Intellectually and Emotionally Stimulating — From the Rebbe’s Torah
Humor to begin with:
It's funny how the colors Red, White, and Blue represent freedom.
Until they're flashing behind your car
As we all know, on Pesach, (or Passover,) we celebrate our freedom from Egypt. The Jewish people were enslaved for 210 years; Pharaoh wouldn’t let them go; G-d performed 10 plagues; and in the end, Pharaoh had to let them go.
Just one question: Did it ever occur to you that it might have been difficult for the Jews to leave Egypt?
That would sound like a rather silly question.
But think about it:
Egypt was their security. Egypt has been the home of the Jewish people for the prior 210 years. Egypt had been their food source — their source of sustenance and physical life.
By the way: It had especially fertile soil, and the nile river contained enough water for all of Egypt — through channels which were dug and led from it to the entire Egypt.
It certainly was not comfortable for the Jewish people — they were enslaved. But at least they knew where the bread would come from tomorrow.
It would be one thing if they were freed to live as they wished within Egypt itself. That would have been quite enjoyable and security inducing.
But where did they go? They went off into the desert!
A barren wasteland. No natural food. No source for clothing. No source of cooling.
They left with matzas baking on their backs; and no other food — from the place they and their ancestors had lived for 210 years!
To where? A place which gave them no sense of physical security.
How were they able to do this? Why did they do this? Because they were following G-d’s direction. G-d told them that this would be for their best — and they trusted in him.
Religious Freedom was really strong in Soviet Union…
Proof: They did Ramadan all year long.
Freedom to be who we are…
We may feel that it just doesn’t feel right to be so different than the majority of people around us. It may feel unpleasant to “leave” our surrounding culture to perform mitzvos.
We have the routine we are used to, and it is difficult to break it to say, say a blessing over food — especially when other people are watching. Hold a Friday night meal with our family — when friends are having a night out. Lay tefillin — when others may just see it as strange boxes.
Doing these things may make us feel less secure within our surroundings, and part of it.
It may even feel like we are just heading out into the desert — an unknown state of being.
But that is exactly what our ancestors did on Pesach. They left their security and went out into the desert — because G-d told them this was good for them. They trusted in him — and ultimately felt secure in his embrace.
Here’s a story which brings out this general point: that we should not let our surroundings make us feel insecure. It’s a great story, even if the specifics may not be applicable.
Among the chassidim of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (the “Tzemach Tzedek,” 1789–1866) was a businessman whose dealings took him to the business centers of the large cities of Russia, as well as to several foreign capitals. As time went by, he became increasingly uncomfortable in these environments with his long black coat and chassidic hat. Gradually, he adopted a more secular mode of dress on his business trips. Of course, he continued to travel to his Rebbe in traditional chassidic garb.
Then, one day he appeared in Lubavitch in his businessman’s attire. “Rebbe,” he announced, “I’ve decided to put an end to my hypocritical behavior. This is how I dress on all my travels—so why delude myself and others with my chassidic clothes?”
“Reb Yankel,” said the Rebbe. “Do you think that I was not aware that you dress differently in Leipzig and Paris than you do in Lubavitch? But I thought that here you showed us your true self, and there you were the hypocrite . . .”
This passover, let’s pass over our limitations — primarily our emotional one, (which makes us feel insecure by acting differently and Jewish,) which impedes us from doing what G-d wants from us. Let’s take the plunge, and set out forward, in G-d’s path.
Here’s a story about standing fast, and not bowing to external pressure:
During his years of leadership, the Rebbe’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, (whose birthday falls out on Passover) resolutely engaged in religious activism, never giving in to the ever-growing pressure from Soviets. He oversaw the building of a new mikveh and clandestinely officiated at weddings and circumcisions. One area of particular note was his involvement in the production of kosher-for-Passover matzahs. As all factories in Russia were owned by the government, it was their policy that set the standard for the matzah production.
Yet, even the Soviets knew that for the Jews to purchase their matzahs, they would require a rabbinic authority to provide halachic certification. When they turned to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, who was renowned as the chief rabbi of a prominent city, he demanded that he be allowed to install his own rabbinic supervisors, otherwise he could not offer certification. When they refused, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak remained steadfast. He traveled to Moscow and met with Mikhail Kalinin to explain his position. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s efforts bore fruit and the Soviets relented. The Passover matzahs would be produced under the proper rabbinic standards.
Following G-d, even into “the desert,” is the path which leads to “the promised land,” where the Jews were headed after leaving the desert — a place of goodness. Because for the Jew, the only true path to happiness, fulfilment, and good, even in this world, is fulfilling G-d’s mandate for them.
Let’s head out to the “desert” — the path to “the promised land!”
מרת חוה בת ר' מאטל
נפטרה י"ג ניסן תשמ"א
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