Pesach is a holyday of liberation, traditionally viewed, the Jewish people celebrate their freedom from slavery, from Egypt, and from the rule of Pharoah. This also begins the journey into the desert, towards becoming an actual nation, receiving the Torah and at last arriving to their home-land in Israel.
Every year at this time, the 15th day of Nisan, on the full moon, Jewish people all over the world gather to celebrate the “Exodus”, by attending a seder (Jewish ritual feast), telling the story of exodus, eating matzah, and drinking four cups of wine. There is a lot of ceremony involved in a traditional seder, and a lot of details to get lost in, but at the root of it all it’s about exploring personal and collective slavery and freedom.
The seder is about asking questions, the format is designed to encourage “children” to ask questions, and that’s just it… At the Pesach seder we, as adults, are invited to become like children, to get into a space of awe and wonder, to embrace a sense of innocence, and question the realities we think we “know” are real. We are inspired to engage in a state of “beginner’s mind” asking deep, but simple questions about the nature of reality, slavery and freedom. We are encouraged (commanded) to embrace the seder process as if for the first time, entering into a state of slavery, returning to Egypt (the Egypt inside) and going through the actual liberation process that took place so many years ago.
Now the seder and story of Passover are riddled with metaphor and hidden mystery:
1. Egypt, or Mitzrayim in Hebrew, means narrowness or tightness… This alludes to the narrow and constricted places in our lives, as individuals and as a collective.
2. Pharoah , the king of Egypt, relates to the Pharoah within who has a hold on our hearts, keeping them hardened and closed to the everyday miracles of existence.
3. The constantly recurring theme of four: Four cups of wine, four questions, four sons etc. relate to the four lettered name of G!d, which symbolizes the involution and evolution of existence, as well as one’s own and the collective’s liberation processes.
4. The dipping (we dip a vegetable in salt water and marror in charoset) can be seen as G!d dipping us into a state of liberation, but then us, coming out and, needing to continue the journey of our own volition.
5. Matzah: The unleavened bread, free of chametz – which symbolizes haughtiness, being puffed up with ego, is also called the “poor-man’s bread”, and symbolizes a state of humility and freedom from ego.
There are many more hidden meanings and teachings brought throughout the seder process, but we’ll save those for later (see category: “Pesach Teachings”).
All in all Pesach and the seder are the start of a truly magical journey of growth and transformation, and the more one can enter into that childlike state of newness, of awe and wonder, and sincere questioning, the more one will be fully engaged in the liberation/transformation process that begins on Pesach, continues through sephirat ha’omer, and “ends” on Shavuot.