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The Essence of Passover
By Nachum Mohl
When you think of Passover, what comes to your mind as the central point? Normally we think of a week of eating matzo and the Seder. These are the two most obvious signs of Passover. But if we wanted to focus on the central point of Passover we would have to say that it is transition - going from one state to another.
Passover is considered the time of our national freedom, the time that we went from being slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt to being free men. We went from the lowest echelon of being, which is a slave, to the highest level, which is a free man experiencing divine revelation. This transition took place in a very short time.
Being a slave in Egypt meant that we were the property of the Egyptians. We had no ability to do what we wished to do, just the opposite, we knew that we were owned by others and therefore bound to carry out the will of our masters. We could not do what we wanted to do; we were subservient to our masters.
Becoming free did not mean that we had no obligations; just the opposite, we became the servants of G-d. We were not "free" in Western terms meaning that we had no obligations. Rather, freedom meant that we could choose to observe the Torah. We realized that being "free" was contingent on our observation of G-d's commands. Since it was G-d who took us out from Egypt and gave us our wealth, it was to Him that we now owed our allegiance.
But we became more than merely "slaves" to G-d; we became His "ministers". We became responsible for accomplishing His earthly will. As ministers, we were raised high into nobility, but still, as ministers, we owed our status to G-d's good will towards us, not of our own abilities, for it was because He had promised to our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to take us out from Egypt and bring us to our own land.
The change from slavery to freedom was a very speedy transition. If we consider the plight of a non-Jewish slave in Egypt who had no family, for he was "bred" by his masters who mated a strong slave with an equally strong female slave for the purpose of creating a strong slave child. He would never know his father and after a short period of growth by his mother he was sold and would never see his mother again. He had no opportunity to escape, he had no money, he was not literate, he could not earn a living; he was totally dependent upon his master for his life. Even escape had no meaning.
The Jewish slaves were different. Although they too could not escape, they knew who they were; they knew their family and from whom they were descendent. Yet they did not posses the ability to free themselves. It was only because of the divine intervention of G-d that they were able to leave Egypt.
Not only were we able to leave Egypt, but we reached the pinnacle of being, divine revelation with a promise of a continuing relationship with our children throughout the succeeding generations.
Everything that we do at the Seder is to remind us of the above points. We make changes from out normal Friday night or Yom Tov meal to reflect the transition from slavery to freedom. We drink four cups of wine as a remembrance of the redemption, each cup signifying a different stage of redemption. We eat our meal in a reclining position, like a free man who is not worried to get up quickly to work. The matzo which is made in a very quick method is consumed and the bitter herbs are to remind us of the slavery from which we were liberated.
Perhaps this transition is the central message which we are to take with us from Passover. Irregardless of how hopeless our current situation appears, the final redemption, which is the transition, will come when we least expect it. And when it comes, it will come very quickly.
from the April Passover 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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