What Will Happen on the Day After?

The world is still demanding answers. What will be the day after? When we finally defeat Hamas; when the hostages are safely home... What will happen afterwards?

The truth is that we don’t know. Or at least, I don’t know.

Perhaps there is some hidden file with a well thought out plan. Perhaps there are think tanks of the greatest military and political minds of our time who have already resolved all of these existential questions.

But here’s the great secret: We don’t need to know step two before we complete step one. This is true on a national level in Israel, as well as on a personal level in Avodas Hashem.

It is this lesson that captures the history and Avoda of Shabbos Hagadol and Pesach.

The Tur (אורח חיים ת״ל:א) explains:

שבת שלפני הפסח קורין אותו שבת הגדול והטעם לפי שנעשה בו נס גדול שפסח מצרים מקחו בעשור כדכתיב בעשור לחודש הזה ויקחו להם שה לבית אבות שה לבית ופסח שיצאו ישראל ממצרים היה ביום ה' כדאיתא בסדר עולם ונמצא שי' בחדש היה שבת ולקחו להם כל אחד שה לפסחו וקשר אותו בכרעי מטתו ושאלום המצריים למה זה לכם והשיבו לשחטו לשם פסח במצות השם עלינו והיו שיניהם קהות על ששוחטין את אלהיהן ולא היו רשאין לומר להם דבר ועל שם אותו הנס קורין אותו שבת הגדול:

The Shabbos before Pesach is called “Shabbos HaGadol” (The Great Shabbos). And the reason is because a miracle occurred during the Exodus from Egypt. On the 10th [they took a sheep] as it says: “On the tenth of this month you shall take for yourselves a sheep into your homes.” And the year that the Exodus took place was on a Thursday as we see in Seder Olam, and therefore the “10th of the month” was Shabbos, and on that Shabbos every Jew took a sheep as a Korban Pesach and tied it to their bedposts. And the Egyptians asked them “Why do you have a sheep – the Egyptian god – tied to your bed!?” And they responded: “To slaughter for a Pesach offering for HaShem.” And they got upset that they were going to slaughter their gods, but they could not say anything due to the miracle. And thus it is called Shabbos HaGadol.

The bravery of this moment cannot be overstated. By this point in the story, the only thing our ancestors knew was that the Korban Pesach was their ticket out. This was the way to prepare for leaving Egypt. They still did not know when exactly or how this might take place. But Moshe and Aharon were clear:

וְכָכָה תֹּאכְלוּ אֹתוֹ מׇתְנֵיכֶם חֲגֻרִים נַעֲלֵיכֶם בְּרַגְלֵיכֶם וּמַקֶּלְכֶם בְּיֶדְכֶם

This is how you shall eat the Pesach offering: your belts tied, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand.

Imagine the trepidation, the fear, the concern. On the one hand, Moshe had told them that any home without a Korban Pesach would be subject to the same fate as the Egyptians. But on the other hand, taking a sheep – the god of their tormentors – and publicly displaying your plans to slaughter and eat it?! That’s ludicrous and dangerous.

We can still hear those concerns and conversations, two friends at the back of some underground Shtiebel in Mitzrayim.

“Ok, of course Hashem is real. We’ve all seen the previous nine plagues. But does this all knowing, loving God really want us to risk our lives like this?”

“How do we know that Moshe is right about all the details? It was one thing when he was bringing plagues to Pharaoh... But now he wants us to get involved?”

“Yeah. And I don’t even have a first born child. Do you think I still need to risk my life here?“

“And where will we go afterwards? You really think that millions of Jews are going to be able to walk out of Egypt to some promised land?! I can barely get my kids to school on time. There’s no way we’re all getting out of here before they kill us.”

*“Maybe some of us will leave and eventually become Hashem’s nation... But let’s be honest with ourselves; you and me definitely don’t deserve to leave. With everything I’ve done in my life there’s no way God wants me in His nation...”*

“And if that’s the case, then our best bet is not to aggravate the Egyptians.”

All of these concerns center around the the same question: What will happen on the day after? And if we don’t know step-two, is step-one still worth it? We didn’t know then, and we don’t know now.

The courage to still take that first step is the Avoda of Shabbos Hagadol, Pesach and of this moment in Jewish history, as Rav Shlomo Twerski (מלכות שלמה – שבת הגדול) explains:

When a person chooses a goal for themselves, the first step is to decide what not to be. As a person grows, their end goals will grow and develop as well. Of course, without aiming for something, nothing can ever occur, but the beginning of the journey is always a rejection. It’s a decision that “I don’t want this.” Likewise, the Exodus begins with a rejection of the gods of Egypt. We still had no idea what to do afterwards, or what we might become, but there was one thing we knew: We would no longer live in service of the gods and ideals of Egypt.

Shabbos Hagadol is the obligation and invitation to walk away from the illusions that have defined our lives for the past years, decades and centuries. We do so even as we still don’t know what will happen next. All we know is that we can’t continue like this. It will never lead to fulfillment, safety, happiness or freedom.

In a very visceral way, this is the experience in our kitchens during the week before Pesach. We actively engage in getting rid of Chametz, even though there’s no matzah to eat... yet.

For the few days my kids have been steadily eying the Pesach snacks. And as the Chametz pantry dwindles to empty, in this world of slim pickings, even the heimishe knock-off purim leftovers are finally getting eaten. In the days before Pesach we’re in limbo; destroying our Chametz, but not quite ready for Pesach.

This gastronomic no-mans land exists on all levels. We’re escaping the lies despite not having all the answers.

Since October 7th, we have awakened to the reality that our in fighting and politicking were always meaningless and destructive. We have learned that our real enemies are always planning our demise. They mean what they say; and we should take them seriously. Despite commentary to the contrary, we learned that we have great friends amongst the nations of the world. But we have also learned the limits of those friendships.

On a personal level, we have learned that anti-semitism is just as real and just as ugly as ever. We have seen the moral bankruptcy of the most elite academic institutions. Through the pain of hatred, Jews around the world have awakened to the truth that there is no way to escape our destiny of being Hashem’s people.

What will be on the day after? What’s the next step? What is the future of American Jewry? What will happen in Israel? We don’t know. But Shabbos Hagadol gives us the strength to abandon the lies that have defined our lives until now.

Redemption is coming. Hashem is coming for me and for you. Despite what we have done, or what we haven’t; regardless of whether we think we deserve it or not. At this critical juncture in our lives, Hashem is not asking us to get everything right. All He is asking is for us to stand up and declare that we know what is wrong.

We have entered the darkness between exile and redemption and our next steps are still shrouded in mystery. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but we can finally see the false gods for what they are. And that’s enough for now.