IN EVERY GENERATION, EVERY PERSON IS OBLIGATED TO SEE HIMSELF AS IF HE, PERSONALLY, LEFT EGYPT.-TALMUD PESACHIM 116
By Rabbi Yehoshua (Shui) Rosenblum
Photography by Kapture-photo
How relevant can “the time of our freedom” be for a people
who live in the free world?
I could imagine that for the persecuted Jew throughout the ages Pesach must have been a very meaningful holiday, possibly the most! This was a moment when one could turn their eyes heavenward and implore of their creator to once again liberate them from the cruel oppressors as He had done “in those times”. They could read the Hagada with feeling as they recited the timeless words “in every generation they stand against us to annihilate us… yet G-d will save us from their hands”. This, and so many other references made to our suffering of the past and the faith and hope for a brighter future would fuel them with the necessary strength to move on in spite of everything they were living through.
What should the modern man be thinking as he recalls the difficulties of the past? “Oh G-d please remove the burden of my Iphone 4 and allow me to experience the freedom of the 4s as you did in those times in our day Amen”. Can we really relate to this idea of an oppressed nation? Doesn’t Pesach lose its appeal in our times? I could think of more than one that thing of freedom more along the lines of a week of skiing in Colorado with the family.
Perhaps if we could understand the essence of the Holiday we could recapture its relevance in our times and we might even find that Pesach has become increasingly relevant, in many ways more than ever!
What is freedom? When pressed to define this most basic human need and aspiration, we usually find ourselves explaining what freedom is not. Freedom is not slavery, it is not confinement, it is not inhibition. But is that all there is to freedom, the absence of subjugation? Or is there a positive dynamic to the state of freedom?
Freedom has two very distinct components:
1. The possibility to do as you please, to go where you want and to freely express your ideas. Liberty and Justice for all!
2.Inner harmony and peace, a sense of meaning and purpose in life.
This is why when G-d freed us from Egypt He made it clear that this was going to be a complete and total freedom. “When you go out of Egypt (component 1) You will serve me on the Mountain” (component 2).
We were being given the ultimate gift of freedom, one where we would be a free nation in the literal sense of the word and a guide for acquiring an inner freedom; we were given a clear perspective on any conceivable life situation a path towards fulfilling our mission and thereby acquiring freedom in the full sense of the word.
Ironically, the presence of the first component in many cases has diminished the second. Precisely when we are free to do as we please we struggle to find meaning in life. We begin to perceive a distorted view of freedom, which ultimately turns us into slaves of our own desires and passions.
What drove our enemies crazy throughout History was that as much as they persecuted us we were essentially free! Jews went to their tragic deaths with an inner freedom that no one could take away from them!
In the master plan of G-d inner freedom should not be dependant on persecution. This is why today when we enjoy freedom in its literal expression we are challenged to look for inner meaning in life. To try and free ourselves from our inner taskmasters such as our ego, anger, fear, jealousy, frivolity and the list goes on. We should realize that on Passover G-d sends us from on high a special energy to liberate ourselves from all that limits us from achieving this elusive freedom.
As the Jew who said ‘before I became a Chasid, Pesach was simple’ Egypt was Egypt, Pharaoh was Pharaoh and Chametz was Chametz, Once they drowned in the Red Sea, we were rid of them forever. Not so, once I came to Chasidism, Pharaoh is my evil inclination, Egypt is my self-imposed limitations, and Chametz is my ego.
Eating matza, eliminating chametz, drinking four cups of wine, reading the hagada etc. are not rituals of the past reminding us of history of suffering. Rather they are the means through which we tap into this very special energy of total freedom, which G-d is offering to help us install! The best part about it is that its not only freedom for the week of Passover! If we manage to install this updated version of freedom 5772 it will be with us until the next version comes out.