Friday, April 15, 2016

On Pesach We were Redeemed and set apart

By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

Every holiday has its accomplishment and the light unique to it, light that is akin to the first light that was showered on Israel. Through fulfilling the mitzvoth commanded to us, “reminding us of the Exodus”, that light shines upon us, like the light that shined on us at the start when we triumphantly left Egypt. 

The mitzvoth involving chametz and matza serve to remind us and to teach us that until the Exodus from Egypt, Israel were mixed among the rest of the nations, like “one nation out of another” (Deuteronomy 4:34). It was at the Exodus that we were redeemed and set apart. How so? The chametz, the regular bread that we eat all year long, is suited to man’s nature. It is easily digestible and tastes good. Our sages compare chametz to man’s evil impulse. Yet there is something special, the Pesach holiday, in which Israel were commanded to entirely avoid seeing or housing chametz in our possession. By eating matza we diminish the power of the evil impulse and our tendency towards the material, and we increase our affinity for the spiritual, for our Father in Heaven. 

Matza is our bread of faith. By such means we merit that same light and bounty unique to Pesach, time of our freedom, in which we were redeemed and set apart (see Ramchal, Derech Hashem, IV:8). 

In every generation a person must see himself as though he, himself left the slavery of Egypt. It was in this regard that G-d commanded us, “Remember that you were a slave” (Deuteronomy 5:14). As Rambam puts it, “As though you, yourself, were a slave who went free and was redeemed” (Hilchot Chametz U’Matza 7:5). In our generation, the generation of national rebirth and of the ingathering of the exiles, we can see with our own eyes the emergence from exile to redemption, from darkness to light, and it is relatively easy for us to view ourselves as though we, ourselves, just left exile for redemption. Yet as stated, at the Exodus we were not just redeemed but set apart from all the nations. We recognized our identity, which makes us unique and sets us apart from the Egyptians and from the nations, that G-d chose us from all the nations and He loves us, as we daily say, “G-d chooses His people Israel, with love” (blessings of the Shema). 

Especially on the first night of Pesach, but in general as well, we must not only remember the redemption but also the separation between us and the nations. By such means we will merit, before Gd, whose word created the universe, to sing a new song, with enormous joy: 

“When Israel went out of Egypt, Jacob’s household from a people of strange speech, Judah became G-d’s sanctuary, Israel His dominion” (Hallel). 

With blessings for a kosher and joyous holiday, 
Looking forward to complete redemption, 
Shabbat Shalom.

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