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What marks the birth of a child? The moment the child is freed from the constraints and limitations of the womb. And what marks the birth of the Jewish people? When we were freed from the physical limitations of Egyptian slavery and the spiritual constraints of the idolatry and culture we had adopted during our exile in Egypt.
And so, because of the magnitude of the change from one status to another, we celebrate. We celebrate our birthdays on the anniversary of the day we were born and we celebrate the birth of the Jewish people on Passover.
The Talmud teaches that on your birthday good fortune is on your side. In addition, Jewish mysticism explains that on the anniversary of an event, the divine forces that were present on that day are present once more.
This means that on Passover, the divine forces that helped us lift ourselves out of slavery of mind, soul and body can be harnessed to help us lift ourselves out of these constraints and limitations once more.
A few days before Passover, the birthday of the Jewish people, we celebrate the ninety-fifth birthday of the Rebbe.
Celebrating a birthday in a traditional Jewish manner involves using the day for the greatest spiritual benefit. This is done by giving charity; sharing words of Jewish thought and content with friends and family; reflecting on the year gone by; making good resolutions for the future.
On his birthday, the Rebbe has regularly devoted his time to giving. He has given blessings, he has distributed holy books as gifts to thousands of followers and admirers, he has shared his time and his vast knowledge of Torah concepts. Nevertheless, many people will want to give gifts to the Rebbe on such a special occasion.
What gifts can we give the Rebbe? A single good deed. A few moments specially set aside for Torah study. A coin in a tzedaka box each weekday. A determined effort to grow Jewishly. Any Torah study or mitzvot performed with the intent of preparing for and hastening the long awaited Redemption for which the Rebbe has devoted his life.
Passover is called the "Time of Our Liberation." This term expresses not only the theme of the holiday, but contains a lesson to apply in our lives throughout the year, in any time and in any place.
On Passover the Jewish people were freed from more than physical subjugation and slavery. Rather, the "Time of Our Liberation" denotes a true freedom, the deliverance of the individual from all limitations and constraints. "Not only our ancestors did the Holy One, Blessed Be He, redeem from Egypt, but He redeemed us together with them."
G-d took the Jewish people out of Egypt for the purpose of giving them His Torah on Mount Sinai, thereby enabling them to observe all its commandments. This was the sole reason for the exodus.
A Jew attains true spiritual freedom when one lives according to the Torah. But what is spiritual enslavement today?
A Jew is "enslaved" when being subordinated to the non-Jewish world, when one is ashamed to be different. When a Jew allows him/herself to be swayed by the conventional "wisdom," it is a sign of an inner spiritual servitude. By contrast, when a Jew refuses to be influenced by the environment and persists in observing mitzvot, the Jew is free.
The concept of servitude exists on an inner level as well, when a person is held prisoner by ones habits and inclinations. Enslavement to one's baser instincts is also a form of subjugation. True liberation is attained when a Jew overcomes their evil inclination and is master of all his actions.
On Passover, before we begin the recitation of the story of the exodus, we announce, "Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the seder of Passover."
Everyone is invited to sit with us at the Passover table, not just family members and good friends. With true love for our brethren all Jews are included in our invitation, without regard for external differences.
So too was it when Moses appealed to Pharaoh to free the Jewish people. The first condition he stated was "with our youth and with our elders we will go; with our sons and with our daughters." All Jews left Egypt together as one; all of the tribes were included, and not even a single Jew was left behind in exile. When the exact moment for redemption arrived the entire Jewish people was liberated.
It is a mitzva to recall the exodus from Egypt every day. When we celebrate Passover properly, its influence extends throughout the year. In such a manner are we liberated from all our inner and outer limitations and we are free to carry out our G-dly mission: the observance of Torah and mitzvot.
Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 22
Photograph of The Rebbe drawing water for matza
by Esther Altmann
Passover had almost arrived and in New Haven, Connecticut, a seder was being planned for Russian immigrants. Arrangements were made for a young couple, who had recently come to New York from Russia, to travel to New Haven and conduct the seder in Russian.
On the afternoon of the eve of Passover, the Rebbe began to distribute the hand-baked shmura matza in which he had participated in baking. Thousands of Chasidim waited in line to receive the matza -- a piece for each family, or several for a community.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Stock, a shliach (emissary) of the Rebbe in Bridgeport/Fairfield County, Connecticut, was waiting in line to get the matza for his community. He was approached by a friend who explained that the ride for the Russian couple had fallen through. "Can the young Russian rabbi wait in line with you to get matza from the Rebbe for New Haven and then, with his wife, travel to Bridgeport with you?" the friend asked Rabbi Stock. From there, a ride would be arranged to New Haven. Rabbi Stock readily agreed.
Rabbi Stock recounts the unusual developments that followed:
"The Russian rabbi was in line directly ahead of me. He spoke in Russian, and told the Rebbe that he was going to New Haven to make a communal seder there for Russian Jews. The Rebbe shrugged his shoulders, and turned to me, saying in Yiddish, 'I don't understand what he is saying. Do you understand what he is saying?'
"I was taken aback. The Rebbe understands Russian fluently. I don't know a word of Russian. The Russian rabbi started all over again in Russian (he later told me that he always communicates with the Rebbe in Russian!), telling the Rebbe that he is going to New Haven to make a seder for Russian Jews there. The Rebbe looked at him and then at me and then back at him. 'Aha, you're traveling with him.' the Rebbe said to the Russian rabbi. 'You're traveling to Bridgeport to make a seder for Russian Jews.' The Rebbe finally gave him the matza, saying, 'This is for a seder in Bridgeport.' "
The Russian rabbi took the matza for Bridgeport and proceeded to ask for matza for New Haven. The Rebbe reluctantly gave him the matza for New Haven. Rabbi Stock's turn was next and the Rebbe gave him the matza together with a blessing for a "kosher and happy Passover."
Traffic was very heavy on the way to Connecticut and Rabbi Stock and the young Russian couple arrived only 40 minutes before sundown. If the couple would set out for New Haven now, there was little chance that they would arrive before the holiday began. They had no choice but to stay in Bridgeport.
For the Jews of Bridgeport it was a windfall. The large number of Russian families that were coming to the communal seder in Bridgeport would now be able to hear explanations and insights on the Passover Hagada in their native tongue. The Rebbe's words were fulfilled to the letter.
New Haven, however, in addition to being without the young couple, was also left without the very special and much desired matza from the Rebbe. So, Rabbi Sholom Ber Levitan, a shliach in New Haven, decided that he would walk to Bridgeport and bring the matza back to New Haven, so that at least at the second seder they would be able to partake of the Rebbe's matza.
It was the morning of the first day of Passover when Rabbi Levitan started walking. He brought matza with him and set out on the 30 mile hike. He knew which road led directly to Bridgeport, but somehow, when he passed the town of Milford, he realized that he was briskly walking down an unknown road, leading, he wasn't sure where. He calculated the time so far spent walking -- four hours, the time remaining until sunset -- not very long, and deduced that he couldn't possibly make it to Bridgeport and back to New Haven before the second day of Yom Tov began.
Up ahead, he spotted a large building which turned out to be a hospital. Having personally experienced numerous times that "G-d directs the footsteps of man," Rabbi Levitan knew that though this was not a Jewish area, there might be some Jewish patients in the hospital who needed matza.
Rabbi Levitan went into the hospital and inquired at patient information if there were any Jewish patients. He received an affirmative answer -- there was one Jewish patient, a woman. Rabbi Levitan headed straight to her room, matza in hand. "Hello," he said, standing in the doorway. "My name is Rabbi Levitan. I wonder if you need matza?" To the woman lying in the bed, Rabbi Levitan's appearance was far more than a pleasant, unexpected visit, for when she got over her surprise at seeing the black-hatted, bearded Jew, she told him how she had spent the entire previous night.
"Rabbi, I can't believe you are here! Here I was in the hospital for Passover, and I wanted matza for the holiday so much. I had no one to bring it to me so I asked the hospital to get me some. I was very disappointed that they hadn't gotten me any. All last night I was thinking, 'Tonight is the first seder and I don't even have matza!" I started praying to G-d that He would somehow send me some matza, so I could celebrate Passover, too. And here you are standing with matza in your hand! "
Rabbi Levitan gave the woman the matza, wished her a "good Yom Tov." He turned around for the four hour walk back to New Haven, all the way thinking about his surprising mission. It was just time to begin the second seder when he arrived home in New Haven, with no matza from the Rebbe to show for his full-day walk, but with a fascinating tale of Divine Providence reaching out to a Jewish woman in a hospital somewhere in Connecticut.
If you don't have family or friends nearby with whom to celebrate the Passover seders, contact your nearest Chabad-Lubavitch Center to find out about attending a communal seder. If you do have a seder to attend, invite someone who doesn't or help sponsor someone by calling your Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
Translation of a letter of the Rebbe 11th of Nisan, 5735 
In our letter of Rosh Chodesh Nisan we reflected on the subject of Z'man Cheirutainu, the Festival of Our Liberation, in its dual meaning: liberation of the Jewish people and, with it, liberation of the Shechina (Divine Presence), as it were -- a concept already indicated in various texts of the Torah and more explicitly in Rabbinic sources.
It is rooted in the fact that when Jews go into exile, the Shechina goes (into exile) with them. Thus our Sages of blessed memory declared, "As they went into exile in Egypt, the Shechina went with them." Hence, liberation must likewise include both -- "the people and G-d." Consequently, it was pointed out, true freedom must be expressed in terms of continuous striving for liberation and expansiveness (the exact opposite of bondage and restraint) in the everyday life -- both in the area of person's duties to G-d and in the area of the person's duties to another ("Good to heaven and good to the creatures"), so as to achieve redemption of both "the people and G-d."
Pursuing the theme more deeply, at least in one aspect, it ought to be said that true liberation, in addition to being expressed in the two said areas of human endeavor requires, moreover, that every action, whether in the realm of "good to heaven" or "good to the creatures," must embrace elements of both, and also in the same measure of freedom and expansiveness in both.
Parenthetically, yet significantly, this is also a step towards achieving, in a deeper and more inclusive way, unity of the entire created universe -- which is, of course, the purpose of the Jew, as an individual, and as a member of the people which is characterized as one people on earth in the sense (according to a Chasidic interpretation) that "it brings about unity (also) in the realm of earthly things."
By way of illustration:
We see that when a Jew is about to celebrate the seder in the best manner of "good to heaven" -- being inspired with gratitude to G-d for the geula [redemption from Egypt], in which he experiences his personal redemption, as in the text of the Hagada, "... Who redeemed us (in addition to) and Who redeemed our ancestors..." -- we must begin the seder with the announcement, "Whoever is hungry.... whoever is needy," immediately inviting to the seder table all those who are unable to celebrate the seder by themselves.
Furthermore, the whole seder is based on the commandment, "You shall tell your child," indicating an obligation to involve others in it, whatever their status, for -- "Your child" includes all the four kinds of children, and, moreover, in light of the Sages' interpretation that "Your children includes your disciples," it really embraces everyone whom you can influence and bring closer to Judaism.
Just as in the realm of "good to heaven," which must embrace also "good to the creatures," so in the realm of the latter true liberation in inter-human relations is achieved when it is also "good to heaven."
For if an action in relation to other people is prompted only by one's own reason, or feeling, it is limited to, and in the measure of, one's intellect and feelings -- as this subject has been discussed at greater length elsewhere.
Inasmuch as the geula from the present galut [exile] is destined to be "as in the days of your going out of Egypt," which, as mentioned above, was in a manner of redeeming "the people and G-d," it is self- evident that the way to hasten its coming is through efforts and deeds in both areas; in that of "good to heaven" -- to help redeem the Shechina from galut and in that of "good to the creatures" -- to ensure that no Jew should, G-d forbid, be lost in the galut:
Efforts and deeds in the service of G-d embracing all three pillars, Torah, Avoda [prayer], and Gemilut Chasadim [acts of kindness], with true freedom in the above-mentioned sense.
May G-d grant that by virtue of the Jews being "all of us like one," we should promptly see the open realization of "bless us, our Father," and the realization of, "In that day G-d will be One and His Name One," through the service of "one people on earth," and the realization that "G-d is my King since the days of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth," with the coming of the true and complete Geula through our righteous Moshiach.
With esteem and blessing for a happy and kosher Pesach,
HAGADA IN RUSSIAN
The complete story of the exodus from Egypt and the Passover Hagada by are now available in Russian. To have copies at your Passover seder call Hoascanim (212) 509-1378 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Shamir Organization - www.shamir.com for their materials.
Written by Simon Jacobson, author of Toward a Meaningful Life, this publication is your guide to harnessing the potential for spiritual growth during the seven-week "Sefira" season between Passover and Shavuot. To order, call (718) 774-6448 or write to: email@example.com for more info.
This Friday, 11 Nisan, we celebrate the Rebbe's 95th birthday. It is customary to recite daily the chapter in Psalms corresponding to one's years. Chasidic tradition encourages that one recite daily the Psalm of the Rebbe, as well. Thus, Jews the world over will begin reciting Psalm 96 this Friday in the Rebbe's honor.
King David recited Psalm 96 when he brought the Holy Ark back from its captivity in Philistine exile and he sang joyously upon the ark's redemption. Similarly, when Israel is finally redeemed, the Jews will go to Moshiach and exult with King David's opening words to this Psalm: "Sing to Hashem [G-d] a new song, sing to Hashem everyone on earth."
Let us take a look at how a few commentators explain some of the verses in this magnificent Psalm.
"Sing to Hashem a new song, sing to Hashem everyone on earth."
The commentator, Radak, explains that in the time of Moshiach, every person will arouse his neighbor to praise Hashem with these opening words. This is the reason why these words are the introduction for many of the Psalms which speak of the future Redemption.
"Sing to Hashem, bless His name."
We are blessing G-d for the kindness He will display when gathering the exiles.
"Tremble before Him, everyone on earth."
The nations who failed to fear G-d throughout the millennia of history will recognize His greatness in the Messianic Era and will tremble before Him.
"He will judge the nations with equity."
G-d will bring lasting peace to the world in the Messianic Era. He will also render judgement concerning each country's final recompense: the deserving nations will be duly rewarded, and the guilty ones will receive fair punishment.
"The heavens will rejoice and the earth will be glad."
This is a figurative allusion to the happiness which will sweep the universe at the advent of the Messianic Era of eternal peace.
Even nature will signify its joy by carrying out the functions assigned to its various components by G-d. The heavens will give abundant rain and dew; the earth will give generous crops.
"Before Hashem, for He arrives, for He arrives to judge the earth."
"He arrives," is repeated twice because G-d's "arrival" will serve a dual purpose: First, He will redeem the Jews in the diaspora. Second, He will punish the nations who tormented the Jewish people
As is obvious, Psalm 96 is full of references to the times of Moshiach.
Our Sages taught, "In Nisan we were redeemed and in Nisan we will be redeemed in the future." May the commencement of the recitation of Psalm 96 -- which is replete with references to the Messianic Era -- be the last push we need to get us out of exile and into the Days of Moshiach, with the Rebbe leading us to the Holy Temple, NOW!
This shall be the law of the leper (Lev. 14:2)
The Hebrew word used in the Torah for "leper" is "metzora." The word "metzora" is a combination of two words, "motzi ra" which means "to bring out evil." A leper is punished for the sin of speaking gossip. When a person speaks gossip about an other, he brings out evil about the other person.
The Kohen shall command and for the person being purified there shall be taken two live clean birds (Lev. 14:4)
Two birds were needed to purify a leper, because very often when a person speaks badly about another, it can cause strife between two friends or between a husband and wife. By using two birds, the Torah is teaching us that before the leper can be forgiven for speaking evil, he must first bring about peace between the two people he has caused to become estranged.
And I will place the plague of leprosy upon a house in the land of your possession (Lev. 14:34)
One commentary states that to a certain extent a plague on a house after the Jews entered Israel was a good thing because the Amorites, who had lived in Israel previously, had hidden gold in the walls of their houses. When the Jews had to break down their walls because of the plague, they found the gold. This is a lesson for all of us. Every Jew has treasures hidden deep within. When he sins, he is neglecting the treasures that G-d has instilled within. When a Jew is given a plague, it reminds him to repent, which brings him closer to G-d. In that way, the hidden treasures are revealed.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, attracted to himself a circle of most distinguished disciples, each a great Talmudic scholar in his own right. To this distinguished group, which was divided into three groups, Rabbi Shneur Zalman taught his concepts of Chasidic philosophy.
Many of these disciples had formerly been opponents of the new teaching, but had been won over to it by the depth and profundity they found in Chasidic philosophy and the evidence of its power to refine the Jew's character.
One of these young men arrived in Liozna and soon made a name for himself as a brilliant "masmid," a person who devoted every moment of his time to the study of Torah. He spent hours immersed in meditation and contemplation and in a relatively short amount of time he achieved a remarkable mastery of the topics of Chasidic philosophy.
One evening, near the end of the fast of the Tenth of Tevet, he was feeling the effects of the fast, and so, exhausted and weak, he decided to retire earlier than usual. He prepared himself by washing his hands and reciting the Shema, which is said before retiring. However, he did not get a wink of sleep that night. Instead, he fell into a reverie of mediation upon the mysteries of the Divine names which are woven into the words of the Shema. Lost in thought, he remained standing by his window until dawn filled the sky.
In those days, to have a private audience with the Rebbe was a rare event, preceded by intense preparation and introspection. When the day arrived for this particular young man to enter the Rebbe's study, he asked the Rebbe: "What do I lack?" The Rebbe replied, "You lack nothing in scholarship and fear of heaven. One thing, however, you must see to, and that is to get rid of the chametz in your character, the leavened, the puffed up nature of an inflated ego. The remedy for this is matza, a poor food which symbolizes bittel, or self- abnegation.
The Rebbe continued to speak to his young disciple in this vein, explaining a certain Jewish law with which the young man was thoroughly conversant. Now, however, the student understood not only the plain meaning, but also the inner, esoteric meaning of the halacha. The Rebbe explained, "If a kitchen utensil which is used for Passover comes into contact with chametz (leavened), the law requires that it be heated so intensely that it emits sparks or its outermost part comes off."
The young man listened well to what the Rebbe told him, and when he left the Rebbe's room he was a different person. Speaking of it to his companions, he said, "The Rebbe taught me one of the laws of Passover as it is learned in the Torah Academy in the next world. He has infused me with the strength to work on my own character and to accomplish this law in my own day to day life."
The rebbetzin of the Apta Rav, Rabbi Yehoshua Heschel, was busy finishing up the last minute preparations for the seder when there was a knock on the door. A servant opened the door, and there stood two charity collectors who were making the rounds gathering matza for the town's poor. The servant, seeing a stack of matzas wrapped in a napkin on the table, took it and innocently gave it to the men.
When, a bit later, the rebbetzin entered the room and noticed the matza missing, her heart fell, for this was no ordinary matza. They were the meticulously-prepared and guarded matzas which her husband had baked just before the holiday was ushered in.
She called in her household servants and soon discovered how it happened, but there was nothing to be done about it. She couldn't bring herself to disappoint her husband by telling him about the mistake, and so, with a heavy heart, she wrapped some ordinary matzas in a napkin and placed them on the table and said nothing about it.
Several days after Passover ended a young couple came to Rabbi Heschel seeking a divorce. The Apta Rav asked the husband why he wanted a divorce. He replied that his wife had refused to cook the Passover food without gebrokts - according to the custom which requires that no matza come into contact with water.
The Rav called over his rebbetzin and asked, "Tell me, what kind of matzas did we use for the Passover seder?"
His wife was startled by the sudden question, and she was afraid to respond. The Rav encouraged her and calmed her fears, and she went on to explain to her husband the entire episode that had transpired the afternoon of the holiday.
The Rav then turned to the young husband and said in a kind tone, "Listen to me, son. On the first night of Passover I ate regular matza and I pretended not to notice any difference. Why did I do this? I didn't wish to bring about any hard feelings or anger, G-d forbid. And you wish to divorce your wife over this Passover custom!!"
The young man immediately recognized his folly and the couple left completely reconciled.
What more can I do to motivate the whole world to cry out and demand the Redemption?... I have done all I can; now you must do whatever you can. May it be G-d's will that there will be one, two, or three among you who will appreciate what needs to be done and how it needs to be done, and may you actually be successful and bring about the complete Redemption, immediately."
(The Rebbe, 28 Nisan, 1991)