The Wings of Morning -
A Torah Review

Yaacov Dovid Shulman

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Volume VII, Issue 33

Pesach 5763, April 2003

Unless otherwise noted, translations and original material copyright © 2002 by Yaacov Dovid Shulman (

by Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Chametz is something that is fermented, meaning that it is intrinsically soured. (Chamutz means vinegar.) The world is intrinsically soured.

R. Nachman of Breslov has this story to tell:

Once, a king told his friend, the prime minister, "As an astrologer, I see that whoever eats any of the wheat that grows this year will go mad. Let us think of some solution."

The prime minister answered, "Let us have some of last year's wheat set aside for us so that we will not have to eat the tainted grain."

The king replied, "If we do this, we alone will be sane in a mad world. Then it will be as though we are the ones who are mad and the others sane. But it isn't possible to set wheat aside for everyone either. So we will also have to eat the tainted wheat. But we shall make a mark on our foreheads, so that when we look at each others' foreheads, we will know that we are mad" (Avaneha Barzel, p. 27).

Matzah is squeezed. We are squeezed tight, the breath is knocked out of us, we cannot breathe in the atmosphere of the world. Juice is called "mitz"–"squeezed" fruit. Grape juice is "mitz anavim," "squeezed grape juice."

That's why matzah is both "the bread of affliction" and "the bread of freedom"–because there are two types of straits. Egypt is Mitzrayim, which means "straits"–God has been pressed out of reality. And there is a holy strait in which (says the Lubavitcher rebbe) divinity enters the finite dimensions of our world. What a big joke on the Egyptians that the "bread of affliction" that they forced the Jews to eat in servitude actually contained the vacuum to be filled by divinity (God is always playing these types of jokes).

So we drink wine, four glasses of wine, each corresponding to a level of redemption. Wine, "yayin," is related to the word "yenun," a name of the Moshiach. Wine takes us into the realm of the possible, where contact with divinity is total. So we lean on our left side at those points in the seder where we celebrate freedom–a strange custom, imitating the table customs of the Romans. Left is "s'moal," related to the name of contamination and confusion, "Samael." We lean upon and depend upon the confusion of the world to rebound to freedom.

From Pharaoh, we learned how to sanctify ourselves. That's why we learn about how to hold the Kiddush cup from the way Pharaoh held his wine cup.

From Pharaoh, we learned how to renew ourselves. That's why we learn about commemorating our birthday from Pharaoh's commemoration of his birthday.

We learn how to lean from Rome, which the sages treat as Edom. "Edom" means "I will be silent." The nation that attempted to silence us is used by us to provide the silence upon which our meaningful speech rests.

Who better to learn freedom from than our oppressors? "Min hametzar karati," "I have called out from the straits."

Maror is the "mirror" to ourselves–what a dreary and depressing vista! Is there any greater impetus to change than seeing what we are really like?

The "Haggadah"–the "telling." The "telling" of what? The little song at the end of the Haggadah–the climax (after the official ending, when only the king's best friends remain): Chad Gadya–"one little goat." Actually on Yom Kippur there were two little goats: one to God and one to Azazel. Which is the one little goat? They are both the same goat. The goat that is to Azazel is also the goat to God. In the future (states Rav Kook), there will be no demarcation line between good and evil–just one goat.

Until that time, we tell the story of the Exodus–sipur yetziat Mitzrayim. Sipur is from "sefer," a scroll. In Hebrew, some verbs have opposite meanings (chata, sinned; chatei, to purify). We unscroll the exodus from Egypt, let it play out, let it be, but we keep the process in bounds, in a hierarchical structure, the seder (the order). Yet even within this realm of procedure and time, the instantaneous and unbound exists. We are celebrating the holiday of "Pesach," the "leap."

From "yalal," "wailing," we proceed to "hallel," "praise." "Yalal" begins with a "yod"; "hallel" begins with a "hey"; the two letters together spell a name of God. We find God in the process from wailing to praise. Even within the wailing, the praise existed. Even within the praise, the wailing resonates.

by R. Menachem Ekstein

It is well-known that Hasidism places great stress on Hasidim gathering together on the Sabbath and holidays. Hasidism is very much concerned with the influence of our human surroundings. This fact that moods and states of mind affect others is well-known. Any sensitive person will encounter such phenomena on an almost daily basis.

We have seen how the appearance of a cheerful person can lift the mood of others with his presence alone, as though invisible rays of happiness were streaming from him, entering their hearts and awakening joy within them. The opposite is also true. A depressed person can make others depressed just by coming into contact with them, as though clouds of worry precede him and settle upon their hearts.

Hasidism is very much concerned with this hidden aura that flows from every human being, because the influence of that power is strongest of all in spiritual matters. Hasidism teaches that faith is natural, and the soul of every human being yearns to recognize its Creator, whether or not one acknowledges the fact. And so if we come into the vicinity of a person who has freed his soul from all doubts and self-questioning insofar as he uses them for his own good [unclear] due to his having already arrived at a clear and certain recognition of God with this true light shining brightly in him, then we will certainly sense those hidden forces that emanate from him. The greater a person's spirituality and development of his soul, the greater and more powerful are the forces that emanate from him. His influence is particularly strong on people who have come to be with him and who are also engaged in freeing their souls from doubt and lack of certainty. They can see much of the light that emanates from people greater than they. (As Hasidic texts state, every one receives what he is prepared to receive.)

When Hasidim pray together, and amongst them are many great people who have raised their souls to a high level, it is as though the synagogue is filled with rays of divinity. The mood passes from person to person, with those on a higher level affecting others, raising them and helping them free their souls from their bodies, to which they had been enslaved. When a prayer leader prays with great feeling and passion, and can actually see the words that he is saying, he can bring about the same phenomenon.

We can see this dynamic on a daily basis. If a political speaker addresses his audience with feeling and passion, he can move their hearts, influence them and persuade them to accept his opinions and outlook. If a speaker can be so powerful, how much more can people influence each other spiritually. A political speaker may truly believe what he is saying, and say it with a genuine passion that comes from the depths of his heart. Nevertheless, he is presenting an idea that is not firmly embedded in people's souls. He is not discussing an absolute truth that rules the world but some temporary matter, such as the ideology of some new movement that sweeps a person up for a while then yields to the next movement.

But in the realm of spirituality, the prayer leader is reciting the words that Moshe Rabeinu said almost three thousand, three hundred years ago. He recites Shema Yisrael, proclaiming the oneness of the Creator in the words of Moshe Rabeinu. These words are true and established forever, living within the soul of every individual, until they will one day become evident to all humanity. So if the prayer leader proclaims these words from the depths of his soul, if he actually sees their truth and he feels them within himself, it is no wonder that he can inspire the hearts of those who are listening to him and raise them up so that they too will see this basic and universal truth with the greatest clarity.

Of course, if people harden their hearts and encase their emotions behind a wall of steel, or if they don't hear his voice because they are immersed in thoughts about their day-to-day lives, his voice will not enter their hearts, just as a speaker cannot influence his sworn opponents or someone who is so immersed in other thoughts that he does not hear his words.

In unusual circumstances, a person's words can strip away all the masks and penetrate other peoples' hearts even against their will. But usually, one can only influence someone who is paying close attention, who gives deference to the speaker, and who wants the speaker's words to affect him. A person listening to someone lead the prayers has to pay attention to the words and feel a connection to them. Then, if the prayer leader is this type of elevated personality, there is no doubt that the person listening will feel the words lift him up. According to his ability and to the degree that he has developed his ten soul qualities, he will see the great, lucid vitality within those words. Many times a prayer leader can raise people's souls multiple levels. In one step, they can rise to a level that they would otherwise only have been able to attain after weeks or even months.

T'na'ei Hanefesh L'hasagat Hahasidut

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