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Tzav 5780

04/02/2020 08:57:06 PM

Apr2

Rabbi Adam Mayer

 

We Jews know about being stuck inside.

From as long ago as the 10th plague in Egypt, we have had to hide inside from dangers that would run wild in the streets. Years of Jewish persecution, including pre-Pesach blood-libel, have historically forced Jews into hiding - some years have been worse than others.  Yet to this day, our Jewish history continues to give us strength and insight. This year we are stuck in our homes, but thankfully not as targets. This year it is due to our communal and civic responsibility. Our history has forced the development of private, familial practices of Jewish tradition, and has transformed the Jewish home into the core of Jewish continuity.  We have the strength inside us, as individuals, families and Jews, to transform this Pesach into the most meaningful Pesach we have ever had.

 חייב אדם לראות את עצמו כאילו הוא יצא ממצרים - Each person must see herself as if she came out of Egypt.

We are tasked with pretending, using our imagination to transport ourselves and our families into slavery, and then come out again.  While we are all stuck inside, each of us is also stuck inside himself in his own way.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, leading by example, shares his encounter with Pharaoh in Torah 64 of Likutei Moharan. “Hashem says to Moshe: ‘Come to Pharaoh, for I hardened his heart as well as that of his people…”

When The Holy One was creating the world, at first there was only Holiness, as God filled everything.  So, The Holy One first created an Empty Space (חלל הפנוי), seemingly devoid of Holiness, within which The Holy One created our existence. The Empty Space is the home of the great paradox: it seems that this space was cleared out so that there would be room for creation, yet The Holy Infinite One fills all space. 

This Empty Space, which presents itself as devoid of Holiness, is represented by Pharaoh.  Empty Space is the source of doubts and insecurities, as well as the source of the hardened heart.  Rebbe Nachman’s encounter with Pharaoh is his encounter with the seeming absence of God and unanswerable questions, all stemming from The Empty Place. The Tzadik is able to confront such a paradox, and turn it into an opportunity for growth.  

ֿSo Rebbe Nachman is able to engage with Pharaoh.  He is aware of the Empty Space, but instead of running away to doubt and fear, he reimagines this Empty Space. When two people sit and learn Torah together in hevruta, they engage in machloket l’shem shamayim - arguments for the sake of Heaven.  Each person takes a side and defends it, and there in the middle, they create their own Empty Space between them. This, says Rebbe Nachman, is akin to creation. The machloket makes room for creation, which is filled with the words of Torah which they are speaking.

I think that Rebbe Nachman is sharing an experience of personal transformation.  While at first he looked at the world and saw chaos, emptiness, fear and danger, all represented by Pharaoh, Rebbe Nachman was not paralyzed or deterred by these feelings. Rather, he was able to confront them, and in doing so, create something new.  I would guess that this is one way that Rebbe Nachman saw himself as if he was leaving Egypt. 

Pesach is called Zman Heruteinu - the Holiday of Our Freedom. It is the time for each of us to find our own Pharaoh, the cause of our slavery, the reason that we are stuck.  This will provide direction for the needed transformation and will be the catalyst for our journey towards freedom and geula.

In order to make the most of this opportunity, we need the right mindset.  

כנגד ארבע בנים דברה תורה - The Torah tells us of four types of children.

The Chacham is actively working towards, even creating, the Great Geula. For them, every action and thought will either contribute to, or detract from the Great Geula.  This is a beautiful endeavor to be a part of.

The Rasha is someone who takes no part in the Geula. They hear about a goal too distant to be imagined, let alone achieved, and are paralyzed or turned off.

The Tam is simply waiting for the Great Geula. They are hoping to wake up one day to see a world transformed.  

The One Who Doesn’t Know to Ask needs to be taught.  

In this season of Geula, the entire world is in need of redemption. We must all work together (from a safe distance) to remember why we are inside.  It is because we care for others, and for ourselves.  

Let us learn from the Chacham. We are part of the Great Geula, and the more we consciously and actively work towards that goal, the faster it will happen. At no other time in history has there been such a widespread effort to care for other people.

Wed, August 12 2020 22 Av 5780