Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Passover 5773) Take It With You!

One year, after experiencing the uplifting Seders and the total
Passover experience, which entailed tremendous amounts of work,
a particularly busy Baalabustah with a large family said, “The experience that I went through is a notch in my spiritual belt which will stay with me as time moves on, past the holiday.” This made a very positive impression on me. True, Pesach entails a lot of work and a change in our eating habits, yet one should not get distracted by the work, stress and expense, and risk losing the ultimate benefits of the Holiday. Having a positive attitude makes all the difference.

Over the Holiday I came across a beautiful essay written by Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin o.b.m. in which he captures certain elements of Pesach and the Sefirah – the 49 day counting period in which we connect Pesach to the Holiday of Shavuos.

Rabbi Sorotzkin wonders: The Jews were in Egypt for 210 years sharing their culture and even developing a certain regard towards their deity. All of them – over two million Jews –made a complete turnaround and committed themselves to follow G-d and His instruction to leave Egypt, despite the fact that they were uncertain where they were going and how they would survive during their travels. How was this possible?

He answers based on what we recited in the Hagaddah at the Seder.

During the plague of the slaying of the first born, G-d opened up the Heavens and displayed all his angels, Serapfim and messengers, and said, “I have all of these at My beck and call. However, I Myself am going to smite the Egyptian first born and spare the Jewish firstborn.” This revelation of G-d gave the Jews clarity about His existence, and His loving relationship with them, giving them the ability to follow whatever He told them to do.

In spite of this awesome and great experience, it ran the risk of wearing off. Therefore, the Jews were told that in fifty days they would receive the Torah – a guide for life. The next day they began counting with great anticipation and excitement and they thus continually grew spiritually throughout those seven weeks until they experienced G-d’s ultimate Revelation when He gave them the Torah at Mount Sinai.

Rabbi Sorotzkin made the observation, and observation that we can make as well, that no matter how distant or isolated Jews may feel from their religion or their roots – they are drawn to a Seder. The Seder is the most widely held Jewish family observance.

This can be attributed to the fact that G-d revealed Himself to the Jews on the night of Passover in Egypt – and to a certain degree this spiritual energy revisits us each Pesach. We are drawn to it, and every Jew becomes conscious of his connectedness to His Ultimate Source.

Our participation at the Seder is the greatest testament to this. And when we open the door at the end of the Seder, we demonstrate that just as 3325 years ago, the Jews were protected by G-d’s watchful eye, so too, are we protected.

How do we maintain this positive spiritual energy with which we were infused at the Seder? With a positive outlook towards our Judaism and our experience! This means to follow the laws of Passover throughout the holiday, and by following the Sefira count. When we count each day for 49 days we show that we are holding on to our Pesach inspiration and taking it with us.

The Holiday

The Holiday of Pesach is celebrated for eight days and has holidays at the beginning and end. The first two days of the Holiday commemorate our ancestors’ Exodus from Egypt and the miracles and events leading up to it. We observe the laws of the Holiday, and participate in the Seders at night.

On the seventh and eighth days of the Holiday (Monday and Tuesday) we observe the last days of Pesach commemorating the miracles of splitting the Red Sea for the Jews and drowning the pursuing Egyptians. At this point the Egyptians became a thing of the past and no longer a threat to the Jews.
The four intermediate days – Chol Hamoed, which bridge the beginning of Pesach with the end of Pesach, are semi holidays. They have the restrictions of not eating Chometz but do not carry the restrictions of not doing creative activities.

On Shabbat during Chol Hamoed we celebrate the Shabbat while integrating prayers, Torah and Haftorah readings that relate to the holiday.

Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos and Pesach!
Rabbi Dovid Saks