22 April 2016

DO I WANT TO LEAVE EGYPT?

BS"D
DO I WANT TO LEAVE EGYPT?

What a question! Of course I want to leave! Moses is here with us, along with his brother Aaron. You’re asking if I want to leave with them? They are going to write about us in the Torah, in the Haggadah! This is the greatest moment in history!

Yes … I am asking, and I will tell you why: because eighty percent of the Jewish People never left Egypt! (See Rashi to Exodus 13:18; 10:22) But why on earth would anyone want to miss out on the greatest event in history?

The Chofetz Chaim said that we will be able to understand the events of the Final Redemption from what happened at the Exodus from Egypt, so it is crucial for us, some 3,300 years later, to understand precisely what happened. Why would any Jew have wanted to stay in Egypt?

Let’s try to answer by asking a question: What is chometz (leavening)? What is so important about getting rid of chometz that we cannot have Passover without it? Why is getting rid of chometz crucial to freedom from slavery?

In Egypt, there was no checking for chometz. We just ran! We had no time. Only after we left Egypt did the command take effect to “nullify the leaven” (Exodus 12:15). But we did not leave Egypt with chometz. Why did we have to leave the chometz behind?

Here’s how I see it.

It was very hard to leave Egypt. And it will be very hard – even harder, I am sure! – to leave our present exile to greet the Messiah. I don’t think we begin to understand the gravitational power pulling us toward impurity. The Evil Inclination is like the irresistible gravitational force of the sun, which keeps the entire solar system tethered in place. The sun is ninety-two-million miles away, yet it keeps the earth in its exact position. “Indeed, the world is fixed so that it cannot falter” (Psalm 96). It is impossible – if you are a planet – to break away from this force.

But we are not planets! If you are a person, you are endowed with free will and you can choose to resist the “irresistible.” It is very difficult, but this is why G-d gave us free will, to “choose life” and not death. The Vilna Gaon said that the coming of man into this world is in order to test him whether he will listen to the Evil Inclination (Esther 1:19).

Let’s get back to chometz. The Torah is not telling us not to eat. The Torah is telling us that our entire purpose in this world is to serve G-d. Therefore, our eating, as well as all our actions, must reflect that purpose. Eating exercises a particularly strong influence on mankind. The Vilna Gaon also said that “the Evil Inclination comes primarily through eating and contentment” (Proverbs 7:1).

Any time eating becomes an end in itself we get into deep trouble. Look at history: all suffering in the world came about precisely because Eve and Adam had a desire to eat a particular fruit! In Shushan, the capitol of Persia, the entire Jewish Nation was brought to the brink of destruction because they enjoyed a banquet, and the food was even kosher!

In Egypt G-d showed us how to save ourselves. He instructed us that our survival depends not on satisfying our desires but on adhering to His Word. As Samuel the Prophet says, “to obey is better than a choice offering…” (I Samuel 15:22).

It requires cosmic levels of discipline to elevate ourselves to the point at which we can merit liberation from slavery. Today we are challenged tremendously on this issue. We are gravitationally pulled to subordinate our service of the Master of the Universe to our personal desires. Why else are we called upon, at least twice a day, to “remember all the commandments of G-d and perform them, and not explore after your heart and after your eyes after which you stray”?

Our “hearts and eyes” desire challah and cake and pizza, but we can live on matzah. When we are fleeing from danger, we must somehow comprehend that this world is not about challah; this world is about serving G-d. All sweetness, all life, all pleasure, all freedom, all knowledge comes through Him. G-d is One and His Name is One. He is everything! In the crunch, when life hangs by a thread, we need to eat, but we don’t need to eat challah.

Did Adam and Eve have pleasure from the forbidden fruit? They believed that following their desires would yield pleasure, but in fact all they received was pain; the “delicious fruit” became dust and ashes. Through matzah we inherit worlds upon worlds of true pleasure, freedom from troubles, and never-ending happiness in an eternal relationship with the Master of the Universe.

There are stories about prisoners of war, who – after years of subjugation – began to believe their captors were their saviors. Your mind can become warped by slavery until you love what enslaves you. This happened to four-fifths of the Jewish People in Egypt! But if we exert our strength to free ourselves, G-d will send the Messiah to save us!

“Pesach” with a letter “samech” refers to the holiday in which we were freed from Egypt. “Pesach” with a letter “sof” means “opening.” Perhaps the Torah is hinting that Matzah is our opening.

“You shall eat it in haste” (Exodus 12:11) because our one job in this world is to run to Him! “We run and they run. We run to the life of the World to Come while they run to the well of destruction!” (Hadran) May our choosing to eat this thin, beaten-down food open the gate through which we return to the Garden of Eden and the Life of the World to Come, freedom from exile and freedom from troubles, a world of purity and joy in which Torah rules and the barrier between us and our Creator is removed forever.

Chag kasher v’Sameach - A kosher and joyous holiday!



© Copyright 2016 by Roy S. Neuberger


Roy Neuberger's latest book, WORKING TOWARD MOSHIACH, is now available worldwide in Jewish bookstores and online at www.2020vision.co.il as well as amazon and fedlheim.com. His book 2020 VISION is available in ENGLISH, HEBREW, SPANISH, FRENCH, GEORGIAN and RUSSIAN.
Roy is also the author of FROM CENTRAL PARK TO SINAI: How I Found My Jewish Soul, available in ENGLISH, HEBREW, GEORGIAN and RUSSIAN, and WORLDSTORM: Finding Meaning & Direction Amidst Today's World Crisis.
ROY AND HIS WIFE SPEAK PUBLICLY ON TOPICS RELATED TO HIS BOOKS AND ARTICLES.
Roy may be reached at: info@2020vision.co.il. Website: www.2020vision.co.il

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