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Life-Changing Seder Gems

This Passover, Discover Your True Light

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • April 7, 2017
  • |
  • 11 Nisan 5777
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Class Summary:

Life-Changing Seder Gems. This Passover, Discover Your True Light

Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein

Dedicated by Uri and Elana Burger for a refuah shelaima for Shmuel Yechiel ben Ahuvah Liba

Ten Ways to Know He’s Not for Your Daughter

Someone sent me this email.

Here are the top ten ways to Know the guy your daughter brought home for the Passover Seder isn't going to work out...

10. Hides the afikomen in his pants 

9. Won't stop asking when the Latkas are going to be served

8. When welcoming Elijah he checks the chimney

7. After the fourth time calling your wife "Ma' Nishtana" still hopes to get a laugh

6. In return for the afikoman, he asks to see your Tax Returns

5. To comply with the Hagadah, he punches the person who reads the "Wicked Son" in the mouth

4. You are at the third cup of wine, he's on number 9

3. After the afikoman is stolen, he starts pocketing silverware

2. When everyone points to the Marror, he points directly at you

1. As a gift, he brings fresh baked Challah, or a bottle of Crown Royal

Three Necessary Items for Internal Liberation: Wine, Matzah, Maror

The three most important ingredients at the seder table are the wine, matzah and maror (bitter herbs.) For these three items capture the three foundational ideas that can allow us to set ourselves free.

A) The first step is wine. Wine possesses deep potency. “When wine enters, secrets come out,” says the Talmud. (The word “yayin” and “sod,” wine and secrets in Hebrew, share the same numerical value of 70.) Wine represents the “secrets” in us—for wine itself is a “secret”: It is initially hidden and concealed within the grape, and it takes much labor to extract it from the source; the grapes have to be crushed and the wine to ferment. Wine, an intoxicating beverage that is at first concealed within the grape, represents the deeply concealed powerful forces lingering within the human psyche.

The first step in setting yourself free is realizing how much more there is to you than what meets the eye. You must recognize your potential—what you were really meant to be, what you are capable of becoming—for you to break out of the chains.

B) This comes together with step two—the maror, representing the bitterness caused by slavery. In order to set yourself free, you have to be able to stare the pain you endured in the face. Repressing pain and making believe it does not exist, only buries it deeper into our psyche. On the night of our freedom we have to return to the “maror,” we must gaze into our pain, feel it, sense it, grieve for our hurt, and then as we are staring into the pain—we will find the inner, secret spark of hope and light buried within it.

If we avoid the pain, we can’t discover its inner light. Only when we gaze it at, can we extract the ember hidden within the ashes.

C) Then we have the critical step of matzah: We eat the matzah, says the Haggadah, because the Jews did not have time to wait till the dough has risen; they rushed out of Egypt. I want to ask you: They waited for 210 years, they could not wait another few hours? What was the rush? And even if they were in a rush, why is that such a central theme in the narrative that for thousands of years we are eating only matzah and avoiding all leavened bread? What happened to the virtue of patience?

Answer: The greatest enemy to setting yourself free is—delaying things: tough decisions and bold moves. The message if matzah is, when it comes to setting yourself free, you have no time to wait even an extra 18 minutes. Do it now! Make that call now. Send that email now. Make that move now.  Set up that meeting now. Make that decision now. Start the new behavior now. Confront the situation now. Start doing it now.

If it is worth doing, then do it now.

Because, as my Rebbe would say, “We want Moshiach NOW.” We want redemption now.

No Angel Would Identify Us

"The Lord took us out of Egypt, not through an angel, not through a seraph and not through a messenger. The Holy One, blessed be He, did it in His glory by Himself.”

Why could G-d not send an angel?

At times when we look at our external behavior, it may seem like we aren’t good. We aren’t always doing even what we know we should be doing.

In Egypt, the sages teach us, there was barely any behavioral distinction between Jews and Egyptians. The Jews have been so crushed, they have fallen morally as well. We were at an all-time low spiritual state.

No angel could identify us. No angel would want to invest in us and redeem us. G-d alone, who can see beyond all the external layers, who knows that at our core we are good, comes and redeems us, whispering in our ears: If only you can see yourself the way I see you. Wake up to who you truly are essentially—a perfect expression of the Divine.

Because G-d Himself sees what is going on in our heart of hearts. (Nesivos Shalom)

“Pour Out Your Fury”

As we open the door to welcome Elijah, we read a passage which at the surface seems difficult to digest:

"Pour out Your fury on the nations that do not know you, and upon the kingdoms that do not invoke Your name, for they have devoured Jacob [the Jews] and destroyed his home. Pour out Your wrath on them; may Your blazing anger overtake them. Pursue them in wrath and destroy them from under the heavens of the Lord."

In truth, it is one of the noblest expressions of the spiritual majesty of the Jewish people and our faith. The passage itself is a combination of three verses from the Bible (Psalms 79:6-7; Psalms 69:25; and Lamentations 3:66). It was compiled and added to the Haggadah during the Middle Ages as a response to the massacres of the Crusades (beginning in 1096), and to the persecution of the Jews during the time of Easter, which usually coincides with Passover. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were slaughtered in the name of religion and “truth.” Yet how did the Jews respond to it? They asked G-d at the night of their freedom that He avenge their innocent blood for them, so that they can immerse themselves in a life of love and compassion, without the need to resort to violence in order to protect innocent life.

While some nations and religions have glorified (and continue to glorify) violence, Judaism recognized the need, at times, for moral violence to combat immoral violence. “If someone comes to kill you,” says the Talmud, “kill him first.” If you see someone beating another person to death it is your responsibility to stop the killer by any meanse. If you see a person about to launch a rocket at a school of children, the moral thing to do is strike the monster. Yet, despite all of this, violence has never become part of our identity and mandate. We pray for the day, when G-d will release His wrath and fury, when He will eliminate people who are dedicated to murder and violence, and will allow us to be immersed only in positive pursuits.

Pouring Out the Wine

This notion is also expressed in the custom that when we recall the ten plagues, we spill wine from our cups into a broken bowl. Why?

Explains Don Yitzchak Abarbenel (in Zevach Pesach), the Finance Minister of Spain who in 1492 left his country together with hundreds of thousands of expelled Jews: Wine symbolizes joy, and pouring some wine out of the cup demonstrates that our rejoicing is imperfect, because other people suffered in the process of our liberation. True, the Egyptians did barbaric things, and they deserved to be punished, and in each generation we are obligated to destroy those who crave to murder innocent people, yet we still are pained by the fact that there is still so much evil in the world that we have to combat. We pray for the day when the inner spark of G-d in every creature will come to the fore, and the world will be as one.

Nirtzah—I’m Never Good Enough?!

We conclude the seder with the final and very strange step of “Nirtzah:” We acknowledge that G-d has accepted our Passover service.

This is enigmatic. All the other 14 steps of the seder connote an action of some sort: Kiddush, washing hands, dipping a vegetable, breaking the matzah, saying the haggadah, etc. What is the significance of this 15th step where we do nothing, but simply believe that G-d was pleased with our seder?

In truth, this is the climax of the seder.

One of our false ego’s favorite lines is: “You are not good enough.”

You commit to learning Torah twenty minutes a day, and your false ego comes and says: only twenty minutes? What can you learn in twenty minutes?

You spend fifteen dollars and buy your wife flowers; your ego says: that’s all you spend on your wife?! 

You gave someone collecting money for charity ten dollars, afterwards your ego says: you are not good enough, why didn’t you give him twenty dollars?

Any project we do, there is that little voice inside that comes and says: “Not good enough.”

Remember this rule: This is the voice of the yetzer hara, of the negative inclination, of the false ego.

Of course we should always improve, and there is always room for improvement. But this isn’t the intention of our ego. It has one intention--to make us feel dejected and take the life out of life. For how does it make you feel when you think “not enough”? Does it inspire you or paralyze you? Does it motivate you or crush you? It makes you a smaller person, it makes you think less of yourself; it makes you think that your actions are worthless. It drains you from your vitality and zest. It ultimately causes you to do less, not more.

It has nothing to do with the truth or with G-d; it is a creation of a false ego.

The Jewish way must be different. Once something was done, we say: I have done the best I could have done in the moment. I trust that my sincerity will be seen.

Better a Red Matzah than a Red Face

The story took place during a Pesach meal of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson (1880-1950), during which he was accompanied by several of his Chasidim, on one of the days of Pesach in the mid-1940s.

The Rebbe was sitting at the head of the table, with about a minyan of Chasidim around the table eating. Rabbi Nissan Mindel, one of his secretaries, was among the Chasidim at that meal; he wrote the following story in his diary.

Present at the time of the meal, as was usually the case, were also young men and yeshiva students, who stood in the room during the meal and observed and listened.

One of the guests eating at the table was a non-Chabadnik who, not accustomed to the Chassidic custom not to dip the matzah into any liquid, dipped his matzah into the bowl of borsht. The young men in the room were disturbed at this infraction and started to rebuke this fellow. There was somewhat of a commotion – which eventually reached the attention of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The Rebbe asked Rabbi Shmuel Levitin (he was my father’s great uncle), what the commotion was about. When Reb Shmuel found out and conveyed the details of this incident to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe turned to the young men and the yeshiva boys and with a serious expression said: “Es is besser tzu machen di matzah reit, vit dem ponim reit.” “It is preferable to make the Matzah red, than to make one’s face red.”

Please leave your comment below!

  • CB

    Chana boas -2 years ago

    Excellent material. May Hashem bless you 

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • NS

    Nechemia S -6 years ago

    This is awesome. You are awesome. You are an inspiration, a light to the world.

    The world is a better place because of you. Yiddishkeit is better because of you.
    I am honored to know you, and to call you a friend.
    A kosher un freilichen pesach!

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • MF

    miriam Frankel -7 years ago

    I dont understand why are you saying my email is invaled
    I have used it so 10 years

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • G

    Gavriel -7 years ago

    Where did the "battle of Crown Royal" take place?

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

Rabbi YY Jacobson
  • April 7, 2017
  • |
  • 11 Nisan 5777
  • |
  • Comment

Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein

Dedicated by Uri and Elana Burger for a refuah shelaima for Shmuel Yechiel ben Ahuvah Liba

Class Summary:

Life-Changing Seder Gems. This Passover, Discover Your True Light

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