Telling the Passover Story Anew

Last year my rabbi shared that he buys a new Haggadah (guide to the Seder) each year and advised the class to each buy one of their choosing.  I didn’t realize that there were so many kinds, thinking that they were all pretty much the same except for the pictures.  I don’t know why I thought it should be different than any other Jewish book.  As one of the oldest ongoing Jewish traditions, there are plenty of Haggadot, all of which are pretty much the same in content, but varied in commentary and of course, the pictures.

I searched and searched in the middle of a rainstorm for the “perfect” one, but I couldn’t find it.  So I figured heck, I’ll just pick something “out there,” and I walked away with The Breslov Haggadah, based on the teachings of Rabbi Nachman m’Breslov, best known today for hoardes of followers who wear kippot beanies with a tassle on top and who dance around vans blasting techno music.  That aside, his teachings have inspired many Jews to return to Torah and come clean from drugs and other hardships.

I generally have a very hard time connecting to Breslover stories, and last year I could derive very little from the Haggadah.  I couldn’t follow the train of thought or find any meaningful applications.

This year, I dusted off the Matzah crumbs (haha, I know) and tried again.  I really connected to some of the teachings this year, which is a good proof of why retelling the Passover story over again each year is important.  One of the great teachings explains the Passover story as a tikkun, a repair, of the Original Sin of mankind eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

In Hebrew, each letter of the alphabet is assigned a number.  The numerical value of CHaMeTZ – leavened bread, together with Se’OR – leavening, is 639.  ETZ HaDA’aT (the Tree of Knowledge) is also 639.  Adam had an awareness of Gd that we can’t even imagine.  It was direct and unquestionable.  When Man ate from the Tree of Knowledge, he “ate leavened bread.” He had a taste of Gdlessness which impaired his awareness.

On Pesach, we eat Matzah, the unleavened bread, symbolizing the perfection of da’at, of intimate knowledge and awareness and knowing that all comes from Divine Grace.  Adam, Man, knew of creation.  But he fell.  He could not raise himself up again  He could not forget his past deed.  He was overburdened with guilt. Adam was unaware of creation as being NOW.  So when Gd appeared in Egypt, his message to Jewish people was: NOW is another creation.  In changing the laws of nature He showed, I have changed Nature – you can change yours!splitting of the sea

Every man, in every generation, is a microcosm.  Of space, of time, of life.  Jewishness is not something which took place only in some distant, or even recent past.  It is not something which takes place only in some pristine corner of the world.  Nor is it the franchise of those us who hae an unbroken tradition.  In fact, true Jewishness is not to be found in the laurels of those whose “Jewishness” begins and ends with an unspoken flaunting of that tradition.  Neither can it be found in the stale Jewishness of yesterday.  No matter how enthused we were then, yesterday is gone, and we must start again.  Creation is a process.  So is Jewishness.

Jewishness is here.  Jewishness is Now.  Every Jewish soul in some way relives the entire story of creation.  The fall of man, the flood… But this time, each time, with our lives, the story is ours to rewrite.  It is time to transcend the illusory constrictions of the mind.  To cease living out the script of limited human awareness.

Gd created previous worlds that did not satisfy His plan.  So He destroyed them and forgot them and improved upon them.  He used those intentional “mistakes” as lessons.  Lessons for us. If the “world” we have created for ourselves is not according to plan, scrap it! Start afresh.  Create new ones, and turn those experiences — even failures! — into lessons. (The Breslov Haggadah pg. 17-18)

Nowhere is the cleaning and preparing for Passover more apparent than here in Jerusalem.  I woke up this morning and could smell burning.  Makeshift bonfires throughout the city are setup for people to burn their leftover chametz. I could hear vaccuums running from people cleaning out their cars.  I really believe that the concept of Spring Cleaning began with the Jews.  It’s a time to clean out and break free from out internal Egypt, the Mitzrayim, the constriction of excuses that we make for our bad habits and our self-imposed limitations on Gd awareness.

On that note, the Haggadah brings up another interesting point, which is that Moshe is absent from the entire story.  Moshe is described as being uniquely humble ([והאיש משה ענו מאד מכל האדם אשר על פני האדמה [במדבר יב:ג  Bamidbar/Numbers 12:3).  He, who spoke “face to face” with Gd and knew the most profound secrets of the Torah understood that his attainments were nothing but Divine gifts.  Too often Torah learning is a ego experience of intellectual capacity.  Moshe the Tzaddik accomplished so much yet attributed nothing to himself. (ibid pg. 28)


2 Responses to “Telling the Passover Story Anew”

  1. 1 peter gerstenzang April 1, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Ilene, nice, very insightful.

  2. 2 C. Rosenblum April 8, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    It’s a shame that I find it hard to read about the holy Rav Nachman without the strains of the techno version of “Rabbi Nachman, Nachman Me’Uman” echoing in my head…

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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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