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A central theme of Passover is the asking of questions by the children and the answering of them by the adults.
There are ways of asking questions and ways of answering questions, depending on whether the child belongs to the category of the "wise," the "wicked," the "simple," or "the one who doesn't know how to ask."
While the famous four children of the Passover Hagada differ from one another in their questions, intellect, Jewish involvement, affiliation and reaction to the Seder, they all have one thing in common: They are all present at the Seder.
Even the so-called "wicked" child is there, taking an active, though rebellious interest in what is going on in Jewish life around him. This at least justifies the hope that someday also the "wicked" one will become wise, and will become more conscientious about Judaism.
Unfortunately, today, there is another kind of Jewish child: the child who is conspicuous by his absence from the Seder; the one who has no interest whatsoever in Torah and mitzvot, laws and customs; the one who might not even be aware that there is a Seder, or an Exodus from Egypt or the subsequent giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
This fifth child is not always a child in chronological years, but often a child in Jewish knowledge and awareness.
In the 1980's, certain groups suggested leaving an empty chair at the Seder table as a reminder of the Jews in Russia or other countries where Jews wanted to celebrate Passover but were unable to do so.
At that time, the Rebbe encouraged everyone to fill that chair with a fifth child, a Jew -- young or old, rich or poor, wise or simple -- who would otherwise not be at the Seder.
This year, let no chair be empty at any Seder. Whether at a public Chabad Seder of nearly 1,000 participants in Bangkok or a private Seder in a studio apartment in Manhattan, let us not only accommodate every Jew who wants to be at a Seder, let us all have the goal of reaching out to and bringing to our table one Jew who would not otherwise be at a Passover Seder.
And in the Rebbe's words, "May G-d grant that all Jews be gathered together at the same table of the Passover seder, to celebrate Passover in its true spirit and manner... and may the gathering also of those 'lost tribes of Israel' and their assembly at the Seder table, hasten the beginning of the true and complete Redemption of our people, through our righteous Moshiach, speedily in our time."
The Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt by Moses, about whom our Sages said, "Moses was designated for redemption from the moment he was created." Yet Moses' role as redeemer is not limited to the exodus from Egypt; our Sages tell us he will also bring the final Redemption with Moshiach: "Moses was the first and will be the last redeemer."
The Torah expresses Moses' uniqueness with the words "Moses, a man of G-d."
The Talmud finds this description problematic. "If he is 'G-d,' why use the word 'man'? And if he is 'man,' why use the word 'G-d'?" it asks. The Talmud then goes on to answer its own question. "His lower half was 'man,' yet his upper half was G-d." In other words, Moses was a unique combination of the human and the Divine.
Accordingly, the task of Moses was to forge a connection between G-d and man, between the supernatural and the physical worlds. G-d's revelation of Himself through supernatural miracles is not enough; the ultimate goal of creation is to introduce holiness into the physical realm, where it can unite with nature and be one with it.
When the revelation of G-dliness supersedes nature, there is no true connection formed between the Divine and physical reality.
Although the world may be temporarily shaken by the display of G-d's infinite power, as soon as the miracle has ended, everything reverts to its former condition. When, however, G-d reveals Himself within the limitations of natural law, nature itself is shown to be G-dly.
This connection between natural and supernatural can only be effected by a Moses who serves as intermediary between the two, as it states in the Torah, "I stand between you and G-d." His function is to connect the Jewish people to their Source and thus produce a true bond between them.
For this reason it was necessary that Moses embody both characteristics, the human and the Divine. On one hand he is a human being, on the other, he is higher than any other person. This dual nature enables him to successfully combine the physical and the spiritual, imbuing material reality with G-dliness according to G-d's plan.
This special quality will find its ultimate expression in Moshiach, the reason why Moses is credited with bringing the future Redemption.
Moshiach's task is to complete the work begun by Moses, perfecting the unification of natural and supernatural that will characterize the Messianic era.
About the coming of Moshiach, the Torah states, "Like the days of your going out of Egypt, I will show you wonders." The miracles of the final Redemption will make the miracles that occurred in Egypt pale by comparison -- demonstrating to the entire world that nature is also G-dly.
Adapted from the Rebbe's Sefer HaSichot, 5751
by Eliyahu Schusterman
Eliyahu wrote this article last year upon his return from Russia
Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter
As my plane started its descent into Moscow's Shermetyevo Dva airport and the snow covered city came into view, I began to think about my Russian "career," which began almost three years ago. I first came to Russia as a counselor in Kiev's Gan Israel summer camp. The beginning was rough. An American boy getting used to the Russian lifestyle was no picnic, to say the least. And then, there was the language barrier.
Here I was, three years later, going to Moscow to be the head counselor of a 10 day camp of 110 Russian boys during Passover.
The night before camp started, all of us -- six American and six Russian counselors -- went to make the kitchen kosher for Pesach.
It took us about twelve hours of serious work to ready the entire kitchen. At about four a.m. we went to sleep. The first group of campers from the closer cities arrived at 3:00 p.m. When the second group arrived later that evening (some had travelled for 30 hours) we did bedikat chametz -- the search for leavened products.
The next morning before breakfast, we cleared away a space in the snow and performed the traditional burning of the chametz. Afterwards we took the kids skiing.
The highlight of Passover, of course, is the Seder which includes wine (grape juice for kids), matza, Romaine lettuce and of course horseradish. The grape juice was supposed to arrive on Wednesday, but since this was Russia, as Shabbat approached it still had not arrived. We prepared for the worst and mixed two ladles of sugar and ten bottles of water to every two bottles of wine.
The next hurdle to overcome was matza; 50 pounds of hand-made shmura matza were in a container from America that never arrived.
As Divine Providence would have it, at the last moment, a couple of kids from Riga decided to come to the camp. We charged the Chabad emissary in Riga, Rabbi Glasman, payment in matza!
Romaine lettuce, much to our surprise, was easy to purchase. However, horseradish was a different story. Friday morning we gave a nice fellow money for horseradish and a 20,000 ruble ($11) tip, with a promise for more if he succeeded in finding the horseradish. Sure enough, he returned, with enough horseradish to feed an army. One small problem: We didn't have time to prepare it in the food processor. So Saturday night we peeled, sliced and diced those horseradishes by hand. Boy did the tears flow.
Then the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived.
Shabbat ended and Passover began. The tables were set with beautiful white tableclothes, Yom Tov candles, maror, matza, wine and the Seder plates.
Everybody took their cup and together we said the kiddush. How wondrous are G-d's ways. Here we were in Russian with 110 Jewish kids, beginning the Passover Seder.
The Ma Nishtana was recited in Russian by one of the campers and then it was sung in the traditional tune. Throughout the Seder, everyone sang and was very involved.
Near the end of the Seder, a counselor gave a serious talk about the significance of saying the verses, "Pour out Your wrath..." and opening the door: "At this auspicious moment, when the gates of heaven are open, it is a special time to ask for a blessing for the Rebbe and anything else."
Two campers took candles and stood on either side of the door. Suddenly there were tears everywhere. Everybody stood motionless, realizing what a precious gift our Judaism is. And with these tears we began to sing Yechi Adoneinu -- Long Live the Rebbe.
We moved on to Hallel and thanked G-d for the miracles of bygone and present times. Then we drank the fourth cup of "wine" and everyone began dancing to the song L'shana Haba -- Next year in Jerusalem and Yechi. With that we ended the Seder.
The younger children went off to sleep. Some of the older campers stayed in the dining room with their counselors and spent most of the night talking.
When the first days of Yom Tov were over, we went with the campers to the zoo, the Moscow circus, an amusement park, and more.
As we approached the final days of Passover and camp, we spent time explaining to the campers the concept of Moshiach and the special connection that his arrival has with the last day of Passover.
By nightfall, the campers were eagerly awaiting Moshiach Seuda -- the special meal for Moshiach. Finally it came. There was an inspiring medley of songs, stories, speeches and dances all about Moshiach.
One of the counselors said, "This is a special time for Moshiach to come. Many times the Rebbe has said that we must cry out to G-d and say "Da Koley!" (Ad Mosai--How much longer!) G-d listens especially to the prayers of the young. In this land where so many people have had self-sacrifice for Judaism, let us cry out together to G-d that He send Moshiach NOW!" With complete solemnity, the campers saluted the Rebbe and then called out, "Da Koley!"
We danced for a long time after that.
When Yom Tov ended we prepared the traditional end-of-camp banquet. We didn't go to sleep until about 5:00 a.m. and were up again at 7:30 a.m. to make food for the campers' return trips.
When the last group of children stood on the train platform saying goodbye, one of the children began to sing a camp song.
Everyone joined in. Then they sang a famous Russian peasant song that was transformed decades ago into a Chasidic song. It is about two travelers and a bottle of vodka. One says to the other, "Don't worry, we will arrive at the next city and there will be vodka there." Only in the Chasidic version the words are: Don't worry, comrade, about what will be with us, for we are traveling to the Rebbe and there we will find Moshiach.
Indeed we are traveling towards Moshiach. May G-d listen to the pure prayer of the Jewish children in Russia and all over the world.
The second Passover Seder:
"In this country, it is customary to arrange communal seders. Generally, however, only one communal seder is arranged and not two. It is important that all those who hold communal seders should hold communal seders for both nights. If there is a lack of funds, the first seder should be held in a simpler manner or funds can be raised to allow both seders to be celebrated in the proper manner." (The Rebbe, 8 Nisan, 5751-1991)
11 Nisan, 5722 (1962)
The Festival of Passover, the Season of Our liberation, being a part of Torah ("Torah" in the sense of instruction and guidance), teaches us the true concept of freedom.
Unlike other, often strange, interpretations of this concept, the Festival of Passover reminds and teaches us that true freedom means total freedom; that is, full and complete freedom in all three aspects which constitute human life:
- the realms of the soul,
- the realm of the body, and
- the surrounding world in which the individual lives
-- in each of the three areas individually, and in all of them together.
This means that a Jew must strive for true freedom in all of the said three aspects of his daily life, and in such a way that not only would they not be in conflict with one another, but, on the contrary, one would supplement and complete the other. Only this kind of freedom may be called true freedom.
It is self evident that the said harmonious and total freedom cannot be achieved in a way of life whereby the soul, which is truly a part of G-d (the G-dliness in man), would be subordinated to the body, and both of them (body and soul), to the (material) world.
The superior cannot serve the inferior and be content to do so.
The highest aspect of human life, the soul, will never acquiesce in subservience to the body. The obvious conclusion, therefore, is that true freedom can be achieved only when the lower constituents of human life - the body and material environment - will be elevated to the highest possible, for them, degree of affinity, with the soul and its aspirations, while the soul, on its own level, will liberate itself from everything that hinders her fulfillment.
The enslavement in Egypt, and the subsequent liberation, reflect precisely the concept of freedom defined above:
The enslavement was complete and total in all three aforementioned aspects of human life;
- spiritual enslavement in, and to, a country of the lowest moral depravity, for which reason Egypt was called the "abomination of the earth";
- extreme physical slavery of "hard labor";
- the fullest deprivation of their share of material world possessions to which they were entitled.
The liberation, likewise was in all the three aspects, and in the fullest measure:
- First and foremost, spiritual liberation -- "withdraw and take for yourselves lambs... for the Passover sacrifice." Not only was it a withdrawal from worship of the Egyptian deity, but also an open demonstration of its nothingness;
- the fullest physical liberation, by marching out of Egypt with a "high hand" (raised hand), with song and jubilation;
- as for their share of material wealth, they went out "with great substance."
In seeking self-liberation, there are those who confine themselves to their soul: they pray and learn Torah, and so on, but when they sit down to eat and drink, their enslavement to the animal in man becomes very much in evidence.
There are others who recognize that freedom must include also the body, and that the gratification of the bodily needs should conform to the true Jewish way. However, they are Jews at home only; when they go outside and go about their business (what should be their business) they feel no responsibility to elevate their share in the material world; they are slaves to the "Egyptian" environment, for the Torah, and Shulchan Aruch, their liberation from Egypt, is left behind, locked up at home.
Comes Passover and reminds every Jew that the liberation from Egypt should be a daily experience: "Remember the day of your liberation from the land of Egypt all the days of your life."
The Jew is reminded daily: You are free, liberated in soul and in body; and this personal liberation of body and soul makes it possible to convert the substance of Egypt into a great Jewish substance.
"I demand only according to their capacity" G-d, the Creator of man, declares that what he requests and demands of Jews does not exceed their capacity and ability to fulfill; all that is needed is the firm determination to fulfill G-d's request. And this is the way, indeed the only way, to our true freedom, freedom from the inner personal exile, and freedom also from the general exile, through our Righteous Moshiach.
Hundreds of Chabad Lubavitch Centers around the world will be hosting the traditional, Moshiach Seuda, or Meal of Moshiach on the last day of Passover. To find out about the Moshiach Seuda near you call your local Chabad Lubavitch Center.
DON'T BLAME THE POST OFFICE
Don't blame the post office when you don't receive an issue of L'Chaim for Nisan 21-April 21. We do not print for the intermediate days of Passover.
L'Chaim #365 is for Nisan 28 - April 28.
See you then.
It was the custom of the Baal Shem Tov to partake of three meals on the last day of Passover. The third meal, which took place late in the afternoon, was known as the "Festive Meal of Moshiach," or Moshiach's Seuda, for on this day the radiance of Moshiach is openly revealed.
Beginning in the year 5666 (1906) it became customary in Lubavitch for the students of the Lubavitcher yeshiva to eat their Passover meals together in the study hall. That year the Rebbe Rashab joined the students for the third festive meal of the last day of Passover, and directed that each of them be given four cups of wine. The Rebbe has commented that this was obviously intended to become an annual custom.
Moshiach's Seuda was instituted on the eighth day of Passover, as the number eight is connected to the Redemption (being one more than seven -- symbolic of the natural order) and the Haftorah read on the eighth day of Passover contains many of the Messianic prophecies.
One might ask, what is the point of eating an actual, physical meal that relates to the subject of Moshiach?
This festive meal causes the image and the feeling of the future Redemption to penetrate not only all the faculties of a person's soul, including his capacity for action, but his physical body as well -- by means of the physical food that becomes part of his very flesh and blood. Partaking of this festive meal is intended to draw down the radiance of Moshiach into every aspect of one's daily life throughout the year.
This simply means -- as an anticipatory echo of how the world will appear after the Redemption -- that holiness should permeate all of a person's activities, including his physical activities, to the point that he is prepared to sacrifice the innermost core of his soul. This is the yechida within his soul, the element of Moshiach in his soul.
The Rebbe once explained, "The four cups of wine on the Seder night are the cups of Moses our teacher; the four cups of wine at Seudas Moshiach on the last day of Passover are the cups of our righteous Moshiach."
During the seder we say, "May G-d...bring us to other future festivals in peace." Many Jewish holidays commemorate terrible edicts and decrees that were averted at the last minute; we beg G-d to give us cause for celebration of an entirely different nature, "festivals in peace," unconnected to troubles and woe of any kind!
This is the bread of affliction (from the Hagada)
Before we begin to recite the Hagada the following announcement is made: "May all who are hungry come and eat." As "all Jews are guarantors of one another," no Jew can be truly free as long as his brother remains in servitude. Accordingly, our first obligation is to invite our less fortunate brethren to partake of the meal; only then can we properly observe the seder and go out of exile.
Here, the son asks (from the Hagada)
Said Rabbi Aaron of Stolin, in the name of his father, Rabbi Asher:
"Here" -- the night of the seder -- is an auspicious time for every Jewish "son" to "ask" his Father in Heaven for all his needs, and to receive His blessings in abundance.
For not only one stood against us to destroy us (from the Hagada)
Why have our enemies sought to destroy us? Because we were "not only one." Lack of unity among the Jewish people is the primary cause of all our troubles. (Sefat Emet)
It was the day before Passover and the Baal Shem Tov (the Besht) was in a happy mood as he and his disciples gathered for the ceremony of preparing the specially watched water for the matzot which are baked right before the onset of the the holiday. But soon after the water was prepared, everyone noticed a drastic change in the mood of the Besht, from happiness to deep melancholy and even sadness.
As usual, the Besht himself led the evening prayers, but his devotions were accompanied by terrible groans and cries. His Chasidim were shocked, since he usually prayed with tremendous joy, especially Passover eve.
Later that night, the Besht summoned ten of his disciples. "I want you to gather outside my room, and together, recite the Tikun Chatzot (midnight prayers). Just remember what I am about to tell you. If you see that I faint, do not touch me or do anything at all to revive me. The only action you must take is to recite Psalms until I come back to myself."
The Chasidim followed his orders, assembling outside the Besht's room and saying the midnight prayer. After a short while, the scribe, Reb Tzvi, ran from the Besht's room in a panic, exclaiming, "The Rebbe is lying on the floor in a faint! Who knows if he will regain consciousness!"
The Chasidim began reciting Psalms as they had been told, and continued all through the night, sobbing and imploring G-d to bring their master back to this world in good health.
Finally, after dawn, the Besht awakened, but he was weak and unable to walk. He mustered the energy to ask his disciples to carry him to the mikva.
When the Baal Shem Tov regained his strength, he returned to the study hall to lead the morning prayers. Before beginning, to the surprise of everyone, he instructed those present to concentrate on the holy intentions that accompany the Rosh Hashana prayers.
Throughout the entire service, the Besht wept. Even later in the day, when the time arrived to bake the special matzot, usually a time of great joy, the Besht was still deeply sad. After the afternoon service, the disciples recited the Passover eve prayers, and the Besht cried still more.
Finally, night fell and the Besht sat down together with his disciples at the Seder table. But instead of illuminating the evening with his brilliant exposition of the Hagada, he simply read through the text, making no comments at all. When the first part of the Hagada had been recited, the Besht's mood changed; his gloom lifted, and he suddenly began to laugh. Finally the Besht turned to his disciples and said, "Now, I will explain to you what happened."
"The day before Passover eve, the day of drawing the special water, I saw that a decree was made in Heaven against 400 Jewish families. These families were destined to be taken away, G-d forbid, from this world! I ascended to the supernal worlds and did everything in my power to have this decree annulled, but all of my efforts were to no avail. After all of my spiritual exertion, all that remained for me was simply to put my faith in G-d that all would be well.
"When I awoke the next morning, I saw that the decree was not revoked. In fact, it was even stronger than before. That is why such a sadness overcame me. Then I saw something else: A middle- aged couple sat around a Seder table in a far-away city. This couple had no children, and were sitting alone at their table, reading from their Hagada. When they reached the part which describes Pharaoh's terrible decree to throw all the infant Jewish boys into the Nile, the woman began arguing against the Almighty, screaming, 'No! This cannot be! If I were the mother of children,' she cried, 'would I do such a thing? Would I throw my children into the water? As bad as a child may be, is that how parents behave?' And the good woman did not stop. She continued berating the Creator, saying, 'How long will You keep us in exile? You say you are our Father! How long will You draw out this terrible exile? It's high time You take us out of exile and bring the Redemption!'
"Her husband tried to calm her down. 'Have faith! Surely you know that everything G-d does is for the good and there is no evil in His actions!' But the woman was unmoved by all his arguments. 'A father must have mercy on his children no matter what,' she insisted.
"And then," the Besht continued, "there was a great commotion in Heaven. One group of angels said, 'What chutzpa! How can this woman make demands on G-d?' Then another group of angels began disagreeing, claiming, 'Here is a simple Jewish woman, one who, without being a mother herself, feels to passionately for G-d's children! She is right!'
"I was very fearful," said the Besht, "for I did not know which group would win the argument! And then what happened? The couple drank the four cups of wine, and finished the Seder. Then the woman said to her husband, 'True, it is a bitter exile, but now it is a Yom Tov, a holy day for G-d and the Jews. We should celebrate it with joy.' And the man and his wife danced merrily around the table, their hearts filled with joy for their Creator in the happiness of the holiday.
"All the celestial beings watched them in wonder. They saw the great joy with which this couple could celebrate the holy Yom Tov, even in bitter exile, and how they fulfilled G-d's will, despite the deep darkness of the exile. And when the angels witnessed the unbridled joy this couple took in the Yom Tov, those who were accusers became advocates and the decree was overturned. And that is when I laughed, for I rejoiced in the power of joy which saved the lives of four hundred holy Jewish souls."
As is well known, the concept of Redemption came into being with the Exodus from Egypt, and it was then too that a conduit was opened for the coming of the future Redemption. Since the same downward flow of Divine energy is aroused afresh every Passover as it was at the time of the Exodus, it is obvious that every Passover the radiance of Moshiach is aroused and afresh.
(From Exile to Redemption)