As we dance our way into the last days of Pesach, we must wonder what we have accomplished thus far and what we are intending to accomplish in the last days. Matzah, Maror, Freedom, Prayer, Torah Study. We have engaged in a very intensive Yom Tov and now it seems that we can coast, literally, through the Sea and then back into the year. Of course, we count Sefiras HaOmer, which keeps us in tune with the upcoming Holiday of Shavuos, but where will Pesach be in our minds? Will we truly be free? Yes, the true free person is one who studies Torah, but does that only apply to the time period between Pesach and Shavuos, as we prepare for the Receiving of the Torah? How about the rest of the year?
In order to gain a better insight into these days, we can explore the meaning of the Gemara (Brachos 40a) that states that “if you listened in the old, you can listen in the new.” What does this mean? We are familiar with the idea (Tanchumah Yashan Yisro 7) that one should always view words of Torah as if one had received them today, i.e. one should always consider Torah study as a fresh declaration and not as something antiquated and worn-out. What, then, is the significance of the statement that one who hears the old will hear the new?
The Splitting of the Sea, while a miracle in itself, contained two components of listening. One aspect of listening is that the entire world heard of the miracle, and this was one of the catalysts that inspired Yisro to come from afar and join the Jewish People. The second component of listening was that the Medrash (Mechilta Yisro 3) states that the reason why HaShem orchestrated the Splitting of The Sea was so that the Jewish People should cry out to Him again, just as they had done in Egypt, and in this manner they would always remember that only HaShem can save them from their difficulties. Thus, there were those who had heard in the past, i.e. the nations of the world, who, for the most part heard and went back to everyday life. Yisro and the Jewish People, however, heard again, i.e. Yisro was aware of HaShem but now became even more aware of HaShem’s greatness and converted to Judaism because of the miracles that he heard about. Similarly, the Jewish People, against their will, caused HaShem to hear their cries and they were redeemed.
At times we may feel under duress to study Torah, whether it is peer pressure, for ulterior motives such as becoming a rabbi or the like, or for other reasons. When we recall the hearing of Yisro and that HaShem forced the Jewish People to cry out to Him for salvation, we will realize that there is a more preferred manner of “listening” to Hashem’s will, and that is by studying Torah and performing Mitzvos willingly. Although this may sound difficult, the commentators write that Pesach is a time when we repent out of love, so we must pray to HaShem to instill in us the love for Him and for His Holy Torah and mitzvos. When we experience that love, we are truly “free” in our study of Torah.
HaShem should provide us with the necessary love and willingness to fulfill His will and we should merit the true sign of His love when he brings us Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Have a Great Yom Tov and a Fantastic Shabbos!