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Shabbat Pesach 5776

Parashat Hashavua: From Slavery to Liberation

Harav Shaul Yisraeli from Shirat Hageula, p. 8-9

We have always, in times of national success and of national lowliness, celebrated Pesach as the holiday of freedom, in commemoration of the exodus from Egypt. This includes times in which it did not appear that anything was left of that freedom, when the affliction was strong and our nation was drowning in baths of blood prepared by the nations of the world. Even then, celebrating behind sealed windows and drawn blinds, we still continued to teach our children how we were slaves and how Hashem extricated us with a strong and outstretched hand.  

On Purim we do not recite Hallel, according to one opinion in the gemara, because we are still the servants of Achashveirosh, and thus our liberation is not complete. Why, then, do we continue to say Hallel on Pesach, even as we are servants to a host of kings and tyrants?

The answer is that the exodus from Mitzrayim (Egypt) is in essence an exodus from meitzarim (constraints). This is freedom from limitations, and an ability to escape the elements of life that hold us back spiritually. This power enables us to be spiritually free men even when physical conditions seem to preclude it. The Jew did not kiss the cross, did not relinquish his uniqueness, and did not turn his back on the concept of “You chose us.” Even if this came at the price of a yellow star, restrictions on his ability to support himself, and the threat of actual annihilation, we continued in our way. While in Egypt, there was a situation of the Israelites worshipping idols as the Egyptians did, from the time of that liberation and on, our enemies were not able to break our spiritual resilience.

Therefore, the very fact that we have been willing and thus able to get together for a seder, no matter what the difficulties and the dangers, magnifies the idea of “a commemoration of the liberation from Egypt.” For it was the greatness of that liberation that ensured that no tyrant would be able to end the impact of the liberation from Mitzrayim. Because of that, we are not servants in the fullest sense – not to Paroh and not to Nevuchadnetzer or the Spanish King Ferdinand, Stalin or Khrushchev. Freedom has become part of our nation’s DNA for all generations.

Just as there is national freedom, there is personal freedom. Just as there is external enslavement, there is internal enslavement, especially to our own character traits such as hatred, jealousy, desire for riches. When these overcome us, they cause us pain, sadness, and anger. These enslavements, though, are not our necessary destiny. We can overcome them and become free in a fuller way. Next year in a rebuilt Jerusalem; next year may we be free men. 

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