Seeking the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
את הבצק… עוגות מצות כי לא חמץ כי גורשו ממצרים ולא יכלו להתמהמה וגם צידה לא עשו להם
“Quickly bring upon us blessing and peace from the four corners of the earth… and guide us upright to our Land…”
A central theme of Pesah, our first redemption, and redemption in general is the concept of “taking haste”, both on the part of HaShem and on the part of Israel. Indeed, a primary part of the service of HaShem is the concept of ‘zrizus’, mentioned as one of the ‘rungs’ in the spiritual ‘ladder’ of ascent codified by the great tanaic teacher, R. Pinhas ben Yair, and elaborated on in Ramhal’s ‘Mesilas Yesharim’. However, the positive attribute of ‘zrizus’ cannot be adequately translated as ‘taking haste’, since ‘taking haste’ has negative connotations as well, especially when used without perceiving the Godly Truth at the outset. Rather, the positive attribute of ‘zrizus’ pertains to quickness in performing a matter that one has verified to be a mitzvah or the Divine Will. As Ramhal explains, ‘zrizus’ is a necessary component in performing the mitzvoth both before and during their performance in order that the opportunity in committing the mitzvah not ‘slip away’, either before the performance or before the performance’s completion. Ultimately, the attribute of ‘zrizus’ is a sign of one’s love for God expressing such excitement in performing God’s Will that one does not want to ‘settle for excuses’, even if they may be justifiable according to the strict letter of the law.
This idea is ultimately the meaning of the word ‘Pesah’, translated primarily in two ways: ‘to leap over’ or ‘to have mercy’. ‘To leap over’ describes not only God’s so-to-speak ‘leaping over’ the houses of Israel in the Killing of the Firstborn of Egypt, but also alludes to the spiritual leap God made Israel take at this time from the 49th level of impurity to be His holy People during the Exodus. Not only in the Exodus was such a leap taken, but every year at this time we relive this spiritual leap on a personal level. Pesah, especially the first night, is a time to aspire and ‘seize the opportunity’ even for higher spiritual levels than what we are accustomed to attain. Even if this initial ‘leap of faith’ be incomplete, it can be a trailblazer as in the concept of ‘one mitzvah brings one to another mitzva’, and bring one to greatened love for HaShem. In this way, Pesah’s meaning as ‘leaping over’ is connected to its other meaning ‘to have mercy’ signifying HaShem’s love for Israel and vice versa.
Similarly, our Father Avraham, who is mentioned both in context of ‘baking matzos’ and in his hurried nature in welcoming guests , is called by the prophet ‘Avraham my beloved one’ for this fore-mentioned attribute that was inherent in him. Indeed, it is Avraham who ‘seized the day’ and bought the Machpela Field in Hebron long before his descendants would come and conquer the Land of Israel. Halachically speaking as well, we find that one needs to ‘seize the day’ in settling this Land, as Halacha allows one even on Shabbat to command a gentile to write a contract of purchase on Land purchased from a gentile in the Land of Israel, a matter (commanding a gentile to do forbidden labor for us) that is strictly forbidden in regard to other matters on Shabbat. In this way, we owe so much to Avraham and our other holy Forefathers who ‘seized the day’ for us and provided us with our great heritage in covenant with HaShem.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #66:
‘For numbers of years I had not seen some friends of mine who had been living in America while I lived in Israel. One day, they came to Israel, but I was so busy with household chores, chances were very slim in meeting them. However, one day my wife sent me to do my ‘chores’ by shopping in a specific neighborhood in Jerusalem. It ‘turns out’ that at that very same time my friends ‘happened’ to also be at that neighborhood shopping, so we met again after so many years…”
Sources: Ramabam Shabbat 6, 11, Shmot 12, 23 and Onkkelos