PESACH – the glorious festival of our freedom – begins at sundown Friday night and extends for a full week. It is a great highlight of the Jewish year for it was at this time that Hashem delivered the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt.
If you were being introduced to the observance of Pesach for the very first time, which is the first mitzvah(good deed) you would choose? Eating of Matzah? Extensive cleaning out of the leaven from your home? Do you know what the Rambam chose? Time. The idea of the time.
So why does the Rambam focuses on time before focusing on the chametz or matzah? Because just eating matzah is not enough to truly celebrate Pesach. The Rambam is telling us that sanctifying the days of Pesach with attitudes of gratitude, of devotion, of prayer is the way to make our eating of the matzah truly a mitzvah.
Remember, the whole purpose of mitzvot is to perfect us. Hashem did not arbitrarily decide that it was a good “mitzvah” for us to eat matzah for eight days. No, His purpose was that during the days we spend eating matzah, that the very act of eating it serves to purify our souls and raise us to a greater level of gratitude for His goodness, His love and His kindness towards us For after all, had He not delivered His people from Egypt, we would not be here today. Without purposing in our hearts to set aside this period of time, the Pesach Festival, to focus on giving thanks to Hashem for all He has done for us, we miss the deeper meaning of observing this holiday. And…to eat matzah just because everyone around us is doing so, is hardly a true mitzvah!
So let me ask a question: since we’re looking at the aspect of TIME as it relates to Pesach, notice that while it is mandated for seven days, we are only told what to do on the first and the last day. What about day 2 through day 6???
This is one of the most powerful concepts in Torah.
The Torah says nothing about those days. Why? Because it’s up to YOU to choose what to do.
This is how Chol Hamoed (the intermediate days) works. In essence Hashem says to the Jewish people, “You handle it yourself, because the minute you learn control over time then you learn how to create your own dimension of sanctity from days two through six.” There’s the key, not only for the days of Pesach but for all of life. To learn control over time, to learn how to create sanctity within the days of our lives is a vital key to becoming a mature, free, and spiritual person.
It is an incredible idea. Following the Biblical law alone of matzah or the biblical law alone of chametz is not going to work unless we learn a whole new level of existence.
The true freedom which Hashem imparted at Pesach was the freedom to be a partner with Him in rectifying the world. That is incredible freedom.
This is one of the main reasons we are told to repeat the story of the Exodus at every Pesach seder and to recognize that the story of Pesach is the story of each one of our lives. It is the paradigm for how Hashem offers freedom to each of us who will accept His invitation to put slavery behind us and step out into the unknown in order to follow Him. The slavery takes as many different forms as there are people but slavery in any form is still slavery.
His freedom is much more than deliverance from a harsh taskmaster. It is the freedom to become something much greater than just an ex-slave. It is the freedom to become truly what He intended from the beginning – a living expression of His love in a tired world.
May each of you experience a holy, thankful and peaceful Pesach.
Chag Pesach Sameach v’Kasher.