Tzei Ullmad – Our Special Relationship with Hashem
by Rabbi Menachem Nissel
The Haggada’s choice of the words “Tzei Ulmad”, – “go out and learn (from the story of Lavan pursuing Yaakov)” seems strange. Why not just say learn from the story of Lavan, why do I have to “go out” in order to learn?
The Vilna Gaon explains that it is impossible to understand the events in this story without going outside of your personal perspective. On the surface, Lavan seems like your friendly sort of father-in-law. He is concerned for Yaakov, is hurt that he left without saying good-bye, and misses his daughters and grandchildren.
Only if you step outside of the story, can you see Lavan’s true intentions. Lavan wanted to totally destroy Yaakov’s household. Hashem came to Lavan in a dream and warned him not to hurt Yaakov. With this “inside scoop” we can now see that Lavan is worse than Pharaoh, who only wanted to destroy the males. And we see a powerful example of how Hashem constantly protects us behind the scenes.
This segues nicely with another idea of the Vilna Gaon on the siddur. We say at the end of the first bracha of Shemoneh Esrei “melech, ozer, umoshia umagen”, “the King, the Helper, the Savior and Shield”. The King watches over you on three levels. First, you try your best and He helps you. On the second level, you are helpless and He saves you. On the highest level He protects you behind the scenes without your realizing it. This level is called “magen” – shield. Only by stepping outside of what is happening can you see this level of Divine protection.
The first bracha of the Shemoneh Esrei represents the essence of the relationship between Klall Yisrael and Hashem. It climaxes and is summarized with the words “magen Avraham”. Avraham dedicates his life to Hashem and Hashem constantly works behind the scenes – even when He seems hidden – to protect Avraham.
On seder night we reconnect to this special relationship with Hashem. And it can be understood through the word “Tzei”. Perhaps these two ideas of the Vilna Gaon are alluded to by the use of the word “Tzei”. The gematria of “Tzei” is 91. When you add the two letters (a valid gematria method known as “kollel”) you get 93, which is the gematria of the word “Magen”.
Too often we feel lonely and sometimes abandoned by Hashem. Our lives are filled with stresses and challenges and Hashem seems distant. On seder night we are challenged to step out of our self imposed boxes and make an effort to observe hashgachah pratis. Then we see Hashem is everywhere. And even in our darkest moments he has been there all along, lovingly nurturing and protecting us.
Chag Kosher V’Sameach!