Food For the Soul
The inside story on Passover
In each one of us there is an Egypt and a Pharaoh and a Moses and Freedom in a Promised Land. And every point in time is an opportunity for another Exodus.
Egypt is a place that chains you to who you are, constraining you from growth and change. And Pharaoh is that voice inside that mocks your gambit to escape, saying, “How could you attempt being today something you were not yesterday? Aren’t you good enough just as you are? Don’t you know who you are?”
Moses is the liberator, the infinite force deep within, an impetuous and all-powerful drive to break out from any bondage, to always transcend, to connect with that which has no bounds.
But Freedom and the Promised Land are not static elements that lie in wait. They are your own achievements which you may create at any moment, in any thing that you do, simply by breaking free from whoever you were the day before.
Last Passover you may not have yet begun to light a candle. Or some other mitzvah still waits for you to fulfill its full potential. This year, defy Pharaoh and light up your world. With unbounded light.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The Great Shabbat”
This year Passover begins after Shabbat on Saturday, March 27, bringing with it a number of unique laws and guidelines. (Consult the Passover section on Chabad.org)
The Shabbat before Passover is known Shabbat Hagadol, “the Great Shabbat”. It is the Chabad custom to only read the special Shabbat Hagadol Haftarah in years like this, when Shabbat Hagadol is the day before Passover.
Like every Shabbat Hagadol, after the Minchah services on Shabbat afternoon, it is customary to read a selection of texts from the Haggadah, beginning from the words, avadim hayinu, “We were slaves…” In some Sephardic communities, it is customary, when greeting one another on this Shabbat, to add the title of the day: “Shabbat haGadol mevorach” – a blessed Shabbat haGadol.
Mind Over Matter
Customs differ but we are still one family
Jews are forbidden by the Torah to eat or even own leavened products on Passover. This means any product made from the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, rye, oats), other than matzah, cannot be eaten or in your possession for the eight days of Passover. Jews living in certain areas took on an extra stringency and forbade rice and legumes on Passover. The Jews of the Orient, however, did not take on this custom. Rather than focusing on the superficial disparities between communities, look at our internal connection. We are all telling the same story. G-d took us out of Egypt to make us one nation, united by the Torah, our common history and our common goal. Some eat rice, some don’t, and it matters not. We are one family, the children of Israel.
From an article by Rabbi Aron Moss
Asking G-d for relief
We begin the Hagadah (the recitation of the story of the exodus) with the paragraph “This is the bread of affliction…,” in which we state: “Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and celebrate Pesach…” By reciting this, we are not only inviting strangers, but also addressing ourselves: The Almighty begs each one of us to sense our state of “hunger” and “need” in the great darkness surrounding us, and to ask G-d for relief. In turn, G-d assures us that He will then provide us not only with the substance to “eat” but also the possibility to “celebrate Pesach,” thus to be led (as stated in the conclusion of that paragraph) to the “Land of Israel” and to become truly “free people”-very speedily indeed!
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
Growing up, the mark for me between the haves and the have-nots of who has a real Passover and who does not was all wrapped up in aluminum foil. If the countertops, refrigerators, sinks and even the faucets -– especially the faucets -– having been exposed to non-Passover cooking the year long, now for Passover were plastered and enveloped in layers of protective aluminum foil, creating a virtual, new, above–level surface to create and celebrate a Passover, then this home had a full Passover.
A Passover complete with sleepless nights (she was up ‘til four in the morning!). Of cleaning underneath the mattresses, emptying every closet, oversized grocery lists (the check-out girl took one look at my three carts and you know what she said?) Family from out-of-town and visitors or friends all getting around a long, extended table, probably with a folding table or two added to the end with rented chairs and. . . all of this was visible in the folds of the aluminum foil around the faucets and the edges of the countertops.
My sister from Brazil once showed me an advertisement that caught her eye -– that caught her imagination. A picture of a home library with leather-bound classics, museum-quality art and a single, well-place antique. The caption read, “You don’t have to look in the kitchen to know they own a Cuisinart.”
Passover cannot be known from the prayers recited in synagogue (even though I love the tune for Passover morning prayers and feel cheated that it is squeezed between two seder nights). Passover cannot be known from four questions or sweet wine or even from Maxwell House Haggadah. Passover can’t even be known from Passover.
Passover in a child’s mind, the place where memories are made, where memories are solidified, jelled, preserved, slow-roasted and developed into full-bodied palates – that Passover is made in the preparations.
It was once, I couldn’t have been more than ten, when a new family from Persia had moved to Nashville and discovered us just before Passover. They came to my parents’ home to get Shmurah Matzah. Like everyone they instinctively came to the kitchen door (few people even know where our front door was). They walked in to the kitchen, saw the foil and, ”Ahhhh! Just like in Iran!” I was surprised only because I couldn’t imagine Iran having anything so advanced as our aluminum foil. But I knew that this family knew, really knew what Passover is. I knew also that they felt at home.
Nothing grows outside of its environment. And when that environment must be created, nurtured for a specific life to spring forth there from, then the preparations become that much more necessary. You can go out and order in soup and roasted chicken. You cannot go out and order in a family focus that brings all these forces together and from them creates a something out of relative nothing. Like prayer, you can’t put nothing in and expect to take something out. If you don’t sweat for it than how can it ever get into your blood?
Close your eyes and see the rows of tables with men, women and children finding place around the dining room. Hear the singing that you love and inhale the distinctively Passover smells. You will be awed by the sanctity of the simple acts we do: washing, reciting, eating, drinking. What binds this all together is wrapped up in silver foil.
Rabbi Shimon Posner