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by David YB Kaufmann obm
Passover is perhaps the most perplexing of holidays: More families gather for the Passover seder than for any other Jewish holiday. Passover has wonderful traditions and songs, and the food with which we have a love-hate relationship - matza, maror (bitter herbs). Passover is the holiday of spring, of our freedom, our redemption, of our emergence from slavery into a nation. The history of the Jewish people begins with Passover.
In some ways, Passover is the most restrictive of holidays, requiring more preparation, more effort and toil and after eight days of matza, oy!
But we can look at Passover another way. Let's call Passover a palimpsest. In case you've forgotten what a palimpsest is, here's a standard definition: a manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment, that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely erased and often legible.
In other words, a palimpsest retains traces of its history. There's the current story, and in between the spaces an earlier story, and in between those spaces a still earlier story, and so on. But the material on which the generational stories are written, the parchment, remains.
So matza is a palimpsest. The bitter herbs are a palimpsest. Even the Hagada is a palimpsest.
Because the basic material, the object itself, remains the same generation after generation. Moses, Aaron and Miriam, and their generation ate matza. King David and his generation ate matza. Mordechai and Esther and their generation ate matza. And bitter herbs. And retold the Exodus story.
Only its never quite the same story. In every generation we must perceive the world, and our situation, as if we ourselves have left - have just left - Egypt. We should see things thus not just on Passover, but every day - as if we are just now leaving Egypt.
That is the parchment, the material we write our stories on.
But in each generation, the story is slightly different, because the Egypt is different. The oppression and enslavement is different. True, the themes remain the same - physical persecution from without, emotional doubt and intellectual confusion from within. But the specific form, the details of the story, they differ.
The challenges of our generation are the same, but different, as the challenges of previous generations. We too must wrestle with ourselves to observe and learn, we must struggle against those who rise up to destroy us, from without and from within.
Fifty ago there was no internet. A hundred years ago there was no television or radio. And the events of the twenty-first century have created new challenges to our living proudly as Jews who observe mitzvot (commandments).
But on Passover we remind ourselves that we too must leave Egypt, we too must retell the story, relive the Exodus and the Redemption. We must in a sense write it over, between the spaces and over all the other stories, connecting them, generation to generation.
Our seders are a palimpsest, taking us through the history of ourselves. And so, on the same surface, with the same materials, we tell the story of Redemp-tion, writing and rewriting it until the final telling - the coming of Moshiach and the complete Redemption.
Reading the Hagada at the Passover Seder enables us to fulfill the commandment of telling over the story of the Exodus from Egypt to our children.
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. (Midrash Tanchuma Nasso 16. Tanya chapter 36.)
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?
This is why G-d Himself redeemed us, because for us to affect 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 a central theme of the Seder is not only the Exodus from Egypt, but also the ultimate redemption. The concluding blessing of the section of the Seder known as Maggid ("Telling") is, "Who redeemed us and redeemed our ancestors from Egypt... likewise He should bring us to ...the rebuilding of Your city." We pour a cup for Elijah the Prophet who will announce the Redemption. And we conclude the Seder "Next year in Jerusalem." All of these components remind us of the coming of Moshiach, when G-d's Presence will be revealed. Through our efforts we hasten Moshiach's 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, and there are 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 me, "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!
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.
The Queen of Cleveland
by Yehudis Cohen
Perhaps if I had known that the Rebbe once spoke of Rebbetzin Shula Kazen as "the Queen of Cleveland" (Ohio), I would have referred to her in that way as well. But I, like most other Clevelanders who knew her, simply called her "The General."
Born in 1923 in Russia, she, her sibling and her mother Rebbetzin Mariasha Shagalow, survived unimaginable hardships and relentless persecution under Communism. Not only did they remain totally true to their Chasidic and Torah upbringing, but they enabled thousands of others to observe Torah and mitzvot as well.
Rebbetzin Kazen's father, Reb Yitzchok Elchonon Shagalov, was arrested in 1936 by the Communists and killed three months later.
Rebbetzin Kazan passed away on March 23, after the Shabbat when we read the Torah portion of "Tzav." "Tzav" means "command," and many pointed out that it was fitting that her passing was connected with Tzav as she was truly a "commander" and utterly in command of herself.
Arriving with her husband Rabbi Shneur Zalman Kazen in the United States in 1953, HIAS was ready to help the Kazens settle in Cleveland, Ohio. Rebbetzin Kazen asked the Rebbe if they could stay in New York but the Rebbe told them that Cleveland was where the couple would fulfill their life mission.
A woman who met Rebbetzin Kazen as a teen, and later interfaced with her as an adult wrote: "What a woman. I remember as a counselor at Camp Chabad in Cleveland the mandatory weekly dinner at her house. She insisted on hosting us. You'd have to eat or else! Incredible stories of Russia, the early (hard) years in Ohio, shlepping to the Rebbe with babies. Then the times she spoke at the Convention workshops...I'm not quite sure how, but she managed to be inspiring, intimidating, and absolutely hilarious all at once. No nonsense. Old school. A devoted Chasid. An icon. Strong as steel. "
Mussi Alpern, a great-granddaughter, recalls visiting the Kazens when the couple was already well into their 80s. "We arrived at 6 a.m. Friday morning and went straight to their shul. Outside we met Zaidy, then 88, shoveling snow, while Bubby was already in the kitchen cooking. After a few minutes, Zaidy was in the car, picking up people who could not get to shul themselves. All Friday, they did not stop for a second until all the food was cooked, the tables were set and the place was spotlessly clean.
"For the Friday night meal, there were 'only' 20 guests. (At the Shabbat day meal, there were 150 guests!) Sitting at the Shabbat table was a pleasure, between Zaidy's singing and his words of Torah, and Bubby's delicious food.
"We finally went to sleep after 1 a.m. When we woke up Bubby and Zaidy were already up. We asked Bubby, 'So when do you rest?' She answered, 'I was educated that we rest after 120.' After prayers, everybody sat down for a full Shabbat meal with Zaidy's singing and sharing words of Torah again.
"On Saturday night they prepared a big meal for the community, which ended after midnight. But they still were not ready to sleep. They had to prepare for Sunday. We went out to the bakery to pick up the leftover bread and cakes, and made boxes of food for over 100 needy families who would come to the shul each Sunday morning for their food packages.
"In the morning when we woke up, Zaidy was again shoveling the sidewalks around the shul. Then people started to come to pick up their packages..."
Mrs. Rochel Levin is a younger sister of Rebbetzin Kazan. At the Shiva she told the story of their first Passover in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
"In Tashkent there was nothing and no shops sold anything. Pesach came and we needed to have matza. Not matza to eat, because there was nothing to eat. But to have matza for the Seder, and for the children to see.
"There was no place to buy utensils and equipment to make the matza. It was decided to collect from the refugees whatever they had and use it for a Matza Bakery. This one had a bowl. That one had a rolling pin. Another had a spoon.
"It was a whole job to get the supplies together. The first night young 'couples' walked around outside as if on a date. We wore big, blanket-like capes and we went from house to house picking up items and hiding them under our capes. The second night everything we had gathered was made kosher for Passover. The third night the matza was baked.
"People had traded in their bread coupons for wheat. So the second night I went to mill the wheat. First we had to make kosher the mill stones, then we had to grind the wheat into flour. Everything had to be done at night, so no neighbors would even imagine what as actually happening.
"My mother was a very clever woman. She had saved a few of her bread coupons and bought a live turkey with it. She took it to a shochet. Then we plucked it and koshered it. She also managed to procure sugar beets - which are actually cattle food.
"We had no oven, so we dug a hole in the ground, put stones around it, collected sticks and made a fire. There was no running water; we had to bring it from somewhere else. So there was a pot in a hole in the ground that was our oven, and in the pot our turkey and sugar beets and water.
"We sat down to recite the Hagada. Scallions were the only thing growing in the 'garden' so we used them as marror (bitter herbs) for the Seder. It became known that 'Mariasha has marror.' And everyone knew that whatever Mariasha had she shared. A man came and asked for scallions so he could have marror for his Seder, too. My mother gave him the scallions, and as he walked back across the yard he tripped on the pot! Everything went spilling out into the muddy sand. We picked it up. We washed off the turkey as best we could with new water that we brought. But we couldn't wash off all of the dirt. And to this day, when I retell this story, I can still hear the crunching of the gritty sand in my mouth as we ate the turkey on Seder night."
Rebbetzin Kazen leaves behind an extraordinary legacy for her children and hundreds of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
Rabbi Yaakov and Chaikie Kotlarsky recently arrived in Arlington Heights, Illinois to extablish a new Chabad House. Arlington Heights is a suburb of Chicago. Chabad is the first Jewish presence in the village. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.chabadah.org
Kyoto, Japan - home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites - has a new Chabad House under the direction of Rabbi Dovid and Chaya Mushka Posner. Contact them at email@example.com or www.jewishkyoto.com
The historic village of S. Miguel de Allende, Mexico, has a newly established Chabad House. Rabbi Daniel and Raizel Huebner have moved to the mountainous, cobblestoned village, 3.5 hours from Mexico City to establish the Chabad Center there. Contact them at rabbi@chabadmsa or www.chabadsma.com.
Freely translated and adapted
11 Nissan, 5728 
. . . One of the main highlights of the Festival of Pesach [Passover] is indicated in the name which the Anshei Kenesseth Hagedolah (the Men of the Great Assembly) ordained for this festival - "the Season of Our Freedom."
For the Torah, which is called "Toras Chaim" (the Law of Life) - being our guide in life - demands of each Jew to remember, i.e. to experience, the freedom which came with the liberation from Egypt, every day of his life. To quote our Sages: In every generation, and every day, a Jew must see himself as though he had that day been liberated from Egypt.
This injunction and demand has been made upon every generation of Jews, during the time when the royal house of David had been reigning for generations, as also in the darkest times of exile and extermination, may the Merciful One spare us.
Likewise is it made upon every Jew and every day. Even though he experienced the "release from bondage" yesterday, he is to relive it today, and again tomorrow.
For the meaning of "liberation from Egypt" is the attainment of freedom from obstacles and limitations which the Jew encounters in his way to self-fulfillment, hindering him from reaching his destiny and from accomplishing what he must.
That is why the freedom which he experienced yesterday does not hold good for his position and state of today, and his attainment today will prove inadequate tomorrow.
To get a clearer and better understanding of what has been said above, let us consider an analogy from Nature:
On the level of plant life, we would consider a plant completely "free" from all "anxiety" and hindrance, when it has been fully provided with all the things needed for its growth: soil, water, air, etc. Although it cannot move from its place, being "condemned" to remain rooted to its spot all its life - nevertheless it enjoys the fullest freedom of plant life. So long as it remains a plant, it is truly free.
An animal, however, even when it is fully provided with its needs in the way of food, water, etc., yet is forcibly confined to one place, such confinement would spell the utmost deprivation for it, and a most dreadful imprisonment, inasmuch as it would be denied that which is the essential aspect of its being.
In the case of a human being, inasmuch as man's distinction is that of the intellect, if he be given also freedom of movement, yet he be excluded from intellectual activity - he would be a prisoner held in the kind of captivity which deprives him of his essential entity.
Likewise in the realm of the intellect itself. He who is capable of the highest intellectual advancement, yet is constrained to a life of child-like mentality - surely this is a most painful restraint upon his true self.
And if such a restriction be self-imposed - where a person dissipates his years, intellect and capacities in pursuit of his physical needs and the gratification of the lower appetites to the exclusion of all else - surely such a self-imposed enchainment is, in many respects, even more dreadful and more tragic in its consequences.
As for Jews, of whom each and every one possesses a Divine soul, a veritable "part" of G-d above, which even while it is shrouded in the "animal" soul and confined in a clay frame is yet inseparably bound to the Ein Sof (The Infinite) - its impelling quest for true freedom and release from bondage is ceaseless and infinite. It cannot rest in one place. With each day, as the soul progressively rises higher by means of the Torah and Mitzvos [commandments] which bring it closer to the Ein Sof, it experiences a deep and innermost feeling that whatever state it had attained the day before, has today assumed confines from which it must break loose in order to rise higher still.
May G-d grant that the coming Season of Our Freedom bring to every Jew and Jewess freedom from all hindrances, physical, material and spiritual, so that with gladness and fullness of heart everyone will rise higher and higher - to the ultimate Season of Our Freedom, the true and complete Redemption through our Righteous Moshiach, speedily in our days.
With prayerful wishes for a Kosher and Happy Pesach,
LIBA is from the Yiddish, meaning "loved one." It is also from the Hebrew "lev" which means heart.
LIPPE is a shortened form of Lipman, Yiddish for "lover of man(kind)." A famous Lipman was the 17th century Yom-Tov Lipman Heller, best known for his commentary on the Mishnah called the "Tosefet Yom-Tov."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Friday night, Jews around the world will sit down to celebrate the first Passover Seder. According to tradition, an unseen guest will also be at the table: Elijah the Prophet.
During his lifetime, Elijah refined his physical body to such an extent that it accompanied him "in a tempest up to heaven" when he passed away. Since then, Elijah visits every Jewish home during the Passover Seder and also attends every brit mila (circumcision) ceremony that is performed. Although we cannot see him, his spiritual presence takes part in our celebrations at these special times.
Elijah the Prophet will also be the one to herald the Redemption, as the Torah states, "For behold, I will send Elijah the Prophet to you, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the L-rd."
The "great and awesome day" is the day when Moshiach comes! One of the thirteen principles of the Judaism, as codified by Maimonides, is that we anxiously await Moshiach every day.
But what about Elijah the Prophet? How can we realistically expect Moshiach to come today if Elijah did not come yesterday to announce his imminent arrival?
One of the answers to this question is that Elijah the Prophet is supposed to precede Moshiach only if the Redemption comes about "in its time" - in accordance with natural law. If, however, the Redemption comes about in a manner of "I will hasten it" - in a miraculous way, transcending the laws of nature, it is quite possible that Moshiach can actually arrive first.
So regardless of who will make the first appearance, let us all ponder the Rebbe's words as we celebrate this festival of freedom: "According to all indications, our era is close to the 'End of Days'... It is absolutely certain, with no doubt whatsoever, that the time for Redemption has arrived. The only thing remaining for us to do is to actually greet our Righteous Moshiach, so that he may fulfill his mission and redeem the entire Jewish people from exile."
A kosher and happy Passover!
Searching for Chametz
One year, before the search for chametz, the Previous Rebbe said, "One must check for chametz in spiritual matters, too, although the physical checking is much easier."
(Sefer HaSichot 5698)
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.
Mah Nishtana - The Four Questions
When introducing the Mah Nishtana, the Hagada says: "Kan haben shoel." Simply translated, this means: "At this point, the child asks [the Four Questions]." However, "shoel "means not only "asks" but also "requests." Once at the Seder, when Reb Osher of Stolin came to those words, he told those present, "Now is the time for every Jew to ask G-d for whatever he needs."
The Seventh Day of Passover: the Splitting of the Red Sea
During the festive meal of the Seventh Day of Passover, the Tzemach Tzedek declared: "The Seventh Day of Passover is the New Year of self-sacrifice. When Moses conveyed G-d's command - 'Speak to the Children of Israel that they should go forward' - Nachshon ben Aminadav immediately jumped into the sea. This was a continuation of the self-sacrifice shown by our ancestor Abraham. On the Seventh Day of Passover, each and every Jew can and must resolve to have self-sacrifice for Torah and mitzvot and the service of the Creator throughout the year."
(Sefer HaSichot 5703)
Translated by Joe Bobker from the Chemdat Shamayim Haggadah.
During the holiday prayers, the rabbi of a large synagogue noticed that one of the worshipers, a Holocaust survivor, would always leave the synagogue each day before the Priestly Blessing. He decided to clarify the matter.
Before the beginning of the next morning's holiday prayer, the rabbi approached the elderly gentleman and invited him to join him for the holiday meal. But this time too, to the rabbi's surprise, just before the priestly blessing, the Jew left the synagogue. At the end of the prayers when the rabbi left the synagogue, he saw to his amazement the same Jew standing and waiting at the corner of the street. They both walked together to the rabbi's house.
After they had eaten, the rabbi dared to ask his guest: "Why do you always make sure to leave the synagogue before the Priestly Blessing?"
The guest turned pale. He was clearly in a state of emotional turmoil. A few minutes later, when he calmed down, he began his story: "I'll tell you something I have not told anyone."
"During the Holocaust, I was in Auschwitz, where 800 people lived in one barracks, sleeping eight people crammed on a sloping wooden bench, without a toilet or shower, and eating 300 grams of dry bread a day, and sometimes soup from potato peelings.
"One of the prisoners in the barracks was a special Jew who mentally and emotionally held us all together. Everyone called him 'the rabbi of the camp.' He loved us all and encouraged us. Almost every day he would sit and listen to the prisoners' plight and embrace them with all his heart.
"One evening, the rabbi entered the hut and said: 'In two weeks it will be Passover, we must celebrate the Passover Seder.'
"One of the prisoners, who served as a servant custodian in the apartment the Nazi camp commandant, approached him and offered his help. He said that during the afternoon the commander goes to sleep, and from that time he can use the oven in the kitchen to bake matzos. The rabbi was very excited and briefly explained to the Jew how to prepare the oven and bake the matza. The servant was fearful of the dangerous idea, but in the end he agreed. Within a few days, he returned to the hut at night, hiding two kosher Matzos!
"Passover night after evening lights out we all sat on the floor and began the Seder. The rabbi recited the Hagada by heart, and we joined him. The rabbi then handed out a minute piece of matza to each of the 800 prisoners. Among us all was an unthinkable awakening. 'Maror' was abundant all year round, 'Four cups' of wine were of course absent, although we drank abundantly our cups of bitters tears! But to our amazement, that night, we were privileged to eat matza! Matzah... here in Auschwitz!!
"Suddenly the door of the barracks opened and the vile Nazis entered, seeing 800 Jews sitting on the floor together. In a moment we all jumped and stood by the bunks. The chief Nazi took out a pistol, grabbed the first Jew next to him and shouted, 'Who organized this gathering?
"The Jew refused to turn over the 'rabbi,' and the Nazi continued to shout, 'I will kill you all, one by one, until I know who is responsible for this!'
"The rabbi stood in the middle of the path between the bunks opposite the Nazi, tore open his shirt, exposed his heart, and turned to the Nazi: 'Here it is, my heart, I organized everything, I am guilty, kill me.'
"The Nazi stepped toward him, aiming his gun at the rabbi's heart, and in the final second before pulling the trigger, he stopped and began to smile diabolically. The Nazi began: 'I will not kill you just like that, tomorrow we will gather the whole camp, we will put up a big stage, and I will tell everyone what you did, and only then will I kill you.'
"That's exactly what happened the next day. The Nazis gathered the entire camp and told about the 'sin' of the rabbi, and pressed a gun to his forehead. In the final seconds of his life, the rabbi raised his hand and asked for 'one final request' before his execution.
" 'What do you want?' The Nazi sarcastically asked 'Bread? Soup? Meat?'
" 'No,' answered the Jew. 'I do not want water or meat or bread or soup, I want to give something to my thousands of brothers here ... I love them, I am Kohen, a Priest, and I want to give them the blessing of the Kohanim."
"The rabbi raised both hands, placed them in the prescribed manner, and began to recite the Priestly Blessing: 'May the Lord bless you ... and preserve you.'
"The silence among the prisoners could be cut with a knife. It was an awesome and terrible sight. Thousands of Jews were bowed, lowering their eyes to the ground, a sea of tears spilled ... It was a cry without a sound. The soil already soaked with blood was now saturated with burning, salty tears
"After the liberation from Auschwitz I went to America," the Jew finished the chilling story. I abandoned Judaism and very much wanted to assimilate, to marry someone who was not Jewish, but the image of that Priestly Blessing was always before my eyes, and I just could not do it ... I married a Jewish woman and we had children. I was determined to enroll them in a non-Jewish school, but the image of the Jew, the Rabbi HaCohen, blessing is in Auschwitz stood before my eyes, and I simply could not do it ... I sent them to a Jewish school.
"Do you understand why during the Priestly Blessing I go out? I don't ever want to lose the memory, the image, of that Priestly Blessing of Auschwitz! I want it to remain engraved in my heart forever ... I do not want to replace it with any other Priestly Blessing!"
From the Hagada: "The wicked son says: What is this service to you? ...You may tell him: If he had been there [in Egypt], he would not have been redeemed." What purpose does it serve to tell the wicked son that had he lived in those days he would not have been worthy of Redemption? The answer: Although it is true that the wicked son would not have been redeemed from Egypt, he will be redeemed with Moshiach in the Final Redemption! Unlike all other historical redemptions, every single Jew will go out of our present exile. This is the implicit message of the Hagada on the Seder night.