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Divrei Yoel Pesach

1. The seder night is divided into 15 steps, which are listed at the beginning of most haggados. The commentators tell us something compelling regarding this enumeration of events. The number 15 is related to something very special: the 15 Shir Hamaalos in Tehillim. In the Beis Hamikdash, the Kohanim would stand on the 15 steps and sing the 15 Shir Hamaalos. Hence, we learn that the Pesach seder is a reflection of these special songs of praise to Hashem.

We see from many places in the Torah that as Jews, we have a responsibility to praise and laud our all-merciful, all-powerful Father in heaven. However, we must understand the proper way to go about this. In Meseches Berachos, we learn of some seemingly innocuous praises a person might offer to Hashem, which in truth are improper and should not be recited, for example, one who says, "We give thanks, we give thanks," since, by his repetition, he implies that he is addressing two divinities, chas v'shalom. We need the light and guidance of the tzadikim to truly know how to praise Hashem properly. One of our greatest instruments to achieving this genuine level of praise is Sefer Tehillim, Dovid Hamelech's magnum opus of praise and prayer toward Hashem. Sefer Tehillim is all-encompassing: for every stage in a person's life there is an apropos chapter of Tehillim; for every Shabbos, for every Yom Tov, and indeed, for every day, there is a chapter in Tehillim to guide us and enlighten the path. The Satmar Rebbe, ZY"A, throughout Divrei Yoel, expresses this idea, emphasizing the great importance of tefillah in our lives.

As we approach this awesomely holy night, the night of redemption, the seder night, we would be remiss not to reflect on the true meaning of praise and how we can hold fast to the genuine praise even in the dark galus in which we now find ourselves. The seder night can be understood, in a sense, as an ultimate expression of praise. On the night of the seder, we combine many different types of divine service into a single awe-inspiring event: the Pesach seder. We combine learning Torah, tefillah, chesed, joy, remembering the pain of Egyptian bondage, physical restraint, physical indulgence, and many other aspects all together to form a magnificent blend. All these facets of avodas Hashem, in fact, form one thing: praise. Praise of Hashem is what comes forth from this night.

The Torah tells us, "And you shall tell your son on that day saying: it is because of this that Hashem did for me when I left Egypt." We have received a precious and priceless heritage from our elders. They have taught us the true meaning of praise. They lived their lives as lives of praise. Through their guidance, we learn how to properly rejoice in Hashem's salvations.

A point that should be brought out in connection with this is what Chazal tell us about the Yomim Tovim: at Yom Tov time, the power of the miracles that we are commemorating is regenerated. Moreover, not only are the miraculous aspects regenerated, but also the more frightening ones.

When the Jewish people left Egypt with great miracles, there were those angels in heaven who argued that the Jewish people were not deserving of the special divine favor they were shown, reasoning "halalu ovdei avodah zarah, v'halalu ovdei avodah zara [these (the Egyptians) are worshipers of idols, and these (the Jewish People) are worshipers of idols]. This aspect of prosecution resurfaces again every Pesach season. We, as the Jewish people, must prove that we are different from the idolaters through our dedication to the Torah and the mitzvos. Perhaps this difference is most noticeable on Pesach when we sit down to the seder and praise Hashem. We give thanks to Hashem for the miracles he performed for us, and we do so in a genuine and holy way.

There is, unfortunately, another type of "praise" and celebration, which is the complete antithesis of what takes place on the seder night. This type of celebration is the celebration of avodah zarah. This can be clearly seen today in the celebration of the nationalistic Zionists, who celebrate by waving the flag of the Zionist state and brandishing their weapons. This is a complete distortion of the Torah's concept of joy. This is a heretical celebration, and, far from distinguishing us from the non-Jewish idol worshipers, closes the gap between them and us, making us subject, chas v' shalom, to prosecution by the angels in shamayim.

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At the seder, we recite the Hallel for the many, many miracles Hashem performed for us during the exodus from Egypt. We must understand the greatness in this. Chazal tell us that when we recite the praises of Hashem here on earth, this is more cherished than the praise of the fiery, heavenly angels! Perhaps because this concept is so cherished by Hashem and holier than we can possibly comprehend, it is subject to contamination, chas v' shalom, by the forces of evil. Instead of listening to our holy sages and teachers, the Zionists decided to take this wondrous expression of praise, Hallel, and disgrace it by reciting it on their "Independence Day." Some people even go so far as to make the beracha with Hashem's name, thereby reciting Hashem's name in vain, R"L. This is a complete distortion of the meaning of praise to Hashem! The Satmar Rebbe, ZY"A, said that to celebrate the Israeli Independence Day is much, much worse than idolatry since one is rejoicing and showing delight in this terrible aveirah.

This terrible desecration is usually compounded by the fact that it is celebrated at the Kosel, the last remaining remnant of the Beis Hamikdash, which the Zionists have desecrated by using it as a symbol of nationalistic pride and flying the Zionist flag over the area. All these things cause a terrible desecration of Hashem's Holy Name and the Holy Land. Let us distance ourselves from the heretics and rejoice only in Hashem's true salvation. May Hashem forgive all those who falter, and may we all merit seeing and understanding the truth with the true and final redemption!

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In connection with this, we can learn a very interesting point from a widespread custom practiced during this month. Beginning with Rosh Chodesh Nissan, some people have the daily custom to read the nasi corresponding to that day from the parasha of the nesi'im; so on the first of Nissan, they read about the first nasi mentioned, the nasi of the tribe of Yehudah, on the second of Nissan, about the second nasi, etc. R' Nachman of Breslov teaches that if a person is having difficulty finding a spouse, he should recite the parasha of the nesi'im each day. Why? He explains that from shamayim, the twelve princes of Yishmael prosecute a Jew who is attempting to get married and hence cause difficulty in this process. We understand that Nissan is a time of tremendous spiritual turmoil. The forces of purity and the forces of impurity are locked in a bitter struggle, and below on earth, we attempt to fight alongside the forces of purity.

By properly observing this month, we learn that the influence of Yishmael will be overcome not through our physical power, and certainly not through an "Israeli army", but rather through our unswerving commitment to Torah and mitzvos. When we fight the yetzer hara with all our might and cry out to Hashem in tefillah, we will be saved from the forces of Yishmael, and even the Yishmael here on Earth will be defeated with the coming of Moshiach.

We must remember what we are told in the Zohar that Yishmael is given a foothold in Eretz Yisroel because he accepted bris milah, and when this merit runs out, they will no longer be able to stay in Eretz Yisroel. Now, although the bris milah of Yishmael is not performed according to halachah, they still have this portion in Eretz Yisroel and have had this foothold for many, many years. We must take a lesson from this. If the reward for one mitzvah, performed improperly, is so great, how magnificent will be our reward and portion in Eretz Yisroel for performing many more mitzvos properly? However, if we try to force the end of the exile and take back Eretz Yisroel before Moshiach comes and Hashem takes us back to our land, then Yishmael will only grow stronger, as we have seen happen in our days, R"L.

On the seder night, different customs are observed to indicate our eagerness to be redeemed (e.g., we do not take off our shoes during any part of the seder). However, we stay inside our homes, sit at the table, and conduct a seder, praising Hashem. We do not take any action to try to redeem ourselves. We show that our faith is only in Hashem that, just as he redeemed us from bondage in Eygpt, He will redeem us again with a strong hand and an outstretched arm from the present exile in which we live. We must learn the lesson of the seder night and publicly show our faith that Hashem is our only redeemer, and we will not attempt to end the galus before the time desired by Hashem, our One King.

If we remain firm and do not join with the evil people who established a state in Eretz Yisroel, thereby antagonizing the nations, and instead, we stand with an unwavering commitment to Hashem, then we will be safe, and we will be amongst those who hasten the true redemption. May we merit witnessing this great day soon!

2. Chazal tell us that twice a day Paroh would bathe in the blood of Jewish children to "heal" his skin ailment. The Satmar Rebbe, ZY"A, in Divrei Yoel explains this to mean that Paroh drew the Jews into engaging in immoral behavior, which is compared by the Gemara to bloodshed. This was a major goal of Paroh, for he knew that if he were to accomplish this, he would completely undermine the entire Jewish nation. This would be their downfall, and Paroh would, chas v'shalom, have them in his grasp. In fact, Chazal tell us that the Jewish people were redeemed from Mitzrayim in the merit of the modest, righteous women. Hence, we see that our distancing from immorality merits redemption.

This stands in stark contrast to Zionism, which encourages immorality and depravity. This should be one of the biggest warning signs that Zionism cannot and will not bring any type of a geulah. The Zionist leaders are more reminiscent of Paroh, who tried with all his might to keep the Jewish people enslaved, than they are of saviors. The immorality that Zionism promotes and glorifies is a hallmark of slavery. On Pesach night, we thank Hashem for all the miracles he performed for us in Mitzrayim, and we pray for the future redemption. Anyone with open eyes, who looks to the Torah for guidance, can clearly see that true and everlasting redemption will come only from Hashem Himself and not, chas v'shalom, from an evil, un-G-dly source.

As we sit at the seder, let us ponder our status as the children of Hashem. We do not place our trust in human beings. They cannot bring us true geulah. Let us wait patiently for the true and final redemption, which will only take place through Hashem Himself when Moshiach comes. May that day be soon!

3. The Satmar Rebbe, ZY"A, discusses how Paroh attempted to lower the souls of the Jewish People and infuse impurity into them. The Rebbe explains that the Egyptian taskmasters would force the Jews to perform all 39 Melachos on Shabbos. The Rebbe brings from the Rambam ( in Moreh Nevuchim) that the purpose of every mitzvah is to distance us from idolatry. Every mitzvah brings kedushah upon us, while every aveirah a person commits, R"L, brings tumah upon him. The heathens want to bring as much impurity upon themselves as possible, so the idolaters used to violate as many mitzvos as possible in order to acheive this end. Paroh hoped to bring impurity upon the Jewish People by forcing them to violate Shabbos. (Divrei Yoel III, 26)

Today, we can see clearly how the heretics in the world definitely seem to have at least a subconscious drive to draw tumah upon themselves. They establish official institutions to teach, support, and disseminate heresy. These terrible forces are very prevalent today, and we must work to protect ourselves and all those around us from them.

Even worse, is that the heretics are so saturated with this impurity that they are not satisfied keeping it to themselves; rather they attempt to inject this poison into everyone they can and to turn the masses against the Torah-true, G-d-fearing Jews. This contamination has spread so far that many aspects of the Zionist ideology and regime have become accepted in large parts of the Jewish world. Examples of this include the prevalent acceptance of the Zionist Independence Day, which will often appear as a noted day in calendars produced by otherwise ehrliche Yidden, and the widespread acceptance of modern Hebrew. Even in large parts of the civilized world, Zionist propaganda is accepted, with many people believing that the State of Israel is a democracy and a safe-haven for Jews. The truth is, however, that one of the most difficult places in the world for a religious Jew to live is the State of Israel due to the harsh governmental oppression faced by anyone who wants to live a Torah lifestyle there.

In truth, we must distance ourselves from this impurity and follow the guidance of our tzadikkim. The Rebbe states here in Divrei Yoel that Shabbos is the exact opposite of impurity, drawing kedushah and taharah upon all who observe it properly. Perhaps this could apply to the first day of Pesach as well, which is called "Shabbos" by the Torah. May we merit drawing kedushah upon ourselves and separating from tumah. Amein!

4. The Satmar Rebbe, ZY"A, in Divrei Yoel (Chanukah, p. 24) explains that while a person is in the midst of a difficult situation, he should avoid talking about it since this will only cause his pain to be greater. After the trouble has passed, then, he can look back upon that troublesome period of his life and give thanks to Hashem for redeeming him. This is why on seder night we first eat matzah, reliving Yetzias Mitzrayim, and then we can look back on the troubles of the oppression in Egypt and thank Hashem properly for redeeming us.

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In light of this, it is ironic, indeed, to see how the Zionists have established their own "holidays" celebrating so-called "redemptions," when, not only did these celebrated events often not deliver us from troubles, but they also usually brought more misfortune upon the heads of the Jewish People, R"L. Zionists most definitely did not understand the essence of a true Jewish holiday.

5. Throughout Divrei Yoel and Kuntres Chidusei Torah v' Derashos, the Satmar Rebbe, ZY"A, often mentions the need for us to be prepared for Moshiach. The Rebbe explains that if we follow the genuine Torah path, in the way of our forefathers, we will be successful, and when Moshiach comes, he will point out all those who followed the proper Torah path. These people will be "showcased" as those that helped to bring Moshiach; however, for those who delayed the coming of Moshiach with their sins, there will be much shame.

Perhaps, this can shed some light on the well-known custom of opening the door at "shfoch chamascha" during the seder. One of the reasons for this practice is to show that this night is a "leil shimurim," a night guarded by Hashem, on which we do not have to fear. So, perhaps, the message here is that on this special night we get a small taste of the time when Moshiach will come and all will be able to see that it was the Torah-true Jews in whose merit Moshiach arrived. It will be evident to all that those who had no fear, only faith, during galus merited being the ones honored with the coming of Moshiach for which we pray when we open the door, "May the Merciful One send us Eliyahu Hanavi...."