Thoughts on the Haggada


“And G-d will pass over the opening” (Exodus 12:23)

We are told in the Haggadah that in every generation we should try and picture ourselves as if we are leaving Egypt. The Chassidic writers point out that this is not simply an exercise in imagination. We too, can benefit in some ways from the blessings of the Exodus in the same way as our ancestors did.

According to the Midrash, the Jews of the Exodus were not especially spiritual. Indeed, some of them were as involved in idolatrous practices as their Egyptian hosts.

Yet, G-d took them out of Egypt. He gave them a spiritual boost that transported them to great heights.

The road to spiritual greatness is normally long and arduous. Maimonides says it is even possible to aspire to prophecy but in order to do so a person must abandon mundane pleasures and devote himself totally to prayer and meditation. Anyone who sincerely seeks closeness to G-d will be given divine assistance in reaching that goal, we must nevertheless initiate the process ourselves. As the Midrash states: G-d says, ‘Give me an opening the size of a point of a needle and I will broaden it like the portals of a palace.’ Man must, however, first provide this opening.

On Pesach, even this minimal requirement was waived. The Rebbe of Kotzk interpreted the above verse, ‘G-d will pass over the opening’ to mean that on Pesach, G-d waived the requirement that man must initiate the effort to come close to Him, and like a loving father who lifts and embraces an infant, He elevated the Israelites to dazzling spiritual heights.

The Chassidic Masters tell us that each Passover this unusual grace is repeated. Let no one despair that he or she are too far-gone, and that they are too absorbed in secular society and earthly desires that spirituality is unattainable. On Passover we can be elevated virtually without effort to great spirituality. The only requirement is to turn up and not resist being elevated.

In the Passover of the Exodus, G-d took the initiative on our behalf. He will do so again if we let Him.

Dayan Ivan Binstock