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by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz
In the Hagada we read that G-d took us out of Egypt Himself rather than have His angels do it. Why? If the objective was simply to free us from Egyptian bondage, wouldn't we be just as free had He sent angels to free us? There is obviously something deeper happening here.
G-d freed us for a reason, to be His partner in creation, to finish what He started, to fulfill His ultimate goal, that we develop this world into a place that His Presence could dwell openly.
G-d is ever present, however, nature was created so that it hides His presence. How then is it possible for us, mere creations, to change nature?
Therefore, G-d Himself redeemed us, because for us to effect creation, we had to be raised above creation. Angels can't reach that high so He did it Himself.
While we have physical existence, there is a part of us that transcends creation.
The Hagada elaborates this point, because the central theme of the Passover Seder is not only the Exodus from Egypt, but also the ultimate redemption - the coming of Moshiach, when G-d's Presence will be revealed. Through our efforts we hasten his coming. What gives us this ability? The fact that G-d raised us above creation.
How does one feel free when life is so difficult, so many responsibilities? It seems that we are effected by creation not the other way around.
Freedom does not mean that life is free of challenges, rather that we recognize that G-d Himself put us into our situation and it is not a challenge at all. It is an opportunity that He is giving us to effect creation.
You might ask, "How could someone like you feel free when you are not able to move most of your body? How do you remain positive and happy in your predicament?"
I choose to see it that way. You can too!
Have a kosher and happy Passover, may it truly be the Chag Hageula, the holiday of redemption.
- (Back to text) Yitzi Hurwitz, father of seven and founder with his wife Dena of Chabad of Temecula, California, was diagnosed with ALS in 2013. Today, 95% of his body is paralysed. But he can still smile and his eyes move. With the aid of an eye movement-based human-computer interface he writes a weekly blog on the Torah portion or timely Jewish topics. It takes him nearly an entire day to write one article using his eyes to click on one letter at a time on his special computer screen. And he chooses to "remain positive and happy." May we all be positive and happy, thereby experiencing our own personal redemptions and ultimately the Redemption of the entire Jewish people.
To read Yitzi's blog visit yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. To see a music video created from a song Yitzi composed "Shine a Little Light" visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGWoChObb40
In the Passover Hagada, we say: "Even if we are all wise, all men of understanding, and all know the Torah, it is a mitzva (commandment) for us to tell of the exodus from Egypt." This quote indicates that the point of the Seder is not merely an intellectual experience. For after all, if we are wise and know the Torah, then we also know the story of the Exodus.
Instead, the intent is that the Seder enables us to relive the Exodus, to realize - as we say later in the Hagada - that "not only our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt, but G-d redeemed us as well." Every Seder is an opportunity for each one of us to leave Egypt.
What does it mean for us to leave Egypt, when many of us have never seen that part of the world?
Mitzrayim - the Hebrew name for Egypt - shares a connection with the term meitzarim, meaning "boundaries" or "limitations." Leaving Egypt means going beyond those forces that hold us back and prevent us from expressing who we really are. The idea of leaving Egypt reminds us that, in a certain way, we are all slaves.
Each one of us has a soul which is "an actual part of G-d." This is the core of our being, our real "I." But we find ourselves in Egypt, for there are forces, both external and internal, that prevent us from being in touch with this spiritual potential and giving it expression.
The Seder night is a time when these forces do not have the power to hold us back. For Passover is "The Season of Our Freedom." From the time of the Exodus - and indeed, from the beginning of time - this night was chosen as a night on which the potential is granted to express our G-dly core. Every year, at this time, within the spiritual hierarchy of the world, there is "an exodus from Egypt." All restrictions fall away and transcendent G-dliness is revealed.
This spiritual awakening filters down within our souls, prompting us to tap our spiritual core, express our unbounded G-dly potential, and leave Egypt, i.e., to break through any and all restraints.
This experience should not remain an isolated spiritual peak. Instead, Passover should initiate a process of endless growth, empowering us to continuously break through ever subtle levels of limitations and express our spiritual potential at all times.
This concept is reflected in the Lubavitch custom not to recite the passage "Chasal Siddur Pesach" ("The Passover Seder is concluded") which others say at the end of the Seder. The intent of the omission is to emphasize that our Passover experience should be ongoing. Throughout the year, we should look to the Seder as the beginning of a pattern of new growth and spiritual expression.
From Keeping in Touch by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger
The Wise Son
by Rabbi Dror Moshe Shaul
It was just a few minutes before Passover when a couple with two daughters walked into our Chabad House in Dharamasala, India. The mother introduced her husband and children. She said they had just arrived from an organic food farm near Chennai in southern India, a distance of a week's travel by car from Dharamasala, and it was very important to them to celebrate Passover with other Jews. Since they had heard there was a Chabad House in the area, they had chosen to make the trip.
The couple apologized for arriving at the last minute and asked whether they could still register. They added that they were vegans and also do not drink wine. "We will manage with matza," said the father.
Of course I told them they were welcome to join us, and food was no problem since we had plenty and there were even vegetarian courses. And that is how we came to host this wonderful family. They ended up staying with us for the entire Yom Tov; first, because they really enjoyed our company and second, because their children became friends with my children.
Friday night the atmosphere was particularly friendly and the father decided to share a personal story he had with the Rebbe. This is what he said:
"It was 1985. I was a soldier in the IDF and serving, like many of my comrades, in Lebanon. It was very rough going and the IDF sustained losses every day.
"One day, a bomb landed on our position, and as a result of the powerful blast, one of my kidneys was severely injured. I was taken by military helicopter to Rambam hospital in Haifa where I lay unconscious. I was in critical condition and hovered between life and death. The doctors felt helpless and were afraid I had contracted a kidney infection, so they decided to gamble on a dangerous treatment in which the affected area is attacked with strong medication that destroys all the diseased cells. The great danger in this treatment is that it also destroys the good antibodies and many people die of this protocol. And yet, they had no other way to treat me.
"Since I was unconscious, they asked my parents for permission to carry out this treatment. They informed my parents that this could not be postponed and every minute was critical. If they did not give me the proper treatment, and if this was in fact an infection of the kidney, my condition would be irremediable. They wanted to begin treatment as soon as possible.
"My parents did not know what to do. Since this was a life and death matter, they continued to vacillate. It was a Thursday night. They were asked to make a final decision that same night and on Friday, the doctors prepared to begin treatment.
"A good friend of my father, Rabbi Yosef Helfinger of Jerusalem, was staying with my parents at the time. He is a Lubavitcher Chassid, and when he saw my father's dilemma, he suggested that he consult with the Rebbe. My father, who was not religious, did not understand why the Rebbe would know more than the doctors. He wasn't enthusiastic about the idea, but since this was a critical decision and he had nothing to lose, he agreed to ask the Rebbe. That same evening, a fax marked 'urgent' was sent to the Rebbe with the details of the medical situation.
"The Rebbe's answer arrived a few hours later. It said not to give the treatment and I would recover. My father told the doctors the Rebbe's answer. They did not understand how he could rely on some rabbi living in New York.
"The unbelievable happened. After Shabbat a new CT scan showed that I was not suffering from what they had feared. My parents turned white when they found out that if they had given me the treatment on Friday, I would no longer be alive.
"In light of the new findings, I underwent a complicated operation, after which my condition continuously improved. A while later, my parents were informed that I was out of danger. It took a little while longer until I regained full consciousness. Within a few weeks I was healed of my wound and released from the hospital. You see me here, still not religious, but I had an open miracle with the Rebbe and thanks to the Rebbe I am here with you. I am full of appreciation and thanks to the Rebbe who saved my life."
The man, a clinical psychologist, has been living with his family in India for nine years now. He and his wife run an organic farming plantation, which has thousands of volunteers passing through every year. Every Friday they hold a meal for several hundred people in which they explain the principles of ecological naturalism. They have influenced thousands of people around the world.
As we spoke, I learned that their family name is Ruzhin and that they are descendants of the Ruzhiner Rebbe. I told the family about the close relationship between Chabad and Ruzhin and they were interested in hearing some stories about the Ruzhiner Rebbe.
When Passover ended, the Ruzhin family left on their exhausting trip back home. Before they left, we gave them mezuzot as well as a picture of the Rebbe. The father, who was very moved, said he would hang the picture in the foyer of his home and would tell everyone who came that he owes his life to this man.
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
Russian Prayer book in Braille
Russian Jews who are blind will now be able to pray using a newly published prayer book. The first Russian translation of the prayer book in braille was released this month.
Prayer Room for Women in Jail
In 2010, an agreement was signed between the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS and Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service. Today, 12 synagogues exist in the Russian prison system, with each regularly visited by rabbis who give classes and provide Jewish materials for usage. One of the prayer rooms that opened recently is in a women's jail. The prayer room opens in time for Passover, when women will be able to gather in their new space to have a seder.
New Emissaries to New Jersey
Rabbi Moishe and Mushkie Gurevitz will direct activities for young Jewish professionals in Morristown, New Jersey. They look forward to have holiday programs, mega Shabbat dinners, networking events, and opportunities for Jewish singles to meet one another.
Translated and adapted from a letter of the Rebbe
11 Nissan, 5723 (1963)
Passover is the first day of Jewish independence, and the first festival in the history of our Jewish people.
It is first in rank and significance, for it brought the liberation of our people from enslavement and made it possible for them to live a free and independent life as a nation, governed only by the Torah and its commandments dictated by G-d alone.
As such, Passover is especially meaningful for our Jewish people, and for every Jew individually, at all times and in all places. For this reason also, every aspect of the festival and every detail attending the historical Exodus from Egypt, has a special significance in the way of a timeless message and practical instruction for the individual, the community and our people as a whole.
One of the important details of the Exodus is the haste with which the Exodus took place. When the hour of liberation struck, the Jewish people left Egypt at once, losing not a moment, or, as our Sages express it - not even a "heref ayin," "the blink of an eye."
They add, moreover, that if the Jewish people had tarried and missed that auspicious moment, the opportunity of the liberation would have been lost forever.
This seems incomprehensible. For it was already after the Ten Plagues, which prompted the Egyptians to virtually expel the Jews from their land. The situation was thus "well in hand."
Why, then, do our Sages teach that if that moment had been missed, the whole liberation would have been in jeopardy?
Above all, what practical lesson is contained in this detail, so that the Torah makes a point of revealing it to us with particular emphasis?
The explanation is as follows: When the end of the road of exile is reached, and the moment arrives for the liberation from the "abomination of Egypt," the opportunity must be seized at once; there must be no tarrying even for an instant, not even for the "blink of an eye."
The danger of forfeiting the opportunity lay not in the possibility of the Egyptians changing their mind, but in the possibility that some Jews might change their mind, being loathe to leave their habituated way of life in Egypt, to go out into the desert to receive the Torah.
The practical lesson for every Jew, man or woman, young or old, is:
The Exodus from Egypt as it is to be experienced in day-to-day life, is the personal release from subservience to the dictates of the body and the animal in man; the release from passions and habits within, as well as from the materialistic environment without.
This release can only be achieved by responding to the call of G-d, Who seeks out the oppressed and enslaved and promises, "I shall redeem you from bondage... that I may be your G-d." As at the time of the first liberation, true freedom is conditional upon the acceptance of the Torah and mitzvoth (commandments).
This call of freedom never ceases. The Exodus must be achieved every day; each day the opportunity beckons anew.
Unfortunately, there are individuals who tarry and consign the opportunity to the "three solemn days" of the year, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur; others, at best, postpone it for Shabbos and Yom Tov, still others, who recall and experience the Exodus in daily prayer, fail to extend it to every aspect of daily life.
What is true of the individual, is true also on the community and national levels, except that on these levels the missing of the opportunities is, of course, even more far-reaching and catastrophic.
As in the days of our ancestors in Egypt whose exodus was not delayed even for a moment, whereby they attained full liberation of the body and full liberation of the spirit with the acceptance of the Torah at Sinai, which was the purpose and goal of the Exodus.
May G-d grant that every Jew seize the extraordinary opportunity of the present moment, to achieve self-liberation and to help others in the same direction; liberation from all manner of bondage, internal and external, and above all, liberation from the most dismal bondage - the idea of "let's be like the rest."
And when we return to the ways of Torah and mitzvoth in the fullest measure, we will merit the fulfillment of the promise: When the Jewish people return, they are redeemed at once, with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach.
The Biblical commandment of Hakhel is only in effect when all Jews reside in the Holy Land and will be reinstated with the coming of Moshiach. Nevertheless, the Rebbe repeatedly encouraged Jews to make their own Hakhel gatherings of all sizes to live and experience Judaism. It's not enough to hear. We need to see. We need to experience revelation. We need to get smooshed a little. Invite your friends over to your house on Shabbat for a big meal. Start a "lunch-and-learn" at the office. Help your kids invite their friends over for a Shabbat party. Get the whole town together or join with Jews from other towns. The main thing is to show up and have an experience. May we have the ultimate experience of seeing G-dliness with Moshiach now.
(Rabbi Shais Taub)
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.
Years ago, and probably even today, some people used to symbolically leave an empty seat at the Seder for Jews who could not attend a Seder 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!
The Hebrew word "seder" means order or arrangement, alluding to the fact that everything that has ever happened to the Jewish people, from the Exodus until today, has unfolded according to Divine plan. Nothing occurs by accident, even if we don't always understand why an event must take place.
The Four Cups
The four cups of wine at the Seder represent, among other things, the four Matriarchs of the Jewish people. The first cup, upon which we recite kiddush is for Sara, who was the mother of a community of converts. The second cup, over which we tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt (maggid) is for Rebecca who knew how to mother both Jacob and Esau, two opposed natures. Upon the third cup we recite the Grace after meals. This cup represents Rachel, whose son Joseph provided the whole family of Jacob with bread in time of great famine. Over fourth cup and last cup we recite Hallel, praise. This cup represents Leah, who is credited with being the first person to properly praise G-d.
(The Maharal of Prague)
The Festival of Matzot -The Festival of Passover
On the holiday of Passover, the Jewish People laud G-d, and G-d lauds the Jewish People. The Torah refers to Passover as "the Festival of Matzot." G-d gives the Children of Israel credit, so to speak, for their having left Egypt in great haste, with only the dough on their backs, faithful that G-d would supply them with food in the desert. We, on the other hand, call the holiday "the Festival of Pesach," thanking G-d for His having "pasach"--passed over the houses of the Jews when the Egyptians were smitten.
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 Jewish law. The Rebbe explained, "If a kitchen utensil which is used for Passover comes into contact with chametz, 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."
At the beginning of each year, the Previous Rebbe (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, then the dean of Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim) would present a list - with comments - of all the new students to his father, the Rebbe Rashab.
One year, upon receiving the list, the Rebbe took note of the name of a student about whom it was written that although he was learned, a veritable genius, he had coarse character traits. After some thought, the Rebbe agreed to accept him and added that he would have to be worked on.
As soon as the list was approved, the Previous Rebbe set up a particularly demanding schedule for this student. Six weeks before Passover, he received a letter from the Rebbe Rashab, who was then abroad, instructing him to entrust this student with all the hard work needed for preparing the shmura matza, and asking for a report as to how he performed his tasks.
For two weeks, the student was kept busy with the physically taxing work of sorting the wheat, setting up the hand-mill, and grinding the wheat into flour. When the time came for baking, he was again assigned the heaviest work. On Passover eve, he was awake most of the night, having been entrusted with doing the search for chametz in the synagogue and the yeshiva building. The next morning he was up early to kosher the oven for the last batch of matzos. When the preparations for Passover were finally completed, and the hardworking students went to immerse in the mikva and dress for the holiday, the Previous Rebbe instructed this student to study a certain Chasidic discourse of Rabbi Shneur Zalman. The student was to come to the Previous Rebbe the next morning at seven o'clock, to review the discourse. On Passover night he still had no rest, for he had to help serve the students who conducted their Seder together in the large study hall.
Nevertheless, the following morning he came to the Previous Rebbe, having mastered the discourse thoroughly. It was now perfectly clear just how much the study of Chassidut mattered to him.
The Previous Rebbe reported all that had happened to the Rebbe Rashab and on the last day of Passover, when the Rebbe Rashab joined the students at their meal, he commented to his son, "Just look how powerful is the sweat of a mitzva! Look how he has acquired different features; instead of grobkeit (coarseness), he now has the face of a mensch.
Moses assembed the entire nation as one. Unity between Jews is key to receiving the Torah and it is the key to the final Redemption. To achieve unity, one must have humility and be at peace with others. Jacob received his name because he grasped the heel (eikev) of Esau. A heel represents humility. Esau is numerically equal to shalom, peace. By grasping humility and peace, thereby achieving unity with our fellow Jews, we will bring down the heel of Esau, close the final chapter of our exile , and bring the recdemption.
(Ruach Chayim//Yalkut Moshiach uGeula al HaTorah)