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Passover Insights from Chabad

Passovering Time

In every generation, a person is obligated to see himself as if he himself has come out of Egypt.


The Baal Shem Tov would eat three festive meals on the last day of Passover. The third meal, which would be held toward the evening, was called "Moshiach's meal," because on the last day of Passover there is a revelation of the light of Moshiach.

- Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch

True freedom is freedom from limitation - whether external or internal, whether physical, psychological or spiritual. Mitzrayim, the Hebrew word for "Egypt," means "boundaries" and "constrictions"; yetziat mitzrayim, "going out of Egypt," is the endeavor to transcend limitation, to rise above all that inhibits the soul of man.

One of the most constricting elements of the human condition is the phenomenon of time. Time carries off the past and holds off the future, confining our lives to a temporal sliver of "present."

But on the first night of Passover, we break the bonds of time, having received a mandate to experience the Exodus "as if he himself has come out of Egypt."

We recall the Exodus in our minds, verbalize it in the telling of the Haggadah, digest it in the form of matzah and maror. As we Passover the centuries, memory - those faded remnants of past that generally constitute our only answer to the tyranny of time-becomes experience and history is made current and real.

Leap to the Future

Passover is an eight-day festival, with two opening and two closing days of heightened observance and commemoration. While the theme of freedom runs as a current throughout the festival, the first days of Passover focus primarily on the first redemption, our liberation from Egypt thirty-three centuries ago, while the last days highlight the final redemption, the future era of Divine goodness and perfection heralded by Mashiach.

Thus our transcendency of time enters a new, heightened phase: it is one thing to vitalize memory to the point of actual reexperience, but quite another to make real an event that lies in the future, especially an event that has no precedent or parallel in the history of man.

Yet in the closing hours of Passover, we enter into the world of Mashiach: having vaulted over millennia of past, we now surmount the blank wall of future, to taste the matzah and wine of redemption.

The First and Final Redemption

While the first night of Passover commemorates the redemption from exile in Egypt, the final day celebrates the future Redemption, which G-d will bring about through Moshiach.

The connection between the first and the last redemption is also gleaned from the verse: "As in the days when you left Egypt, I shall show you wonders [during the final Redemption]."

Our Rabbis ask: Why does the verse say "As in the days when you left Egypt," when the Exodus took place on one day, as the verse states: "Remember this day on which you left Egypt."

On the day the Jewish slaves left Egypt they achieved the status of free people. This transition, however, is an ongoing experience that requires constant meditation on the concepts of slavery and freedom. A person's ruminations must have a salutary effect on his daily conduct.

This is why spiritual redemption from all straits and limitations that constitute spiritual Egyptian exile is an ongoing process, notwithstanding the fact that the Jews' physical Exodus took only one day.

This is expressed by our Sages when they state: "In each and every generation and on each and every day, every man is obligated to see himself as if he had gone out from Egypt on that very day."

Man's viewing the Exodus from Egypt as a continuous process will lead to daily improvement in conduct as well - as befits a free man.

Both the first and the final redemption involve the liberation of all the Jewish people. Just as the Exodus encompassed the entire nation and resulted from the Jews' collective service, so will the future Redemption liberate all Jews from exile, and it too will result from our collective efforts.

This collective liberation and effort came about during the Exodus as a result of the effort of each Jew, who first liberated himself from his own spiritual exile.

And so with the final liberation: the efforts of each and every Jew in redeeming himself from spiritual exile will result in the collective redemption of all Jews from the final exile.

In practical terms, the lesson from the above is that each and every Jew is entrusted by G-d with a unique mission that he, and only he, is capable of accomplishing.

He cannot rely on someone else to fulfill that mission for him, for the other individual is entrusted with his own mission.

On the other hand, each person must also realize that he is part of a collective - the Jewish nation. His mission is thus of vital importance not only to himself but to all the Jewish people.

Fulfilling his mission as an individual thus helps the Jewish people fulfill their mission as a collective whole. Ultimately, each Jew's personal redemption from spiritual exile leads to the collective redemption of all Jews from the final exile.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. (Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXII pp. 258-263.)

Season of our Freedom

The festival of Passover is commonly referred to in our prayers as the "Season of our Freedom" and the "Festival of Matzot." These names relate to aspects of Passover that are germane at all times and in all places.

The other names of this holiday - "Passover" and the "springtime festival" - apply only to distinct times and places.

The name "Passover" is related to the Passover offering, which could be brought only when the Holy Temple stood; "springtime festival" refers only to the Northern Hemisphere, for in the Southern Hemisphere Passover occurs in the fall.

Understandably, the festival's message for the entire year can best be gleaned from those titles that apply at all times and in all places.

The term "Season of our Freedom" alludes to more than just the Jews' freedom from enslavement in Egypt thousands of years ago: it invokes the true freedom of each and every Jew in all times and places.

The ultimate purpose of the Exodus finds expression in the verse: "Upon your taking out the nation from Egypt they shall serve G-d on this mountain," i.e., the experience of receiving the Torah at Sinai. For the Jewish people could not be truly free of the physical bondage of Egypt until they were spiritually free as well.

Spiritual enslavement - the Hebrew word for Egypt being etymologically related to "straits and limitations" - can come about from without as well as from within.

A person may be enslaved to the mores of his society, or he may be a slave to his own passions. True freedom from this kind of enslavement can be achieved only through Torah and Mitzvot - "serving G-d on this mountain."

But what specifically is the freedom seeker to do? Herein comes the lesson of the festival's other name - the "Festival of Matzot."

The "Festival of Matzot" consists of two parts: the obligation to eat Matzah and the prohibition of eating chametz, leavened products.

The obligation to eat Matzah is limited to a specific amount at a specified time - a quantity the size of an olive must be eaten on the first night of Passover. However, the prohibition against chametz knows different limits; the tiniest particle of chametz is forbidden throughout the holiday.

The natural differences between chametz and Matzah, and the consequent differences between eating Matzah and refraining from chametz provide a valuable lesson in the quest for spiritual freedom.

Leavened dough rises continually. Matzah is the very antithesis thereof - the dough is not permitted to rise at all.

Our Rabbis explain that chametz is symbolic of haughtiness and conceit - traits so deleterious that they are at the root of all negative traits. This is one of the reasons why even the minutest amount of chametz is forbidden - haughtiness and conceit must be completely nullified.

Ridding oneself of the traits represented by chametz and performing the mitzvah of eating Matzah enable the Jew to overcome his own faults and the blandishments of the mundane world. He is then able to free himself from spiritual exile, and enjoy this freedom throughout the year.

Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. (Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXII pp. 266-270.)

The Four Factions

Our forefathers experienced just such a rude awakening on the seventh day after their exodus from Egypt.

Ten devastating plagues had broken the might of the Egyptians and forced them to let the Jewish people go. After two centuries of exile and slavery, the children of Israel were headed toward Mount Sinai and their covenant with G-d as His chosen people and a "light unto the nations."

Indeed, this was the stated purpose of the Exodus; as G-d told Moses, "When you take this nation out of Egypt, you will serve G-d at this mountain."

But suddenly the sea was before them, and Pharaoh's armies were closing in from behind. Egypt was alive and well; the sea, too, seemed oblivious to the destiny of the newly-born nation. How did they react?

The Midrash tells us that the Jewish people were divided into four camps.

There were those who said "Let us throw ourselves into the sea."

A second group said "Let us return to Egypt."

A third faction argued "Let us wage war upon the Egyptians."

Finally, a fourth camp advocated: "Let us pray to G-d." Moses, however, rejected all four options as inappropriate, saying to the people, "Fear not, stand by and see the salvation of G-d, which He will show you today; for as you have seen Egypt this day, you shall not see them again, forever. G-d shall fight for you, and you shall be silent."

"Fear not, stand by and see the salvation of G-d," explains the Midrash, is Moses' response to those who had despaired of overcoming the Egyptian threat and wanted to plunge into the sea. "As you have seen Egypt this day, you shall not see them again," is addressed to those who advocated surrender and return to Egypt. "G-d shall fight for you," is the answer to those who wished to battle the Egyptians. And "you shall be silent" is Moses' rejection of those who said, "This is all beyond us. All we can do is pray."

What, then, is the Jew to do when caught between a hostile world and an unyielding sea? "Speak to the children of Israel," said G-d to Moses, "that they shall go forward."

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