This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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A few days before Passover Joey, a non-religious ten year old Israeli child, came home after school to his non-religious home and announced that he wanted to ask a few questions.
"Of course my son" his father answered. "Let's sit down and ask what you want." "What type of questions do you have?" His mother asked as she gave her husband a glance of pride and humor. After all, what could be bothering a ten year old?
"Well" Joey began. "Today in school a rabbi came in and talked to us."
"Rabbi?!" his parents gasped surprise. "What type of rabbi?"
They shot angry glances at one another. Was the school allowing their Joey to be brainwashed?!
"A Rabbi from the Chabad House here. He's young. I think you know him." Joey answered, anxious to ask his questions. "Anyway he told us some things."
"What things?" his mother asked worriedly.
"Well, like… is it true that the Jews were once slaves in Egypt?"
"Well, that is what it says in the Torah" Answered his father. "I guess it was true."
"And that the Egyptians made the Jews suffer and work hard for hundreds of years?"
"Well, it could be." His mother answered. "But that was a long time ago."
"Yes, he said that it was a few thousand years ago. And is it true that someone called Moshe came to take them out?"
"Well, yes. That is the story." His mother said.
"And then Israel sent bombers and jets to bomb the Egyptians until they let the Jews go?"
"What?!" his father said leaning forward in disbelief. "Bombers?! Jets? What type of nonsense is that!? Is that what he told you?!?"
"Well, not exactly." Jody replied. "But if I told you what he said about plagues and stuff......you'd never believe it!!"
The story of leaving Egypt is truly fantastic; almost impossible to believe. Yet we are expected, indeed, commanded, to not only believe it but re-live it every Passover (Mishna Pesachim 10:5). And according to the Chassidic teachings, to do so each and every day (Tanya chap. 47)
It is the first of the Ten Commandments (I am G-d that took you from Egypt) and the basis of not just Judaism but of all mankind; namely that G-d is not just in heaven but rather that He is intimately involved in every detail of and has a precise plan for… every one of us humans.
This G-d proved to us and the entire world when He 'personally' took us from Egypt,
But the Torah tells us that back then all the miracles didn't help much; even those Jews that saw the miracles and actually left Egypt worshiped the Golden Calf just a few months later! As the saying goes, "G-d could take the Jews from Egypt but He can't take the Egypt out of the Jews. The Jews must take the Egypt out of themselves."
So the above joke applies to each of us. The miracles must not be just Bible stories for religious people or something we believe will happen tomorrow. Rather we must leave our selfish thoughts and try to feel that this very moment G-d is creating us for a purpose; to do, say and think everything possible to be a positive influence to perfect the world…. to bring Moshiach.
As the Lubavitcher Rebbe said many times; "We should live NOW in the days of Moshiach." Namely, to feel G-d and trust in G-d to the point that we never feel jealousy, hatred, competition, negativity, lust, or fear. But rather to look at ourselves as G-d does; with positive optimism and joy that we are who and what we are.
This is truly leaving our limitations.
An easy way to begin is by looking at a picture of a great Tzadik, one who was totally devoted to the Creator especially the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Try and see.
Another is to read and study his ideas. Here's an example.
I just returned from a one month stay in Minnesota where my wife made a, thank G-d, successful, eleven hour operation that saved her life and brought her back to health. Thank G-d!!
While I was there I met many very friendly people most of whom were very religious to the point of being missionaries.
To all of them, as soon as they began 'saving' me, I said the same thing. "Tell me, do you really know what the Jews believe? Would you like to know?"
Being nice people (I was told that there is an American saying; "Minnesota Nice") they all said 'yes' whereupon I explained to them that we believe that G-d creates everything every instant brand new. And He creates it all from love… free love.
Which means that G-d is creating me and you (sometimes I asked them their name which I substituted for 'you'), cares and provides for us and will answer all our prayers. So we Jews believe that no one needs to pray to 'spirits' 'sons' or 'ghosts' because G-d is infinitely close to us.
This usually made them agree and shake hands good bye.
But one young man heard my conversation and asked a very good question. (It was on the Shuttle to the airport back to Israel. Sitting next to me was a 92 year old man who told me (in Yiddish) he was Jewish and had never done a commandment except maybe Tefillin at his Bar Mitzva. So I took out my Tefillin and put them on him. He was happy and that fired up the curiosity of the other passengers.)
The young man's question was. "If we Jews believe that G-d is infinite so we must believe that any sin against Him makes an infinite blemish. So how can we get forgiven? Therefore G-d gave his son etc."
I told him that his question was excellent. And I totally agree with it. G-d is infinite and He is infinitely strict. But on the other hand… He is also infinitely kind and loving. Which do you think is greater?
He couldn't answer.
I continued that the message of the Jews to the world is that G-d's love and kindness is greater and I told him I could prove it to him.
"Just look at all of G-d's creations. Trillions of trillions of bugs, fish, birds, animals, people etc. each with a very exact circulatory, respiratory, digestive, nervous etc. system that can fatally destruct if broken. So we see that G-d is infinitely strict.
But on the other hand… G-d is CREATING all of them! Their very existence shows that G-d's kindness is greater than His severity.
The problem is we don't see this love if we think of ourselves or of heaven or hell; then we only see His harsh side. But if we think of G-d we'll see how much we mean to Him and our lives will have more meaning and happiness.
He shook my hand and thanked me.
This is how we can leave 'Egypt'; all our egotistical limitations, this Passover night!
But we Jews have even more to think of and be thankful about.
We must remember that when we left Egypt G-d gave us the power to leave our limitations, no matter how severe they seem, at any time; every day of our lives. And at Mount Sinai, G-d 'put Himself' in His Torah and gave us not just the responsibility but also the power and ability to change the world around us for the good; with one deed, word or even thought! (As is explained in the Tanya there)
Here are a few Insights to help make a profoundly exciting Seder this year.
1) BIRTH: Pesach celebrates the birth of the Jewish people. Just as a fetus has no identity or consciousness so the Jews in Egypt didn't know who they really were until G-d took them out.
So today, although we might not be aware of it, we are imprisoned in a spiritual 'Egypt' with little awareness that we are the sons of G-d and servants of the Creator of the Universe.
Tonight we must awaken this awareness, leave 'Egypt' and be born anew…. and this is done by thinking about the following:
2) The holiday is called Pesach and Chag HaMatzot (Holiday of Matzot) .
'Pesach' is our praise of G-d; He Passed Over the Jews, smote only our enemies and freed us.
Chag HaMatzot is G-d's praise of us; that we went unquestioningly into the desert with only Matzot and faith.
3) FIRST COMMANDMENT: The belief that G-d took us from Egypt is the first and most important of the Ten Commandments: "I am G-d that took YOU (singular) out of Egypt." The same G-d that creates the Heavens and Earth every instant anew took the Jews from Egypt to teach the world Why He creates it.
Namely that mankind should follow the Torah (613 commandments for the Jews and 7 for the gentiles) and reveal the Creator in His creation.
4) Tonight we must REMEMBER:
a) the Exodus of 3,321 years ago
b) G-d exists and controls the world
c) G-d cares
d) G-d loves us
e) G-d does miracles and will HELP in our daily life
f) This night is a preparation for a similar, greater, final redemption which could happen NOW!
5) Without Moses the Jews would have never left Egypt.
Therefore according to the Zohar there must be a 'Moses' in every generation to keep the Jews aware they are Jews and ultimately this 'Moses' will be Moshiach.
6) Moses is mentioned only once in the HaGada (After the Ten Plagues in; 'RabbiYosi HaGalili omer') where he is likened to G-d: "They believed in G-d and Moses His servant." (Ex. 14:31)]
7) LEANING: Every time we eat Matzot and drink wine we should lean to the left indicating freedom. Leaning makes the head and body almost level. In a deeper sense, the only way to be ready for miracles of the type that took us from Egypt is to put our mind (head) at almost the same level as our body.
8) The three Matzot remind us of the Three Forefathers; Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. The top Matza corresponds to Avraham who advertised G-d's kindness to mankind.
The middle Matza to Issac who represented G-d's Power (he dug wells and transformed desert to inhabitable land).
The bottom Matza corresponds to Yaakov who began to demonstrate G-d's beauty (Twelve Tribes) in the world.
9) YA'CHATZ: Therefore we break the middle Matza (Yachatz) to modify and articulate G-d's power and we use half of it at the end of the meal (as the Afikomen in place of the Paschal Lamb) to show that the final redemption will come through the power Yitzchak (positive change).
10) At the beginning of the HaGada we announce: "Anyone who is hungry come eat, anyone who needs come eat the Pesach meal." Here we are echoing G-d's invitation to the Jews 'anyone who is hungry for or needs spirituality tonight I will provide it. You just have to ASK'.
11) MA?: Therefore the entire Hagada begins with questions; because the essence of Judaism is education. And if we don't ask we won't learn.
12) JOY: The four cups of wine correspond to the four terms of Redemption found in Ex 4:6-8.
Just as Wine reveals what was hidden in the grapes and the joy hidden in those that drink it so the redemption will reveal the true Joy hidden in the entire Creation. (It is a good idea to dance with joy at some point in the Seder).
13) The four cups also correspond to the four 'Mothers' Sarah, Rivka, Rochel and Leah who revealed the blessings of their husbands into the world by giving birth to and 'revealing' the next generation.
14 ) The four questions as they are asked in Chabad are a) Dipping b) Matza c) Moror d) leaning. (So is the order in Talmud Yerushalmi and elsewhere).
Matza is a commandment from the Torah, Moror is from the Rabbis, Leaning is from the Talmud but dipping is only a custom.
The reason we place 'Dipping' first is to show that Jewish customs, because they are added of our own free will, can have a deeper, more personal and permanent effect than even the commandments.
15) FOOD of FAITH: When eating Matza remember that Matza is called the Food of Faith. The faith that is unique to the Jewish people is not just that G-d exists and gives us life but even more: that G-d creates all being; including each of us... constantly from nothing.
Although this defies common sense and human understanding, deep in every Jew it is a certainty. And it is strengthened by eating Matza.
This is the true meaning of the 'Motto' of Judaism "Shma Yisroel …. G-d is ONE". (for details see Matza Zu in Lekuti Torah).
16) Door prize: When we open the door for Elijah the prophet G-d opens all the doors for us… it's a good time to ask for what we need. Especially for Moshiach NOW!
17) NO END?: Many Hagaddas end with the words "Chasal Seder Pesach" literally, 'We've completed the Passover Seder". But Chabad does not say these words to stress that this evening never really ends.
Rather we must constantly be leaving our personal 'Egypts' and also constantly be striving for the ultimate freedom and self awareness that only Moshiach will bring.
Wishing all a kosher and happy Passover with....
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