!אשר בחר בנו מכל עם

A young Bochur who came from a very poor home in Eastern Europe needed to go out to work to help support his family. The Bochur didn’t have an opportunity to learn in a Yeshiva and he grew up an ignoramus in Torah.

After several years he started becoming very successful in business. With the money he had he hired a teacher to teach him how to learn. Time passed, and this Yid lost his wealth. Although financially he was now at the same level as he was when he started off, spiritually he earned a great treasure that he didn’t lose; he mastered the ability to learn Torah.

On Pesach we aren’t primarily celebrating being freed from slavery, especially that we are currently in Galus. Even more so, Hashem brought us down to Mitzrayim in the first place.

Rather, Pesach is the greatness we gained from the whole ordeal – to become the Am Hanivchar to Hashem. What is a greater and sweeter ‘זכי than that?

The Maharal and many other Seforim explain that when Hashem struck the firstborn Egyptians, he elevated the Yidden to be a חלק אלוקי ממעל – one with Hashem.

The Ramban says that Pesach and Shavuos are like one long Yom Tov and the Sefira days in between are like Chol Hamoed.

Our being עם קדוש is of course tied with the Torah, but it’s not a result of doing the Mitzvos that make us connected to Hashem. It works the opposite way. Being connected to Hashem is our essence, it is who we are, our deepest identity, and we express this closeness through the Mitzvos. We bring out our connection from within through the commitment to Torah and Mitzvos.

This whole relationship started on Pesach and culminated on Shavuos. On Pesach, Hashem Himself descended to elevate us and take us as his holy nation. The Seforim explain that on Pesach Hashem picked up the Yidden and brought them to the highest level of closeness without being worthy of it. Then, after tasting the sweetness of Hashem, the Yidden needed to start counting Sefirah. The Sefirah is the work to come back to this level with their own Avodah and to bring the Ohr of the first day of Pesach to everyday life and bring it down to the Middos.

This repeats every year. Hashem elevates us again on Pesach every year to the highest level. Then we need to work to reach that Ohr through Avoda. On Shavuos we once again reach that level of closeness, but on a higher level since it came through our Avoda.

Just as Hashem shows boundless closeness to us, so too do we show it to Hashem. Every Yid prepares for the Seder with such dedication and conducts the Seder with an awe of the greatness of the night. Yidden from the whole world, even those who are very far from Yiddishkeit still have a connection to Pesach and to the Seder. Throughout all the generations Yidden have conducted the Seder with so much devotion, many times under much fear and sorrow and many times in hiding.

We are blessed that the Seder is just a few days away. May we be Zoche to connect to all the Kedushos and Oros of the Seder and be Zoche to conduct the Seder in Yerushalayim with the Kurban Pesach בב”א!