Parshas Bo #1
This Year’s Pesach
“This day will be a memorial for you, and you will celebrate it as a holiday [dedicated to] Hashem. In [all] your generations, you will celebrate it as an eternal decree” (Shmos 12:14).
More than four hundred years of history, beginning with Hashem’s promise to Avraham Avinu, were coming to a head: Moshe instructed the Jewish people to prepare for their upcoming redemption with the Korban Pesach, sacrificed by every Jewish household on the night when the tenth and final Plague struck Egypt. This was not a one-time event. The Korban Pesach and the great day of the Exodus from Egypt would become part of Jewish life for all time, celebrated “in [all] your generations.” Ever since, Pesach has been central to the Jewish calendar and Jewish life, with the Seder and the holiday itself as highlights of the year.
Pesach celebrates our nation’s liberation from the slavery in Egypt. Thousands of years later, many people are still in the grip of slavery, although of a different kind. They too long desperately to be free.
Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski relates the story of a recovering drug addict. He was at his family’s Seder, and his father began reading Avadim hayinu, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.”The son interrupted. “Abba,” he said, “can you truthfully say that you were a slave? Your ancestors were slaves, but you don’t know what slavery means.” He had been a slave, he said, of the very worst kind. When he was on drugs he had no freedom; he did whatever his addiction demanded, even things he had never dreamed he was capable of. There was no choice and no free will.
Rabbi Dr. Twerski explains that slavery is not always about the hold of a Pharaoh over a subject people. We can be slaves to ourselves, losing our freedom to our yetzer hara and bad habits. Addictions like substance abuse, gambling, the internet, and even overeating are terrible taskmasters with a very powerful grip. He writes that this type of slavery extends to losing control over “any aspect of one’s behavior.” If our actions and the way we view ourselves are determined by others, we are not free.
For example, we may care far too much about what others think of our clothing and appearance, the car we drive, or where we vacation. If we make our choices based on their opinions – or what we perceive to be their opinions – rather than our own, that too is a type of slavery (Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, “Emotional Slavery”).
One of the central themes of Pesach is freedom from any master other than Hashem. Slavery may be physical or emotional, external or internal. Every year on Pesach, we remember that as Jews, our goal is to become servants to Hashem alone.
Question for Discussion:
Redemption from “slavery” can take many forms. What behavior, habit or worry is “enslaving” you, and how can you regain control and break free?Click Here To Respond
“David” from Los Angeles spoke about the very latest form of addiction, namely technology, cell phones, and social media: The manufacturers and marketers spend millions to entrap new victims of all ages, from every stratum of society. Already back in 1999-2000, in the early days of cell phones, I had not one but two cell phones plus a BlackBerry, which my wife very aptly called “the evil berry.” The BlackBerry alone was not enough, because it could not handle both email and phone calls simultaneously. I remember carrying on two separate conversations on the two phones, and sending an email on the BlackBerry, all at the same time – while driving! It was all for the sake of the business, of course, but this was insanity, and also dangerous. A friend was once emailing at a red light, and was so involved that he did not even notice when he rolled into the car in front of him. People are glued to their devices; normal human communication, including actual conversation and eye contact, is becoming a lost art. None of these are positive developments.
Seven years ago on a business trip, my BlackBerry was stolen from the overhead storage bin of an airplane. My initial reaction was, “How am I going to live without it?” With time, I saw that this was one of the best things that had ever happened to me. Without even realizing it, I had been handcuffed by my email, checking it constantly no matter where I was or who I was with. With the loss of the BlackBerry, I was set free. When I am at the computer, I check my email, but that’s it – and as I discovered, that’s really enough.