Pesach: Fifty Strides Toward Holiness

The fifty days between Pesach and Shavuot teach us the meaning of true in dependence; after fifty years of statehood, we should evolve from a “Nation”to a “Holy Nation.”

As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of the state of Israel, it is important to examine what the concept of independence is. This can be accomplished by studying the holiday of Pesach, since Pesach, in a sense, is our first Independence Day. Indeed, Pesach is termed, “Chag HaCherut” – the Holiday of Freedom. For on this day we were liberated for the first time, from the yoke of foreign rule and bondage. Subsequently we were able to proceed towards the actualization of our national destiny. However, this was only a beginning. Another fifty strides were necessary -the fifty days it took to reach Mount Sinai. Only then was our independence complete.

There are two conditions which must be met in order for the Jewish People to achieve true independence, and the fulfillment of only one will not suffice.These conditions are: 1) Liberation from the rule of the gentile – whether it is liberation from his land, or from actual slavery. 2) The acceptance of the yoke of Heaven, the G-d of Israel.

What is Bondage?

The first condition can be better understood when analyzing the essential part of the story of our exodus from Egypt which we read in the Haggadah.”We were slaves to Pharo in Egypt…Had not the Holy One Blessed is He, taken our fathers out from Egypt, then we, our children and our children’s children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.” Is this statement not a bit far-fetched? How can we be sure that in a later generation, a merciful king would not have arisen and “emancipated” us? The answer is, that it is indeed likely such a thing might have occurred, but this would not have been considered liberation from bondage. For the essence of bondage is living as a minority under the rule of gentiles in their land. Certainly there are various degrees of exile and bondage. Sometimes, the Jew is humiliated. At other times, he is an actual slave. Still, other times, he is sent to the gas chambers. But it is all just a matter of degree, since in each case he is in exile, lacking independence and at the mercy of the gentile. In other words, even if there is a certain period where Jews livein an illusion of comfort in the exile, this is still “bondage”, since they are prevented from fulfilling their destiny as the Nation of G-d!

No Pesach Without Shavuot

The second condition is expressed in the fact that although Pesach is the”Time of Our Freedom”, this only made us into a nation like any other. Another fifty days were needed until we became a “Holy Nation”, and this occurred on Shavuot, when we received the Torah. In order to teach us that our purpose is to be a holy nation and not merely a free nation, G-d connected our national liberation to the giving of the Torah. This connection was made by the counting of the Omer. By counting the days between Pesach and Shavuot, we are made aware of the connection between these two holidays.

A Jew needs two legs to walk. If he only has one leg, he is a cripple. That is, if he meets only one of the aforementioned conditions, he hobbles on one leg. Unfortunately, this situation is quite prevalent. On the one hand,there are those Jews who believe that Jewish independence is entirely realized through sitting and learning Torah. For them, it does not matter ifthis learning is done in Germany, Morocco, Israel, or a ghetto in Poland. It does not dawn on them that there can be no freedom – physical or spiritual -while under the rule of gentiles.

On the other hand, there is the other kind of cripple: those who seek only physical freedom. For them, the “Holiday of Freedom” suffices. They are not interested in holiness. But when you remove the “Holy” from the “Holy Nation”, what is left? A “nation”, no different than any other. And the situation gets worse. Today, we see that those who rejected holiness in order to be a free nation, are losing their physical freedom as well. Because of their lack of faith in G-d, they have become completely dependenton the gentiles! We hear from them how they must accept the dictates of the United States, as one of them recently said, “Our entire existence depends on America.” How tragic to hear this after 50 years as a state!

Moment of Truth

Fifty years! This reminds us of the fifty days which connect Pesach to Shavuot. Just as the freedom and independence of Pesach is meaningless without it’s connection to the holiness of Shavuot – so too the independence of Israel is meaningless without the faith that only G-d can bring us salvation.

This season should serve as a warning for us. We can no longer sustain a freedom which is detached from holiness and faith in G-d. We are nearing the end of the period of “Giula BiEta” (the slow, painful redemption), and we are approaching the moment of truth. Our very souls are at stake. Will we choose: “Repentance” and “Holy Nation”, which will bring a glorious redemption; or will we remain in our sorry state of lack of faith in G-d andtrust in the gentiles, which will lead to untold suffering until the redemption finally arrives?

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