Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds! - Bob Marley
Dear Friends, dear Partners,
On many occasions, we have had the great honor to be nourished spiritually by the talmudic reflexions delivered by R. Adin Steinsaltz (Even Israel).
This time, we are pleased to share with you his thoughts on the meaning of Passover.
We hope that you will enjoy reading them and that they will enrich you as they are enriching us.
With our Warm Regards and our Best wishes for a vibrant and happy Pessah,
Joëlle & Gad
The Exodus from Egypt is mentioned in practically every Jewish festival and event, both those that are directly connected with it and those that are not. The festival of Passover, however, revolves entirely around the Exodus. Of all of the various aspects relating to the Exodus, one salient aspect is the liberation from Egyptian enslavement. Being liberated from slavery, hard labor and physical and spiritual suffering is surely a major event, but underlying this is freedom, not only in the sense of lack of enslavement, but as an entity with intrinsic value and significance.
Anything – human beings, animals, even inanimate objects – can be tied and shackled; but liberation is more than just removing the shackles. If the chain that ties a chair is broken, all we will have is a chair without a chain. The same is true for human beings: whoever has no self, desires or dreams can be unshackled, but cannot be made free. Being free is not only ceasing to be bound to situations or people that force one to do things against one’s will: it is the unleashing of one’s self will and the ability to create independently. All of this can exist and come to fruition only when there is freedom. The redemption from Egypt, then, is not only the removal of shackles and enslavement, and the physical move from one geographical location to another: it is the acquisition of a new entity, of a feeling of “self” that has not existed heretofore.
Enslavement can be forced, partially or totally, by external factors, whereas redemption and liberation cannot be granted: they must be acquired internally. The external-physical act of Israel’s exiting the Land of Egypt also entails an inner change: the acquisition of selfhood, a profound recognition of self that goes far beyond external-technical forms; this is what the redemption from Egypt is all about. If we celebrate Passover only as the festival of our release from suffering and enslavement, it will not be all that meaningful. The Exodus, which a Jew is commanded to remember each and every day, is not a story about a miraculous event that happened once upon a time: it is an inner call to be redeemed, to move from a state of enslavement into a state of redemption, which is so much more than non-enslavement. In terms of everyday life it is the constant call to pull ourselves out of the deep mire of habits, petty reckonings and endless enslavements, both minor and major – into a new entity. Such inner redemption is made up of many different parts: letting go of memories, releasing incorrect and misleading desires, and developing the ability to get in touch and connect with the point of our selfhood. For such a thing to fully happen, no less than a miracle is required.
On Passover, and especially on the Seder night, we fulfill so many laws, commandments and customs. These are not the essence of redemption, but rather the means with which we wave our flag – namely, declare that we can act differently: eat differently, sit differently, speak differently. All these habits and customs ought to be living symbols of our redemption and deliverance. If all of these acts – matza and bitter herbs, wine and reclining – are done with proper intention, then they will awaken within us a sort of supreme awareness like we had on the very first Seder night, when the King of Kings revealed Himself to us. And although we are unable to recreate such awareness at will, we can still see all the acts and ceremonies, songs and stories as signposts on our path to complete freedom. And this is exactly what we mean when we say on the Seder night: “This year we are slaves, next year we shall be free.”
With best wishes for deliverance from all those who enslave and hate us, both in body and in spirit, both those with human form and those that are different kinds of entities, and for reaching a world of redemption.
A happy and kosher Passover,
Passover Eve 5774