passing through the metal detector he went to retrieve them but, to his horror, his shoes were gone! Apparently, somebody accidentally took his shoes mistaking them for their own. Things only got worse. He looked at the shoes and noticed that while he was a size 12, the pair in front of him was only a size 9. A nearby security guard offered to give him a voucher to buy a pair of shoes in the airport. “Thank you, but I have a plane to catch and I’m already running late”. Without any other options, he hastened through the airport in his socks and decided that he would buy a pair of shoes when he landed. As the business man sat down on the plane, the fellow sitting next to him said “I saw the whole thing back there and I was amazed at how well you handled the situation. Despite such a stressful circumstance, you kept your cool and didn’t yell, curse or scream at anyone. You remained calm, respectful, and courteous the entire time. I’ve never seen anything like it. Only a Jew could do that. You are truly a light unto the nations”.


Rabbi Shamshon Rafael Hirsch explains that during the plague of darkness, the Egyptians, the people who had mercilessly enslaved and beaten the Jews, were completely at the Jewish people’s mercy. Under the cover of utter darkness the tables were finally turned, leaving the Egyptians and their every possession, completely in the mercy of the Jewish nation. Understandably, the Egyptians expected the worst kind of payback. Yet, the true colors of the Jews shone through & not a single one laid even a finger on an Egyptian or on their property. This had the strongest impact on the Egyptians imaginable and it was only at that moment that they suddenly understood why we are the Chosen nation. The beautiful moral of the Jewish people inspired their respect in a way that nothing else could.


Similarly, before the plague of hail, Hashem warned Pharaoh of its imminence and cautioned him to take his livestock and slaves inside, as the hail would kill anything that was left outside. The Da’as Zekeinim (9:27) explains that when Pharaoh experienced this pure chessed (kindness) from Hashem, Who had nothing to gain by protecting the possessions of the Egyptians and only did so out of generosity and a pure concern for others, it affected even Pharaoh's callous heart. When someone, even someone as wicked as Pharaoh, witnesses true goodness and upstanding moral conduct, they are genuinely impacted by it and it has an indelible impression on them.


How do we inspire others and bring our nation closer to Hashem and Judaism? By performing acts that demonstrate our high moral and our value of pristine character. As we sit around the Seder with our family, it is important to point out that exemplary behavior is a foundational component of Judaism, is instilled within our national DNA, and something that deep-down, we are all very capable of and have an almost natural inclination towards.


Living inspired


Not only is doing the right thing and leading by example the best way to inspire others, it is also extremely beneficial for yourself as well. This was illustrated by the last and most spectacular of all the plagues, Makas Bechoros, during which Hashem skipped over every Jewish firstborn and slayed every Egyptian firstborn. Due to the great sanctification of Hashem’s Name that was brought out by this climatic event where Hashem showed complete mastery over life itself, every Jewish firstborn of the Jewish people, both human and animal, were given an exalted level of sanctification for all of eternity. R’ Simcha Zissel, the Alter of Kelm, raises an interesting question: what did the Jewish firstborn do to earn this high level of sanctification? True, they were involved in a great kiddush Hashem (sanctification of Hashem’s Name), but wasn’t it completely passive? They neither contributed to their miraculous rescue nor to their being firstborn. R’ Simcha Zissel answers that clearly, even passive participation in kiddush Hashem is an incredible thing, one that earns incredible eternal merit. If this is the reward for someone who only has a passive role in kiddush Hashem, says R’ Simcha Zissel, can we even begin to imagine the reward for someone who actively makes a kiddush Hashem?


Every day of the year, and especially on the night of the Seder when we are surrounded by our family and friends, we have a great opportunity to make many active kiddush Hashems *. If we take advantage of this great opportunity to do so, we will earn eternal merit, fulfill our purpose in this world, and truly inspire those around us to become closer to Hashem. Hey, it doesn't get any better than that!


Gut Yom Tov


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*- The Rambam writes that the definition of a kiddush Hashem is acting in a pleasing manner that leaves people with a warm impression of you and Judaism, and makes them want to follow in your example (Hil. Yesodei HaTorah ch.5). We are all very capable of making this form of kiddush Hashem on a regular basis if we make a sincere effort to do so.