The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Nisan 8, 5767/March 26, 2007

"Blessed be He who fulfills His promise to Israel! Blessed be He!"
from the Passover Haggadah

We spend days, maybe weeks, preparing for Pesach - Passover. We rid our houses of every trace of chametz - leavened bread. Even a single crumb must be hunted down and destroyed. Our kitchens must be completely scoured and purged of even the most miniscule trace of leaven. We pack away all our kitchenware and bring out our Pesach ware. We restock our pantries and prepare the special foods for the Seder meal. If we have any free moments we open our Haggadot which we will read at the Seder, in order to glean something new, or simply review the familiar. We can only imagine what it must have been like when our ancestors packed up their belongings and travelled to Jerusalem, where they would acquire a lamb, bring it up to the Holy Temple to be slaughtered, and bring it back to specially prepared ovens in the courtyards of Jerusalem for roasting. In short, with all of the intense efforts made to arrive fully prepared for the Seder meal on the night of the 15th of Nisan, by the time we actually sit down to begin the Seder, we are already sleep deprived and exhausted. When we finally have arrived at the mitzvah of eating the first portion of matzoh, we are already getting drowsy. Summoning up all our waning reserve of energy, we fend off sleep, successfully complete the recitation of the Haggadah, sing the Hallel praise to HaShem, complete our fourth cup of wine, and conclude with the traditional songs. We have made it to midnight, as we are commanded, and perhaps have even stretched the retelling of our exodus from slavery in Egypt all the way till two or three in the morning.

Yet the following day, drowsy and satisfied as we may be that we have successfully completed all the requirements of our Seder night, we nevertheless experience a strange sensation of missed opportunity: Did we really discuss the redemption from Egypt as deeply as we could have? Were we too hungry to have properly eaten our matzoh simply for the purpose of fulfilling the commandment? Did we really impart the message of G-d's redemptive outstretched hand to our children? Did we really experience the joyful singing of the Hallel as our forefathers did, when they climbed to the rooftops in Jerusalem, and in the light of the full moon, facing the illuminated Holy Temple, sang in unison, praise to HaShem? After so much preparation, it's as if the very moment we were anticipating and preparing for, has passed us by, unrealized.

It is only when we are overcome - overwhelmed - with this feeling of having missed the moment, can we be certain that we have, in fact, fulfilled the mitzvah of reliving the redemption of our ancestors in Egypt. Ironic, perhaps, but self-evident: the Jews, enslaved in Egypt, cried out to G-d, Who, hearing their cry, and seeing their plight, set in motion a series of events that would culminate in the plague of the first-born, and the escape from Egypt. Along the way, G-d instructed the children of Israel to mark the new moon, to set aside each family a lamb, and then to slaughter that lamb and smear its blood upon the door posts. Like our preparations today, these efforts were intended to prove us worthy of redemption. But neither the preparations made by our fathers in Egypt, nor those made by us today, could possibly make us ready, or render us fit or capable of fully grasping that freedom once we have attained it. How could they?

How does one prepare himself for something he has never before experienced? All we can do is to be certain that we are in the right place at the right time in order to receive the gift of freedom. On the 15th day of Nisan, that place is at the Seder. And if the sudden flash of Divine blessing that we call freedom, and recognize as redemption, is a little too bright for us to fully perceive, and a little too intense for us to fully grasp, then G-d, in His infinite wisdom and love for His people, has reserved for us a new day: the 16th of Nisan. On the 16th of Nisan we begin the forty nine days of the counting of the omer - the barley offering. Day by day we count the omer, using each day to take stock and ready ourselves spiritually, for the ultimate crescendo of the Exodus story - the receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai, on the fiftieth day of the march out of Egypt. For only by accepting upon ourselves the binding commitment of Torah are we able at long last to free ourselves from earthly bondage, and truly begin to experience this Heavenly gift called freedom.

Please tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK, as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the Festival of Freedom as it was experienced by our fathers during the days of the Holy Temple, how we observe Passover today, and how we intend to fulfill the Holiday of Redemption tomorrow. Learn about the Sanhedrin's intentions to perform the Passover offering this Monday, the 14th of Nisan, on the Temple Mount, in accordance with the Torah commandment, and how you can be a part of this historic initiative. To learn more, click here.

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Part 1
Part 2