Pesach (Passover) is a time of liberation. It is the holyday when we break free from all of our fetters. Pesach is the moment when we are liberated from all enslavements of body, mind and heart. It is the festival when we transcend the natural order and enter into the realm of the soul.
Pesach takes place during the season of spring. In the spring, we feel the rising of the creative power all around us. During this season, anything seems possible and nothing seems beyond our reach. When the spring arrives nature awakens from the long slumber of winter and the world is alive with promise and hope.
On Pesach, we tap into the infinite creative force of the universe – the primal Divine energy that animates and orders all of existence. We draw on the strength of this infinite Divine livingness to free ourselves from our lethargy and bondage.
Through the power of this Divine force, we smash through the confines of our old ideas and beliefs. Uplifted by this transcendent consciousness, we rise above the mind patterns and emotional attachments that have burdened us for countless incarnations. Illuminated with the inspiration of this sublime energy, we create a new reality and a new vision for our life.
In the Haggadah, Rabban Gamliel states:
“Whoever does not explain the following three things on Passover, has not fulfilled his duty: pesach – the Passover sacrifice, matzah – unleavened bread, and marror – the bitter herbs.”
The process of liberation is multi-dimensioned. There are a series of steps and states of awareness that we have to go through in order to become free. The process for each person is unique to their karma and their circumstances. But in each case, there are three stages that we all must pass through if we want to be liberated from bondage.
The first stage is the stage of marror – bitter herbs. In the Haggadah, it is written: “In every generation, one is obligated to regard himself as though he himself had actually gone out from Egypt.”
All of us are bound; all of us have desires, illusions and attachments that limit our spiritual evolution – that keep us from moving forward in our lives.
The first stage in the process of liberation is to accept the truth of our enslavement. We need to recognize the bitterness of our condition – see the places where we are bound and the suffering that has resulted from this bondage. We need to confront the fantasies that we hold on to – the illusions that we have created so that we can make believe that everything is all right. Only after we have looked with wide-open eyes at the stark reality of our situation can we begin to be set free.
The second stage in the process of liberation is matzah. Matzah is bread without yeast – dough that hasn’t risen. In Hasidut, yeast is the symbol of the ego. If we want to be liberated from our personal Egypt, then we must eradicate the ego from our life.
The ego here means all the petty desires of the little self. Like yeast, the ego inflates our sense of self-importance and makes us forget about the needs and welfare of everyone else. The ego puffs us up with selfish schemes and worldly ambitions that keep us from looking inward and draw us ever deeper into the material way of life.
We are told in the Haggadah that we eat matzah on Pesach because the children of Israel left Egypt bechepazon – in such great haste that they did not have time to wait for their dough to rise. There is a moment in the process of liberation when the opportunity to stride forward is placed before us and we must act with bechepazon – with great haste. It is a moment when we need to be ready to drop everything and take a leap of faith.
Bechepazon – seize the moment and break free, while the power of illusion is weakened and the light of the higher consciousness is upon us; before the taunts of the ego begin: ‘you’ll never do it. You’ll be sorry. You’re making a big mistake.’
Bechepazon – seize the moment and break free, while there is stillness of mind and clarity of vision; before the perfusion of thoughts and the whirlwind of emotions begin churning again.
Bechepazon – seize the moment and break free, while there is the will and the opportunity; before the conjunction of events shifts, the energy dissipates and the window of opportunity closes shut once more.
Yet seizing the moment is not enough to take us through, we must take one more step on our journey to freedom. The final stage in the process of liberation is Pesach – sacrifice. In order for us to become liberated something must always be sacrificed – this is a cosmic law.
Our present life situation is the result of past karma. It is the result of everything that we are and have been up until this moment. Our circumstances are perfectly suited to the needs of this stage in our spiritual evolution. They express the personal values and the vision of life that we have held until this time.
The forces of liberation begin to stir whenever we are ready for another step in our spiritual journey. We may have to let go of much to which we have become attached in order to achieve this transformation. We may have to relinquish familiar comforts, supportive friendships or physical locations that we have come to call home. A part of our old self needs to die in order for our new self to be born.
It takes great courage, humility and faith to make such sacrifices. Doubt and worry can overwhelm us, paralyzing us with fear. It is essential to find the strength inside us to confront our challenges. Only in this manner, we will be to advance long our destined path.
This same process of transformation needs to take place in the life of humanity as a whole. Our fall from Eden can be seen as a collective failure to rise above physical consciousness – a widespread reluctance to let go of the sensual pleasures and emotional gratifications of life on the material plane. The whole of human history since that point can therefore be viewed as a process of slowly refining our consciousness. The repeated experience of the three stages of recognition, seizing the moment and sacrifice over many lifetimes, until we finally are ready to enter the higher worlds once again.
In the Haggadah, we are told that God Himself liberated the children of Israel from Egypt, as it is written:
“Not through an angel, and not through a seraph, and not through a messenger, but the Holy One, blessed be He, He alone, in His glory.”
The night of the exodus from Egypt was a moment of extraordinary spiritual power. The Children of Israel experienced a profound revelation on that night. This experience lifted them out of the ordinary consciousness of this mundane world into the higher awareness of the heavenly realm.
The Hasidic master, Pinchas Halevi Horowitz, teaches that this great revelation occurs anew each year on the first night of Pesach. If we have prepared ourselves for the holyday, if we have cleansed all of the chametz from our heart, then we too will experience a wonderful revelation on the Seder night.
This is why Elijah the prophet comes to each home on the night of the Seder. Elijah is the forerunner of the Messiah. He comes to give us a glimpse of the radiant light of the Messiah – a revelation of the great liberation that is still to come.
In the Haggadah, we are told that this holyday is called Pesach (Passover), because the angel of death passed over the homes of the children of Israel as it swept through the land of Egypt. On Pesach, death, anger, greed and hatred “pass over” our home and rule our house no more. As the Buddha declared:
“I have gone round in vain the cycles of many lives ever striving to find the builder of the house of life and death… Now I have seen thee, house-builder: never more shall thou build this house.
“The rafters of sins are broken, the ridgepole of ignorance is destroyed. The fever of craving is past: for my mortal mind is gone to the joy of the immortal nirvana.”
According to the tradition, the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea took place on the final day of Pesach. In the Talmud, it states that:
“A handmaid saw at the Red Sea what (the prophet) Ezekiel, son of Buzi, did not see.”
Just as the Egyptian army was submerged under the waves of the Red Sea on Pesach, so may all of our internal enemies be submerged in the waves of infinite love pouring forth from the Divine Presence. Just as the chariots of Egypt were drowned in the watery depths on Peasch, so may the mighty foes of desire and cravings be drowned in the ecstatic bliss of the infinite Ocean of Satchitananda. Just as the Children of Israel crossed over the waters of the sea and walked on dry land on Pesach, so may we cross over the sea of illusion and enter into the freedom of the One Reality that underlies all that is.
Copyright © 2015, by Yoel Glick