Rabbi Aryeh Ginzburg
Anyone who had the opportunity to spend Pesach with their young children or grandchildren must have heard at least one delicious childish observation worth repeating.
My wife heard one such observation from Shua, our six-year-old grandson. At first, I thought of merely sharing this story with my mother, who would surely kvell from hearing such brilliance from her great-grandchild. Upon further reflection, however, I realized that what I initially characterized as a childish observation may not be all that different from the way many adults think.
Permit me to explain.
Our family spent Pesach together in Orlando, Florida, in a private home that was part of a large resort. The grandchildren enjoyed the facilities on the grounds, especially the water slide. One day of Chol Hamoed, my grandchildren visited their cousins at a different resort that featured a much larger water slide.
As Yom Tov was coming to a close, Shua expressed to my wife that while he had a very enjoyable Yom Tov, next Pesach he wants to go to the resort that his cousins were at because of their larger water slide. “Shua,” my wife countered, “next year Mashiach will be here and we will all be in Yerushalayim. Don’t you remember at the Seder we all sang, ‘Leshanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim?’”
Shua thought for a moment before saying, “I would rather go to the place with the big slide.”
“But Shua,” my wife persisted, “when Mashiach comes, we’re going to have the Beis Hamikdash again, and you’ll go with your Daddy and brothers to Yerushalayim to bring the Korban Pesach. It will be so exciting and beautiful!”
After a few moments of contemplative silence, he came up with a solution: “Maybe they’ll have a water slide in the Beis Hamikdash.”
What at first seemed like childlike innocence quickly turned around on Motzaei Yom Tov. A friend who had spent Pesach at one of the most luxurious Pesach programs texted me numerous pictures of the magnificent hotel and elegant buffet tables. When I asked him if he enjoyed Yom Tov, he responded, “It just doesn’t get better than this!”
The gemara (Shabbos 10a) tells us that one of the questions each of us will be asked in the Olam Ha’emes is: “Tzipisa l’yeshua — did you await the Geulah”? In all honesty, do we feel a sense of loss or disconnect because we do not have a Beis Hamikdash?
If a person truly feels, “It just doesn’t get better than this,” the galus mindset has become so deeply rooted in their subconscious that they no longer can feel that something is missing from their lives. And if we don’t feel anything missing, then how can we ever possibly experience a tzipiya l’yeshuah and await the Geulah?
It would be fitting that before we begin to sing “Leshana Haba’ah” at the Seder, we should take a moment to introspect and ask ourselves whether we truly want the Geulah, or do we actually feel that “it doesn’t really get better than this”? Would we rather have a water slide over the Beis Hamikdash?
This lesson was taught to the Yidden of Telshe by their beloved rav, Rav Yosef Leib Bloch ztz”l. When the Balfour declaration was publicized, Jews throughout Europe celebrated it as the beginning of the redemption. In Telshe they danced in the streets and made their way to Rav Bloch’s home so he could address this historic turn of events.
Rav Bloch stepped onto the porch of the second story of his home and addressed the celebratory crowd. There is a wise saying, he said, that if one celebrates something that is not real, it will lead to hopelessness and despair. While we are indeed overjoyed at this historic declaration, he continued, it is not the yeshuah that we have awaited so long, and since the rejoicing is premature, it will ultimately lead to despair.
In simple words, he was telling the townspeople that thinking that “it doesn’t get better than this” is indicative of a lack of awareness and appreciation of just how great it truly will be.
The Seder experience is meaningful, joyful, and hopefully inspiring — but most of what we do is only a zecher l’Mikdash, it’s only a reminder of what a true Yom Tov celebration in Klal Yisrael is meant to be.
The previous Klausenberger Rebbe ztz”l loved Eretz Yisrael with every fiber of his being, as evidenced by the large kehillah he developed in Netanya and the chassidim he left behind living throughout Eretz Yisrael. In his later years, he rarely visited the Kosel Hamaaravi. He once explained that while others rejoiced in seeing the remnant of the Beis Hamikdash that has survived for 2,000 years, he saw the pain of the Churban and how much we are missing today. While others celebrated at what we have left, he was pained by what we have lost. He explained that since he was old and frail, the pain of seeing the Bais Hamikdash bechurbanah was too much for him to bear.
Some make it their business to celebrate Yom Tov at the Kosel and feel that “it doesn’t get any better than this,” while others, like the Klausenberger Rebbe ztz”l, see so much more.
This Pesach, our community suffered a tragic loss with the passing of 51-year-old Reb Mordechai Kamin z”l, a wonderful husband and father to a beautiful family. At the shivah house, his wife Sarah shared an incredible story. He was home for the first Seder night, albeit in a much weakened condition. Several hours later, he was having difficulty breathing, and a decision was made to have Hatzolah transport him for what turned out to be his final trip to hospice. His wife, wanting to see if he was alert, asked him several questions. She asked him his name, his age, and his children’s names, and he was able to respond correctly. Then she asked him if he remembered the Seder, and he answered in the affirmative.
“Who was at the Seder?” she asked, expecting him to list the family members who were present.
Reb Mordechai was quiet for a few moments, and then said, “I saw Mashiach.” She called her daughter and repeated the question, and again he replied, “I saw Mashiach.”
Those were the last words that Reb Mordechai uttered. He was taken to the hospice and put under sedation, and he returned his holy neshamah to its Maker after his wife recited Hallel at his side at the conclusion of the second and final Seder together.
Now, I have absolutely no understanding of what Reb Mordechai was seeing or referring to, but let’s suffice with his wife’s description of him existing on a different plane, radiating such kedushah that he expressed seeing Mashiach at his Seder.
That is a Seder that one can describe with the words: “It doesn’t get better than this.”
It was no five-star venue, just a simple Seder in the presence of the Shechinah. But can it be any more special than that? Can a person leave behind a more elevated legacy for his family on their last evening together?
We hope to spend the upcoming Yom Tov of Shavuos in Yerushalayim, at the Beis Hamikdash. But if we are not able to do so, even as we celebrate what will iy”H be an inspiring Yom Tov, let us take a moment to reflect that without the Beis Hamikdash, a significant part of our celebration is sorely missing — and it’s not a water slide.
It is only by feeling that lack that we will be zocheh to once again have a Beis Hamikdash, and then we will be able to proclaim once and for all, “It doesn’t get better than this.” (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 659.)
Rabbi Aryeh Z. Ginzberg is the rav of the Chofetz Chaim Torah Center of Cedarhurst and the founding rav of Ohr Moshe Institute in Hillcrest, Queens. He is a published author of several sifrei halachah, and a frequent contributor to many magazines and newspapers, where he writes the Torah hashkafah on timely issues of the day. He is also a sought-after lecturer on Torah hashkafah at a variety of venues around the country. This article is l’zecher nishmas Sara Chaya bas Rav Aryeh Zev.