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This coming week, millions of Jews throughout the world will be sitting with family and guests around brightly lit, festive tables, eating matza and bitter herbs, drinking four cups of wine and reminding each other about the miracles G-d did for the Jews.
They will be celebrating the holiday of Passover for the 3,330th time in history.
Every year since the exodus from Egypt, millions of Jews have never missed a year of Passover Seder.
One of the most basic commandments of the Passover Seder is to tell the story of going out of Egypt. In addition to this being an integral part of the Seder night, remembering that G-d took us out of Egypt is obligatory not only on Passover, but on every day of the year. It is a foundation of all Judaism, being the first of the Ten Commandments.
The Sages compiled the Hagada in order to facilitate this vital commandment. Throughout the text of the Hagada, G-d is mentioned continuously for the incredible miracles that He did for the Jews. In fact, G-d did everything; he was the "star" of the Exodus.
Strangely, however, the main protagonist of the Exodus, Moses, is mentioned only once in the entire Hagada!
Had it not been for Moses, the Jewish people would have never left Egypt at all. And even after they left, were it not for Moses, they would have returned to Egypt.
While it was G-d, Who had wrought all of the miracles of the plagues, the splitting of the sea, the manna and more, it was Moses who kept the Jewish people inspired. In fact, when the Jews thought that Moses had left them at Mount Sinai, they worshiped the Golden Calf, despite G-d's Omniscience and omnipresence.
So why isn't Moses given more credit in the Hagada? Because it Moses' job to do only one thing; to interpret the miracles that G-d wrought in a way that brought the Jews to serve G-d on their own.
It was not Moses' job to do everything, but only one thing: to connect the Jews to G-d.
That is why, when Moses' name is mentioned in the Hagada it is in the verse, "They believed in G-d and in Moses His servant."
In other words, the Torah equates the belief in Moses with the belief in G-d, because there cannot be one without the other.
The Zohar (1:253a) equates Moses with Moshiach, because Moshiach - the final redeemer of the Jewish people, will complete the task begun by Moses - the first redeemer of the Jewish people.
In fact, Moshiach will bring the entire world to serve the Creator (through His Torah) with all their talents, skills and abilities.
At that time will be fulfilled, "And they (the entire world) will believe in G-d and Moses His servant."
And, the world will be filled with peace, prosperity and brotherhood.
Many have the custom to have a special meal on the last day of Passover, as the holiday comes to a close. This meal is known as "Seudat Moshiach" (the Meal of Moshiach). The meal was established by the Baal Shem Tov around 350 years ago.
Why a special meal connected with Moshaich specifically on Passover?
The significance of Passover is not only about the exodus from Egypt, but also about the future redemption.
The theme of the future Redemption is established at the outset of the holiday, at the Seder, and continues throughout the festival.
We finish retelling of Jewish history during the "Maggid" section of the Seder with a blessing for the future redemption.
The cup of Elijah is connected to the future redemption as Elijah the Prophet is meant to herald Moshiach's coming.
We finish the Seder with "Next year in Jerusalem," again referring to the coming of Moshiach.
As the days of the holiday progress the light of the Moshiach gets stronger and stronger.
When we have a Shabbat Chol Hamoed, we read the Haftora about the Valley of the Dry Bones which is about the future resurrection of the dead.
On the seventh day of (Shvii Shel) Pesach we read Shirat David, the Song of King David the ancestor of Moshiach.
Acharon Shel Pesach, the last day of Pesach, the Haftora is all about Moshiach. There is a special spiritual light that shines, getting more and more intense as the day progresses.
It is therefore apropos that we do Yizkor at that time. For there is a strong sense of closeness to those we wish to see again and whom we will see with the final Redemption and the resurrection of the dead.
It is for this reason that there is a special meal called Seudat Moshiach. We eat Matza and drink wine. We sing songs and speak words of inspiration.
Our great sages tell us that during the month of Nissan our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt and during the month of Nissan we will be redeemed in the future.
Hashem made the month of Nissan a time of redemption. May we merit Moshiach's coming now.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
Elijah the Prophet at My Zaidy's Passover Seder
by Baila Olidort
Few holidays compete with Passover's child-centered rituals. The seder packs customs and narratives enough to animate a child's imagination all year round. Like so many other families, ours would flock to our Bubby's and Zaidy's home for the seders, celebrating with aunts and uncles at a long table that seemed to vanish somewhere in the distance.
We were a lively set. The older cousins missed no opportunity to dupe us younger ones with tall tales. They gave us a full account of Elijah's visage, which they had seen because they knew not to blink when he came knocking. Eyes wide open, holding my breath, I'd run with them to greet the invisible soothsayer. With practice, I too finally saw Elijah, his radiant mien and flowing white beard exactly as my cousins had described.
As soon as the door closed we raced back to the dining room where the prophet worked his wonders: a torrent of walnuts came falling out of thin air. My Zaidy pulled the feat off so skillfully, none of us ever caught him in the act. We scampered under the table to catch the walnuts, filling our skirts and pockets to bursting. Then we laid them out and counted our harvest to see which of us had gotten the most.
But first we all had a turn to ask the Mah Nishtana, showing off our fluency in Hebrew and the Yiddish translation we learned in school. And there were the Hagaddah songs and the four cups, and of course, the afikoman. By the seder's end we fixed our eyes in wonder on Elijah's cup which, we all noted in agreement, was no longer as full as it was when we started out. The prophet had evidently enjoyed a few sips during his cameo appearance.
In retrospect, the seders at Bubby's and Zaidy's played profoundly to our sense of belonging and identity. There were other cousins, second cousins, but they didn't do Passover as we did. My grandfather and his two sisters, ravenous for the freedom these shores promised, came to the US from Poland in 1921. For many who finally escaped the anti-Semitism of Eastern Europe, America beckoned with the invitation to assimilate.
Zaidy's elder sister thought my grandfather a fool for sending his children to yeshiva. She reminded him that he was no longer in Sokolow; that here you had the freedom to be like everyone else; here you send your kids to public school. Here, you Anglicize your name and learn to say Saturday instead of Shabbos, and if you try hard enough and get really lucky, your kids may even pass for blue-blooded Americans.
But my grandfather didn't want to be like everyone else. He wanted his children and grandchildren to look Jewish. He thought a "Yiddishe ponim" beautiful; a little boy with a yarmulke and tzitzit was for him a joy to behold. Zaidy spoke English well enough, but made sure to speak to us in Yiddish. America offered him the chance to raise fearlessly Jewish children-a hard won freedom he was not about to squander.
Over time, my grandfather's sister had a change of heart. By then it was too late. Her children had assimilated. They had moved away from her and from the traditions that bridged the generational gap. Occasionally she'd visit, observing the comings and goings of children and grandchildren in her brother's house. It was a boisterous household, happily punctuated by brissim and bar mitzvahs, by Shabbos, Passover and other Jewish holidays that drew us together.
My grandfather passed away more than 40 years ago, but I think often of the courage he had to buck the trend. Zaidy wasn't a social activist waging a war against cultural hegemony, but the pressures he resisted must have been considerable as he kept his gaze on a future he was determined to secure: Children and grandchildren who would not become dispossessed of their own identity; descendants who would be as competent in their knowledge of Torah, as comfortable in a shul, at a seder, and in the pages of a chumash, as we would be anywhere else as good Americans.
I think of him each year at the Passover seder when we retell the story of the Jewish people who, say the sages, were redeemed because even in Egypt, mired in the den of paganism, they hewed closely to their families, their faith and their traditions. I think of him when we sing the Dayenu! and give thanks for the blessings of our Jewish existence. I was only an adolescent when my grandfather died and didn't know then how much to cherish the sacrifices he and my grandmother made, much less thank him. I thank him now.
The freedom he found that allowed him to live as a Jew in America was, for my Zaidy, blessing enough (Dayenu!). He didn't get to see how the Rebbe's emissaries-his grandchildren and great-grandchildren among them-would transform the experience for Jews around the world. How miraculous, he would say, that today you could find yourself on a mountaintop in Tibet and still have a full blown seder! That would have been enough for him (Dayenu!).
How marvelous, I imagine him saying, that today, in Samara or San Francisco and a thousand other places, you've got Jewish schools where your children learn to begin their day with the Modeh Ani and end it with the Shema Yisrael. They learn the Mah Nishtana and are proud to own their heritage. How fortunate, he would say, tears filling up in the corners of his eyes, that today, you don't have to fight so hard to make sure your grandchildren will be Jewish.
For my Zaidy, that would have been blessing enough (Dayenu!).
Baila Olidort is Director of Communications at Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters and Editor-in-Chief of Lubavitch.com/Lubavitch International.
Reprinted from Times of Israel.
Nearly 1000 Chabad-Lubavitch yeshiva students are travelling to destinations around the world where they will conduct public Passover Seders under the auspices of "Merkos Shlichus." They are in cities with small Jewish communities or tourist spots that do not have permanent emissaries. In addition, most of the thousands of Chabad-Lubavitch Centers world-wide are hosting public Seders. Find the Seder location closest to you by calling your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center or visit chabad.org.
Chabad at Drexel University, under the directorship of Rabbi Chaim and Moussia Goldstein, welcomed a new Torah, donated by two alumni entrepreneurs who credit Chabad for their success. The Torah was donated by Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev. Yakir and Rafael met as Freshmen at Drexel, became friends and co-founded the Philly-based delivery startup goPuff. The company recently raised $8.25 million in Series A funding and goPuff now makes thousands of deliveries a day. The partners were also named to Forbes' '30 under 30' list.
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!"
CHANINA is Aramaic, meaning gracious. Many Sages of the Mishna were named Chanina, including Rabbi Chanina b. Dosa (3rd century c.e.) who said, "He whose good deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom will be permanent..." (Ethics 3:12) CHANA (Hannah) means grace or gracious. Chana was the mother of Samuel the prophet (I Samuel 1:2). Another Chana, from Chanukah times, was known for her bravery in encouraging her seven sons not to bow down to idols despite certain death. Chana was also the name of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's mother.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
On Friday night (March 30), the holiday of Passover begins and we celebrate the first Passover seder. Among the many customs and laws that surround the seder is the obligation to drink four cups of wine, to recall the four expressions of redemption written in the Torah.
When G-d told Moses that He would free the Jewish people from Egyptian enslavement, He used four different terms: "V'hotzeiti - I will take you out";"V'hitzalti - I will save you";"V'ga'alti - I will redeem you"; "V'lakachti - I will take you."
These four expressions correspond to the four decrees that Pharaoh issued against the Jews: the decree of hard labor, the decree that the midwives should kill all male children, the decree that all baby boys should be drowned in the Nile, and the decree to withhold from the Jews the straw necessary to make bricks, even though the quota of bricks to be filled wasn't decreased. For each additional act of cruelty, G-d promised to free His people.
However, if we continue reading the Torah, we come across yet a fifth expression of redemption, "V'heiveiti - I will bring," meaning that not only will G-d take the Jews out of their misery, but He will continue to take them out until they have reached the land that He has promised to them. This is considered the last term of redemption, the one that will be fulfilled with the coming of Moshiach. This fifth term is also symbolized by a cup of wine at the seder, Elijah's cup.
The Rebbe notes that the custom of Elijah's cup is not mentioned in the Talmud or in any of the earlier texts regarding Jewish law. Its earliest source is in the writings of the sixteenth century. This is attributed to the fact that pouring a cup for Elijah is an expression of our faith in the coming of Moshiach, and with each passing year the feeling of anticipation grows stronger and more widespread.
This year, may we see the fulfillment of our words, "Next year in Jerusalem," when G-d will fulfill His fifth and final promise with the revelation of Moshiach and the Redemption.
Now we are here; next year may we be in the Land of Israel. Now we are slaves; next year may we be free men. (from the Passover Hagada)
These are two separate requests: First, may we be in the Land of Israel by this time next year, and second, may we be free men at that time. For it is indeed possible to live in the Holy Land and remain enslaved.
The seder plate: the roasted egg
In addition to being a reminder of the Passover offering, the roasted egg is a symbol of the Jewish people. The longer other foods are cooked, the softer and more tender they become, but the longer an egg is boiled, the harder it gets. Similarly, the more painful and severe the hardships of the exile, the stronger and more resilient the Jewish people emerges.
G-d, our L-rd brought us out from there. (Hagada)
The redemption from Egypt came as an act of Divine beneficence, and not as a result of the Divine service of the Jewish people. To compensate for this lack of service, there were subsequent exiles in which the redemption depended on the Jews' efforts.
"All the days of your life" as including the Era of Moshiach. (Hagada)
Le'havi translated as "including" literally means "to bring." Thus, this Talmudic passage, quoted in the Hagada, can be interpreted as a directive: All the days of your life should be permeated by a single intention: to bring about the coming of the Era of Moshiach.
(Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)
The custom of a goblet for Elijah is first mentioned by our rabbis of the 16th century. Why is this so? This custom is an expression of the Jews' belief in the coming of Moshiach and Elijah, who will herald the imminent Redemption. The closer we are to the time of the Redemption, the more keenly is this faithful anticipation felt in the heart of every Jew.
In a small townlet in Eastern Europe, there lived a poor and honest woodcutter named Chaim and his wife, Breina. One particular winter, there was such a severe snowstorm that even with Chaim's homemade sled it was absolutely impossible to venture out.
"Soon it will be Passover," Breina said to Chaim. "We haven't money for matza or wine, let alone fish or meat."
"G-d will surely help us celebrate the holiday in a worthy manner," said Chaim in a confident voice.
Breina suggested, "Why don't you do as other poor Jews do before Passover? Ask for money from the Maot Chittim fund to which you contribute every year."
"I cannot accept charity," replied Chaim firmly. "Is there anything in the house which we can sell or pawn?" he asked hopefully.
"Everything has already been sold, except for our silver Elijah's cup," added Breina.
"What sort of a Seder could we celebrate without Elijah's goblet? No, I would rather sell our goat than Elijah's cup," said Chaim.
Of course, selling the goat was out of the question; its milk was their only source of nourishment during hard times like these.
Passover approached and, though the house was sparkling and spotless, not a morsel of food had been purchased for the holiday.
Chaim went to the Rabbi to sell his chametz. When the transaction was completed, Chaim remained standing in the Rabbi's office.
"Do you have a question you would like to ask me, Chaim?" the rabbi said gently.
"I would like to know," began Chaim, "if it is permissible to use milk in place of wine at the seder?
"Ah," thought the rabbi. "If he is asking such a question, then, not only does he not have wine, but he certainly doesn't have meat either. Maybe he does not even have matza, or any food for the holiday? Why didn't he turn to the Maot Chittim fund? He must have been ashamed to ask for charity.
"See here, Reb Chaim," the Rabbi said. "You gave me a hard question and I do not have time to look up the answer right now. Do me a favor and wait until after Passover. Meanwhile, here is some money which I am loaning you. Go and buy wine and whatever else you need for Yom Tov. You'll give it back to me at your convenience. Go in peace and have a joyful Yom Tov."
Chaim expressed his gratitude to the rabbi and hurried off to buy everything he needed.
When Chaim arrived home, Breina opened her eyes wide when she saw all of the matzot, wine, and other food for Passover. "I told you G-d would take care of us," said Chaim. "You see, we still have Elijah's silver goblet, we did not have to sell the goat, and still we'll have a regal seder!"
The night of the seder, when Breina went with a candle in her hand to open the door for Elijah, she saw an old Jew standing there. "Good Yom Tov," he said.
She was somewhat startled but quickly invited him in.
Chaim recognized him as the stranger he had seen in shul that evening. They invited him to join them at the seder, but the stranger said he could only stay a while, as he had already been invited elsewhere. As the guest sat at the table, his glance fell admiringly on Elijah's goblet, which Breina had polished until it sparkled.
"What a lovely wine cup!" he said. "May your luck shine and sparkle like this goblet!" After chatting for a little while longer, he excused himself and left.
The following day Chaim looked in shul for the stranger. When he did not see him anywhere, he asked if anyone had seen the venerable stranger. "What stranger? There's been no stranger here," was everyone's reply.
"Tell me rabbi, did you see the stranger?" Chaim asked.
"Surely," answered the Rabbi. "He visited me too. In fact, he visits every Jewish home at the seder, but not everyone has the merit to see him."
After Passover, Chaim again went out to gather wood and twigs. He filled his wheelbarrow and set off for home. But the wheelbarrow got stuck in the soft soil and refused to budge. Chaim tugged and pushed until the wheelbarrow sprang forward.
Looking down, he noticed a gold coin. He quickly dug in the same spot and out came a rotting bag full of glittering golden coins.
From that time on, Chaim's luck shone like the precious goblet of Elijah.
The task of the Jewish people is to reveal the Oneness of G-d. Each Jew is obligated to say, "The world was created for me;" i.e., everyone must accept the responsibility of revealing how - as Maimonides, whose birthday is the 14th of Nissan, writes - "From the truth of His Being all existence came into being." Revealing this Oneness leads to the revelation of "the new dimension of the Torah which will emerge from Me." May the redemption take place this very night and may we merit the revelation of these new dimensions of Torah.
(The Rebbe, 13 Nissan 5751-1991)