Thursday, March 29, 2007

Pessah and the Process of Redemption

A person once asked Rav Mordechai Elon Shli”ta: Is the holiday of Passover more like Yom Haatsmaout, a joyous holiday where we celebrate our redemption, or Yom Hazikaron, a sad holiday where we remember the hardships of our exile?
Passover is a weird holiday in which symbols of mourning for our exile and joy for our redemption are mixed together. For example: we drink 4 cups of wine because “there is no joy without meat and wine”. However, Rashi tells us to choose red wine specifically in order to remember the blood of our brothers which was spilled during the years of slavery. Is the wine a sign of joy or sadness?
We eat matzot which remind us that we left Egypt but the matzot are also called “lechem oni”, the poor bread.
It’s true also about things outside of Pessah. When I was in Poland, one of the places we went to see was the umshlagplatz, a place in the middle of Warsaw where Jews were rounded up and deported to concentration camps like Treblinka (and nowadays, its simply a memorial in the middle of a busy city). But if we think about it, the biggest umshlagplatz ever is the Kotel, the Wester Wall Plaza! Its not pleasent to say but this is where Jews were deported to Greece, Rome, etc… Those who really understand history will realize this is also where Jews were deported to concentration camps like Treblinka. This place was called the Wailing Wall because people kept crying on it. IT was the symbol of our exile. Yet, if we go on a Monday or Thursday morning to the kotel, all we can hear is singing from different bar mitsvot. The Kotel is the wailing was, an umshlagplatz, but also the place of our highest joy! The most famous picture of Jewish Achievement in the last 50 years is the picture of the paratroopers liberating the kotel. It has become a symbol of our redemption.It was the symbol of our exile and now, in the generation of redemption, is the symbol of redemption. Rav Elon explained Judaism looks at every step towards our redemption as a positive thing which deserves to be celebrated. When a person looks at a painting from very close, he might look at a stroke of black and think to himself: “I hate black, this painting is really ugly”. However, almost every beautiful painting has some black in it. On Passover, we take some specific steps to redemption, which can be looked at in a negative way if we concentrate only on them, and we put them in the greater context of our redemption. Through this, we add value to every one of those steps.The exile was rought, the red colour of the blood was hard to see, but when we put it in the context of the wine which represents the joy we have of going out of Egypt, then it is easier to accept.

In our generation, we have been blessed to live in the middle of the greatest process ever: Jersualem is being rebuilt, and soon the Beit Hamikdash will be rebuilt. Am Israel is returning to its land, and soon, we will all unite in Jerusalem. National independence has returned to the Jewish People with the creation of the state of Israel, and soon our malchut (kingship) will be re-established.The process of our redemption has started. However, in that process, a lot of painful challenges befall the Jewish People. If we realize that each of these challenges is part of a greater picture which ultimately leads to our final redemption, these challenges take meaning and become easier to accept.
Human nature seeks the goal and tries to escape the process. The process is looked at as an obstacle towards our goal. How many times have we prayed: “We Want Mashiach Now!”? Now, not tomorrow! While it is true that we want our redemption as soon as possible, if you ask any pregnant woman, who is undergoing the process of gestation, if she would skip one day in her pregnancy knowing the side effects it would have on her son, she would never agree! She wants the goal but she understands the value of the process. Our redemption is the same. Once we realize the value of each step of the process leading towards our redemption, we will give value to that process and help make it move forward, step by step, until its final completion. On Passover, we realize that ultimately, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatsmaout are the same holiday. Passover celebrates Yom Hazikaron as a step towards Yom Haatsmaout.

In the gemara, Rav Yosef said "Let the Messiah come, and may I merit to sit in the shadow of the dung of his donkey." Unlike the other sages, Rav Yosef understood that the negative manifestations of physical and National rebirth would eventually give way to the light of Torah and the knowledge of God. To quote Rav Kook, "Rav Yosef will light the candle of the commandment, ...and a little light dispels much darkness. The evil will be transformed into good, the curse into blessing. This is the import of the cryptic passage of the Zohar: The head of the academy in the palace of Messiah said, 'Whoever does not transform darkness to light and bitterness to sweetness, may not enter here.'” May this Passover be a holiday where all our hardships be seen in a greater light, and all our challenges concretized as the steps which brought our redemption. more...

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