Sunday, April 5, 2009

Passing Over: Whats in a Name?

The chag is almost here. The furious last minute preparations are consuming. I will sadly be leaving Eretz Yisrael to be with my widowed mother for Yom Tov. Its not easy to leave the holy land. Our sages say that one should always part from a friend with words of Torah. So with that in mind I share some holiday reflections with the hope it will provide a bracha for both you and me.

We call this wonderful holiday of our nation's birth Pesach....The sacrifice that all Israel brings and partakes of on seder night is called by the same name. Simply understood we are calling the chag and the sacrifice a name meant to reflect on the the angel of death passing over the houses of the Israelites when he smote the first born Egyptians. Why? Why with so many acts of meaning associated with the geula, the redemption, do we choose to focus on that event to name the holiday? Why is the passing over so significant. Its true that without the passing over our first born too might have died, but that does not in itself seem to have to do with the act of geula .

Some time ago I came across a teaching of Rebe Nachman on this subject that continues to be meaningful to me today. As I recall he said that the title of the chag as Pesach was meant for us to learn that the key ingredient to our being bnei chorin, children of freedom is to be able to pass over. If we are going to be able to choose to become who we can ultimately realize our potential and be free in fact as much as in theory then we will need to be able to pass over.
Pass over all the feelings of our limitations based on the failures of the past. Pass over our sense of inadequacy that keeps us stuck saying our dye has been cast.Pass over the feelings of resentment for all the unjustified hurts inflicted on us by others so that we can be free of the enslavement of enmity.

All becoming is about passing over. And the truth is we had to pass over in order to leave Egypt. After all our tradition teaches us that we were deeply immersed in a life of impurity. When we came to the sea the angels said "the Egyptians and the Israelite are both idol worshippers...why save the Israelites"...For us to be feel the gift of freedom at the time of the geula we had to pass over our own sense of unworthiness in order to embrace the moment and accept the Divine invitation to freedom.

The Rabbis taught that most of the Jews in Egypt died there, refusing the invitation to be liberated. I can understand why. They simply could not accept what they felt they did not deserve. They could not pass over the feelings that they were in that moment unworthy. And yet in order to become who we were meant to be that is exactly what we needed to do....then....and still now!!!

What do you have to pass over? What do I have to pass over? The obstacle to our reaching our tachlit is not that we are unaware of our flaws...most of us know those only too well...Rather the issue for us is that we are too much aware! We are enslaved by the failures of yesterday. It is those we need to pass over in order to experience the geula as persons and community.

And I do not mean passing over only the lapses that belong to us. If we are to be totally free to become who Hashem wants us to become we need to pass over the hurts others have inflicted on us and on the ones we love. Only when we have let them go can we free ourselves of the enslavement of hatred and resentment.

Yes Pesach is a wonderful name for this chag of our freedom. And the name defines the work before us in order to know the gift of geula in its truest sense. This year when we sit at the seder, as much as we share with each other the experience of herut in our lives by telling stories, let us tell as well that which we are prepared to pass over so that we can realize the tachlit Hashem intends for us!

Chag Kasher V'samayach....L'hitraot!

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