By Boruch Merkur
The Jewish people emerged from Egypt like a newborn baby. And just like a
birthday is observed with celebration and joy, praising G-d for the miracle of
birth, Pesach, being the birthday of the Jewish nation, shares in this spirit.
One of the main themes of Pesach is the birth of the Jewish
nation, as it is written, "[G-d took] for Himself a nation from the midst of
[another] nation." At the time of the exodus, the Jewish people emerged from
Egypt like a newborn baby. And just like a birthday is observed with celebration
and joy, praising G-d for the miracle of birth, Pesach, being the birthday of
the Jewish nation, shares in this spirit.
The joy of birth is manifold. First off, there is the joy of
the parents, who are even obligated to say a blessing on account of the good
news. Also, it is a joyous event for the Jewish community at large, for another
Jewish soul has joined them. And especially since each additional birth draws
the Redemption closer, as the Sages say: Moshiach will only come when all of the
souls have left the Treasury of Souls in Heaven. Of course, there is also the
joy of the person himself, who was granted the gift of life at birth.
But, on the other hand, there seems to be room to argue that
a birthday is not a joyous event at all, but on the contrary, the Talmud states:
"The Sages deliberated and concluded: it is more of a comfort to man had he not
been created," for, "in the beginning of his birth, it is not known what will
become of him in the end," and only if the person "is righteous is he worthy of
Furthermore, the stories in the Talmud (midrashei chazal)
that speak about celebrating a birthday are mentioned only with respect to the
righteous, and only after it had been confirmed that they were, in fact,
righteous, but not immediately at the moment of birth (with the exception, of
course, of Moshe Rabbeinu – see "Moshe Lives").
The Rebbe explains that these arguments still do not negate
the joy of a birthday. This is learned from the law concerning a bar
mitzva: "It is a mitzva for a man to make a feast on the day of his
bar mitzva just like the day that he is married." That is, despite the
fact that the person is now responsible for keeping the mitzvos, and he
is now subject to punishment should he fail to keep them, G-d forbid,
nevertheless, he is commanded to celebrate and rejoice.
The reason for this finds its roots in the principle, "all
Jews are presumed to be upstanding" – we are certain that the bar mitzva
boy will fulfill all of the mitzvos!
Accordingly, with regard to our actual day of birth, we
expect that every soul that descends to this world will succeed in fulfilling
its mission in serving G-d.
And regarding the statement, "it is more of a comfort to man
had he not been created," we are not saying that it is "better had he not
been created," but simply that it is "more of a comfort to man." It is
truly a lighter load of responsibilities and pressures to relax up in Heaven
when compared to the great struggle of life. But since the soul has come into
the world, the benefits are tremendous, and the soul has the opportunity of
being a true source of joy in the world.
Have a happy and kosher Pesach!