Passover (seventh day)(Exodus 13:17-15:26)
The Seder To Set You Free
Each Jewish holiday is a lesson in life. Passover is freedom.
It's the type of freedom that has given the Jewish people it's power to survive and to thrive. It's not a freedom of the body as much as a freedom of the spirit. And this same freedom is available at Passover-time to help you achieve whatever you want. A person with true freedom knows no bounds, and can achieve whatever they wish. They are free to change themselves and change the world!
If you understood that at this seder were the keys to achieving all you wished in life, morning would come, and as the Haggadah points out, you wouldn't even notice.
On Sukkot we focus on increasing our joy in life. On Rosh Hashana we commit to working on getting better goals. On Yom Kippur we try and increase our sense of regret. However, on Passover, the holiday of freedom we come into the holiday believing we are free.
The challenge of the Haggadah is to appreciate that this may not be true.
Slavery takes many forms; not all shackles are made of iron. Once slavery becomes a way of life, the slave may even become unaware of his own servitude. Passover is a "virtual reality experience" in freedom - and the Haggadah is our guidebook. It assists each Jew in unearthing his own slavery. The Seder is a seminar on how to be truly free, and on Passover night we reenact the transformation of leaving Egypt, from slavery to freedom. And through this reenactment, we can achieve for ourselves what the Jewish people achieved 3500 year ago.
That freedom brought about the greatest and longest standing empire in the world's history. Not an empire of space but an empire of thought - Jewish thought. The story of Passover is the story of the beginnings of the Jewish people, a people that set out to form a new world order with a new morality and new concepts of life.
The old world was a pagan one, where war and violence were not only ways of life but often national pastimes. The world the Jews ushered in includes ideas with which we are all familiar - equal rights, universal education, social responsibility, and peace for mankind.
This freedom and ability did not come through force of arms. It came through the experience of freedom, anyone who experiences true freedom is capable of remarkable achievements.
Experiences come through two vehicles: Experiences of the body, and experiences of the mind. Passover is a mind holiday. We have to become free - not from a physical oppressor, but from a spiritual, mental one. It's ideas that enslave us. Pressures, self-imposed limits - all these are in our mind. To be free of them, we must first understand them. But before even that, we must become aware of those things that enslave us on a 'subconscious' level.
That's why the Haggadah encourages us to ask questions to exercise our mind. So as you encounter questions throughout the Haggadah, take them seriously. Try to answer them, and encourage others to ask more questions.
You just don't know which question
you are going to ask,
or be asked,
that will set you free.
Give each of the guests some candies before the Seder starts, so that they can toss a candy to whoever asks a good question. This is a particularly effective way of keeping children interested.
The key is that the Seder should be relevant, not dry and boring. Read ahead, familiarize yourself with the text and look for interesting questions to discuss during the Seder. Circle those points you want to read out during the Seder and write in your own comments.
Discuss the ideas in a deep and meaningful way. Don't just rush through the text in order to get to the meal. One good way to start your Seder is by asking everyone to recollect their childhood experiences of what their Seder was like. The Seder is so meaningful that the experience you had as a child, even though at the time may have been boring to you, becomes a nostalgic memory, like a conversation with a loved one. That's because it was, and is, it's a conversation with your inner self.
If you are thinking at the Seder, then the Haggadah seminar is sure to show you how to let yourself be truly free.