Tonight, the 10th of Nisan, marks the 6th Yahrtzeit of our unforgettable Rosh Yeshiva and Rebbe, HaGaon HaRav Alter Chanoch Henach HaKohein Leibowitz, zt’l, the late Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim. He was the guiding light of our Yeshiva for a quarter century and it is upon his shoulders that much of the growth of the South Florida Torah community rests.
One of the Rosh Yeshiva zt’l’s hallmark teachings was recognizing and harnessing the motivating power of man’s innate feelings of gratitude, Hakoras HaTov. As an illustration, the Rosh HaYeshiva pointed to Pharoah’s reaction to the Plague of Hail. In its aftermath, Pharoah said (Shemos 9:27): “This time I have sinned, Hashem is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones.” The Riva (one of the Baalei Tosafos) explains that for the first time, this seventh plague evoked the reaction within Pharoah that Hashem is right and not Pharoah, while the first six did not because this time Hashem showed kindness by warning the Egyptians about their possessions. Prior to the plague’s start Hashem had told them to move their cattle indoors for protection.
HaRav Leibowitz zt’l, asked how could it be that Pharoah’s sense of self preservation, the strongest instinct man has did not move him to realize his wickedness after experiencing the devastation of the first six plagues, and yet now the Plague of Hail did bring him to that realization? What happened this time to move him? The Riva is telling us Pharoah was moved by Hashem’s caring words and kindness. His warning to the Egyptians to protect their possessions showed caring and concern. This teaches us, the Rosh HaYeshiva states, that recognizing and appreciating kindness can be a greater motivator than concern for one’s own safety. Even a Pharoah, as cruel as he was, as unmoved by threats and destruction to him and his nation as he was, was influenced by Hashem’s kindness.
We must harness this power for ourselves. To bring ourselves closer to Hashem, we can awaken feelings of love for Him by contemplating the unending flow of kindness that Hashem showers upon us. At this momentous time of year, when we sit down to our Seder, and look around the table to see all the Bracha that Hashem has brought into our lives, we should immerse ourselves in feelings of gratitude to our creator. Focus on all the things He has blessed us with – health, children, parnosah, material possessions, spiritual accomplishments, intelligence and community, and we will truly re-experience Yetzias Mitzrayim as we and our children find ourselves drawn ever closer to Hakodosh Baruch Hu.
The legacy of HaRav Leibowitz zt’l, is his teachings. His words become ever more relevant with each passing year. His presence and influence in our lives gives us one more reason to be eternally grateful to Hashem for His kindness and love for us. Yehi Zichro Baruch.
Best wishes for a most meaningful, enjoyable Pesach,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann»