Passover is again upon us and as we enter these seven holy days devoted to our physical and spiritual liberation, we reflect on the meaning - the true meaning - of freedom. In the wake of the Corona pandemic (and the subsequent quarantine we all have been forced to endure), the question about freedom has never been more important. What is the Torah’s definition of freedom? Perhaps its true identity can be gleaned via a deeper understanding of the Korban Pesach (Hebrew for “Passover Sacrifice”). The first appearance of the Pascal lamb is in the Biblical book of Exodus (Parshat Bo). There, the Jewish people are commanded, “Take for yourselves a lamb.....one per each household.” Question, why, specifically, a lamb? Explains, Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov (Derech Pikudecha Korban Pesach), the Egyptians were naturalists and believed that the powers of nature reigned supreme. In particular, the magicians and soothsayers of Egypt were especially expert in charting, interpreting, and reading the stars (it was they, after all, who predicted the birth of Moses - the redeemer of Israel - as explained in the Midrash). Explains Rabbi Elimelech, the Egyptians believed that Aries (the lamb) held the greatest power because it was “first born” of the 12 heavenly constellations (the sign corresponding to the Hebrew month of Nissan, the first of the 12 months of the year). Hence, by seizing a lamb and devoting it to Divine service (via the paschal sacrifice), the Jewish people demonstrated that even the stars - natural phenomena - are under God’s providence. In other words, when we are connected to God, master of all phenomena, we are free to write an original destiny that no star or planet can determine! In the words of the Talmud, “There is no astrological fortune for Israel” (Tractate Shabbat).
Perhaps we can now answer our above question, what is freedom? Simply stated, freedom is the ability to “leap above the stars” (“Passover” means “leap” in Hebrew), and write the story the way we see fit. Tap into your soul, the Godliness within (the ultimate meaning of Passover), and no Egypt or Pharaoh will impede your way. May the living God unite the Jewish people together with all humanity under His loving providence. May we transcend our individual and collective Egypt (physical and spiritual limitations), and usher in the era of redemption.
A Happy and Kosher Passover from Rabbi Gaines and the rest of the Da’ati staff.