We will soon celebrate Passover and commemorate the redemption of the Jewish people from ancient Egyptian slavery. This was actual backbreaking toil that also broke the spirit of the Jewish people. When it became too much to endure, they cried out to God, and their prayers were answered. The Jewish people’s redemption led to nationhood and a homeland, the land of Israel.
The message of Passover is part of our collective conscience and one of the most celebrated holidays in Judaism. The holiday is full of commandments and symbols. Matzah - the unleavened bread, four cups of red wine and bitter herbs, to name a few.
These symbols are opportunities to connect to God and remind us of the underlying message of Passover. Slavery is bitter, our food was “poor man’s bread,” and we celebrate the four Biblical expressions of redemption with four cups of red wine that recalls the plague of blood.
Our sages teach that slavery can also be a mindset. For example: Are we enslaved to our passions? Do we allow material pursuits to stand in the way of spiritual growth?
Although the different symbols recall the stages of the exodus from Egypt, they also contain a spiritual inspiration that is transformative.
Unleavened bread teaches the trait of humility in contrast to regular bread that rises like a prideful ego. There is a saying, “you can’t pour fresh water into a cup that is already full.” To be a receptacle for wisdom, we must humble ourselves by emptying our ego.
As King Solomon said, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).
As a child I loved Passover. Family celebrations, taking matza to school to show to my non-Jewish friends, and of course, singing “Dayenu” and “Who Knows One.”
As an adult I am enriched by the spirituality and closeness to God the holiday, with all its accouterments, gives me.
Some missionaries portray Judaism as a cold and ritually meaningless religion. They seem to be in denial of the positive and spiritual side of Torah Judaism. For each Jewish convert to Christianity they can display on YouTube, there are countless Jews who have discovered the beauty, spirituality, and happiness that Judaism provided to me.
King David put it this way, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8), and King Solomon said. “It is a tree of life to all who grasp it, and whoever holds on to it is happy; its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17-18).
I wish you a very happy, meaningful and spiritual Passover.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz