Rabbi Mordechai Pollock
Mom and her helpers are almost finished with the cleaning process that began so many weeks ago. The Passover dishes are taken down and unwrapped, and all of the Passover paraphernalia is spread out on the kitchen table.
Mom and her helpers are almost finished with the cleaning process that began so many weeks ago. The Passover dishes are taken down and unwrapped, and all of the Passover paraphernalia is spread out on the kitchen table. The cooking and baking that the whole family excitedly awaits throughout the year is gearing up. The Haggadahs are taken down from their shelf and the sweet voices of the children can be heard as they prepare their part for the upcoming show. Older kids and relatives from far and wide are coming in from out of town; trips to the airport seem constant. Extra chairs and tables are amassed to accompany the extra guests. Passover is just around the corner, the excitement is almost tangible.
We know that there are numerous feelings that come along as a natural part of the Passover holiday. Apprehension and anticipation, uneasiness and serenity are just a few of the well-known emotions that are familiar visitors as the holiday approaches. We rarely stop to think, what feelings should I have as I go through the motions of the Passover seder and the rest of the festival? What feelings should I have when the holiday passes by, as it soon will? What lasting impressions should be left on us all?
Rabbi Chaim Friedlander, the late revered mashgiach (spiritual advisor) of the Ponovezh Yeshiva in Israel, addressed this very issue. He tells us that the answer to our query lies no further than in the Passover Haggadah, where the story of the exodus starts in earnest with the famous passage, "Avadim Hayinu - We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt." We discuss the terrible bondage, both physical and spiritual, that we were subjected to, and the Holocaust-type persecution that we were forced to suffer. Then our guide takes us through the tremendous salvation that Hashem granted us, as He removed us from the physical and spiritual mire of Egypt.
Finally, after all the discussion and all the parts of the play have been acted out so skillfully by the cast, we reach the climax of the entire event. We reach that very special section of the Haggadah called Hallel, for it is the Hallel prayer that is the cap to the whole experience. It is in Hallel that we finally have the opportunity to turn to our Maker, our Father in heaven, and say, "Thank you!" Thank you for all the goodness, thank you for all the loving-kindness that You have bestowed upon us in Egypt, before, and since. Thank you Hashem, for always taking care of us.
These, then, are the three stages of the Haggadah: 1) remembering and reliving the bondage, 2) remembering and reliving the salvation, 3) expressing our heartfelt thanksgiving to our Creator. The goal, however, has not yet been achieved. The fourth and most important stage is yet to come. The final stage and the purpose of all the others is the acceptance of Hashem's rulership over us and an eagerness to do His mitzvot. The other stages - the remembrance of the servitude, the remembrance of the redemption, and the feelings of overflowing appreciation - are all only prefaces to the ultimate rededicating ourselves to our Father in heaven. That, in truth, is the goal of the seder and indeed of the entire festival of Passover. We now know ever more clearly that He is our Master and we are His servants! Clearly, the cap to the seder are those cherished words, "Next year in Jerusalem." As we finish the first three stages of the seder, we hope and pray that we should all be in Jerusalem, able to be closer to Hashem and fulfill His wonderful mitzvot in a more elevated way.
Mom and her helpers are almost finished putting away all of the Passover paraphernalia. The dishes and extra Passover goods are stashed away for next time. Leftovers from the cooking and baking that the whole family excitedly awaited the entire year are being wrapped and frozen. The Haggadahs are put back on their shelf and the sweet voices of the children can be heard reminiscing about their Passover performance. Older kids and relatives are leaving to places far and wide; trips to the airport seem constant. Extra chairs and tables are returned to their gracious owners. Another Passover has come and gone. Will we be different?
Rabbi Mordechai Pollock is both an alumnus and a teacher at the Yeshiva High School of Atlanta.
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