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Pesach Dvar Torah

by Rebbetzin Yehudit (Jody) Feld, Educational Director, Shirat Devorah

The exodus from Egypt is the seminal moment in our history as a people, and as it turns out in our individual lives as well.  We are bidden to remember the going out from Egypt all the days of our lives, we remind ourselves of it daily in daavening, and weekly in the Sabbath Kiddush.  The telling of this story is the central mitzvah of the seder night, and the more one tells the story, our sages tell us, the more praiseworthy it is.

The Torah makes a point of telling us, and the Haggadah emphasizes it, that HaShem Himself, in His infinite glory, redeemed us from Egypt.  “I and not a seraph,” it says, “I and not an angel.”  No messengers could be entrusted with this mission, only HaShem Himself…but why?   Further, we were supposed to be enslaved for 400 years, per HaShem’s statement to Avraham at the mysterious “Brit bein HaBetarim.” Yet it seems HaShem ran in and saved us after 210 years.

The Jewish people are described as having sunk to a very low level in Egypt, influenced by the baseness around them, the licentiousness, the reliance on magic, the idol worship, the abuse of language.  The rabbis describe it as if they walked through what is called the “49 Gates of Impurity.” Had they walked through the 50th gate, there would have been no Jewish people left to save.  One second more, and history would be so different.

Think of a seed and how it grows.  It gets planted in the ground and then begins to rot.  All the layers that have been protecting the one kernel of life at its center must rot away until only that kernel of life is left.  Then, under the right conditions (water, sun, soil) a beautiful new plant sprouts forth, bursts out of the ground, and can even grow into the hugest of trees.  On the one hand, if those layers never slough off, and that rotting never occurs, the seed will remain in its dormant state forever.  On the other hand, if the rotting goes on too long, it will effect even the little kernal of life.  Then there will be no sprout, no plant, no tree, no fruit, and the whole venture will be lost. 

Now we see why HaShem Himself had to be the one to redeem us.  Only HaShem, whose love for us knows no bounds, like a parent for a child, could understand the exact right moment to swoop in and set  us free. Only HaShem in His infinite wisdom could know when all the layers had been sloughed off, when enough rotting had taken place that new growth could begin. Only HaShem could know that another second more and the rotting might be so thorough that the kernel of life, which contains all the information to grow a particular kind of tree, or a particular kind of people, would be destroyed too. 

Only HaShem too, would know that the experience of Egypt is exactly what we need to rot through all those unessential layers.  As painful as it was, as corrupting as it was, as terrible as it was, it is the enslavement of Egypt that created the right conditions for us to be able to be birthed as a people.  It is true however, that the Egyptians got into their job and made things worse than they needed to be.

What is true for the Jewish people, is true for each of us as individuals.  HaShem places each one us, individually into the exact experiences and conditions to help us grow into the full and beautiful beings He  intended us to be.  Some of these conditions are acidic, meant to burn through outer layers to free the kernel of life waiting inside. Sometimes we become our own worst “Egyptians” limiting ourselves, oppressing ourselves, enslaving ourselves, far more than is necessary.

On the seder night, the anniversary of our exodus, our birth so to speak, the same redemptive energy is loose in the universe. HaShem’s same love, undiminished even one iota, is available to help us break through our boundaries, our layers, and vision the beautiful kernal of life, filled with so much potential, waiting at our center to burst forth.

It is HaShem’s own vision of us that we see.

May we all be blessed with HaShem’s loving vision of who we each have the potential to be at our core, and may we have the strength to leave our limitations behind, and birth ourselves, yet again, into the fullness of that vision.