The core and essence of Judaism is Am Yisrael’s exodus from the galut in the Land of Egypt. And Pessach is the holiday that celebrates and prepares us for just that, the exodus. That is, The Exodus is THE paradigm journey. It is a concept and reality at the same time, existing on many levels simultaneously. It is the physical, geo-historical account of the Nation of Israel in the making, just as it is the personal story of each and every Jew today on his or her spiritual journey.
Once all the terms of the above first sentence are defined – and there are very literally a plethora of volumes already written that do just that – we see that everything about our mesora is about our exodus.
It is an exodus from slavery (body, mind, and soul), sorcery, and idolatry to a totally different mindset and elevated level of consciousness and spirituality, where we perceive that the Creator of the universe is One and that there is nothing in all His Creation but Him.
Everything about Judaism starts and traces back to this exodus, The Exodus from the galut of Egypt, being The Galut of all galuyot. All prayers and blessings (major ones, like birkat hamazon) reiterate and thus remind us that Hashem is The One Who took us out from the Land of Egypt to be our God and for us to be His Nation.
Pessach is the first holiday, and occurs in the first month of the year – Nissan. In fact, all of the spiritual and physical worlds go according to Hashem’s defined Hebrew calendar. The zodiac wheel, for instance, begins and is set according to the Hebrew calendar. And its first month is Nissan – the corresponding sign Aries.
As such, Jewish life is defined by the Jewish calendar. Each lap around this set cycle is an ever-rising and elevating spiral upward. In fact, the inner essence of Torah, the Ohr haGanuz, is likened to an onion. There are layers upon layers, each one connected to the others, but, as you progress, you get deeper and deeper and forever discover new meaning and insight. It is we who need Torah to be like this, because we would not be able to withstand the power and intensity of its Ohr haGanuz if revealed all at once.
The journey that begins with leaving the Land of Egypt on to entering the Land of Israel is what each Jewish life is about. And we are still on this journey – to be complete with our upcoming geula, bi’at Mashiach, and building of our third, final, and eternal Beit Mikdash. All systems and teachings within Judaism merely present different paths to get to this same destination.
In great detail we retell the story of our nation’s exodus of then, which enables us to vicariously feel ourselves actually there and part of the story thousands of years ago. Simultaneously, every individual, every Jew, can equally tell an individualized account of this exodus from life today. This is true across the board for every single individual of Am Yisrael, since a Jew must do teshuva every day. Thus, it is equally true for the ba’alei teshuva as it is for the FFBs who had been trapped (enslaved) in the delusive mindset that they are exempt from continual teshuva.
That is, we struggle with our yetzer hara, our personal Egypt, every day and all day. The spiritual work we undertake to overcome and surpass it is our individual exodus. And all of the terms of Pessach acquire personal meaning in the process:
There is the misery of being in the Land of Egypt (and all that means and represents, like enslaved in a job, addiction, thought control, etc.), Leaving the Land of Egypt, i.e. The Exodus, the journey through the grueling, blistering, and barren desert (figurative or actual), encountering The Revelation of the divine Torah, and then the vision and navigated goal of arriving in the holy Promised Land (with all that that means too).
Today there is an astounding glut of reactive words in all forms of media, written and spoken, about all that is going on around us. In the Pessach context, it would be on the level of reporting, describing, and analyzing the state of slavery in the Land of Egypt and the continual severity of Pharaoh’s decrees – while remaining in that reality.
Pessach, and thus Judaism, is on a totally different level. We don’t stew from within, but proactively use the supernatural tools given us to surpass and overcome. And, thus, the very night we begin Pessach, we begin with The Seder, which literally means The Order. We begin by making Seder, Order, of our lives – individually and collectively as a People. We don’t get bogged down by reactiveness to the physical, natural state of affairs, but use – actually, actively DO – the 15 supernatural steps to freedom. We start with Kadesh (making ourselves holy) and continue in Order, Seder, to Tzafun (where we disclose the concealed), to the final step being Nirtza (from the word ratza/ratzon), where we reach the level of Ratzon Elyon, Hashem’s Supreme Desire (“Ratza Elokim et Ma’asecha”).
Also note that we recite the steps by name. We actually make of point of continually stating the names and their sequence as we progress in our 15-step path of order (seder) to freedom. Today they say ‘Name it to Tame it’ while the “It” that everyone continues to react to many times only continues to disappoint or evade us. Using the terms, names, and definitions Torah provides helps us be proactive, versus reactive. One example from among the many from today’s global current events is what is continually bemoaned as the traitorous “self-hating Jews” when no such oxymoron really exists. By Torah terms, they are Erev Rav. Am Yisrael is forever proud and grateful to be Hashem’s Chosen People and be part of this great exodus and journey – nothing less than being the Light for all nations in Machshevet HaBriya, The Master Plan and goal of creation.
Bezchut that very last crumb of chametz that we find and rid from deep inside our homes and our selves, may we all be zochim this Pessach to truly leave the Land of Egypt, receive the Torah, enter our Promised Land of Israel, go up to Beit HaMikdash, see Mashiach Tzidkenu, and merit partaking in and actually doing the mitvah of korban Pessach!
Pessach kasher & sameach!
P.S. On Friday morning, don’t forget to read the segula of Rav Shimshon of Ostrapalye!