“Remember this day on which you departed from Egypt… Today you are leaving, in the month of springtime” (Shemot 13:3,4)
The plagues with which Hashem devastated the land and the economy of Egypt culminated on the 15th day of the month of Nisan. Hashem commanded His people to remember this day. In his work Shem Olam (Shaar Shemirat Shabbat, chapter 3), the Chofetz Chaim explains why it is so important that we not only remember the events of the Exodus but also keep the date of those miraculous events in our minds.
The Gemara explains that Hashem appointed a force called a mazal for everything in creation. Our Sages say, “There is no blade of grass below that does not have a mazal above.” Even so, warns the Chofetz Chaim, one should not mistakenly believe that Hashem has turned over the power and the control to the mazal; there is no power other than He and there is no will other than His. All forces are merely messengers of Hashem created to do His bidding, and should He decide that the “natural” functioning of Creation would not serve His purposes, He will change nature to bring about His desired results.
The Egyptians worshiped the mazal of the sheep or ram. The power of that sign is at its peak every year in Nisan, and the height of its potency is on the 15th day of the lunar cycle, when the moon is full, at midnight. What did Hashem do in order to show that He Alone is the Power that controls all of Creation? He smote the firstborn of the people of Egypt at the time when the power they worshiped was at its peak – midnight on the 15th. Therefore, the verse reads: “Remember THIS day…” Hashem struck with His fury to bring them to submission specifically on their god’s most influential day.
Hashem also commanded that we not only take note that the Exodus occurred in the spring, but that we adjust the lunar calendar (that determines our Holy Days) which is 11 days shorter than the solar calendar (that determines the seasons) to insure that Pesach is celebrated in the spring.
Imagine a prisoner in a horrible jail, subjected to abusive hard labor, and with no civil rights. Suddenly a savior arrived and promised, “Tomorrow I will take you out to freedom!” Would the prisoner say, “Hold on! Let me check tomorrow’s weather report!”? Of course not! That would be ridiculous. Obtaining freedom would be his top priority, even in the face of the worst traveling conditions. Yet Hashem instructs us: “Realize how much I love and care for you. I will take you out to freedom at high noon in the springtime. The weather will not be too hot or too cold. There won’t be any precipitation with which to contend. You will go out in ideal conditions.”
Remembering the date of the Exodus is an enhancement of our appreciation of the power of Hashem and His demonstration of love for us. The wondrous miracles and awesome plagues are the outstanding features of our salvation from Mitzrayim. When blessed by Hashem, however, we should take note of even the smallest details of His blessings so that our appreciation will swell and prompt us to fulfill our obligation to thank Him for all that He does.
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.