The Hidden Sparks of Passover
The First Month/Aviv/Nissan, Part Two
The Hidden Sparks of Passover
Part of an ongoing series entitled Hidden Sparks Beneath the Surface
By Elisheva Tavor
What connection is there between the moon’s renewal and the Egyptian Exodus? The connection is of course PASSOVER!!! But in order to make it our own and bring it down to a personal level, each of us must first take stock of where we are! As we go through the Seder, we can look backwards not only to that first Passover over 3300 years ago and strive to put ourselves into the minds of those Hebrew slaves; but as we do, we must take a look at ourselves to discover our own Mitzrayim and then go forward as did the Children of Israel when they came out of Egypt and were afforded a miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. With these things in mind, we too must step out and go forward. As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks says, we only see the Providence of HaShem as we look backwards, but we must live our lives forward!
Going all the way back to the Creation, we find in Gen 1:14 “And G-d said, Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night and let them be for signs and seasons and for days and years.” The Hebrew word used here for sign is ot. An ot is a stamp, a seal, a reminder to help us keep in touch with our Creator. In His infinite wisdom HaShem knew that we would need many signs, otot, many reminders to enable us to remain close to Him. Through these signs, He continually calls us to Himself in covenant relationship.
Not only does HaShem give us many otot, signs, He also gives us special times that we can come to meet with Him. We see that HaShem placed the lights in the firmament of heaven, not only for signs, but also for seasons. The Hebrew word used here for seasons is mo’edim or festivals. We read in Leviticus 23:2 that that these festivals are called “Feasts of HaShem, holy convocations. HaShem refers to these festivals as “My feasts.” When we come together with kavanah, heart felt intent, to celebrate His feasts at His appointed times, His mo’edim, we bring honor to Him and He blesses us with His Divine Presence and draws us close to Him. In His infinite love He provides us with many opportunities to be drawn and re-drawn over and over again into holy relationship with Him.
The Sabbath was the first festival that HaShem made holy, kadosh. (Lev. 23:1-3).The Feast or Festival of Passover is the next. (Lev. 23:4-5). In Exodus 12, we are given the account of the very first Pesach, a wonderful festival that we celebrate under the light of the full moon from year to year.
“Draw out and take for yourselves sheep for your families and kill the Pesach offering.” (Shemot, Exodus 12), this is to say, Withdraw your hands from idolatry, take for yourselves, sheep, slaughter the gods of the Egyptians and make a Pesach offering’ In other words, “Withdraw from idolatry and cleave to the Mitzvot.’(Yalkut Bo 206)
The message of Pesach is freedom, redemption, new birth, new life, moving from darkness into light…but not without a price. Our ancestors of old paid the price, first when they were enslaved in Egypt, Mitzrayim…and many times thereafter throughout history. The enslavement continues to this day, both for the Jewish people and those that have attached themselves to them up to and including this very day.
Many of us have spent our lives with false beliefs and fears which have in the past entrapped us, strangled us and entangled us. Then we found Torah, Baruch HaShem, and we were set free! Yet the struggle continues as oftentimes we have carryovers that unconsciously seep into our newfound Torah faith.
Pesach, the Festival of our Freedom sends us a message to wake up, to remember…to remember our affliction, and go forward and be free…the promise of freedom is right at our doorstep, but it is up to us to release ourselves, but how? We must with bitachon (trust) take the plunge like the Children of Israel did…take the plunge into the sea and follow the path through it…not around it!
Rabbi Donnel Katz says that we are in exile; and when we are in exile we are not totally conscious. It’s as if we are on auto pilot. Being in exile, he says is living consumed by fears, false pretenses and things that are not important. When we are unconscious, we don’t know that we are unconscious, so we are living a lie. We are actually double-bound when we are in this condition. The Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzrayim which means a narrow, constricted place. It is spelled with a double mem, a letter which in the beginning of the word is slightly open, but at the end of the word it is completely closed, as if to indicate that once we are in this place, we are trapped!
We must break out! Again we ask ourselves the question, but how do we break out? HaShem says that He brought us out to bring us in…to bring us in not only into the Land, but into connection and relationship with Him because His ultimate purpose is to Shechan… to dwell within us…in our midst.
We each have a purpose, but in the day to day living of our lives, we often forget WHO we are, and WHAT we really want. We need a wakeup call and sometimes that only comes with a jolt… when we reach rock bottom!
As difficult as it is, it is actually a hidden blessing to be in that condition because we then begin to realize those things we weren’t aware of before. We are broken…yet we are in a good place because we are on our way to becoming more conscious, to discovering those hidden sparks beneath the surface and to grow!
Through such experiences, we are afforded the opportunity to learn who we really are at the core and to be reminded of what we really want…and that is to live our lives to the fullest…to live purposefully and in relationship with our Creator!
Time is spiritual energy! Every moment of our lives is infused with potential! Just the realization of that brings simcha, joy and it is healing!
We are unable to change until we first come to the realization we are in EXILE. During exile, we forget that we have a destiny, a Divine purpose. We easily become consumed by our negative thought patterns and our habits that have become second nature…habits that entrap us and inhibit our growth.
The first level then of exile is that we forget who we are…we must grow and break out, break out of our comfort zones. Easier said than done, right?
Rabbi Donnel Katz explains how our learning and growing experiences are like a roller-coaster ride. In Hebrew these life experiences that determine who we are and who we become are referred to as 1) First Smallness, 2) First Bigness, 3) Second Smallness, 4) Second Bigness
1) First Smallness = Unconsciousness state; we are unconscious and not aware of it.
2) First Bigness = HaShem pulls us out! He floods our minds with energy and light
3) Second Smallness =Then we crash and want to give up, but this time we are on a higher level of “smallness” than we experienced with the First Smallness because we’ve experienced a taste of Him in the second step of First Bigness, and we know it can be reached again….so now we can fight to break out again. We are no longer unconscious. We know (have consciousness of Him from the First Bigness) where we are going…and for what we are striving.
4) Second Bigness = Now we are conscious and aware of where we are in Mitzrayim, in Egypt…that “closed, narrow place.” We are on the rollercoaster ride, and we know we must fight to stay true to the Light. We know that we must grab it for ourselves!
“When in the Light…look for truth,” as Rabbi Donnel Katz suggests and “when in the dark…stay tuned to the Light!” We must stay conscious! We know the Light is there, even though we are currently walking in the dark. It’s an up and down path…a rollercoaster ride!
The Highs prepare us for the Lows; and the lows inspire us to go higher. Pain and hardship bring with it the potential for success and for growth!
Passover is a time when we can look back and see the mighty workings of the Creator amidst all odds. It is a time when HaShem can show us what is possible if we just open our eyes and our consciousness and walk forward in bitachon (trust). It is a time of revelation and awakening to ever-higher levels!
The Kotzker Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotz) quote “There is nothing as whole as a broken heart!” In Psalm 147, we find the comforting promise that HaShem not only “builds up Yerushalayim, but that He gathers together the outcasts of Israel, He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds!” And as if that is not enough, the text continues, “He counts the number of stars. He calls them all by their names. Great is our G-d and of great power!” What an amazing concept! The same G-d who creates the stars and calls them by their names is the one who binds up our broken hearts!
When we are broken, HaShem welcomes us with open arms because we are humbled and we realize (become conscious) that we are far away from where we wish to be…and that is with Him. That is when the angels are singing!!! That is when we realize that we are in a good place! The low times on the rollercoaster are most beneficial for these are the times of great consciousness.
When you ask an Israeli how they are, they will reply “B’seder!” We usually take that to mean they are okay, but it means much more! “B’seder” literally means that “everything is happening according to an order, like the Seder…according to a purpose! In other words, we’re on the rollercoaster ride and all is well because as it continues to go up and down, we continue to rise higher after each new low.
And that brings us to the Traditional Passover Seder and the Haggadah, the guide to the Seder. Haggadah in Hebrew means to “draw down!” So we participate in going through the Passover Seder, we are “drawing down” its order. But the challenge here is not only to draw down, but to Kabbalah, to receive… to receive, to take it all in and to incorporate its lessons into our lives…beyond the Seder!
The Hebrew word for Passover is Pesach which literally means– not just passing over, but skipping over. The text in Exodus says that HaShem skipped over the houses of the children of Israel that had placed the blood on the doorposts as He had instructed.
There is a lesson for us in this and that is that we must acquire the art of skipping over the negative points first in ourselves and then in others. In practicing this, we are able to temper our judgmental tendencies emulate HaShem and show compassion.
Layla Seder – the Night of Pesach
The tradition Jewish Seder begins and ends with joy…from the Kiddush, the 1st of 4 cups of wine to the Hallel and the 4th cup of wine. In between our joy is mixed with hints of bitterness as we partake of the unleavened bread of the matzah and go from the bread of affliction or slavery to the bread of hope and freedom.
There are 15 steps of the Seder, steps which correspond to the 15 steps of ascension going up to the temple. Each step is integral to the whole. I would encourage you to take a look at a traditional Haggadah prior to the Seder and review these steps for yourself and follow Rebbe Nachman’s suggestion.
He suggests that we should spend some time endeavoring to find a part of the Seder that has a special meaning for you individually and when you find it, focus on it…let it sink into your consciousness and discover how you can incorporate its hidden meaning into your daily life
On a personal note, I have done this through the years and have found several parts of the Seder than continue to have a special meaning for me. I will only describe one here. It is the Hillel Sandwich. We make a sandwich and eat it…it is a physical act, but with deep spiritual and very practical meaning for it represents I believe the very key to living a productive life. We take a piece of matzah, put some maror (horseradish) on one end and some charoset (apple, honey and nut and sweet wine or grape juice mixture) on the other end. As we take a bite, the horseradish gives us a burning sensation both in our mouth and nose to the point that it can seem difficult to breathe (be careful as to not overdo this part). The key is to keep eating, because the next bite is the charoset and it is the antidote. All the pain and bitterness and hurt is then alleviated as we press on through to the sweetness, the joy.
So it is with our lives. We can never give up, we must persevere! Our G-d and Creator is always with us and will see us through…even in the darkest moments, for it is in those darkest moments that He is preparing the light that will break through in our lives! In the beginning, when He created the world, there was darkness and chaos…then He flooded it with Light and order! This is the key…the journey from darkness into light…it is our journey. It may seem like a roller coaster ride, but it is B’Seder…it is all okay for it is all following an order!
One of the maxims of Chasidic teachings is that “Joy breaks boundaries!” To this we might add that joy also breaks the bonds of exile and hastens the coming of Moshiach, concerning whom it is written, “The one who breaks through will ascend before the” (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
It is with great simcha, great joy that we anticipate this forthcoming Season of Pesach, The Festival of Our Freedom! And as we go through the Seder, the order of the Haggadah, may we draw down what we need and experience the Kabbalah of receiving it into our innermost being… and as a result, discover those Hidden Sparks Beneath the Surface which we can carry with us and utilize in our daily lives beyond the seder
La Shanah haba’a b’Yerusalayim!
Next Year in Yerushalim!!!