What The Festival Of Redemption Teaches Us
Despite being one of the most difficult Festivals to keep and prepare, almost every Jew in the world celebrates Pesach. We all know that Hashem overturned the laws of nature when he sent the 10 plagues. This act served to rectify a great deal of Creation, destroy the bondage of the Israelites, and punish the forces of evil.
The writings of the sages and Kabbalists reveal that each festival has its own special qualities that are renewed every year.We find this idea beautifully summarized in the words of the great Kabbalist R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (The Ramchal) in his Magnum Opus, Derekh Hashem (The Way of God):
“The quality of each festival is determined by the divine influx and the potency of the illuminating light that graced its occurrence. On these auspicious occasions, a significant tikkun, or spiritual rectification, transpired and a brilliant spiritual illumination shone forth. The Highest Wisdom deemed that the anniversary of these sacred events should be marked by a renewed emanation of their original radiance and the benefits of their rectification bestowed upon those who celebrate them. This is why we are commanded to observe Pesach with all its rituals, in order to commemorate the Exodus and the profound rectification that took place. As we remember the exceptionally potent rectification of the Exodus, a corresponding radiance is rekindled each year on its anniversary.”
The sheer amount of Kabbalistic secrets that are revealed to us about Pesach cannot be overstated. While we can’t write everything in one article, we will try to cover as much as possible and what’s most important here for you to enhance your Seder!
Order of Mochin and The Night that Shines like the day
Every act of service we do comes in order to bring down a form of divine conscience, also known as Mochin. The Mochinalways come in a certain order: First comes Katnut (smallness) of [the Sephira of] Binah (Understanding), then Gadlut(greatness) of Binah, then Katnut of Chokhmah, and finally Gadlut of Chokhmah. The order is constant and crucial because it allows free will to continue uninterrupted.
This order is also important because, in a sense, it allows us to build our perception of Hashem without “breaking our vessels”. Any great revelation must be preceded by having the proper mind-frame, which has to be built over time. If too much light comes, a person runs the risk of veering off the proper path. This is what happened in a conceptual sense during the breaking of the primordial vessels which came out of the “eyes” of Adam Kadmon.
However, as the Zohar says, in Pesach we are all considered somehow “spiritually sick” as we are relieving this period in which we were subjugated by the Egyptians, and this is why we must eat Matzah. Like a sick person that has to abstain from harmful foods, we also need to refrain from eating Chametz which represents arrogance, as everyone knows.
Hashem saw that the bondage of Egypt was complete, no one could leave there. The Ben Ish Chai gives a very interesting insight and writes that the word for Egypt מצרים starts with an open Mem (מ) and ends with a closed Mem (ם) symbolizing that whoever came to Egypt never left and was trapped in its allures forever. In an unprecedented act, Hashem not only “rushed” to bring the Mochin of Gadlut Rishon (“First” Greatness of Binah)thereby breaking the order (“seder”), but brought all subsequent Mochin came in one single night! Nothing like this ever happens in any time through the year. This act immediately broke the Egyptians’ grasp on the Israelites, and had it not been for that, writes the Arizal, we’d never have been redeemed.
This is reflected in the fact that, according to Halacha, we recite the full Hallel twice, once during Arvit and once during the Seder on Pesach. Our sages teach that this night shines as bright as the day. The “day” is not merely a time reference when the physical sun is shining but alludes to Olam HaBah, which is entirely day as compared to this world which is night. When we perform the Seder, we must feel like we are already redeemed and this is why we recline ourselves, to symbolize that we are in the World to Come of Binah (Zohar).
Sweetening the Judgments
One of the most important Kabbalistic concepts is that of Sweetening judgments (in Hebrew “Mituk HaDinim”). We spoke a little before in other articles, but what is it really? Essentially, whenever there’s a decree in Heaven for something to happen, it can happen in many different ways. The final outcome of the decree depends primarily on the attitude (and level of Emunah) of the recipient of the decree, his prayers and preparation. And, of course, there are different ways an individual can “bring about this decree” in a sweeter and smoother way.
We can illustrate this concept from the famous interaction between Moshe Rabbenu and Pharaoh. After the seventh plague, Pharaoh’s servants were already sick and wanting for the people to leave. Pharaoh then “graciously” lets Moshe leave with only the men and children (but not the women) and warns “see,there’s an evil in front of you”.
The Midrash explains that Pharaoh was a great sorcerer, with a deep understanding of the forces of nature. He foresaw the “result of the influence of Mars” which is to bring bloodshed in the future. Moshe Rabbenu knew Pharaoh wasn’t just some charlatan, but knew what he was talking about. Perhaps Moshe Rabbenu didn’t know this was about the sin of the Golden Calf, or the fact that Hashem would kill any uncircumcised firstborn, but later ordered the people to circumcise themselves and also prepare for the Pesach sacrifice with a sheep. These two acts substituted the “bloodshed” that was supposed to happen in the future, at least in part.
Similarly, the Arizal writes about the Kavanot (mystical intentions) of the Maror we eat on Pesach, which one can infer serves as a way to “Sweeten the Judgments”. The word Maror(מרור) has the exact same numerical value as death (מות). When two words have the same numerical value (Gematria), this means there’s a direct correlation between the two. They can indicate the same soul root or that they are opposing forces. But here, the implication is clear: we’d much rather have the “death” of the Maror over real death! An important Kabbalistic custom is to also dip the Maror in the Charosset (which is sweet) and then shake it out when the time to eat comes.
Other Remarkable Insights
The time of Pesach is an incredible opportunity to bring our personal salvation. It’s not only the physical salvation but also the mental and emotional salvation of being free of our bad desires.
Although this is a time full of judgments up until the end of Shavuot during the Omer, we all have the possibility of sweetening it. Even during the first Yom Tov and Chol HaMoed, there’s a special type of Chesed (lovingkindness) called “ChesedYoma d’Kulchu” (“The all embracing Chessed”), which comes down from the exalted level of Keter of Atzilut. This special illumination keeps on throughout Pesach, as on Sukkot.
Just as we were redeemed like royalty way back 3.300 years ago entirely on Hashem’s compassion (without merits), so too we can bring down all our salvations this coming Pesach, without relying on our merits, for free. This is the difference between compassion and lovingkindness: compassion is the act of free-giving to one who is in a lower position while lovingkindness is to an equal.
According to many Kabbalists, one auspicious time to ask for our needs is before singing Ma Nishtana. The Gemara in Pesachim writes that this is the time “when the son asks the father”, and they teach that since we are all sons of Hashem, wecan ask Him (our Father) anything we want in this specialmoment!
May you and your family have a wonderful and kosher Pesach filled with light!