Pesach – Even When It’s Difficult

BY ISAAC BARCHICHAT

During the Six-Day War in 1967, President Charles de Gaulle famously said of the Jewish people that they were an “elite people, self-confident and dominant.” Yes, we are the chosen people who fear Hashem and who have complete confidence in Him in all circumstances. In these difficult times for the Jewish people, we must remember that we have been chosen and, regardless of our level of religion and our political views, we must remain united. Indeed, this must be our mission on Pesach – to free ourselves from that which divides us to focus on our people’s unique relationship with Hashem.

Since October 7, I have had the honor of accompanying more than 200 French Jews of all backgrounds on missions to Israel, to gather, understand, support and help our brothers and sisters. Despite the great pain, I felt such love and unity that it seemed as if the Jewish people were preparing to leave Egypt, to be freed once again! 

Explaining the Zohar, the Ari HaKadosh writes that the Egyptian exile leads us back to the creation of the world and the time of Adam and Eve. After they sinned and were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they were separated for 130 years. During these 130 years, Adam lost his spiritual greatness. Only when they reunited could they bring their children – Kayin, Hevel and Shet – into the world. The Zohar explains that, like Adam and Chava, the people of Israel were forced to leave their Land and go down to Egypt. They were divided, just like Adam and Chava were separated from one another, and their spiritual level declined. Only by uniting were they delivered. This year, we too pray for deliverance on Pesach – and we will merit that deliverance through unity.

Like the mitzvah of brit milah and the holiday of Yom Kippur, most Jews observe Pesach in some way. Why are these particular mitzvot kept by Jews of all backgrounds?

Pesach is one of the most difficult holidays, because you have to clean your entire home, change your kitchen, and follow a completely different diet. Why does Hashem require this of us? Because He wants to give merit to His people. Merit depends on difficulty. Mitzvot are generally difficult, but when you put in the effort, you deserve the reward.

The same is true of raising children. When you invest your whole self and suffer in raising a child, the resulting relationship is far deeper than anything else we experience in this life. The more something costs, the more invested we are in it. The more difficult the mitzvah, the closer to G-d we become, and the more attached we become to the mitzvah

Pesach is tiring, fasting on Yom Kippur is not easy, and brit milah is painful. It is no accident that Am Yisrael is most attached to the difficult mitzvot that require investment. We live in a generation of ease, and we are yearning to invest ourselves in something eternal. The more effort a mitzvah requires, the more connected we become. 

Though there are many theories for why Jews have maintained their Jewish identity, there is a straightforward explanation: adherence to Jewish law. Unlike mere philosophies or cultures, which can easily fade away, a law that binds those who practice it is inherently more enduring and easily transmitted.

If being Jewish were merely a philosophy or cultural identity, it would likely have ceased to be relevant long ago. Yet, Jewish identity encompasses more than just philosophy or culture; it is rooted in mitzvot, which require us to find joy and unity in our family and traditions. Despite the challenges that Pesach may present, I encourage you to fully immerse yourself in this celebration. Our active participation and engagement are key to making Pesach a meaningful and successful experience.

This message resonates strongly with our present reality. Just as the Jews were freed from Egypt, our hostages must also come home. We appeal to Hashem for mercy and compassion, praying for the safe return of our hostages in time for Seder night.

The significance of Seder night, known as “leil shimurim,” extends beyond mere tradition; it symbolizes divine protection over Israel throughout history. As we celebrate this holiday, let’s reflect on the collective journey of the Jewish people. Despite our individual challenges, there’s always someone facing greater hardships, reminding us of the importance of generosity and empathy. By fostering a culture of giving, we create a ripple effect of kindness within our community. Let’s not only provide material support but also offer love and warmth to those in need. 

As we begin Pesach, let’s pray for the release of all hostages and the ultimate freedom of the Jewish people.

 

Isaac Barchichat is President of Mizrachi France.

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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