Reprinted from Keeping In Touch – Vol. 1 by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
In Jewish homes all over the world, women – and men – are busy preparing for Passover. This is not merely an excuse for a solid spring cleaning. Passover is the festival of faith and the festival of freedom. The exodus should be celebrated as an event of the present, not of the past. Each person should feel that he is leaving his personal Egypt, i.e., going beyond all the boundaries and limitations that confine his essential Gdly nature.
But to enable ourselves to properly experience this faith and freedom, the Torah requires to rid our homes of chametz. Chametz means any product made from grain that was not produced according to the Rabbinic
guidelines enabling it to be used on Passover.
But Chametz is more than a ritual requirement. It communicates a profound spiritual concept. What does the leavening process entail? Grain is mixed with water and allowed to rise. This is understood as an allegory
referring to egocentric pride and self-concern, getting puffed up with one’s own self.
To experience the freedom and faith of Pesach, we’ve got to purge these feelings of self-concern. That’s why in the Temple, it was forbidden to offer the Paschal sacrifice if you still owned chametz. Sometimes, before good can come in, the bad has to be driven out.
And so, cleaning the house for Pesach is not merely a physical chore. It teaches us to search our personalities for pride and egotism and to destroy even the tiniest crumbs.
The Seder is intended to be a personal experience of redemption. It should not, however, be a private one. The Torah teaches us that this realization should be experienced communally. The Paschal sacrifice, it commands, should be offered limishpichoseichem, “for your families.” For however personal our Passover experience is, we should share and celebrate it together with our families – immediate and extended. Each person reaches out to another, helping him or her understand and taste Redemption.
The Haggadah points to this concept in its discussion of the four sons. It is not only the wise who are gathered at the Seder table, but also the simple, those who identify Jewishly and appreciate observance, but have difficulty defining and verbalizing their identification. And they are joined by those who do not know how to ask – those who know that they are Jewish, but know little more than that, who do not know where to begin looking to find out more about their faith.
And together with them comes the wicked – Jews who rebel and challenge observance, but at the same time, want to share in the Seder experience. Whatever their personal or ideological peeves with Jewish practice, they feel that on Passover night, they belong at a Seder.
And these sons celebrate the Seder together. They do not make four separate Sedorim; they come together at the same table. For they are all part of the same people, and the experience of redemption that each is seeking is intertwined with that of the other.
The Haggadah points to this concept in its words: echad chacham, echad rasha…. “One is wise, one is wicked…” The essential oneness that permeates the Jewish people and the mystic oneness of Gd that pervades all
existence is reflected in all four sons.
The order in which the four sons are mentioned also teaches us an important lesson: The wicked son comes right after the wise son. This points to the wicked son’s inner potential. The only thing separating him from the
wise son is his desire, and that can be changed. And that is another reason why they are sitting together, so that they can share and communicate and allow the fundamental Jewish desire that they possess in their hearts to
come to the surface.
When these four sons get together, they can bring a fifth son to the Seder table – a son or a daughter who is Jewish but for some reason was not planning to come to a Seder table. When the Haggadah was written, this type of son did not exist. Now unfortunately he is a very prevalent type of person within the Jewish community.
However apathetic to his or her Jewish roots this fifth son appears, within his heart, there is also a desire to become part of the Jewish experience. And when all four sons come together on Passover, the dynamic synergy that results will be powerful enough to inspire all the fifth sons to claim their place at the Seder table.
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