‘A miraculous transition from slavery to freedom’


Pesach is the first Jewish holiday of the Torah cycle. It marks the transition from slavery to freedom and the birth of the very idea of the Jewish nation. During the Exodus the Jewish people became the vehicle of Hashem’s rule in the world, and it became the key memory that constantly connects us with Him.

That’s why many Mitzvot, not even specifically related to the Exodus, are called “זכר ליציאת מצרים” — memory of the Exodus (for example, Tzitzit or Tefillin). The whole purpose of the Seder, composed by the Rabbis with every Jew in every generation in mind, is to make sure the transition from slavery to freedom happens every year, at every Passover table!

This is the highlight of the Maggid section of the Seder — “in each generation one must look upon himself as if he personally had come out of Egypt.”

The Torah seems to refer to the Exodus as an ongoing process of transition, which requires us to renew ourselves on our journey to Freedom — as long as this Galut is not over and the Mashiach is still on his way!

At the Pesach Seder we are surrounded by symbols — some of them represent slavery (Maror, salted water, Haroset ) others represent freedom (wine, reclining ) — but what about matzah?

We are about to discover one of the great secrets of Pesach night — which also illustrates the change that is expected of us at the Seder. Matzah is called לחם עוני in Hebrew — and that’s what we call it at the beginning of the Seder — bread of our poverty, or bread of affliction. At the very end of Maggid we are reminded of the three most important symbols of the night: the Pesach (sacrifice), matzah and Maror.

At this point we answer the question of why we eat matzah — “our ancestors’ dough was not yet able to rise, before HaShem redeemed us.”

Now it becomes clear — Matzah symbolizes freedom, but didn’t we just call it the bread of poverty and affliction?

Matzah itself represents a miraculous transition from slavery to freedom, and as we recite the Haggadah — we are to follow a similar journey!

The main message of the Seder is that change is not only possible but is imminent — those who don’t change and remain enslaved would perish in Egypt.

As part of the Seder we drink 4 cups of wine — representing the ‘four languages of redemption’ — but we also have the fifth cup, that of Elijah — which we don’t drink. The tradition of leaving the cup on the table and not drinking it is actually hinting to us that we never truly end the Seder — until Elijah will proclaim Mashiach’s arrival and we rejoice in Eretz Israel!

May this Pesach bring much joy and fulfillment to all of us, and may we merit to see Goel Tzedek!

Khaskin is the school rabbi for the Brandeis Hebrew Academy.