Every child is raised with the phrase ‘don’t let your imagination run wild.’ This perception accompanies us from childhood. Educators, parents and anyone who has some experience with the letdowns of this world take care to imbed in the hearts of all who heed their advice, that one must be cautious not to be swept away by the imagination, lest one be sorely disappointed. As a result of this, we generally prefer a somewhat conservative outlook of what is in store for us, not too much and not too little.
This is the way we relate to daily life, and so too to the Chaggim. The chag of Pesach presents us with a dilemma – aside from the ‘Chag Ha’Matzos’ it has another name too – “Chag Ha’Cheirus” (“The Festival of Freedom”). If we desired to relate to Pesach with a moderate approach, to expect seven days of relaxation and nothing more, Reb Nosson comes along and ruins our plans. Rabbeinu as well, did not relinquish the use of awesomely lofty concepts and expressions. According to the picture painted to us by the sifrei tzaddikim (the works of the Tzaddikim) the world is simply going to change and our lives are approaching a sharp turn for the better.
Why is it that the promises and speeches of a brighter future, for the most part cause us feelings of reluctance and inhibition. We wave a hand of dismissal when our peace is disturbed by the enthusiasm of Reb Nosson as he speaks of an influx of da’as (holy intellect), of G-dly perception and of the kedusha of Chag Ha’Pesach that is soon to shower down upon us. We find ourselves saying “Seriously, let’s be a little more down to earth, let’s not get carried away; Ge’ula (redemption), kedusha, lofty perceptions… where am I in relation to all this”. “You Know what” we eventually compromise, “forget the Ge’ula and all the other exalted stuff, it’s above us, let us just have a peaceful chag … it would be nice if there would be even a prospect of some financial salvation in the near future.’
There is another problem that arises when we begin to hear talk of the Ge’ula, of purification, of fear and love of Hashem and of the receiving of the Torah that is on the horizon. Our hearts begin to sink as we suddenly are struck with awareness of how far we are. The gallus (exile) rises up and declares “hey! Don’t get carried away, you’re still way down in the depths.”
Perhaps now we can begin to understand our forefathers in Mitzrayim, why it was that they were so bothered by the lofty promises of Moshe, why they were unable to accept with simplicity the guarantee of “I will take you out … I will rescue you … I will redeem you… I will take you as a people to me” (Shemos 6;6). Moshe arrives as a direct messenger from Hashem doing wonders and miracles that completely defy nature and requests only one thing: ‘Have faith, agree to be redeemed’. But no, “and they did not listen to Moshe” (6; 9) – they were unable to accept this.
Yes, we are indeed very well acquainted with this. ‘I will take you out, I will rescue you… what? It can’t be. Let’s be logical for a moment, give us even one reason why He would desire to redeem such lowly creatures as ourselves – perhaps the intention is to someone at the other end of Mitzrayim who did not cease praying and calling out to Hashem for a moment, even when he had a mountain of bricks piled on his back – but us, impossible…’
If we are honest we must admit that the Chag of Pesach appears against a background that seems unrealistic and perhaps even quite absurd. Suddenly, a chag from another galaxy appears in our lives and showers down upon us love and kindness. Ears that have become accustomed to the screams of brutal slave-drivers and soldiers are unable to absorb the tune of comfort and condolence and they seem horrifyingly foreign and bizarre. ‘What’s going on here? Someone is calling me ‘My child’? I have a loving father? But I’m just an Egyptian slave, an evildoer and a sinner who is liable to suffering and exile. We are afraid, unable to let go and receive Pesach … it is just seems too good to be true … perhaps it is nothing more than a pleasant fantasy.
This is exactly what troubled our forefathers in Mitzrayim, they couldn’t hear all this, they just were not capable of accepting it. Yet in truth, how did the Ge’ula actually take place? Klal Yisroel were then on the lowest of levels, those prosecuting them in heaven saying: “these (Egyptians) worship idols and so do these (Jewish people)”, were not little children – they were fiery angels who knew exactly that they were saying; they truly did not see any difference between them. In truth, every Jew would have been prepared to put his signature on this statement; they all truly felt like Egyptians. Against a background of pyramids and alters that were clouded in the smoke of the service of idolatry, the Ge’ula truly seemed like nothing more than a hallucination … But it was indeed very real.
Reb Nosson reveals the secret – The first one in the world who made use of the concept of ‘Azamra’ (L.M 282) was Hashem himself in all His glory, for if not, “we and our children and our children’s children would still be slaves…”
In order that we shouldn’t misunderstand, it is important to note that Jews in Mitzrayim were deeply involved in the ways of Mitzrayim. If the process of accessing their status would have been performed in accordance with any commonly accepted principles, not one soul would have left Mitzrayim. When Hashem withdrew the souls of Klal Yisroel from their entanglement in the profanity of Egypt, He delicately picked out only their ‘Nekudos Toivos’ (points of good).
Amidst the darkest wasteland sparkled points of Jewish light, it was these points that indicated the place of the Jewish souls; a point of light that dragged behind it a dark, heavy and coarsely physical body.
Hashem tells us about this Himself – “Then I passed over you and saw you wallowing in your blood…’(Yechezkel 16; 6), Hashem was saying ‘I have found nothing in you, but I have desired to redeem you and therefore I have looked upon you with eyes of kindness and mercy, I have searched for only that which is truly important to Me, that small point of truth, the tiny Jew deep down inside, the pain and the outcries that are almost indiscernible’, and then “…I said to you, ‘In your blood you shall live’”.
If Hashem needed to make us of ‘Azamra’ in order to free us from Mitzrayim, then when we seek to receive Pesach it is absolutely impossible to achieve this without ‘Azamra’. On Pesach a wondrous shir (song) is played throughout the world, a song of miracles and wonders, a melody of closeness and comfort. This song penetrates to the depths of the exile and plays upon the strings of the souls that a have been numbed by a lengthy gallus. From there it turns heavenward with yearning, ascends the ladder of the spiritual worlds and uplifts the soul to the level of a beloved child. It whispers in the ear:’ you are the child of Hashem, and He loves you with a love that knows no bounds’.
In order to hear the wondrous niggun it is necessary to build and develop it. In general it develops in four stanzas (paralleling the four levels of mochin (intellect) that are drawn down on the night of the Seder, as explained in the teachings of the Arizal). It begins with a very low tone, at times when our souls are wallowing in the dust of katnus (constricted consciousness) when we are surrounded by confusion and small-mindedness. Then, when we perceive how lowly and crooked our life’s paths are, overloaded with nonsense and vanity, and burning with flames of lowly desires, if we learn the correct approach we can transform this into the first stage of the wondrous niggun.
It is obvious that we must proceed along the path and to continue along the soul’s journey. Yet instead of discerning and highlighting the bad and the emptiness, we must focus ONLY on the good, to find the light that can overcome the darkness. If my path is so crooked yet I persist in trying to move along it and not despair, then I am a person of tremendous mesiras-nefesh (self-sacrifice) and this is marvelously wondrous. If these types of lowly thoughts flood my mind, how incredible is it that I still recognize them and try somewhat to overcome them, where do I get the strength to continue fighting? An Egyptian certainly wouldn’t be able to do this. There is no doubt that Hashem presents examples like myself to all the heavenly worlds, to show them how special his children are and how it was worthwhile to create the whole world just for them.
Then one ascends to the next stanza, at this stage the soul already begins to experience some relief and in fact begins to radiate: ‘Yes, I am a Jew, I won – I succeeded in strengthening myself and dispelling the evil’. On this level the mind is illuminated and spirit of purity begins to serge throughout the soul.
In the next stanza the main avodah is – bitachon (trust in Hashem). Now we are neither here nor there, one foot in and one foot out. A level of truth begins to sparkle within us, love or fear of Hashem for example. This ignites the mind and warms the heart. Yet then, the thoughts of doubt begin to appear ‘who said this is real’,’ perhaps in another moment it will completely disappear’. In order to play this stanza, we must dive inside and trust completely in Hashem’s infinite goodness and kindness, to believe that I DO have it – I am a Jew and all the good in the world is intended for me – I will certainly succeed in entering inside.
The highest stanza is played upon the most subtle of cords; it is there that the perception that there is no nature at all is revealed, that the entire existence is nothing but one solid piece of Hashem’s splendor. With my every movement I arouse tremendous joy above; Hashem loves me and creates everything anew every second for me. This is the Pesach – a tremendously great perception.
The preparations for Pesach already begin from Purim, yes, it does not only work like this with cleaning. The spiritual avodah of creating Pesach itself is meant to begin with the eradication of Amalek. When the vision of myself seen through the lens of ‘reality’ tries to persuade me by arguing: ‘There is no difference, you are just like an Egyption’ – this is Amalek. His eradication is the defiance of and protest against this kefirah (heresy), ‘I AM a Jew, and Hashem specifically chose me!’
On Rosh Chodesh the main avodah begins, it is called – kibbutz niddachim (the ingathering of the dispersed). We must then begin to do what Hashem did on that night, when He Himself, and not a messenger, went amongst the houses and the courtyards to identify the Nekudos Toivos (good points). This is the avodah that begins on Rosh Chodesh, the avodah of the filling of the moon. It begins the month concealed, and as we proceed to find the good points, its light is slowly increased until it reaches its pinnacle on the night the Seder. We must stubbornly persist to search out the good, the wonders that sparkle inside us, to recognize who it is that Hashem chose to take as a nation for Himself and to agree … Yes, to really agree to be truly redeemed, in the full sense of the word.
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