Sunday, May 14, 2017

It Gets No Better than This. But It’s Not So Bad Now!

Picture in an Ad for Pesach in Croatia 2017
I have no real problem with fancy Pesach vacations. They are not for me, however. For me Pesach is a time to spend with family and to have a traditional Seder at home – with my own family. This is what I have done as far back as I can remember.  Last year for the first time in my life, I spent Pesach in Israel. But that too was so that I could be with family. In that case, my son and his family. I had wonderful Seder last year. (The joy of the rest of Yom Tov was however interrupted by  the sudden loss of my brother which I had only heard about on the first night of Chol HaMoed.)

The point I’m trying to make is that I enjoy the traditional Peasch despite the hard work that goes into preparing for it for weeks in advance.

Why bring this up now? I bring it up in light of some Mussar on the subject by Rabbi Aryeh Z.  Ginzberg published in the latest issue of Mishpacha Magazine. I completely understand what he was trying to say. The gist of which is that people seem to have forgotten what we  hope for every Pesach when we say L’Shana HaBah B’yerushalyim – next year in Jerusalem.

These thoughts came upon him in response to a grandchild’s wish for a better version of a water slide he experienced at a resort his cousin had been staying at this Pesach. He believed his Pesach would be vastly improved if only next year he could spend at that resort.

Rabbi Ginsberg's wife  tried to convey the message to her six year old grandson that it was far more important to yearn for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash, so that we could experience the joy of sacrificing the Korban Pesach. The child in all his innocence responded that maybe they’ll have a water slide in the Beis Hamikdash.

I’m not sure how wise it is to try and sell the virtues of the Korban Pesach to a six year old. But I do understand trying to convey that message to his adult readers. H e then adds the kicker.  A friend of his who spent Peasch at a luxurious resort responded to a question about whether he enjoyed it with the following: ‘It doesn’t get better than this!”

It doesn’t get better than this?! Rabbi Ginzberg felt that if that is how one feels after spending Peasch at a resort, he questions whether any of us ever wait for final redemption with the arrival of Moshiach. One of the fundamentals of our faith is the following: Ani ma'amin b'emunah sh'leimah b'vias hamashiach, v'af al pi sh'yismameah, im kol zeh achakeh lo b'chol yom sheyavo” I believe with complete faith in the coming of Moshaich. And even though he tarries – with all of that, I wait for his coming every day.

That question was dealt with a few years ago by no less a rabbinic authority that Rav Ahron Leib Steinman. His answer was no. None of us do  wait for him anymore. Who today leads their lives in anticipation for the arrival of Moshiach every day?

Maybe the Choftetz Chaim did that. Legend has it that he had a bag packed and ready to go should Moshiach arrive. Is there anyone comparable to that today? Rav Steniman therefore eliminated the ‘waiting’ aspect from the fundamentals. We believe in his eventual coming. But we no longer wait for him every day. Rav Steinman is a realist. He understands human nature. We are busy with our lives. We hope he will come soon but we aren’t waiting for him to come every day.

Rabbi Ginzberg castigates an attitude that extols as the ultimate Pesach experience - attending a luxurious hotel. I agree that that going to a resort is not what Pesach is supposed to be all about. Which is why I tend to focus on family. Not personal pleasure.

But I have to wonder about Rabbi Ginzberg’s own sincerity about this when he begins this very rebuke by telling his readers that he spent Pesach at a house in a resort complex in Orlando. Isn’t he just as guilty as those he is rebuking? Perhaps the water slides at his house weren’t as big as the ones at the ones at his cousin’s house. But going to Florida for Pesach isn’t exactly the way to express ones yearning for Moshiach.

Now as I said at the outset, I have no problem with people doing that. If they enjoy spending Pesach at a resort, God bless them. People are entitled to spend Pesach wherever they choose. But to then castigate others for doing the same thing he does - only at better and more luxurious place seems incongruous if you ask me. Sure. It’s all about attitude. One can be at the most luxurious Pesach hotel in the history of mankind – as long they feel the lack of not having the Beis HaMikdash rebuilt. That is his message. It is the right message. But I do not think he should have been the one to give it from where he sat.