Torah Portion: Pesach — 1st day
April 20, 2019 | 15/Nissan/5779
On all other nights we eat bread or matzah, but tonight we eat only matzah.
On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but tonight we eat only marror (bitter herbs).
On all other nights we don’t dip our food even once, but tonight we dip it twice.
On all other nights we sit or recline at the table, but tonight we all recline.
We already know two elements that distinguish our current Jewish exile (now 2,000 years) from previous ones. First, it is much longer than any other exile we have experienced, and we also don’t know when it will end. (Previous generations in exile had prophets who could foresee when redemption would come.) Why is this exile so much longer than previous exiles, and why were we not informed of its end?
Matzah, which contains only the simplest of ingredients (flour and water), represents unity. Leavened bread (chametz) contains many more ingredients. This represents many different opinions, which can lead to dissent and fragmentation. In all other exiles, we ate both matza and chametz; sometimes we were more unified, and sometimes we were less. Tonight, in this exile, the situation is different. We have so much fragmentation that we need to eat only matzah! We are so filled with chametz that we must eat matzah in order to counteract all the disunity around us.
Maror represents the pursuit of money and materialism. In all other exiles, people ate many different kinds of vegetables, meaning that they were able to get by with the bare necessities. Tonight, in this exile, we eat only maror, representing the bitterness of people who spend their lives chasing after material wealth. The Sages in Pirkei Avot say, “Who is rich? The one who is happy with his portion.” This exile is especially bitter because we are perpetually dissatisfied with what we have.
Dipping represents physical pleasures and passions. Previous generations were not as thoroughly directed by their passions as we are in this exile. In previous exiles, people didn’t dip their food even once. Tonight, in this exile, we dip it twice! We are steeped in a culture that glorifies the pursuit of pleasure.
Reclining represents pride and haughtiness. Previous generations either sat or reclined; at times, people were arrogant and other times people were humble. Tonight, in this exile, we all recline. We are so proud of our possessions and accomplishments, that we don’t even feel we are in exile.
May we let go of all the spiritual impurity we have experienced during this long exile, and celebrate redemption by purging ourselves of the “Egypt” that has taken root within us.
“Why not?” “Because Davy studied like crazy for that test. I even got up in the middle of the night once last week to get a drink and saw Davy still sitting at his desk with his math book! Between you and me, Gary, did you even take your math book out of you book bag once to study for that test?” “Of course I did!” Gary protested.
Ages 10 and up How can we know whether or not we are fulfilling our potential?
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