Celebrating ‘Up’ Even When ‘Down’

Every year we celebrate Seder night with happiness and excitement. We tell of the great miracles that brought us freedom from the bondage in Egypt. The question is: “Why do we sit and happily relate the story of our freedom from Egypt if today, in the period of exile, we are again subject to foreign governments? In many cases the laws of the host country during our exile were similar to slavery of old, with evil decrees, prejudicial laws and physically brutal pogroms and Inquisitions. Why still bask in the glory of a freedom lost?”

The Divrei Shaul answers with a parable.

There was once a poor man who was not only financially destitute but also an unlearned boor. As the world turns, Hashem sent him good fortune and he became a successful businessman. He bought his family a beautiful home and distinguished wardrobes. His house became known for its elaborate meals served on the finest dishes. Not only did his financial standing rise, but he was also able to hire expert tutors who elevated his learning level to that of a scholar. Once a year, on the day his mazal turned around, he served a feast to his family and spent the night telling them the tale of his rise from poverty to prosperity, from simpleton to scholar.

Unfortunately, as he rose so he fell. His mazal turned sour, and not only could he no longer turn a profit, he was forced to sell all that he had accumulated over the years, piece by piece, until nothing was left. Yet, he somehow continued to get his family together once a year to tell of the “good old days” of his initial rise to glory.

His friends would ask, “Why do you celebrate your old successes now that you have fallen and have nothing of your fortune left?”

“It is true I am again a pauper as I once was,” he replied politely. “However, the wisdom that I learned and the mitzvot that I did when I was able to do them are still mine forever. I feel a debt of gratitude to Hashem for those good days and what they brought me and I, therefore, continue to tell of His greatness.”

In the Exodus from Egypt, we merited the physical freedom from bondage and the knowledge of our holy Torah. We became the wisest of all nations and learned how to please and come close to our Maker. Although our physical freedom from foreign rule may be lost, the pleasure we have from knowing Hashem and being close to Him can never be lost so long as we remain loyal to his Torah. The learning itself brings its adherents great joy and pleasure. No one can take that away from us. We, therefore, sit one night a year to sing of His praises and express our thanks — even in exile. We pray for Redemption speedily and in our days. “In Nisan they were redeemed, and in Nisan we are destined to experience final Redemption.” Amen.

Chag same’ach!