Tuesday, November 19, 2013

not a memory -- a reality

Usually when the Torah uses the word “zeh” it is referring to a specific item at hand, e.g. Rashi writes that when Moshe was told, “Hachodesh ha’zeh lachem,” Hashem showed him exactly what the new moon was supposed to look like.  What did Ya’akov mean when he said, “Ki b’makli avarti es hayarden ha’zeh” – how could he use the word “zeh,” this river, when he was standing nowhere near the Yarden?   
The Sefas Emes answers that Hashem’s chessed was so real to Ya’akov that even though he was not near the Yarden, in his mind’s eye it was as if he was there again.  It was not that he was remembering some event of the past; it was as if Hashem was doing it for him at that moment.

When I saw this Sefas Emes I immediately thought of “Mah nishtana ha’layla ha’zeh m’kol ha’laylos.”  On Pesach night the geulah is so real to us that it’s not like past history, it’s like we are experiencing it right then and there. 

I don’t blame my wife for not looking forward to Pesach yet.  She immediately thought of a closer holiday, namely our brachos on ner Chanukah, “she'asah nisim... bayamim ha’heim bz’man ha’zeh.”  Again, it’s not some distant memory that we are talking about, but it’s like we are there all over again.


  1. Moshe was able to say "zeh hadavar asher tzivah Hashem". Other nevi'im, "ko amar Hashem". And then at the nadir of hester panim we cry "eikhah" -- ei + koh -- even the koh eludes us. Clarity comes in a spectrum from "zeh" to "koh" to "eikah".

  2. Chaim and Micha- yeasher koach to both of you.
    Some people never get over slights and disappointments, and remembering them is like experiencing them anew. It is a nice mussar to learn to limit the "Proust's madeleine" experience to hakaras hatov. Though I have to admit that in my experience, and as the Mesilas Yesharim admits, revenge is much sweeter than hakaras hatov. In nature it's more true as well. The memory of nausea comes back with a force not experienced in remembering a pleasant experience. That's why aversion therapy works so well, not that either of you would have seen A Clockwork Orange.