A Night of Words
It was the last Leil HaSeder in the home of Reb Shloime Bobover zt”l, and he was very ill and weak. Unlike past years when the Rebbe led the Seder in the presence of thousands of Chasidim, tonight the Rebbe sat in his wheel chair attached to feeding tubes with only his immediate family around him. The family sat nervously unsure of how the Rebbe would react. Not only did the situation not allow the Rebbe to be with his beloved Chassidim; he also had no ability to fulfill many of the mitzvos of the night.
When the Rebbe was wheeled into the dining room, his face was radiant from the great kedushah of the evening. He looked around and with a smile said, “Kinderlach, tonight, I won’t have the opportunity to be mikayim the mitzvah of matzah and maror. But I give great thanks to the Borai Olam that I have the ability to speak. Tonight I will have the merit to mikayim the special mitzvah of Sipur Yitzias Mitzrayim.”
On the night of Pesach we fulfill tens of mitzvos. But by far, the mitzvah that we are engaged in most is the mitzvah we do by speaking – the mitzvah of Sipur Yitzias Mitzrayim. It is about this mitzvah that the Haggadah informs us that one who talks at length about the Exodus earns the title of “mishubach,” praiseworthy.
Galus and Geulas Hapeh
The truth is that the name of the Yom Tov itself reveals to us that the mitzvah of speaking is its very essence. The Arizal tells us Pesach is a combination of the two words: “Peh” and “Sach” – the mouth speaks.
The Zohar HaKodesh writes that that there was a specific galus, exile, of our “mouths” and our “speaking” in Mitzrayim [as described below]. The geulah, redemption of Yitzias Mitzrayim that we commemorate this night is the freedom of our speech.
A Jew is required to feel as if he is presently leaving Mitzrayim. In order to do so, he must comprehend the meaning of galus hadibur. What is galus hadibur? And what is the feeling of geulas hadibur that we are experiencing on this night?
Our Daily Battle From Within
The Vilna Gaon in Mishlei [1:33] tells us something fascinating. We all know that a person is in a constant struggle. We are full of so many different wants and desires. Many of these desires are conflicting and they create the ongoing war between our Yetzer Tov and Yetzer Hara. But the Vilna Gaon tells us that in truth our own actions are the source of our desires. Since we create our desires, it is in our hands to change them.
The Gaon explains that every action that one does, a ruach, a spirit, is sent to him from Shamayim. This ruach generates a deep desire within the person to repeat that action again. This is the basis for the principles of mitzvah goreres mitzvah (good deeds produce more good deeds) and aveira goreres aveira (transgressions yield further transgressions) because the first mitzvah or aveira produces an inner craving to replicate it. The bigger the mitzvah or aveira, the greater the thirst to do it again.
The Effect of Our Speech
Even though a ruach is created through every action, this spirit is much stronger when it comes to speech. The Gaon says speaking creates a desire that has such a great force, it is comparable to a gushing spring. The understanding of this is because the greatest mitzvah is Talmud Torah. Each time a person learns Torah he creates a ruach that gives him a deep thirst to learn more. And the more a person quenches that thirst through learning Torah, the stronger the drive he creates to continue learning.
But on the side of tumah (impurity), there are divorim bitailim, wasted words and leitzanus, laziness. Every time a person speaks frivolous words, he creates a tremendous drive from within to continue. Excessive meaningless talk creates an ongoing desire, almost an addiction to hallow speech.
The definition of a slave is one whose actions are controlled and motivated by an outside force. A slave has no personal interest in what he does. His work is just a means to free himself temporarily from his oppressive master.
But someone doesn’t have to be controlled physically to be called a slave. When someone has no intellectual interest to perform a certain action and does so only to calm an inner desire, he or she is enslaved to that impulse.
The destructive power of divorim bitailim is that it can entrap a person in an unproductive world. It creates a desire towards nothingness within a person. Instead of a person feeling motivated to speak productive words, he feels obsessed to express words that are void of meaning. His mind tells him that his talk is pointless but he feels painfully forced to serve his impulses and continue in his ways. This trend is the sad state of galus hadibur. The person is a slave to a force that sits within him, and each time he relaxes by giving into his desires, he feeds a cycle of inner oppression.
[It’s worth noting that Hagaon Rav Aharon Feldman Shlit”a recently urged hundreds of rabbaim to educate their talmidim about the topic of divorim bitailim during a major address at the Torah Umesorah Convention. He explained that in today’s technological world, people are communicating in many new ways. While in the past one had to make a phone call to speak to a friend, today one can text, email, or tweet to connect with many people at one time. The easy accessibility to communicate brought with it a whole new world of divorim bitailim. People are sending and receiving tens if not hundreds of messages daily that can consist of senseless sentences. It can be a simple joke or an empty chat. What people don’t understand is that a seemingly harmless bunch of words is actually pernicious. All these messages create a ruach within the person that triggers a wellspring of desire towards nothingness and cannot cultivate a desire for Torah and mitzvos.]
A truly free man is one whose actions are not only a demonstration of his belief, but are also an expression of his deepest desire and will. A person who has a desire towards Torah and mitzvos lives a life of constant pleasure and joy, because he’s forever fulfilling his holy desires. There is no conflict in such a man, his desires and his obligations are the same.
The tremendous power a person creates by speaking divorim kedoshim and especially by learning Torah, produces a liberating effect since they intrinsically build an internal desire for kedushah. The big masmidim we witness in every generation enjoy constant pleasure in fulfilling their deepest desires.
A Night of Geulas Hadibur
Pesach night is a night of liberating our speech and the Torah teaches us how to do so. We have to create within ourselves a ruach that desires to talk more and more about Hashem and His nissim. And the instructions to do so are ….to talk about Hashem and his nissim more and more! We are taught to do this all night long! The instructions are easy and straightforward. The more we talk, the bigger of a ruach shel kedushah we create within ourselves. The bigger the ruach, the greater the drive and desire to continue doing the mitzvah. The bigger the drive and desire we have toward the mitzvah, the bigger pleasure we will have in performing it.
The Haggadah even treats us with live examples of great Tanaim who earned their geulas hadibur. We get glimpses of the tremendous ruach they created within themselves. We are told of the yearning of Reb Eliezer ben Azarya who says his entire life he longed to have a mitzvah to speak about Yitzias Mitzrayim at night. And then we are told the amazing story of the six great Tanaim who expressed their deepest love and joy through Sipur Yitzias Mitzrayim until their talmidim informed them it was morning!
These are the instructions of the geulas hadibur for this night, and it’s the guide for geulas hadibur all year long.
Teaching the Power of Speech to Our Children
Hagaon Rav Aharon Feldman Shlit”a said the power and consequences of our talk is something that has to be taught to our children. A parent has the ability to impress upon a child that words have a real effect on a person, and it’s in their hands to create worlds by choosing to talk or to be silent.
R’ Yisroel Besser related the following amazing story. Reb Yakov Elya Unsdorfer is one of the prominent and beloved rabbanim in Montreal. When he was a young child he r”l had a rare throat condition that the doctors predicted would soon result in losing the ability to speak. Mrs. Unsdorfer tried to conceal her nervousness, but the boy perceived the gravity of the situation. There was a ray of hope – there was one top specialist they still hadn’t visited. They scheduled an appointment for a Friday morning. This doctor gave strict instructions that the boy must stop speaking several days beforehand. Day after day the child was silent not uttering a sound. His mother longed to hear his voice raised in laughter, his father yearned to hear him ask a good kushya in learning.
A few days later both parents accompanied their son to this doctor, their lips whispering the words of Tehillim as they davened for a hopeful diagnosis.
After examining little Yakov Elya’s throat, the doctor turned to his parents and smiled, “He will be OK, I assure you there is no danger at all.”He prescribed some medications and sent them on their way.
As they joyfully stepped out into the bright sunshine, the young child looked up at his parents and motioned to his mouth, as if asking them if he can speak now. His father placed his hand on his shoulder and said, “Yakov Elya, today is Erev Shabbos. Tonight we will go to shul for Mincha and the first thing we will say will be the words, ‘Hodu L’Hashem Ki Tov.’ I want you to try to hold back from speaking just a few more hours until then. Then you will open your mouth and cry out your first words, ‘Hodu L’Hashem Ki Tov.’”
Rabbi Akiva Klein is a rebbe in Mesivta Bais Aron Tzvi Veretzky in Brooklyn, NY. Please send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org