Friday, April 11, 2014


More than just giving the house a super cleaning, Pesach is a time for us to give our souls an extra special cleaning. While we clean our external surroundings, we should recognize that all this physical cleaning is really a symbol for all the ‘spiritual cleaning’ we need to undergo. Pesach is a time for ultimate introspection, change, and removing all the unwanted chametz within our internal selves.
As the holy day approaches, we are reminded how our ancestors were freed from their bondage in Egypt.  Moreover,  as we celebrate our ancestors freedom, we should be awakened by finding inner freedom from our self-inflicted slavery.
Furthermore, the centrality of the holiday is the Pesach seder,  but what exactly are we recounting in this ancient ceremony? There is a biblical commandment to recount the Exodus from Egypt daily, which we say twice daily in the Shema, and on Shabbot, in the Kiddush. Now on the Pesach night, we intricately transmit the entire story.
Why are we required to recount the Exodus from Egypt so many times? If we recount it twice daily, why do we need an entire holiday to remind us again? Because slavery has many forms that are still prevalent today, we need an extra reminder of it's detrimental effects! The essence of the repetition is to emphasize that we must free ourselves from our self-inflicted slavery. We have become slaves to our physical realities, to money, power, success, prestige, honor, sex, popularity, the list goes on. We are still in Egypt
 The only way to be redeemed is to recount the story and recognize how to use our bondage as an opportunity to grow and become freed once again.

We can gain exceptional insight from the order of the Pesach seder, the Haggadah. Rev Yitzchak Breitowitz explains how the order of the Haggadah provides us with the insight we need to achieve personal redemption and gain freedom from our self-inflicted slavery—our personal Mitzrayims. He outlines the 1st seven parts of the seder as follow:
The sedar starts with:
  1. The Four questions- which precedes the narrative of the Exodus. The Pesach seder begins with asking questions, “Why is this night different than all the other nights?” In order for us to find the spiritual freedom we are seeking, we need to ask ourselves honest questions. We need to be seeking truth first and foremost. Without asking, no answers will come. 

Questions to ponder: 
  • Do I have unanswered questions? 
  • Am I asking enough questions? 

The real question we should be asking ourselves is, "am I making mental space to ask myself the questions needed to get me closer to the truth?"

2. Beginning the reading of the Haggadah- The Haggadah begins with the account of the slavery and adversity we experienced in Egypt. Why does the Haggadah start with slavery and adversity? 
Essentially, we are meant to be reminded of the adversity, failure, hardship, and disappointment we face in our own lives. Through this account, we can find a glimmer of hope and success from all of our failures. The most exponential growth amounts not from focusing on our successes, but from recounting our failures. By being honest with yourself and your mistakes, accepting the fact that we are in fact human and constantly striving to learn and grow from our experiences, only then can we experience true freedom.

Questions to ponder:
  • What were your biggest failures?
  • What caused you to fail?
  • What are your most negative character traits?

3. Maror- eating of the bitter herbs highlights the need for us to be honest with ourselves to recognize and confront our destructive behavior that is bitter and enslaving.
Questions to ponder:
  • How do your negative character traits cause you bitterness?
  • How do you feel enslaved by your negative character traits?
4. 4 cups of wine/reclining: By drinking the wine and reclining, we are withstanding the maror-enslavement. Rather than giving into our self-infliction,  we have the capacity to grow and elevate ourselves spiritually, thereby riding ourselves of all the unwanted chametz within (all the character traits we want to remove and transform). By becoming aware of our faults, we gain an equal awareness of our potential improvement and innate goodness.

Questions to ponder:
  • From your past failures, adversities, disappointments, how can you use those experiences to develop yourself further?
  • Where do you have the capacity to grow?
  • How can you transform your negative character traits into admirable ones? What will be required of you?
  • What are your stumbling blocks? How can you push past them?
5. Matzvah
After 18 minutes, the flour will become chametz (leavened bread), but baked under 18 minutes, it will become matzah, teaching us the importance of time. We must be decisive with our actions. To often, we are momentarily inspired, but in order to make lasting changes, we need to make concrete plans for change.
Questions to ponder:
  • What concrete actions can you make in the future to avoid making similar mistakes?

6. Pascal Lamb
This is the only sacrifice that is brought in a group, no one person could bring this alone. This stresses the importance of being part of a community.
Questions to ponder?
  • Are you part of a community? 
  • If yes, can you be more involved?

7. Intergeneration communication
Judaism has been passed down, generation after generation, from father to son, teacher to student, and so on. The emphasis of Torah is passing the tradition down to our children, and this is the formula of the Haggadah. To keep the tradition alive, to keep the motif of inner redemption alive, we must follow the old age tradition our ancestors have used evermore, passing on the sweet story of Pesach.

Pesach is teaching us that we too need to be freed from our self inflicted bondage. Look within yourself to find yourself. Ask yourself honest questions. Look honestly and courageously at your faults and the adverse times and recognize you can reach spiritual heights of greatness. Be decisive, take action NOW, and stay inspired. Love your nation, your family. Continue to pass down this wisdom, from this generation to the next, only then you will truly achieve freedom. Now that is the Exodus experience! Chag Sameach!

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