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Remembering and telling. Two different, but related activities. Perhaps we can distinguish them as follows: Remembering is something we do with ourselves, telling is something we do with others. When we say to someone, "Do you remember when...?" and they reply, "Yes" and that's the end of the interaction - they're remembering. But when they say, "Yes. We were in such-and-such a place and you wore such-and-such, etc.," they're telling. We start reliving the event together.
In addition, remembering can be general, even vague. "I remember we went to that historic site, but I don't remember much about it." Memories can lack detail. Stories, to be real stories, cannot. The telling is in the details. We will be satisfied with a generalized remembering; we insist on details in the telling.
This brings us to Passover. Regarding the Exodus from Egypt, we actually have two separate mitzvot (commandments). We have a mitzva to remember the Exodus every day and we have a mitzva to tell the story of the Exodus - in detail - on the night of Passover.
So we can ask, what's the difference here? Why do we have to tell the story of the Exodus specifically on the night it happened, but every other day, we only have to remember it? Why not retell the story every day, or be satisfied with just remembering it on Passover as well? After all, cleaning the house, having a festive meal - all the changes we make for Passover even without the special hagada should be reminder enough.
We can answer the question, why make a distinction, thus: A unique day in our lives - a birthday or an anniversary, for example - helps define who we are and what our purpose is. The same is true of a nation. Passover is the day when the Jewish people became a free nation, became G-d's nation. So the yearly anniversary of that event draws forth the special nature of the day.
But still, every day we must remember who we are and why we're here. For that, the general remembrance suffices.
The difference goes deeper, of course. Every day of the year it's sufficient to remember that we are no longer enslaved, that we are not under the authority of a Pharaoh, then or now. On Passover itself, however, we must emphasize the "wonders and miracles." Telling the story emphasizes not just freedom in nature, but freedom from nature. As Jews we are not just free of temporal authority, we transcend it.
During the year we remember that we went out of Egypt - we stopped being slaves, left servitude behind. On Passover we tell the story of how we became free, how G-d separated us from the nations.
And really, that's the two-part process of Redemption. First, we leave behind - go out from - that which restrains us. First, there is the Exodus, the departure from hindrances to living a totally Jewish lifestyle. Then there is the Redemption itself, the becoming a free nation, becoming G-d's people, becoming, on an individual level, a Jew immersed in Judaism.
May we soon experience the culmination of the Exodus from Egypt, the final Redemption, about which we are promised, "Like in the days of your going forth from Egypt, I will show you wonders."
The main theme of the festival of Passover is its being "the time of our liberation." This holiday commemorates the Jews' redemption from slavery to freedom, and our transformation into an independent nation. The Torah uses the words, "Or has a god ever tried to take for himself a nation from the midst of a nation, by trials, by signs, and by wonders...like all that G-d has done for you before your eyes in Egypt." The expression "nation from the midst of a nation" describes the uniqueness of Passover.
One can argue that the Jews in Egypt already comprised a nation unto themselves, speaking their own language, living in their own territory (Goshen), and wearing "Jewish" clothing. But on the other hand, they were still "in the midst of a nation" - the Children of Israel were subservient to and dependent upon their Egyptian hosts.
Our Sages likened the situation to that of a fetus in the womb. In one respect, it has an existence of its own. It possesses a head, hands, feet, and all its other limbs. But it does not lead an independent life. Wherever the mother goes, it goes. Whatever food the mother eats provides its sustenance. The fetus is totally dependent on its mother.
These, too, were the circumstances experienced by the Jews in Egypt. Although they already comprised a nation, with all that it implies, the Jews were totally dependent upon Egypt, so much so, that it appeared as if they too worshipped the Egyptian idols.
The way to liberation and to "cutting the umbilical cord" with Egypt was initiated by the Passover offering. The Children of Israel were commanded to take a lamb, the very god of the Egyptians, and to slaughter and eat it. The courage it took for the Jews to slaughter the object of Egyptian idol worship was the first step towards freeing themselves from their connection to the Egyptian culture.
This also expresses an eternal truth about the concept of freedom itself. A person can imagine himself independent and liberated, but this is only upon superficial reflection. On the basis of his possessing an intellect and free will, he feels that he is free. But if he studies the situation more closely, he will find that he is indeed connected at the umbilical cord to his surroundings. In reality, he is but a slave - a slave to his environment, to the predominant culture, and to the philosophy of the day. And the worst part of all is that he still thinks that this is freedom.
Passover endows us with the inner strength to arrive at true liberation. The first step toward this aim is to "slaughter" the "idols" that we worship, the ways of the world, its customs, and materialism. We will then come to the true freedom of being servants of the one G-d, and not "servants to other servants."
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
The Circle of Matza
by Avi Schuman
After completing my studies at the Sorbonne University in Paris, I began to explore my Jewish roots and became acquainted with Rabbi Nachum Pinson who lives near the Chabad-Lubavitch yeshiva in Brunoy, France. Two year ago, for the Passover seders, I celebrated at the yeshiva in Brunoy. Throughout the year, I had often been the Shabbat guest of Rabbi Pinson and he graciously invited me to eat some of the holiday meals with his family.
After we said the "Hamotzi" blessing before eating bread (but in this case, matza), I noticed that the hand-baked "shmura matza" Rabbi Pinson was eating was different than what the rest of his family was eating.
I inquired of Rabbi Pinson about this special matza. He explained to me that his father, Rabbi Nison Pinson, the Rebbe's emissary in Tunisia, makes his own matza from start to finish. The process begins with planting the wheat, and continues through the harvest and baking. This matza is produced on a very small level and my host only receives a few matzos each year.
It was the first time that I had seen such matza. I was excited to taste a little piece, and Rabbi Nachum was kind enough to give me some. It was a tremendous experience! The matza woke up my soul. It was certainly very special matza. I started to ask my host more details about how the matza is made and about his parents' work as the Rebbe's emissaries in Tunisia.
Rabbi Nachum told me that at the beginning of the 1960s, his father used to go to Bizert (situated at the Mediterranean) in Tunisia, each year before Passover to visit Jews at the French naval base there. The roads in those days were unpaved roads, communication was no simple task, and at that time the Tunisians were trying to gain independence from France.
Despite all of these difficulties, Rabbi Nison Pinson used to seek out the French Jews stationed in Bizert and bring them his homemade shmura matza. In particular, he brought matza to the chief medical doctor who was sent there on standard selective service for two years.
While eating the matza, I remembered that my father had related to me some time before my Bar Mitzva that Lubavitcher Chasidim help Jews grow in their Jewish observance. He also told me that if there was ever a time that I was in need (whether materially or spiritually), I could call upon them to help me.
Eating the matza in Rabbi Nachum's house on Passover awakened old memories in me which had been stored in the deep recesses of my mind. In my discussion with Rabbi Nachum, I told him that my father had been in Bizert during the period that his father had visited French military personnel. We realized with much emotion that the chief medical doctor who received the shmura matza from Rabbi Nison Pinson of Tunisia 40 years earlier was my father, Doctor Rubin Schuman! What Divine Providence it was that the rabbi's son and the doctor's son were now sitting at the same table eating that same matza!
Matza is known as the "bread of faith," and perhaps it was the faith in that very special matza I ate in Rabbi Nachum's house that helped me decide to explore my Judaism in a deeper way. I took a Sabbatical from my professorship at the Sorbonne and traveled to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to study at Hadar HaTorah yeshiva. Hadar HaTorah was the first yeshiva established for young men, such as myself, who become interested in Jewish learning later in life.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, the dean of Hadar HaTorah, Rabbi Yaakov Goldberg, is from France. And his father was the dean of the yeshiva in, you guessed, Brunoy, years ago.
Much has happened in the last two years, including that I have gotten married, moved back to France, and have continued teaching at the Sorbonne. And I also continue to heed the advice of my father that I remembered two years ago on Passover to call upon Chabad when I am in need.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know...
Passover.net has all the information you could possibly need to celebrate the Passover holiday. Log onto the website and find a communal Passover seder in your area, fun for the kids, loads of resources, articles, multimedia info and even recipes!
This issue of L'Chaim is for the entire Passover holiday. The next issue, #868 is dated Nissan 27/May 6.
A Touch of Passover
Join A Touch of Passover's wide-eyed kids as they pat and prod their way through the symbols of the Passover Seder. Curious fingers will be unable to resist the bumpy matza, leafy bitter maror, sticky wine droplets and more. Simple but engaging text written by Ari Sollish. Printed on tough board book with wipe-able pages, A Touch of Passover will survive to be enjoyed throughout many Seders. Illustrated by Boruch Becker, published by Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch.
The date of this letter was unavailable
The festival of Pesach [Passover] calls for early and elaborate preparations to make the Jewish home fitting for the great festival. It is not physical preparedness alone that is required of us, but also spiritual preparedness - for in the life of the Jew the physical and spiritual are closely linked together, especially in the celebration of our Sabbath and festivals.
On Pesach we celebrate the liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery and, together with it, the liberation from, and negation of the ancient Egyptian system and way of life, the "abominations of Egypt." Thus we celebrate our physical liberation together with our spiritual freedom.
Indeed, there cannot be one without the other: There can be no real freedom without accepting the precepts of our Torah guiding our daily life; pure and holy life eventually leads to real freedom.
It is said, "In every generation each Jew should see himself as though he personally had been liberated from Egypt." This is to say, that the lesson of Pesach has always a timely message for the individual Jew.
The story of Pesach is the story of the special Divine Providence which alone determines the fate of our people.
What is happening in the outside world need not affect us; we might be singled out for suffering, G-d forbid, amid general prosperity, and likewise for safety amid a general plague or catastrophe.
The story of our enslavement and liberation of which Pesach tells us gives ample illustration of this. For the fate of our people is determined by its adherence to G-d and His Prophets.
This lesson is emphasized by the three principal symbols of the Seder, concerning which our Sages said that unless the Jew explains their significance he has not observed the Seder fittingly: Pesach, Matzah and Morror [bitter herbs].
Using these symbols in their chronological order and in accordance with their Haggadah explanation we may say: the Jew can avoid Morror (bitterness of life) only through Pesach (G-d's special care "passing over" and saving the Jewish homes even in the midst of the greatest plague), and Matzah - then the very catastrophe and the enemies of the Jews will work for the benefit of the Jews, driving them in great haste out of "Mitzrayim," the place of perversion and darkness, and placing them under the beam of light and holiness.
One other important thing we must remember: the celebration of the festival of freedom must be connected with the commandment "You shall relate it to your son."
The formation and existence of the Jewish home, as of the Jewish people as a whole, is dependent upon the upbringing of the young generation, both boys and girls: the wise and the wicked (temporarily), the simple and the one who knows not what to ask.
Just as we cannot shirk our responsibility towards our child by the excuse that "my child is a wise one; he will find his own way in life; therefore no education is necessary for him," so we must not despair by thinking "the child is a wicked one; no education will help him."
For, all Jewish children, boys and girls, are "G-d's children," and it is our sacred duty to see to it that they all live up to their above-mentioned title; and this we can achieve only through a proper Jewish education, in full adherence to G-d's Torah. Then we all will merit the realization of our ardent hopes: "In the next year may we be free; in the next year may we be in Jerusalem!"
14 Nisan, 5765 - April 23, 2005
Positive Mitzvah 108: The Purifying Water
This mitzva is based on the verse (Num. 19:21) "And he that touches the water of sprinkling (purification water), shall be unclean" A person purifying himself after contact with a dead body must follow certain procedures. One step of his purification process involves Nida Water. This is a mixture of natural spring water, combined with the ashes of the red heifer (cow). This water possesses special qualities and when used properly, it can purify. However, it could cause the opposite effect on a person who touches the water for other purposes.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
In the Passover Hagada, we read about the questions of the four children: one wise, one wicked, one simple and one who doesn't even know which questions to ask. The Rebbe has spoken numerous times about the four children and their relationship to all Jews today:
What unites the four children is the fact that they have all come to the Seder table. Even the wicked child comes, albeit asking his question, "What is the meaning of this service to you?" At least he has some connection to Judaism, however small it may be.
Nowadays, in our generation, we have the phenomenon of a fifth child. This is the Jew who is so far removed from Judaism that he does not even know that there is such a thing as a Seder, or if he does know, chooses not to attend one. He might not even know that it is Passover! This Jew is not included among the four children because he is not even present.
Our obligation, the obligation of our generation, is to find these "fifth children" and draw them closer, with love and affection, to Torah, Judaism, and mitzvot.
In the recent past, and probably even today, some people used to symbolically leave an empty seat at the Seder for Jews who could not attend one because of oppressive governments.
Although this is a beautiful gesture, it would be so much more appropriate to set aside a seat - and fill it - with a fifth child, someone who would otherwise not be attending a Seder.
A kosher and happy Passover to all of our readers and may we celebrate this year in Jerusalem!
Passover-the Festival of Spring
The Exodus from Egypt occurred on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, which falls in the spring, as it states, (Ex. 13:4), "Today you are going out, in the month of spring." During this season nature is at its loveliest. Everything is growing, blooming and pulsing with new life. The Egyptian culture, which worshipped nature, was at its strongest during this season. This is precisely why G-d chose to take the Jews out of Egypt during this month, proving that the laws of nature are subservient to G-d and have no power on their own.
This is the bread of affliction (Hagada)
Before the Seder actually begins, an announcement is made: "All who are hungry - let them come and eat." Jews are responsible for one another, and we cannot be truly free if even one of our brothers is not. It is our duty to find that one Jew and invite him to partake of our Seder meal. Once this is done, we can together relate the tale of our liberation and begin our journey to freedom.
Not just one has risen to destroy us (Hagada)
Who has risen to destroy us? "Not just one," i.e., the lack of unity and love of one Jew toward another. This is the source of all of our woes.
If He had given us the Torah and not brought us into the Land of Israel - it would have been enough for us. (Hagada)
The opposite of the above verse from the well-known Dayeinu prayer, however, is not true. It would not have sufficed had G-d brought us into Israel but not given us the Torah. The Land of Israel without the Torah would not have been enough.
by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
Some years ago a young Chabad Chasid was invited by a Chabad House in Russia to make a Passover "Seder" in a nearby town. The young man, recently ordained as a Rabbi, arrived several weeks before the holiday. He went, together with the Chabad representative that invited him, to the mayor of that town to look for a suitable place to hold the festive ceremony. They were expecting several hundred people and needed a big hall.
After a few minutes the mayor decided that the only place in his town that would serve their purposes was the former Communist meeting hall. The rabbis and the Mayor went and had a look, and sure enough the place was perfect.
Posters were put up, people were invited personally, and food was bought and prepared. The building had to be completely cleaned, "koshered" and decorated. All the work paid off. Some three hundred people arrived! Young and old, men and women, all dressed in their nicest clothes and with shining faces. Some came from nostalgia, some from curiosity, some for a good time. But everyone, whether they knew it or not, came because they were Jews and tonight was Passover.
It took a while to get everyone seated and settled. The rabbi made a short welcoming speech telling them what to expect. For some of them it was their first "Seder" in fifty years, and for many the first in their lives. Hagadas translated into Russian were handed out, cups were filled with wine, Matzot were distributed, and the evening began.
Everyone did what they were told with joy, and listened to the Rabbi's explanations with great interest. They all read aloud from their books about how G-d did great miracles thousands of years ago, and how He took the Jews out of Egypt. They all ate the matza, drank four cups of wine, finished their holiday meal, sang, and even danced at the proper times.
Everything went smoothly until the cup of Elijah. This symbolic "extra" cup of wine is poured at the end of the meal to remind us of the immanent arrival of Moshiach. The young Chabad rabbi explained with enthusiasm how this fifth cup stood for Moshiach who will arrive any moment to gather all the Jews and make a beautiful new world with the revelation of G-d everywhere, etc.
Suddenly one of the older men stood up, tapped on the table and said in a booming voice, "Young man! Excuse me please young Rabbi!"
The place went silent and just as they all had listened to the rabbi they now turned to the new speaker. He waited a few seconds and continued.
"We are very grateful to you for this beautiful evening with the wonderful food and wine. Everything is very nice. Very beautiful and very tasty." Everyone in the room turned to one another, shook their heads in agreement and wondered what he was getting at.
"Everything you said is also very interesting and nice." The man continued. "Beautiful stories; G-d took the Jews from Egypt, made miracles... very nice Bible stories. We all love stories.
"But what you said about some Messiah coming and making a utopia, building a Holy Temple and all this. Please, Rabbi, we are grown up people. We are not little children that we believe such nonsense! You are a very nice man and we are very grateful, but please save such foolish superstitions for your children not for intelligent grown-ups. Please understand us, dear Rabbi, nothing personal but you are a naive person. You have been locked up in Yeshiva (Rabbinical College) and we live in the real world."
Everyone again shook their heads in agreement. And looked sheepishly at the Rabbi as though to say "We are sorry, but he's right."
The young rabbi however did not loose his composure. He waited a few minutes and before the man sat down he replied. "My friend," he said with a warm smile, "my friends!" he opened his arms and looked around the room.
"Do you realize where we are? Do you realize what we are doing? Do you realize what you are saying!?
"If someone would have told you 20 years ago that you would make a Passover seder in the Communist Meeting Hall, would you believe them?
"Why, 20 years ago there was nothing more powerful and secure than Communism, and nothing weaker than Judaism! Communism was the complete opposite and biggest enemy of G-d and everyone in Russia was sure that Communism was right.
"But here we are! The impossible has happened! Communism has not only fallen, it is becoming transformed to Judaism! So is it really so far-fetched that Moshiach can change the entire world?"
The man looked at the crowd then back at the young rabbi, straightened up, smiled broadly and said..."BRAVO!!" And the entire crowd broke into applause.
The last day of Passover is celebrated with a festive meal called Moshiach's seuda, initiated by the Baal Shem Tov. The last day of Passover is the conclusion of that which began on the first night of Passover. The first night of Passover commemorates our redemption from Egypt. It was the first redemption, carried out through Moses, who was the first redeemer. The last day of Passover commemorates the final redemption, when G-d will redeem us from the last exile through Moshiach, who is the final redeemer. The first day of Passover is Moses' festival; the last day of Passover is Moshiach's festival."
(The Tzemach Tzedek)