Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Holy Nation

This week we read and study Parshas Kedoshim. Any time some one asks you what’s wrong with doing this or that, where does it say in the Torah that it’s forbidden, the answer is, right here. We are commanded to be a holy nation, kedoshim tihiyu. The commandment is given not only to old people with long white beards or to ascetics who cut themselves off from all of life’s pleasures. Kedoshim tihiyu is the mantra for all Jews and for all times.

So often, the temptation is there to act like everyone else, to do things we know are wrong, because “everyone” does them and gets away with it. We have to know that we have to be better. We have to eat differently, sleep differently, conduct business differently and treat people differently because we are the people who are commanded by G-d, kedoshim tihiyu.

Granted, it’s often easier said than done. I remember that as a small child I would often complain about not being permitted to do things that “everyone else” did. My mother, aleha hashalom, would answer that she loves me more than the other children’s parents love them and that’s why she can’t allow me to stay out late or engage in dangerous activities or whatever childish mishugas I was interested in.

Kedoshim tihiyu. We are Hashem’s beloved children and therefore we have to conduct ourselves differently.

Actually, knowing how to behave often takes nothing more than good old fashioned common sense, something sorely lacking in our day. Instead of mindlessly coasting along with the masses, we can usually arrive at the proper perspective and the right course of action if we pause for a few moments to weigh the matter carefully.

After watching someone make a fool of himself, I remember asking my rebbi, Rav Elya Svei shlita, how a smart person could do something so silly. “What was he thinking?” I asked him. He answered, “He wasn’t thinking. If he had been thinking, he wouldn’t have done it.”

It’s a deceptively simple comment, one rich with insight into human nature. All too often we act without thinking, without using foresight, without realizing the ramifications our actions will cause. We act irresponsibly because we don’t think.

We get ourselves in trouble because we forget the admonition of kedoshim tihiyu.

Behave responsibly, with dignity, and with holiness.

We are influenced by the surrounding culture that glorifies the victor, irrespective of his virtue and morality. Kedoshim tihiyu teaches us that winning is worthless if it is achieved through means which are not entirely holy. Kedoshim tihiyu ought to open our eyes to the fact that if we get ahead through cutting corners, taking advantage of people and being not entirely honest, we haven’t won at all.

The Zohar writes that the purpose of all the Torah and mitzvos is to introduce holiness into our hearts and make us holy. Thus we make brachos and state, “Asher kidishanu b’mitzvosav v’tzivanu…That He made us holy with his mitzvos and commanded us to…”

We are meant to live holy lives, to be kedoshim through our actions as we live our lives. It is one thing to die as a Jew, as a kadosh, the way so many millions of our brothers and sisters died throughout the ages. It is a completely different matter to live as a kadosh. Chazal teach us that Jews have an intrinsic moral strength and courage to be moser nefesh thanks to the mesiras nefesh of Avrohom Avinu who jumped into the kivshan ha’eish to sanctify G-d’s name.

We commonly refer to the Jews who perished in the Holocaust as “the kedoshim;” they died with the eternal words of Shema Yisroel on their lips, killed for being the children of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov.

In truth, we should find living people we can refer to as kedoshim, and we should begin by looking into our own hearts and souls.

Kedoshim means to be holy, but another definition of the word is to be separated. In order to be holy, we must put a mechitza between ourselves and the corrupt ways of the world. We must separate ourselves from the mad urge to get ahead in life at all costs.

The recent spree of media sensationalism surrounding the tragedy in Virginia should remind us of the dangers of succumbing to the drive to get ahead at any price.

We know how far gone the media are in their race for better ratings. But last week we saw their opportunism and hypocrisy hit a new level, as media outlets vied with each other to publicize the rantings of a madman who killed 32 innocent people in Virginia.

Pandering to the public’s morbid fascination with the deranged murderer, the media displayed appalling irresponsibility and poor judgment. They purveyed wicked sensationalism in the pursuit of a few dollars, replaying the gunman’s obscene ravings on a video clip he sent to a news station. Only later did the media chiefs pause to wonder whether such sensationalism might inspire other sick individuals to “copycat” the crimes of the Virginia murderer.

Consider another example of people pandering to dishonorable causes in order to promote themselves. Last weekend, a prominent rabble rouser with a long record of incendiary anti-Semitic remarks and actions held a convention of his imaginary National Action Network. Every single candidate for the Democratic nomination for president scheduled a spot at the so-called convention to set forth their agenda and seek an endorsement. Nobody so much as reprimanded them for stooping to ingratiate themselves with this rabble rouser. Let’s remember the moral cowardice of these politicians when they come calling for our vote.

How can we respect people who have no compunctions about paying homage to an unscrupulous opportunist? Where is their moral fiber, the courage to stand behind something they profess to believe in? They are willing to step into the cesspool in order to further their relentless drive for power. No matter how many elections they win, in truth, they are losers.

There are no longer any standards in our world; the drive for money or power determines people’s allegiances. There is no one left to admonish those who step over the line. No one guards the line. No one even seems to know where the line is or of there is a line at all.

Kedoshim tihiyu commands us to be ever cognizant of the line and ensure that we don’t cross it, no matter the temptation and no matter how many others cross it with seeming impunity.

This applies not only to our personal lives but to our field of employment as well, whatever it may be.

Becoming a kadosh is a lifetime mission and does not come easily, but Chazal in Maseches Yoma (39a) tell us that if a person sanctifies his life even to a small degree, he receives Divine assistance in achieving greater holiness. If we truly seek to bring kedusha into our lives, we can and will succeed in being a light unto the nations and unto ourselves.

We can all do it. Kedoshim tihiyu.

Be All We Can Be

I usually don’t get a chance to go shopping much, but before Yom Tov I put in my time. Waiting on line in so many places, I had a chance to observe all kinds of people. One thing I noticed is that the most successful salespeople are those who take pride in their job and do not look for shortcuts.

It requires mega doses of patience and strength to stand on your feet all day dealing with people who don’t always know what they want and who can be exasperating and even obnoxious. The urge to make short shrift of such customers - or to be abrupt and curt with customers in general - must be overwhelming at times. Salespeople who do not surrender to this urge are to be admired.

Sometimes you go into a store and they have no time for you and make it clear that you are a nuisance. They make you wait your turn to be abused by a lazy, uninformed salesperson. But other times you are greeted with a welcoming smile and treated as if your concern is the most important thing in the world.

You step into the eyeglass store and the proprietor patiently helps you try on a dozen pairs of glasses to make sure you look just right and feel comfortable with your choice.

You go into a suit store and they help you pick out the best suit for you, because they know how important it is to you to look your best.

The guy in the hat store takes one look at you and selects the perfect hat for you so you don’t have to stand around for an hour trying on different hats at random until you chance upon the right one. To this individual, the way you look is his greatest concern. You walk into the bakery and the smiling person behind the counter takes your order with care; she wants to be sure you are happy with the challahs and cakes you select for Shabbos. She does her best to ensure that you come home with something that will enhance your oneg Shabbos.

People like this, who are devoted to their job of servicing others - no matter how trying those others can be - elevate public service into an art form.

Then there are the people who look down at their customers and are visibly annoyed and fed up with their habits and appetites. “Why don’t you just take a couple pounds of marble cake and be satisfied with that?” you can almost hear them thinking. “Why make a life’s mission out of buying a suit?” you can sense them grumbling. “All suits are basically the same and the hats, too. They’re all black and made by Borsalino; why are you making such a big deal about which hat to buy?”

I was standing in Bencraft Hatters a week before Yom Tov. My friend, Asher, who works there, had already picked out my hat and I was waiting for it be steamed and placed in a box. There was one fellow in the store ahead of me who kept on trying on different hats and looking in the mirror to see which one enhanced his features the best. Asher was quite patient with him, explaining to him the virtues of this hat over that one, and the subtle differences between the hats that you and I would never notice.

Finally, the fellow chose a hat. But as he stood on line, he seemed to still be vacillating about it. He obviously wasn’t at peace with his choice. When it came time to pay and have his initials put in the hat, the man asked that the initials not be embossed so that he can return the hat if “his wife doesn’t like it.”

I made some kind of comment to Asher about the princely way he treated the guy and his hat. He responded, “Zeh zechuto.” When a man buys a hat, he deserves to be indulged and taken care of. He is entitled to walk out the door knowing he got himself a nice hat for Yom Tov.

Asher not only takes his work seriously, but takes pride in ensuring that a customer is totally satisfied. It is for this reason that his boss considers it well worth it to fly him in from Beit Shemesh to stand in the store and sell hats.

People who are sincere about carrying out their responsibilities to the best of their ability are much more likely to succeed than those who wish they were somewhere else, doing something else and making more money. People who take pride in doing a good job are happier with themselves and accomplish a lot more than those who take a dim view of their responsibilities.

As part of our discussion about responsibility, we should reflect for a moment on the tragic events this week at Virginia Tech University, where a Jewish professor, world famous in his field of engineering, gave up his own life to save the lives of his students. Apparently, his responsibilities to his young charges included making the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that they could go on to lead improved, productive lives. His instinctive act reflected a heroism that took devotion to one’s ideals to the highest level.

Thus, as a nation sits in mourning over the worst shooting rampage in modern American history, the sobering realization hits home that, but for the dedication of a professor to his “craft” - in a deeply moral sense - the tragedy could have been of even greater magnitude.

The shooting also shows once again the frailty and precariousness of human life and how people’s lives can suddenly be cut short. We are reminded to live life to the fullest and do whatever it is we do to the best of our abilities. It seems as if the professor put aside all selfish concerns for himself and his future to do what he felt was his duty to his young students and their futures.

We can take inspiration from the way people perform their jobs for our own unique task as Torah Jews.

The Gemorah in Brachos (43b) states that Hakadosh Boruch Hu created the world in such a way that every person believes in the value of his craft or profession - no matter how lowly others perceive that task to be. The world is thus blessed with enough people to perform even the most mundane tasks.

In the Creator’s grand scheme, the job of the Jewish people, individually and collectively, is to learn and follow the Torah. The Torah is what gives us our identity and what defines us. We are Bnei and Bnos Torah first and plumbers, electricians, lawyers, real estate tycoons, second. Just as the members of these innumerable professions take pride in their craft, according to the mechanism implanted by the Creator, so too we must ensure that we take pride in our dedication to Torah and excel at it.

We stand now in the Sefirah period between Pesach and Shavuos. Pesach is not an end, it is a beginning. We were freed from Mitzrayim so that we could go to Har Sinai and accept the Torah, the defining essence of our people. While enslaved to Paroh, we couldn’t have received the Torah. We had to attain freedom and independence; we had to become worthy of the gift. Had we not, we would have been destroyed at the feet of Mount Sinai as G-d held the mountain over us, for without the Torah we have no purpose and no reason to be.

We celebrate Pesach and view ourselves as if we had just been released from bondage, we drink the four cups of wine and eat the matzoh and maror, but if it is quickly forgotten and doesn’t elevate and transform us, we have squandered precious opportunities. Therefore, we count towards Shavuos and the day which marks our receiving of the Torah as if to demonstrate that, indeed, we are striving and reaching upward, not content to remain at a status quo. Each day of the count we seek to improve ourselves so that we better appreciate the gift that is the Torah.

Perhaps that is why we don’t count in the way one would normally count down to an anticipated date. We count upward; today is day one; today is day two; today is day three. We are saying, I am not the same person I was yesterday. I am better; I have progressed yet another day and have taken another step towards my goal. I am on the way to realizing that the most important thing I can do is accept the Torah, study it and follow it with devotion.

For if we want to excel in our lives as Torah Jews, we have to realize what those successful people described above realize that the key to success, both spiritual and material, is to devote oneself to the task with all one’s strength and talent.

We have to take ourselves and our responsibilities seriously. We have to take pride in our mission, so that we can succeed in being good Jews and good people. It won’t happen with a haphazard, lackadaisical approach, or by going through the motions perfunctorily. It requires weeks of time and effort. It demands a lifetime of discipline and determination. We count the days of Sefirah to reinforce that message.

We live in a hypocritical, upside-down world where the arbiters of good taste and what is important are themselves unimportant charlatans. We live in a time when there are so few people we can turn to for guidance and direction. The only way we can overcome the pernicious influences of society and the vacuity of our times is by subordinating our lives to the words of the Torah and our sages.

Only by studying the Chapters of our Fathers and the mussar works it spawned can we attain the purity of act, clarity of thought, and depth of character required to appreciate and comprehend Torah and its importance.

If we want to truly remake ourselves as better people, if we want to accomplish real things with our lives, we have to take advantage of this post-Pesach period. With the feelings of cheirus still fresh in our psyches, we should dedicate ourselves to refining our understanding of the profound teaching of Chazal: “Ein lecho ben chorin eloh mi she’oseik b’Torah.”

Matzoh: The Bread of Redemption

Have you ever thought about a paradox at the very core of the mitzvos of Pesach?

The multiple transgressions associated with chometz on Pesach make one of the central mitzvos of this Yom Tov—the eating of matzoh—appear strangely incongruous. Why would the Torah mandate the eating of a food whose essence comes so close to chometz—and whose preparation requires such exquisite care and vigilance to ensure that it does not become chometz?

For weeks before Pesach we are preoccupied with eradicating every trace of chometz from our homes. We go to great lengths to buy only those items that are absolutely guaranteed not to have even a remote possibility of contact with chometz. But then we pay $25.00 a pound for something which is made from the most lethal combination! And we buy not just a token few pieces—but huge amounts of it!

Why can’t we remember leaving Mitzrayim by eating watermelon, or apples or pears? We can drink wine to remind us of the freedom we felt as we left that dreaded land. Why must we davka eat matzoh?

Perhaps a clue to the answer lies in one of the names Chazal ascribe to matzoh: Lechem Geulah. We eat these flat breads because that is what we ate as we were liberated from bondage in Mitzrayim.

What is the inner meaning of liberation? Chazal say, “Ein lecho ben chorin elah mi she’oseik b’Torah, the truly free person is the one who toils in Torah.” The Torah does not restrict us, it gives us life; it gives meaning to life; it elevates us into a higher being. One who studies Torah and lives by its rules is truly blessed.

If we follow the guidelines of the Torah we have nothing to fear. It is true that matzoh can easily become chometz, but that doesn’t stop us from baking matzoh and making it an integral part of the Yom Tov. That is because we are totally secure that the process handed down to us by our mesorah and defined in the Shulchan Aruch will safeguard our matzoh from becoming chometz. No one abstains from eating matzoh out of fear that it is chometz, because one who is guided by halacha has nothing to fear.

The matzoh thus represents the highest level of belief in Torah; it demonstrates that we believe in the inviolability of halacha and that we trust that by following the words of our great halachic decisors we earn for ourselves life in this world and the next.

Only by submitting to the Torah’s authority can we be truly free and give our lives meaning and purpose. Those who bow to their own image and respect no higher authority are slaves to their desires and impulses. Their lives are in constant chaos. They have no core and nothing to anchor and stabilize them in a dizzy, turbulent world. They spend their lives enslaved to insatiable whims.

Those who eat the matzoh –and absorb its message—are truly free. Hence the term Lechem Geulim.

A second paradox confronts us as we sit at our Pesach Seder like kings and queens and begin the recitation of the Haggadah.

Slave Fare or Bread of Redemption?

At the beginning of Maggid, we hold up the matzoh and say in Aramaic, “Ha lachmoh anya d’acholu avasana b’arah d’Mitzrayim, This is the poor man’s bread that our forefathers ate in Mitzrayim.” Rashi explains that the slaves were fed matzoh in Mitzrayim because it digests very slowly and thus keeps a person full far longer than other foods do.

This would seem to mean that the reason we eat matzoh on the Seder night is because this food recalls our degradation as slaves in Mitzrayim and not because it represents freedom.

Later on, the Haggadah, in fact, refers to matzoh as the food of redemption. “Matzoh zu she’anu ochlin al shum mah….” The reason we eat matzoh is because the dough our forefathers took out of Mitzrayim as provisions for the journey did not have time to rise because Hakadosh Boruch Hu redeemed them so quickly. The dough was therefore baked in its flat state as matzoh.

Which is it? Do we eat the matzoh because it recalls the slave food we were fed in bondage, or does matzoh symbolize the bread we tasted as free men?

Dual Symbolism

Perhaps both reasons are correct. Indeed, it is the dual symbolism of matzoh that seems to lie at the heart of the lessons of Yetzias Mitzrayim.

As we begin the Seder, we identify the matzoh as the bread of affliction we ate as slaves. After recounting the story of our slavery and redemption, we proclaim that the very same matzoh which a little while ago was lechem oni has now become lechem geulah.

The same exact matzoh which was a symbol of avdus has been transformed, so to speak, into a symbol of cheirus.

It is noteworthy therefore that this passage of Ha lachma anya is said in the language of the exile and, according to the Ravan and Ravyah, was composed in Bavel. It is not mentioned in the Gemara and, unlike the rest of the Haggadah, is not recited in Hebrew, because it is an expression of the exile; it is the way matzoh is perceived before the redemption.

Silver Lining In The Cloud

This dual nature of matzoh speaks to all of us. Many times in life, the very things which are a source of torment and tzaar are actually strengthening us and preparing us for greater challenges which lie ahead. Years later, we look back and realize that had we not endured this or that painful experience, we wouldn’t have acquired the toughness and training to excel in what we are doing now with our lives.

The matzoh highlights the concept that the very same experience that brings affliction also brings redemption.

Matzoh’s essence goes even deeper. At the seder, the matzoh we eat is lechem geulah and a cheftzah shel mitzvah - even though all year round the very same item has no special significance. This is what the Haggadah refers to when it says, “Matzoh zu she’anu ochlin al shum mah, al sheim shelo hispik betzeikom shel avoseinu lehachmitz ad sheniglah aleihem Melech Malchei Hamelochim Hakadosh Boruch Hu uge’alom miyad.” The matzoh we eat on the Seder night may look like any other matzoh, but it is totally different: Having been formed in the desert as a result of the haste of the redemption, it is therefore lechem geulah.

Consequently, it may be that for this reason we are forbidden to eat matzoh on Erev Pesach. The Rambam (Hilchos Chometz U’Matzoh 6:12) rules that one who eats matzoh on Erev Pesach is given makkos mardos ad sheteizeih nafsho. The Maggid Mishnah explains that this is based on the moshol brought in the Yerushalmi.

Perhaps we can understand that one who is standing at the threshold of geulah and partakes of a food which resembles avdus is not worthy of redemption and deserves to be beaten.

Savoring Freedom

Perhaps this is also why we are not allowed to eat anything after the matzoh of afikoman. The Rambam says (ibid 8:9) that the reason it is forbidden to eat anything after the afikoman is to keep the flavor of matzoh on our palates. And yet, the flavor of the matzoh is a fleeting one. Even tastier food rarely lingers more than a minute or two.

But if we understand that the matzoh of the Seder is lechem geulah, then it follows that we should not eat anything after the matzoh so that the flavor and idea of cheirus, freedom, should remain on our tongues and in our hearts. Having partaken of the food that symbolizes the redemption, how can we eat anything afterward?

The Rambam (7:3) paskens that it is an obligation to make changes during the evening of the Seder so that the children will notice and ask why this night is different than all other nights, thereby giving us an opening to tell them what transpired. As examples of changes in routines, the Rambam suggests that we give children foods like klayos and egozim - foods they enjoy but would not usually receive in the middle of a festive and formal meal. We also move the table away, we grab the matzoh from each other and do similar things to provoke children to question why this night is different.

Why Questions?

Why do we have to perform acts specifically to provoke questions? Isn’t every aspect of the Seder night already strange and mystifying enough to prompt our children’s curiosity? We sit at the table wearing kittels, with all sorts of strange items before us, and everything we do is outside our normal routine. We sit differently, eat differently, drink differently, and wash differently. Almost nothing is the same. Shouldn’t that be sufficient to provoke the young and unlearned ones to ask what is going on? If they haven’t caught on that this night is different by the time they are seated at the Seder table for a few minutes, is distributing nuts any more likely to elicit the questions that can lead to an explanation of Pesach?

The Rambam appears to be saying that there is a special din to perform actions at the Seder strictly for the purpose of arousing children’s questions. We are not yotzeh that chiyuv by performing actions whose purpose is to fulfill specific Torah obligations such as drinking wine, washing hands differently, arranging the ka’arah and eating matzoh. There is an additional obligation to perform certain actions for the exclusive purpose of stimulating questions from the youngsters.

The question-and-answer framework is central to the Seder and is not limited to children. If no children are present, the adults must ask each other questions. If a person is conducting the Seder by himself, he directs both the questions and answers to himself. Perhaps that is because only one who is interested enough to ask a question will actually hear the answer.

Shackles Could Have Lasted Forever

Chazal instructed us when telling sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim to begin b’gnus and culminate b’shvach, to start with the shame and end with the glory. So many of the things we do at the Seder are performed in a manner to express cheirus. Why, then, does the Haggadah hearken back to the period of g’nus? Once again, we encounter the dual message of bondage and redemption.

Every person is obligated at the Seder to envision himself as if he had been released from bondage in Mitzrayim. “In every generation a person is obligated to see himself as if he personally had exited Mitzrayim,” the Haggadah states. As we begin the Seder, we also recite the chapter that testifies that if our forefathers had not been released, we would still be subservient to Paroh in Mitzrayim.

How do we know that a revolution or other world events leading to the eventual overthrow of Paroh would not have set the Jews free? Paroh and his institutions are but a distant memory today. How, then, can one assume that the Jewish people would still be subservient to Paroh in Mitzrayim?

Perhaps these statements are alluding to how a person should deal with times of challenge.

We all have our ups and down, sad times and happy ones, triumphs and successes, as well as defeat and despondence. When all we see is doom and gloom, we can easily fall prey to confusion and despair.

The Seder speaks to us, shakes us out of this negative mindset and helps us put everything in perspective. It teaches us that the shackles of yesurim do not last forever.

We begin b’gnus, recounting that we were lowly slaves in Mitzrayim. We think about the tears we have shed over our own problems and humiliation that we have had to endure. Our minds wander as we think about our own Golus Mitzrayim and the things that afflict us.

And then we are mesayeim b’shvach. The Haggadah continues and recounts how Hashem kept his pact with the Avos and redeemed the Jews from the misery of Egypt. The darkness and gloom came to a radical and abrupt halt. The slavery ended; the decades of being enslaved to an evil master were finally over. We were out of Mitzrayim, free and triumphant.

The Haggadah proclaims to every Jew to never give up. The Haggadah reminds every Jew that all that transpires is part of a Divine plan. The plan is not necessarily evident to us as we live through the downside, but often times, when the period of torment is over, with the benefit of hindsight, the entire picture becomes clear. The light at the end of the tunnel shines upon what transpired and gives one a more complete picture and understanding of what happened and why.

”Bechol dor vador chayov odom liros es atzmo k’illu hu yotzoh m’Mitzrayim.” Everyone has to reflect upon the departure from Mitzrayim and transpose that epic event to his own life. Every person has to see that just as he was freed from Mitzrayim, he will be released from the crises weighing him down in this golus.

At the Seder, we say “Vehi she’amdah,” which proclaims that in every generation the Jewish people are targeted for death, but with Hashem’s help, they eventually triumph. In every generation, in some part of the world, there is a Paroh who seeks our annihilation, but G-d foils his plan and rescues us.

So too, in our personal lives, there are times when things seem hopelessly tangled and headed for disaster. We feel thwarted at every turn. At times, we feel utterly lost.

Questions That Kindle Change

We often are haunted by questions. Why don’t my plans succeed? Why do so many troubles overwhelm me? We keep the questions bottled up inside of us, afraid of asking them and perhaps afraid of facing the answers.

But questions can lead us to better understand life as well as our mesorah and the yesodos of emunah. Those are the questions that we are taught to ask on the Seder night.

We are taught that every question has an answer. Although we may not be privileged to attain or comprehend the answer, there is one. That is why we recite the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim in question and answer format, for our own lives parallel the tale of Yetzias Mitzrayim.

Previously we translated lechem oni as the bread of affliction and poor people. The Gemara in Pesachim [115b] offers another explanation. It teaches that it is called lechem oni because it is “bread upon which we recite many words [at the Seder] - lechem she’onin olov devorim harbeh.” Perhaps in this usage of the word onin, from the root word anah, to answer, there is an allusion to the question-answer theme that runs through the Seder.

Matzoh is the bread upon which we answer many questions as we sit at the Seder. Therefore, it is referred to as lechem oni. And why do we answer many questions in the presence of the matzoh? Because matzoh is lechem geulah, eaten because Hashem rushed us out of Mitzrayim, symbolized by the hastily baked matzohs.

Eating this food generates an internal understanding about the connection between hardship and spiritual growth. Lechem oni is the “answering” bread - a powerful spiritual “vitamin” leading us to a higher dimension of awareness.

As we eat the lechem geulah and recognize that this same lechem was just a little while ago lechem avdus, our eyes are opened to some liberating truths: events that appear to sap our strength and lead us to despair can actually open the door to recovery, redemption and success.

No matter how bad things seem, as long as there is life, there is hope. Ki bechipazon yotzosah mei’Eretz Mitzrayim. In great haste you left Mitzrayim… In the twinkling of an eye, the bread of affliction becomes bread of resurgence.

May we all be zoche to go mei’avdus lecheirus in our personal lives as well as in our destiny as a klal. Venodeh lecha shir chodosh al geuloseinu v’al pedus nafsheinu.