More Questions Than Answers: Pesach

In English, we call Pesach the Holiday of Freedom, but the Hebrew word, גאולה,  Geula actually means redemption.  שחרות Shichrut, which means freedom, is only seen incidentally, and not strictly in the Haggadah itself (rather in the song made from the paragraph that begins עבדים היינו  Avadim Hayinu, We were slaves, עתה אנו בני חורים Ata Anu B’nei Chorim, Now we are free people).

Redemption does assume freedom, but freedom doesn’t require redemption.  Furthermore, we traditionally see גאולה Geula as ongoing and not yet completed.  Or, at least, our redemption from Egypt isn’t the final redemption we still await.

The lives of our ancestors created a template for the future of our people.  The exile, גלות Galut and slavery in Egypt sets the pattern for our historical exiles, just as this גאולה Geula teaches us of our historical and future redemptions.  To this end, the Torah uses for different words to describe God’s redeeming us: הוצאתי Hotzeiti, I removed you, הצלתי Hatzalti, I rescued you, גאלתי Ga’alti, I redeemed you and לקחתי Lekachti, I took you (to myself, i.e. selected).  Of these, perhaps only Hotzeiti, I removed you, and Hatzalti, I rescued, refer to “curing” or freeing us from slavery.

Our ambition on Pesach, then, is much more than “merely” escaping from slavery to freedom, although that’s a necessary first step.  But if it were our final status, why would we be called to enact this process every year?  Perhaps Geula, redemption, is a work in process, a state of awareness and sensitivity and purpose we need to continue to strive for.  And don’t forget that we must encounter Lekachti, we must be selected (or select ourselves?), somewhere on the way.

I’m not sure what it all means.  It’s what it should be, a work in progress and that means we have to experience this upcoming Pesach in order to have something to process and reflect on and to grow with.

Chag Sameach

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1 Response to More Questions Than Answers: Pesach

  1. Ted Falcon says:

    Thanks, Harry. As usual, your writing inspires thought. I think of the Passover drama, thens and nows, as a work in “process,” where the process is striving to put the first Jew on earth (borrowing from Jean Houston’s comment a out striving to put the first human being on earth).

    Ultimately, our redemption rests on awakening fully to the One we are, and casting off the imperialism of the separate self, the nefesh, the ego. And that is a process we symbolize each year through The Passover experience, and daily through spiritual practice and g’millut hasadim.


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