השתא עבדי לשנה הבאה בני חורין.
“This year we are enslaved; the coming year we shall be free.” (Haggadah shel Pesach)
There are unfortunately many Jews who have thrown off the yoke of Torah and mitzvos and do as they please, disregarding Hashem’s laws and commandments. The Yiddish term for irreligious Jew is “frei’eh Yid,” which literally means “free Jew.” The secular Jew considers himself free of the Torah which governs a Jew’s life and guides him at every moment of the day.
In truth, however, these Jews are not at all free. Deep inside their hearts, they yearn for closeness with Hashem. There is a gaping void in their lives, and most of them know it and feel it. If they were to be honest with themselves they would readily declare that they would have liked to become observant. If so, why don’t they become frum? “Because we can’t!” they’d say. “It’s too difficult, too overwhelming. We just can’t.”
These unfortunate souls are not free. They are enslaved to their ignorance and to the yetzer hara. They are not free to do what they truly desire.
At some level or other, all Jews are enslaved to the yetzer hara while in galus. We all have our weaknesses, and we all face situations in which we cannot free ourselves of outside pressure in order to do what we know is right, and what we truly want.
Pesach is the Yom Tov of freedom. On this holy night we can merit spiritual freedom! This year we are enslaved to the yetzer hara, but on Pesach we will be free at last to do what our souls truly want, what our hearts truly desire – serving Hashem!
ויושע ה' ביום ההוא את ישראל מיד מצרים. ויאמינו בה' ובמשה עבדו.
“And Hashem helped the Jewish people on that day, delivering them from the hands of Egypt… and they believed in Hashem and in His servant Moshe. Then Moshe will sing…” (Shemos 14:15)
Why does the verse make special mention that Hashem helped the Jewish people “on that day”? What other day could the verse refer to?
The Torah tells us that the Jewish people believed in Hashem. After witnessing such an open display of Hashem’s might as the splitting of the sea, the Jewish people could have no doubts about His existence and power. If so, what was there to believe? Belief is defined as the mind’s opinion of something abstract or unproven, but it is not used when there is no room for doubt. For example, if a person promises his friend to return a borrowed item, the friend may believe him. When the item is being returned, the friend no longer believes that he will get it; he is certain of it. So why does the verse tell us that the Jewish people believed in Hashem after witnessing the splitting of the sea, when the entire world was in awe of Hashem’s power and stood quaking before His might?
Another obvious question, which Chazal ask, is about the use of the future-tense words oz yashir - then [Moshe] will sing. The Torah continues with the song of praise that Moshe and the Jewish people sang at the shores of the Red Sea, so it appears that the verse should have used the words, “and then [Moshe] sang.”
These questions could be explained as follows: There are times when Hashem runs the world in a hidden fashion, as the Torah says, “And I will hide My face on that day.” (Devarim 31:18) There are times, such as the times we live in, when Hashem chooses to conceal His presence and the world is plunged into darkness. The Jewish people are suffering terribly, yet we cling to our belief in Hashem despite everything.
Our emunah (faith) has withstood our people throughout the ages. Mighty empires have crumbled and disintegrated, but the Jewish people live on, despite the torture we’ve been through, despite the pogroms and spiritual assaults we’ve faced in every generation. This is the power of our faith!
The verse we’ve mentioned before is telling us what our rock-solid faith will accomplish: “And Hashem helped the Jewish people on that day.” This refers to the times when Hashem’s presence will be concealed. “And they believed in Hashem.” Even on that day, when Hashem’s Face will be hidden, the Jewish people will not lose their faith. In this merit they will be able to sing a new song of praise to Hashem when Moshiach will come, hence the use of the future-tense words “will sing.”
In the merit of our emunah even in times of darkness, we will live to see the final geulah, may it be speedily in our days!