Once again, we have arrived at one of my favorite times of the year, Pesach! Tonight at the Seder, we will once again read through the Hagadah and tell the story of how Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim.
A well-known and popular part of the Hagadah is the paragraph/song, “V’hi Sheamda.” In this paragraph, we thank Hashem for saving us from the enemies that have stood before us in each and every generation. We recite it with a purpose and an appreciation to Hashem for constantly and consistently saving us from our enemies.
However, it does seem strange to sing this paragraph in joyous song. It begins, “שֶׁלֹּא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד עָמַד עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ, אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר עוֹמְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ” “It has not only been one (nation) that has stood against us to destroy us, rather, in every generation they stand against us to destroy us...” Why would we sing about people coming to destroy us? We should only sing the end of the paragraph when we say, “וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם” “And Hashem saves us from their hands.”
Perhaps you could answer that the fact that Hashem saves us is the reason we are singing! Therefore, part of the joy we feel is in mentioning that He saves us in every single generation from people who want to completely destroy us. So we sing the entire paragraph in order to focus on this great blessing we have to be Hashem’s children.
To this, I would respond that even when Hashem saves us, we still take tremendous losses. Look at the Inquisition, look at the decrees of Tach V’Tat, look at the Holocaust; even though Hashem saved us, how can we forget all the terrible things that happened? (Not that we are suggesting not to sing because we blame Hashem, rather, that we should only sing at the mention of His saving us, not when we mention the terrible hardships our People has faced over the years.)
In order to answer, let’s use a mashal. A poor man works for many years saving money, and finally saves up enough to buy a house. But what kind of house can a poor man buy! The shutters are broken, the floorboards are cracked, the windows hang loose in their frames, the paint is peeled off inside and out; it’s little more than a shack, but it’s his!
On the first night they stay in the house, the poor man and his wife hear a robber breaking in. He quickly gets out of bed and chases him away. The next night, the same thing happens; they hear a robber breaking into the house, get out of bed, and chase him away. The same thing happens every night for a week. The poor man cries, “What could they possibly want in this house! Can’t they see how dilapidated it is? Who would think there is anything to steal here?”
They come to the realization that the only explanation is there must be a treasure hidden in the walls of the house. That could be why people keep trying to break in. They search, and find an amazing treasure hidden in the walls of the house.
Explains the Chazon Ish, the Jewish People make up only a small percentage of the billions of people in the world, yet, they are on the forefront of everyone’s mind. Why is this? Why does such a small percentage of the world make up the biggest percentage of the world’s headaches? The answer is that they recognize that we possess a treasure to rival all treasures. We possess something that no one else has. Therefore, they constantly occupy themselves with us, trying in some way to access our treasure. But, usually, they don’t do it in a polite way.
This is the reason why we sing the entire paragraph of V’hi Sheamda, even the part about how the nations attempt to destroy us. The fact that the nations have attempted in every single generation to come after us shows that we still possess this amazing treasure, even until this very day! The fact that they persecute us is testimony to the specialness we possess. We may not want to be killed, but we should recognize that these trials and tribulations only come as a result of our greatness. We declare this fact proudly, and sing the entire paragraph, even the part that discusses our troubles.
There are so many little ideas brought in the Hagadah that make it a fascinating book to learn in depth. This year, when we read V’hi Sheamda, let’s take a moment to think about what we are saying. We acknowledge the fact that our people have had a hard history, we thank Hashem for continuously saving us time and time again, and we declare proudly, in full song, that there is no nation like us. There is no other nation that possesses the ultimate treasure, the one we received when we left Mitzrayim, the label of being Hashem’s children.
Chag Kosher V’Sameach!
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