(Haftara: Yehoshua 5:2-6:1 & 6:27)

  1. [Pesach] The author of the Netivot Shalom (R. Sholom Noach Berezovsky,1911- 2000) tells us that the three regalim (Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot) represent a personal process. One first must be free (Pesach–the festival of freedom), then one can accept the Torah (Shavuot–the time of receiving the Torah), and then, about four months later, one has joy (Sukkot–the time of our joy). What do the four months between Shavuot and Sukkot represent. What personal process does a person go through between Shavuot–becoming committed to serving God–and Sukkot–achieving joy?
  1. [Pesach] The author of the Netivot Shalom (R.Sholom Noach Berezovsky1911- 2000) tells us that the three regalim (Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot) represent a personal process. Why must there be a process at all? Doesn’t the first step alone–freedom–bring joy?
  1. [Pesach] One of the commandments of the Pesach seder is to tell the story of the liberation from Egypt.  The story is supposed to be told through questions and answers. It should be interactive. Which is more educationally effective–a very clear and entertaining lecture from a skilled teacher, or a question and answer format with a less skilled teacher?
  1. [Pesach] The festival of Passover is called “Pesach” in Hebrew because God “passed  over” the homes of the Israelites when the first-born of the Egyptians was killed (Shmot 12:13). A number of our festivals involve wars and violence and our victories. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on positive memories, rather than recounting the extreme difficulties in our history, and our victories?
  1. [Pesach] On the personal level, the word Mitzrayim (Egypt) can also be pronounced metzarim in Hebrew—narrow places. Narrowness is a narrowness of mind and of emotion. It suggests fear and unwillingness to expand or to love. It suggests being enslaved by one’s negative habits, opinions, emotions and behaviours. What can a person do to try to free himself or herself from this narrowness?

Commentary

[Pesach Seder] Through Pesach and especially through the matzah that one eats on Pesach night, one acquires an elevated state of mind, and realizes that God’s Light fills the whole world. However, in order to acquire this state of mind in a more permanent way, one has to pass through obstacles. These obstacles are symbolized by the maror—the bitters—that we eat at the Pesach seder.  These obstacles could be from one’s surroundings or they could be from one’s own stubborn personality. However, God reduces the effect of these obstacles, and this is symbolized by dipping the marror into the charoset (mixture of nuts and honey).  By passing through these obstacles, one comes to that elevated state of mind.

–R. Natan of Breslov (1780-1844) based on R. Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810)