Parshat Pesach 8: Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17; Numbers 28:19-25; Isaiah 10:32-12:6.
By Rabbi Mendel Polter
Have you ever thought about the common use of the word freedom? America is a free country; Capitalism is all about the free market; we were freed from Egypt.
What is the true definition of freedom? Is it the ability to follow the whim of your natural instincts and impulses or is there something deeper? Perhaps we can glean a sense of what it means to be truly free from the varying names of our holiday of freedom, Passover.
This holiday is known by three differing Hebrew names. The name used in the written Torah is Chag HaMatzos — the holiday of matzahs. The Anshei Knesses Hagdolah (The Men of the Great Assembly) who introduced and incorporated the nussach (version) of the siddur (prayer book) introduced the name Zman Chairuteinu — the time of our freedom. The name commonly used throughout Jewish history is Pesach — Passover.
Do these names correlate with each other? If so, how do they encapsulate the quintessence of this special holiday?
True freedom is the experience we feel when we can live up to our full capacity and potential. The discipline it takes for one to live by the morals and standards with which God has tasked him or her is the greatest liberating experience. One who lives by the whim of his or her desires and impulses is not liberated but enslaved to his natural inclinations and does not have the capacity to truly be free.
The Torah and its lessons are the guidepost for every Jewish person to learn what he can attain and accomplish throughout life. However, it is only possible to live up to this ideal by way of delving and dedicating ourselves to the study and direction given to us in the Torah.
Herein lies the correlation of the varying names for Passover:
• The holiday of matzahs — Matzah represents humility and modesty. The fact that the dough is not allowed to rise resembles the concept of submission. The first step in the process of freedom is the acceptance of a greater sense of morality other than one’s own emotions and feelings. By consuming matzah, we are internally submitting ourselves to the will of God.
• The time of our freedom — This gives us the opportunity to truly experience a sense of freedom whereby we are not enslaved by restrictions or constraints imposed upon us from within or without.
• Passover — With such an approach in mind, we are freed from any sort of stumbling blocks or challenges that can throw us off course. Because we are connected to God and His will, His strength that is flowing through us enables us to overpower and pass over anything that shows up along the path.
Rabbi Mendel Polter is a rabbi at the Woodward Avenue Shul.