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Give Me Some Passion

The Secret of the Maror

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

    2124 views
  • April 22, 2016
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  • 14 Nisan 5776
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Class Summary:

Two seder insights

Dedicated to our dearest wife and mother Pascale Shoshana Sasson bat Yaffa Andree, in honor of her 25th wedding anniversary.
From her children, BenjaminMaya, Leah, Joseph and Tall, and loving husband, David Pisaversky.

Two Seder Insights

The Secret of Maror: Objectifying Your Pain

Why do eat maror, or bitter herbs, at our Passover seder? The first seder the Jews conducted was in Egypt, on the eve of the 15th of Nissan, the night before they departed from the cursed country. Moses instructed the Jewish people to eat during that seder roasted lamb or goat, together with matzos and maror (bitter herbs).

Why did they eat maror on that first Passover night? Rashi explains:

G-d commanded them to eat maror to remember that the Egyptians embittered their lives.

This seems absurd. I can understand that now, in 2016, we are instructed to eat bitter herbs to remember the bitter pain our ancestors endured in Egypt. But for the first generations of Jews, who experienced the Egyptian exile, whose infants were plunged in the Nile, who were beaten and tortured, who suffered unbearable agony and bitterness—they needed to eat bitter herbs, horseradish, to remember the pain?

Imagine: It is April 1945. The Russians entered Auschwitz. The Germans fled. The Jews are still in the death camp. You tell them: Tonight make sure to eat maror, so that you remember how the Germans embittered your lives.your kidding me? Bitter herbs to REMEMBER? I have to remember? And a bitter vegetable will remind me of it? I have lived on this hellish planet for years! All bitter vegetables in the world don’t begin to compare to what I have been through.

One of the answers is this. The mitzvah to eat the maror is what allowed the Jewish become free.

When people experience pain they often react in one of two ways: Some people repress it; others become defined by it. Some people don’t talk; they don’t want to face the pain. It remains etched in the depth of their psyche, paralyzing them unconsciously. Others do not stop talking about it. It becomes the sole focus of their life. Bad things people might have done to you completely occupy your mental space. Disappointments, challenging experiences, and difficult moments become your defining reality. Both paths are understandable, but we are capable of more. And that is the secret of the maror.

When G-d instructed that generation of Jews to eat maror on the night of the seder, He was sharing with them the Jewish way of dealing with all types of disappointments and painful experiences in life: Designate a time and space to eat it, to look at it, to deal with it, to choke over it, to cry for it, to feel the pain. But do not let it become the focus of your entire life, and swallow up your future and destiny. The Jews leaving Egypt, by eating maror, objectified their pain, meaning they transformed it into an important reality that they could look at, feel, study and learn from. But it did not become their entire reality. They were a free people. Otherwise, they would have left the Land of the Pharaohs, but the Pharaoh would have not left them.

Once you eat maror, then you can eat matzah and drink four cups of wine. You can say to yourself, there is also joy in my life. There may be challenges but there is so much opportunity. There may be frustrations, there is blessing, and perhaps I can utilize my experience to grow even more and to help others around me.

We do not ignore pain or take it lightly. We do not delegitimize human feelings. We do not say “get over it.” No, we designate a sacred space in our heart and our seder plate for the “maror.” When we eat the maror—this is our focus. We honor our feelings and experiences. And when we do that, we can say: that was the maror. And now it’s time for the matzah and the wine.

Give Me Some Passion

“In the beginning our fathers served idols; and now G-d has brought us close to His service.”—Passover Haggadah

Why do we begin this new section of the Haggadah with the observation of how morally degraded our ancestors were? Besides, which of our ancestors worshiped idols? Abraham smashed the idols and embraced Monotheism! True, it took Abraham some time till he discovered that the Pagan idols were futile. But why would we make mention of that at this point?

The answer is powerful. The Haggadah is not simply describing our disgraceful past, ”In the beginning our fathers served idols; but now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Rather, the Haggadah is explaining why indeed G-d brought us close to His service. “In the beginning our fathers served idols”—and that is why “now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Had our fathers not worshiped idols, G-d could have never brought us close to Him.

What indeed was the difference between our grandfather Terach and our father Abraham? If Abraham rationally realized that the statutes of his father were nothing but lifeless, stone images, and that the universe must have a transcendental designer and creator, why could his father not understand this?

The foundations of Judaism do not require blind faith. They are rational. To assume that a house was built by contractor not by mistake as a result of an avalanche randomly combining the bricks, is not irrational. To accept that an infinite and brilliant world has a mindful designer is rational. To accept that quintillions of atoms, structured in a way to create all the matter around us, was organized by intent, is not foolish. To observe billion unites of DNA embedded in a single cell of a tiny organism and assume someone organized them, is as irrational as thinking that a computer program consisting of three billion organized codes was randomly compiled by error. And remember, DNA does not create a computer program; it is the source of life.

If so, why is it that some are like Abraham—they will reject the deities of the time and embrace truth, while others will be like Terach, continue to stick to old, comfortable irrational notions?

The answer is: “In the beginning our fathers served idols”—and that is why “now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Abraham worshipped idols! That is the key. He took faith seriously. He craved to know the truth. He was idealistically search to find that is at the core of life. he served idols with passion, and deep commitment, believing that they constitute the answer to the question of life.

His father Terach was not searching for truth, only for comfort. The pagan statues provided a fine business and he would not be disturbed by philosophical questions.

Do you care for truth or not?—that makes all the difference. Our forefathers worshipped idols for real, they passionately believed this was “it.” When they found the real G-d they now channeled their passion toward truth.

But if you are a person who does not worship anybody or anything—only your own needs and comforts at the moment, then even if you understand the truth about the universe it makes little difference.

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  • J

    Joannie -6 years ago

    Leave the Pain

    The following line from this article is often where people stop when dealing with something in their lives: Designate a time and space to eat it, to look at it, to deal with it, to choke over it, to cry for it, to feel the pain.

    The next line: But do not let it become the focus of your entire life, and swallow up your future and destiny...that's the key to the whole Seder and the key for people to move on, no matter what happened.

    We were slaves in Egypt and now we are free? How is it that we are reading this line of the hagaddah when in fact we are free and sitting at a beautiful table?

    The answer lies in the maror, rather than remembering Egypt every day in davening. When we deal with the slavery, the pain, the anguish that someone else caused us, and then...don't allow it to become the focus of our lives, rather shed the tears of the maror and take the high road - we have truly found freedom.

    No one goes unscathed in life. Torah, in its Infinite wisdom gives us the tools to deal with life. And people like Rabbi Jacobson make that wisdom come alive so we can all use it. Thank you.

     

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Rabbi YY Jacobson
  • April 22, 2016
  • |
  • 14 Nisan 5776
  • |
  • 2124 views
  • Comment

Dedicated to our dearest wife and mother Pascale Shoshana Sasson bat Yaffa Andree, in honor of her 25th wedding anniversary.
From her children, BenjaminMaya, Leah, Joseph and Tall, and loving husband, David Pisaversky.

Class Summary:

Two seder insights

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