THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
COMING IN DAYS, REALLY --
IGROIS PINKY: THE SECOND COLLECTION OF
THE WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
Rabboisai -- Before I begin this week's drasha, I must share with you a new experience I had this year. This year, instead of selling my chometz to a shaygitz down the block, I used a new approach, taking Hilchois Pesach into a new millenia. I sold my chometz on the Internet -- on E-Bay.
Ich vais, you should have seen -- every goy in America was putting in a bid. 50 cents. 60 cents. I tell you, Klal Yisroel can make a killing this time of year. Next year, in addition to selling my chometz, I am also going to try to get rid of those old chairs that have been sitting in the attic for years.
Why is this night different from all other nights? Ma nishtana? Farvoos iz de nacht foon Pesach foon alla nacht foon a gantz yur?
Why don't we ask this question on other holidays? Yom Kippur for example: Why am I starving half to death while missing game two of the World Series? Sukkus: Why does the Aimishteh insist I sit outside and have flies pick at my kneidlach? Shavuos: If I have to stay up all night, why must it be with overweight, bearded men? And Chanukah: Why am I celebrating the rise of the despotic regime that stole Malchus Bais Dovid, the monarchy historically assigned to the Davidic lineage, when I should be out drinking eggnog and making out with hot shiksas under the mistletoe?
We don't ask these questions on those other nights because there is something sacrilegious about the whole idea:
-- You: Oh Aimishteh, why should I do your Mitzvois?
-- Aimishteh: Shut up you minuval before I make your wife be mezaneh with the Mikvah lady (chass v'sholom).
-- You: But Rebboinoisheloilum, I am really curious.
-- Rebboinoisheloilum: What do I look like, Google?
No. We don't ask this question the rest of the year. But on Pesach, paradoxically, we do ask such a burning shayla. And we do this because the answer is more shocking than the question.
On Pesach we celebrate assimilation.
Once upon a time our ancestors sat in bondage in Egypt. By day, they labored over brick and mortar -- dressed in the flimsiest of work clothing, while cowering under the harsh supervision of a sadistic taskmaster named Ahmed. By night, they labored over other, more colorful tasks -- dressed in black leather, a spiked collar and a muzzle, while cowering under the the harsh supervision of a sadistic dominatrix named Fatima.
In this state of subordination, both our bodies and our souls were denied independence. We spent years dominated under the harassment of a cruel and unsympathetic power, which cared not for our daily struggles or basic needs. This resulted in a psychological state of inferiority, as well as recurring insomnia and frequent impotence. (Indeed, this whole thing sounds uncomfortably similar to the average marriage.)
Indeed, it took a great leader to end this harsh cycle and lead our people to freedom, a leader who was insulated from the travails that had beaten down all of his brethren from Klal Yisroel, a leader who was, in fact, very much assimilated.
Moishe Rabbeinu grew up not as a slave, but as an Egyptian prince. No doubt he grew up the typical Egyptian prince: MTV, smoking in the pyramids, driven by his Yetzer Harrah. But had he not lived like a Mitzri, the Aimishteh would not have chosen him to lead the Bnei Yisrael. Look at his brother, Aron Hacohain. He was raised amongst Klal Yisroel, suffering their same fate, yet ultimately his job was to hold Moishe's stick, speak for him on occasion and take his messages. In essence, he was a schlepper.
So we celebrate assimilation on Pesach, even more than on Purim, which commemorates a time when Esther HaMalka curried the favor of the king by giving up her Bisulta.
And because we celebrate assimilation, we must also realize that the opportunity that confronted Moishe Rabbeinu can happen to any of us, in any generation. You can be sitting in your office, minding your own business, eating traifus and reading Golf Digest, but you never know, you might be called upon to save Klal Yisrael. Or even worse, you might be asked to donate money to a Yeshiva that has more Rabbeyim than Talmidim.
Yet, it is with trepidation and discomfort that we embrace assimilation. Sure, you would LOVE to be learning in the Bais Medrish and wearing Tfillin all day, but who would get your salary, draw on your expense account, and get your frequent flyer miles?
So to echo and enforce the discomfort of our ambivalence, we eat matzo every day for eight days.
We start off enthusiastically, consuming our share of Matzo under the rigorous guidelines set forth by Chazzal, in their deepest learned malevolence. We reenact the struggles of our ancestors, in an effort to internalize their travails.
Yet as the days progress, our yearning for freedom grows. It builds up inside us, more and more each day. This sought after passage into freedom is not like a quick everyday event, but grows. With every bite of matzo, we feel the pressure and yearn to explode, free at last.
And finally, when that release and freedom does come, perhaps with a little help of fruit compote, we celebrate freedom itself and wipe the sweat off our brow.
Ah Gutten Yuntif, You Minuval.