Thursday, March 21, 2013

the real answer to the ben rasha

 I have not really started to look at the haggadah, but a thought occurred to me regarding the response to the ben rasha.  First of all, what difference does it make to him, “Ilu haya sham, lo haya nigal?”  What does he care what might have been – what was was; bottom line he and we are here today.  Second of all, given that we are accusing him of being a kofer, what kind of threat it is to say that had he been there he would not have merited geulah – a kofer doesn’t believe in a miraculous geulah to begin with!  To him it’s an empty threat.  B’pashtus one could say that we are not answering the rasha at all, but simply declaring the truth for our own benefit, but then what’s the “hakheh es shinav” all about?

I think we are answering the rasha.  The rasha is the guy who goes around asking questions that sound cool and are intellectually fashionable to ask.  He is cutting edge in his thinking, meaning he mimics the latest trends among those who pose as thinkers and he parrots their slogans.  Rasha, we see right through you.  You are trying so hard to quash your neshoma, but you can’t win.  My wife recently heard R’ Y. Y. Jacobson speak and he told a story of a man who called him who had done everything he could to distance himself from yahadut, but he was still convinced that he had not done enough.  So he called R’ Jacobson and asked whether there some ritual he could do that would really permanently sever his ties with the Jewish people.  As R’ Jacobson pointed out, the man obviously didn’t see the irony in his calling a Rabbi that practices a religion he doesn’t believe in to ask for a ritual he doesn’t believe in to cut himself off from a people he doesn’t associate with.  That’s our rasha.  Even amidst his disbelief, he can’t help but reveal the truth – he does believe.  And maybe that’s why there is so little difference between the question of the rasha and that of the chacham.  For all his posing and posturing, the rasha still speaks the language of amcha, of a chacham.  “Ba’avur zeh asah Hashem li” means that geulah is addressed to each of us individually, and therefore, if someone’s neshoma is here today and was not cut off at its root in Mitzrayim (and really, how many new neshomos are there?  Most probably this is just a recycled neshoma that had been in Mitzrayim with the rest of Klal Yisrael), there must be some redeeming quality that it has and some role for it to play in advancing Klal Yisrael (Why do I sound like I am channeling Gandalf the Grey talking about Gollum?)   "Li v'lo lo" means the geulah is not for the pretend "lo," the alter-ego of evil. “Ilu haya sham,” if that neshoma really was where it tries to pretend it is, in those unholy places, then it wouldn’t be sitting with us at a seder asking silly questions.  “Ilu haya sham,” as we once explained before, the word “sham” is the same root/idea as “shemama,” destruction (“Sham yashavnu gam bachinu…,” also think of Yosef in the pit, “Vayehi sham b’beis ha’sohar) – if that neshoma indeed was destroyed, desolate, as lost as it pretends to be, “lo haya nigal,” it would never have experienced the geulah that it obviously did at some point otherwise what would it be doing here?  That’s the “hakeh es shinav.”  What drives the rasha crazy is not threats, not condemnations, not telling him that he is lost, but rather just the opposite – telling him that as much as he tries, he can never really lose himself as much as he wants.  Lo yidach m’menu nidach.

It's derush, but so what?  There can be truth to it anyway.

Have a great Pesach!

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