Rabbi Oury Cherki
Passover - Freedom for all Mankind
Pesach is a glorious holiday, it is an event that revealed to the entire world that freedom is a real possibility.
We note that the Torah calls Egypt a house of slavery not only because the people of Israel were slaves there and because the land was full of slaves. Rather, the name stems from the fact that the Egyptians viewed reality through a slave mentality.
In Egypt, everybody was a slave, including not only those who were openly treated as slaves. Even the masters were slaves of Pharaoh, and the King of Egypt himself, Pharaoh, was also a slave – of the existing system and of the deities of the land. And the gods were slaves of the laws of nature.
We must understand that the concept of god in ancient Egypt was an attempt to deify the forces of nature. According to the ancient Egyptian philosophy, there is no such thing as change within the world, and there will certainly never be any possibility of real freedom. But the redemption from Egypt was a declaration to the entire world that freedom is indeed possible, and even that an entire nation can leave a country of slavery such as Egypt.
What was the exact message? According to Jewish tradition, we can learn about four different types of freedom from the events surrounding the redemption from Egypt. The first type of freedom is political. During the redemption process, it became clear that no worldly authority is totally absolute, not even a powerful empire such as that of Pharaoh. This is the concept of political freedom.
The second type of freedom is related to the forces of nature. It is nature which blocks our spiritual and moral progress. But it became clear during the redemption from Egypt that the mightiest forces of nature, such as the sea and all that accompanies it, cannot stand in the way of our freedom. Thus, in addition to political freedom there is also freedom from nature.
At a deeper level, there is a third type of freedom that is related to the evil inclination. At times we become convinced that we cannot change our habits, whether they are good or bad, G-d forbid. But if it is possible to be free of the stronghold of nature and of political forces, why can't an individual become free from the force of the evil inclination which surrounds him and prevents his development? The answer is that indeed nothing can withstand the will of man.
Finally, we can see the fourth type of freedom as something that will be revealed in the distant future – freedom from the Angel of Death. We can achieve this by proper development of the spirit of man, by human morality, and by having mankind listen to the word of G-d. This will expand to include absolute freedom, even from the terrible force of death. This is the concept of resurrection which will take place in the future, but which already began with the redemption from Egypt.
The redemption from Egypt gives us the ability to tell the story, which we repeat during the Seder, based on the principle, "Tell your son on that day" [Exodus 13:8]. The tradition that is passed down from generation to generation, maintaining the knowledge of the freedom of man, will in the end bring about the final redemption – of Israel, of the world, and of all humanity.
The process begins with the ability to pass the story on from generation to generation.
The Haggada of Pesach teaches us about four different ways of transferring the story: to the wise son, to the evil one, to the simple one, and to the one who does not know how to ask questions. There is a different educational strategy for each son, and it is necessary to take each of the sons into account.
Who is the wise son? He is a man who already understands the historical process in which he is participating, and all that remains for him is to ask what he should do. Our answer to him is therefore to tell him the halachot, the laws of Pesach. These are rituals that can also be performed by Noahides, passed down from generation to generation.
The evil son, on the other hand, does not want to have anything to do with the process. He removes himself from the rest of the community. So we explain to him that at the dawn of history it was indeed possible to withdraw from the others. But now the trend of human history is approaching freedom, and he cannot free himself from his obligations any more. That is what is meant by the statement in the Haggada: If he had been there he would not have been redeemed, but now he is here, together with all of us. He will be redeemed even against his will.
Who is the simple son? He is one who can be caught up in the wonder of the events. This is a positive basis of action, since he can be taught positive concepts in response to the act of wonder. Thus, we tell him, "G-d took us out of Egypt with a strong hand" [3:16].
And what about the one who does know how to ask? First of all, he must be taught how to ask questions. A person should not be given educational or inspirational content before he is ready to receive it. Therefore the most important thing for him is the question. The ability to ask a question is much more important for him than our desire to pass on content and our traditions. Before anything else, teach your son to ask questions. Do not be afraid of the questions, they will lead him to faith.
It is true that important rituals of the night of Pesach are meant only for Jews – such as partaking of the Pesach and the Chagiga Sacrifices at the time when the Temple existed. However, today, since we cannot bring these sacrifices because of our sins, the eating of matza and maror and all the other symbolic acts of the Seder can be observed by our friends, the Bnei Noach all over the world. This includes retelling the story of the redemption and publicizing the Divine message of freedom for all of humanity.
All of these rituals, including the recitation of the Hallel prayer in praise of G-d, are suitable for all human beings, as is written in the Haggada, "Every person must see himself as if he went out of Egypt."
A happy holiday to all.