The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Nissan 12, 5766/April 24, 2006

"And the L-rd brought us forth out of Egypt..." (Deuteronomy 26:8)

As layl haseder, the first night of Passover approaches, we are all busy extricating the last grains of chametz - leavened crumbs - in our possession. But as we bear down on these hapless crumbs, which symbolize our own tendency towards an exaggerated sense of self importance, we must keep one thing in mind: perspective.

For perspective was really what that first pesach - passover - offering in Egypt was about. By bringing a lamb into their homes to be slaughtered and eaten, the children of Israel were communicating a three-way message: to the Egyptians they were saying: "Perspective! This lamb is not a deity. But the Holy One, the Creator of all living things has commanded us to take this lamb and prepare it as an offering unto Him." To themselves they were likewise saying: "Perspective! The Egyptians can neither harm us, nor keep us in perpetual slavery, as long as we cast our lot with G-d, by fulfilling His commandment." And to G-d Himself they were saying: "We are ready to step forth from bondage by cleaving to You. We are ready to accept the yoke of freedom by performing Your word."

Scouring our house for chametz as an act of spring cleaning may be worthy in and of itself, but it falls short of being life-changing or earth-shattering. Searching our souls for the sake of combatting our own false pride and haughtiness may be a noble act of self-improvement. But unless that effort is aimed toward achieving a purpose greater than the sum of our own individual selves, it is little more than vanity. In a world that worships the individual, we must never forget that it was G-d who "brought us forth out of Egypt" in order that we should serve Him. Our efforts at self-improvement, our striving for freedom are all for naught, if we do not see these goals as being attainable only in the service of G-d.

Preparing ourselves, and bringing the passover offering is no less of an imperative today that it was for our forefathers in Egypt. Complacency is no less of a shackle around our soul today that it was in Egypt. Pragmatism today, as then, is no more and no less than a speck of chametz attached to our heart, diverting us, and keeping us from true freedom. Leaving Egypt meant never going back. We indulge our complacency and self-satisfied sense of pragmatism at our own risk. For we are either in Egypt serving others, or outside of Egypt, serving G-d. The passover offering symbolizes our selfless dedication to Hashem: removing the chametz of our self-importance, and bending our will toward His. G-d brought us forth "with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm; with great terror and with signs and with wonders." (Deuteronomy 26:8) What are we ready to do for Him?

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