Every year for the past 3,000 years, in times of persecution as in times of calm, Jews have gathered together to celebrate the holiday of Passover, in which we commemorate the miracles G-d performed in emancipating us from centuries of mind-numbing Egyptian slavery and oppression.
Tonight, Wednesday April 8th, Jews the world over will begin celebrating the eight day festival of Pesach by eating matzah as our ancestors had; recounting the story of our liberation to our children through texts and song; drinking four cups of wine, one for each aspect of freedom; eating bitter herbs as a reminder of the bitterness and tears of bondage; and reclining in royalty.
This is not a theatrical commemoration of an antiquated event, but a timeless and potent step-by-step guide to self-liberation. Our sages teach that in each and every generation every individual must view himself as though he just made his grand exit from Egypt. The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, is rooted in the word meitzar meaning boundaries, constraints and limitations.
No matter our mobility or autonomy, a part of us remains subjugated to our own inner “task master” – the slave driver within that restricts us to habit, shackles us to our fears, and relegates us to personal bias. Pharaoh’s Egypt we’ve long escaped; it’s our own individual boundaries that we must transcend daily.
Unlike when we left Egypt, personal breakthroughs rarely come through revealed sea-splitting intervention. It will be through determination and perseverance that we split our own seas and cross through on dry land.
Here are just three steps, each a tool, pulled from the 15 steps of the Passover guide, to briefly illustrate the relevance and potential of the Passover experience and assist you in your personal exodus.
Leggo your ego
Matzah. We search our homes (and psyche) to rid it of any trace of leaven, of hot air, of self- aggrandizement. We eat poor man’s bread. A return to basics, to a more pure recipe. We are not in control, but we’ll crash, unless we let go of our ego.
Order your drinks
Yayin. We drink wine. Four glasses. Will the real you, please stand up? (Slowly, now.) Relax that which is inhibiting you from actualizing your highest potential. We don’t slam shots. Each glass has its time, its place. Uninhibited, but with aim.
Marror. We eat bitter herbs. Stop filling the hole; start feeling the hole. We cry, knowing what our ancestors experienced, not only in Egypt, but also in every generation since. No explanations or modifiers. Get in touch with the pain, with the void, and simply cry.
One final thought. This morning we have an opportunity that won’t come for another 28 years: Birkat HaChama or the blessing of the sun. Take a moment to give thanks and praise to the Creator for the sun – and for all of creation. Visit www.chabad.org/sun for more information and for a text of the short service.
May you have a kosher and happy Passover!
For more information on Passover or to find a Passover seder near you, please visit www.chabad.org/passover or contact me.