A Pesach Message
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Thursday 10th April 2014

Hallel (Psalms of praise and thanksgiving) at our Seder table is introduced with words of acknowledgement to HaShem ‘Who, (amongst many other wondrous things), brought us out from slavery to freedom ... and from enslavement to redemption...’ We may well ask what difference is there, if any, in being taken from slavery to freedom and from enslavement to redemption?! 

Much earlier on in our Seder, at the end of ‘Avadim hayinu’, we say that ‘had the Holy One Blessed be He, not brought our ancestors out of Egypt, then we, our children and children’s children would be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt’. There is an obvious question to be raised about this statement. There is no Pharaoh in Egypt today so to whom are we referring when we suggest the possibility of our being eternally enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt?! R’ Shlomo Harkabi in ‘Ma’amarei Shlomo’ explains that would HaShem not have taken us out of Egypt by ‘force’ but, instead, allowed Pharaoh to set us free of his own volition, then we would, consequently, have forevermore been indebted to Pharaoh! 

We can use R’ Harkabi’s principle to understand that there are two stages in the attainment of freedom. The first and perhaps most obvious one is to be ‘set free’ which is the transition from slavery to freedom. However there is a more subtle second stage, which is to be completely freed from any connection to one’s previous situation and instead to be fully engaged with a new found sense of mission, purpose and commitment – this is, what I understand to be the additional vital movement from ‘enslavement’ to ‘redemption’.

In this very day and age we also have a journey to make from ‘enslavement’ to ‘redemption’. The advent of a 24/7 culture means that a merely free individual can rapidly find him or herself swept up in the raging torrent of prevailing societal trends and expectations. Globalisation can deny us the precious focus on individual worth, technology can impede the development of our inner selves and the frenetic pace of 21st century living can prevent us from in-depth thinking and contemplation. 

Of course the blessings of the modern age can and should be huge and great sources of benefit and inspiration but only to those who have mastered the journey not only from slavery to freedom but also from enslavement to redemption. And the tools with which to master this second critical progression from enslavement to redemption are the very ones which we received from HaShem as He took us from slavery to freedom! Regular prayer and engagement with the Divine, Torah study, Mitzvot, chessed (acts of kindness), ma’asim tovim (good deeds) all serve to shape and direct our lives with a higher sense of mission and purpose. 

How fortunate we are as a Community to have such a diverse and wide range of exactly such opportunities - for all ages – to help us in our efforts to move from ‘enslavement’ to ‘redemption’. May we only continue, with a sense of focus, pride, joy in and commitment to all things Jewish to journey positively forwards not just from slavery to freedom but also from enslavement to redemption!     

Wishing you the warmest good wishes for a very happy, kosher, truly meaningful & inspiring Pesach.

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