Friday, April 02, 2010

Pesach 5631 Second Day

On Pesach we celebrate our freedom.  The nation of Israel was freed from the bondage of Egypt.  There is also a deeper type of freedom.  As humans living in the physical world, we are needy.  Our bodies need food and shelter.  Beyond our basic needs, we have physical desires.  Many times we find ourselves enslaved by these desires.  In addition to a commemoration of our freedom from the Egyptians, Pesach also represents freedom from our physical desires.

How so?  Before the Exodus, there was no concept of freedom within nature.  Freedom within nature means that even though we live in, benefit from and are involved with nature we can still live holy lives.  Before the Exodus freedom meant from nature.  The Sfas Emes teaches us elsewhere that our forefathers where on a level above nature.  They were free from the pulls of nature.  Living a life of holiness meant withdrawing from the physical world and rising above nature.

It was only at the Exodus that God made it clear that He is running the show, that He works within nature as well and that the natural world has a component of holiness within it.  Therefore, even as we live in the material world, we can connect to the spiritual component, the Godliness that inheres in this world.  We can live holy lives even as we benefit from and are involved in the physical world.

We find a hint to this deeper concept of freedom in Chazal who call Pesach, זְמַן חֵירוּתֵינוּ/the time of our freedom.  Time, a function of the material world, represents the physical.  Thus the time of our freedom can be interpreted as freedom within nature. 

This idea is symbolized by Matzah and Chametz.  Chazal teach us that except for the first night of Pesach, eating Matzah during the rest of the holiday is elective.  It is optional, not obligatory.  The implication is that during the rest of the year, eating Matzah is not even an option.  What does this mean?  There is no prohibition against eating Matzah during the year.

The answer is based on an understanding of the difference between Matzah and Chametz.  Matzah is made of flour and water and is baked before the dough can rise.  It symbolizes simplicity in the physical world.  Chametz, on the other hand, represents man’s involvement in the physical world.  It represents our processing of the physical world to satisfy our desires.

As long as we change and process the physical world in order to satisfy our desires, we are, in a sense, subordinate to the material.  This is the antithesis of Matzah which represents freedom from the physical even as we live within and benefit from it. 

Practical Application

Pesach is particularly suited for us to work on breaking out of the prison of our desires.  It is that prison that prevents us from truly accepting the yoke of Heaven properly.  The next time you eat Matzah, think about what it represents.  Living life simply allows us to focus our energies on serving God properly rather than on satisfying our desires.  

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