Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | April 15, 2019

Let My People Go!

Everyone knows that since the Exodus from Egypt a little more than 3300 years ago children ask their parents the Mah Nishtana, the Four Questions, at the Seder. In fact, the night is geared towards questions and children are encouraged to ask whatever they think of.

There’s another question that while not quite as old, is just as popular if not more so: “So where are you going for Pesach?” Apparently, ever since we left Egypt, there’s been some sort of Capistranoan instinct that makes Jews recreate the Exodus by leaving their homes to head for parents, in-laws, hotels, and exotic locales. While Sukkos has a corresponding behavior, we are actually commanded to leave our homes, but we often don’t stray far.

Nowadays when thousands migrate to Orlando and various other locations where the Chol Hamoed trips are easy to come by, it feels like relatively few people stay home. There are Pesach hotels with smorgasbords of food that make you forget you can’t eat chometz, shiurim that make it easy to learn while enjoying a cup of tea, a plate of fruit and some (I can’t believe it’s) shehakol cake, and concerts and entertainment that bring the circus and theater to you! So what’s it all about? Is this our idea of freedom?

For all the devoted men and women working feverishly to clean their homes, it may indeed seem like freedom to lock the doors, sell the chometz, rent the premises and enjoy Yom Tov. But that’s only a superficial liberty and the costs inherent in going away for Pesach may mean some long periods of indentured servitude to pay for it.

Not being one to break with tradition though, for a number of years my family has gone away for Pesach. Though in the early days my wife’s family went to hotels, these days we all get together at my in-laws’ to make Pesach and allow the cousins to enjoy each other’s company while providing plenty of grandparental nachas.

My job for the past few years is to go down early (waaaay down, in Florida laaand) and do the bulk shopping. Foil pans, produce, and various other items that need to be in the house so people can start cooking. This year, my exodus from the NY area took a few twists and turns which will lead us to the promised land of freedom I think we’re looking for.

Having checked in for my flight via e-mail, I got a notification that my flight was delayed. The flight from Newark was delayed from 7:25 to 10:15. I was struck with the inspiration to see if there was a different flight from the Westchester County airport and indeed there was! As I rode to the airport for that flight, I called a woman who had visited our home the day before and mentioned that she flew from there. Clearly it was meant to be so I might think about it. I therefore thanked her for being Hashem’s messenger. The Newark flight eventually did travel to Florida, at 4am the next morning.

While sitting and waiting for my flight in Westchester, a heavy fog descended on the area. The plane circled in the air and eventually was diverted to a different airport. However, another plane that was also circling managed to land. That was the flight to my destination scheduled for after mine. It seemed they would make it out relatively on time while we waited to hear what had become of our airplane when it landed in another state.

A throng of people rushed to the ticket counters to see if they could change to that other flight. I thought to myself, “I’ll call the airline. It’s enough hishtadlus – it won’t make any difference by going to the counter and waiting in line versus calling.” By the time the woman on the phone was able to “uncheck me in” all the seats on the next flight were taken (and the line was still pretty long.)

Eventually, my flight did make it to us, we took off about 2 and a half hours late, but the plane was pretty empty so we all had extra space. I got to sleep about 4:30 am and made it to Shacharis at 8. OK, so you’ve heard the whole chad gadya of my trip. What’s the point?

The point is that the entire time, I didn’t get upset, frustrated, or lose my cool. I smiled, was friendly, and was able to make a Kiddush Hashem with a number of people. I lent someone my phone charger, I shared information with others on what I’d heard from the airline, and when I was told there was no room for me I wished the people who made it on a safe and pleasant flight.

I said to myself, “The Jews didn’t leave Egypt one second before they were supposed to nor one second later. They left exactly when Hashem wanted them to leave and that’s when I’m going to leave too.” What we gained when we left Mitzrayim, the freedom we achieved, was: “Shalach Ami V’Yaavduni,” Send out My nation and they will serve Me.”

When our sights are focused on Hashem, and we understand that He is the real air-traffic controller, we will be free of worry, free of frustration, free to serve Him with all our hearts and enjoy the sweetness of Pesach and life.

Chag Kasher V’Sameach!

Mozes ordering let my people go out of Egypt. story of Jewish holiday Passover. vector illustration
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