Kahal Joseph Congregation

310.474.0559 / webmaster@kahaljoseph.org
10505 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025

Rabbi’s Passover Message

Rabbi Natan Halevy

Passover 2022 / Pesah 5782

Chag Sameah!

Pesah is called Zman Heruteinu which means “the time of our freedom”. Pesah is a time when the energy and potential for growth are annually renewed. Our tradition enables us to increasingly connect to this energy, no matter where we find ourselves or what time it is. We are given the power to experience spiritual liberation on Pesah, especially on the Seder nights.

The experience of spiritual liberation is enhanced by performing mitzvot connected to the holiday. Our deeds and intentions reenact the spiritual liberation which happened so many years ago. We relive it in an increasingly more powerful way with each succeeding year.

The order of the Seder and the recitation of the Haggadah encourage us to integrate the energy of spiritual liberation into our lives. There are 15 steps of the Seder, which correspond to the first two letters of Hashem’s name, yud and hehPesah means ‘skipping’ in Hebrew. Although we go in order through the fifteen steps, we are able to go outside the limitations that may be ‘enslaving’ us on a spiritual level.

The word Haggadah means ‘telling’ and comes from the biblical commandment: “And you shall tell your ‘son’ [children] on that day.” It is a mitzvah to tell the story of Pesah and teach our children on this night. Getting our children, and the younger generation involved and engaged is one of the main highlights of Pesah

That is why the four questions are asked by children at the start of the Haggadah. And this is the reason behind so many other customs which were instituted to keep our children engaged. In order to ensure a strong future for our people, and ultimately for the world, we must enlighten and inform our children constantly. On Pesah, the importance of this valuable service is emphasized.

Pesah is one foundation of our connection to Hashem. On Pesah, Hashem truly made us into a nation, and prepared us for receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. Beginning on the second day of Pesah we count the days of the Omer until Shavuot, the holiday when we re-experience receiving the Torah every year in a powerful way as well. By experiencing the spiritual energies of these occasions during the Jewish year, we invite powerful blessings for health and prosperity into our lives. 

The Names of Passover

The Holiday of MatzotOne name for Pesah is ‘the holiday of matzot’. Matzah is called the food of  faith. It strengthens our faith in Hashem. In a world filled with illusions, this faith is a bedrock of strength for us. The Talmud states, ‘a baby begins talking when they taste grain’. There is an aspect of wisdom associated with being able to eat wheat. In a similar manner, we experience spiritual growth through eating matzah, a spiritual food. Matzah is also called ‘the food of healing’. When we have faith, we are healed retroactively, as stated by Moshe Rabeinu.

The Holiday of Spring Another name for Pesah is ‘the holiday of spring’. Regrowth and rebirth are features of springtime. Pesah renews the energy of miracles. For this reason, it is known as the Rosh Hashana, the new year, for miracles. 

When we start to view life through this ‘miraculous’ lens, we attune ourselves to the incredible potential energy in this time of year. When we welcome miraculous energy into our lives, we begin to see a noticeable change.

The Time of our Liberation We are obligated to be aware of and to immerse ourselves in the liberation available to us on Pesah. Maimonides, in his Guide for the Perplexed, explains that there are four types of perfection that a person can strive for. 

  1. One can strive for material perfection by acquiring wealth and other property. 
  2. One can gain physical perfection by working to improve one’s body. 
  3. Personal perfection is reflected in developing virtues and character. 
  4. Human perfection is reflected in developing the mind and attaining knowledge of the Torah and wisdom. 

Such forms of perfection are only possible when we are not enslaved by others. When we are able to uplift ourselves spiritually, we find success in important aspects of our lives.

Concepts in the Haggadah

We recite many important lines in the Haggadah. Some of the highlights include these statements.

This is like the bread of poverty which our ancestors ate. As we begin the Haggadah, we do so by emphasizing the power of God. Matzah serves as a symbol of memory. When we refer to the bread of affliction we are reminded that even though Pharaoh was so powerful that no group of slaves had ever escaped from Egypt before, we were able to do so with the help of God. Matzah teaches us that we could not have escaped from Egypt on our own. If other people had escaped, they would have taken credit for their escape. But the bread of affliction is a reminder that we recognize Hashem as our rescuer; we were powerless on our own. When we contemplate the meaning of Matzah which our ancestors ate and through which our ancestors merited God’s blessings, we affirm that God, the Creator of light and darkness, is all powerful. Matzah is not merely the food of slavery, but an affirmation of God’s providence, the One who creates both the rich and the poor.

Now we are here. Next year in the land of Israel. There is no real redemption like the liberation of the mind, and there is no exile as complete as an imperfect state of mind. We are ‘free’ when our desire for material possessions is sublimated to our intellect, and our intellect surrenders to God. During the Seder, each of us is obligated to see how we have been freed, how our intellect has escaped the exile of foolishness and materialism. That is why we say, in essence, “Now we are here [sunken in the depths of desire associated with the body]. Next year, in the land of Israel [which the sages praised as the place of great wisdom]. Now we are slaves [because our intellect is subjugated to materialism]. Next year may we be free [from the exile of foolishness and ignorance].” Only then will we understand the ways of the Creator, and then the world will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters fill the sea. Then, we will no longer need miracles such as the splitting of the Red Sea to convince us of God’s greatness.

May Hashem bless us all with health and good tidings,

Hag Kasher Ve’Sameah

Kahal Joseph Congregation

10505 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025
310.474.0559 / webmaster@kahaljoseph.org