Our Passover Journey to Zion: Part One

In this letter, we will begin to discuss Torah teachings regarding the destination of our Passover journey and the process which enables us to reach our destination. Through these teachings, we will gain radical insights about our journey that are relevant to each of us, for as the Passover Haggadah states:
 “In every generation, one is obliged to regard himself as though he himself had actually gone out from Egypt.” (Passover Haggadah)
Dear Friends,
When Hashem appointed Moshe to be the “shepherd” of our people who would lead us out of Egypt, he was living in Midian, where he was shepherding the sheep of Jethro, his father-in-law. The Torah tells us that “he guided the sheep far into the wilderness, and he arrived at the Mountain of God, to Horeb” (Exodus 3:1). The Torah later refers to the Mountain of God as “Mount Sinai” (Exodus 19:11).
When Moshe first arrived at the Mountain of God, he saw a burning bush that was not consumed. It was at the burning bush that Hashem appointed Moshe to be the leader who would take us out of Egypt. Before Moshe was given this task, Hashem said to him:
“I have indeed seen the affliction of My people that is in Egypt, and I have heard their cries because of their taskmasters, for I have been aware of their suffering. I shall descend to rescue them from the hand of Egypt and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7, 8).
In the above passage, Hashem reveals to Moshe that our journey to freedom will lead to the Promised Land – “a land flowing with milk and honey.” In the following statement, Hashem also reveals to Moshe that we must first arrive at the Mountain of God before we enter the Promised Land:
“When you take the people out of Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:12).
What does it mean to serve God? It means that we are to serve the altruistic Divine purpose for all creation. This is the essential principle of the Torah, and an early example of this principle can be found in the following verse:
“And Hashem God took the human being and placed him in the Garden of Eden to serve it and to protect it. (Genesis 2:15)
This verse contains two related Divine mandates – to serve and to protect the Garden. The following ancient teaching reveals that these two mandates represent all the “mitzvos” – Divine mandates – within the Torah:
The mandate to “serve” the Garden represents mitzvos aseh – the mitzvos of the Torah which call upon us to engage in actions which nurture and elevate the world, including ourselves. And the mandate to “protect” the Garden represents mitzvos lo sa’asay – the mitzvos of the Torah which prohibit actions which damage and degrade the world, including ourselves. (“Tikunei Zohar” 55)
As mentioned above, Hashem told Moshe, “When you take the people out of Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain.” This Divine statement is a reference to our arrival at Mount Sinai, when we would commit ourselves to serving the altruistic Divine purpose through fulfilling all the mitzvos of the Torah (Exodus 24:7). Hashem was therefore telling Moshe that we would first have to be willing to serve the Divine purpose before we would enter the Promised Land. This Divine message about our service was reinforced when Hashem later told Moshe to convey to Pharaoh the following messages regarding the exodus of Israel from Egypt:
“Send out My child that he may serve Me” (Exodus 4:23).
“Let My people go that they may serve Me (Exodus 7:26).
Why was it necessary for us to receive the Torah and its mandates of service before we entered the Land? The answer can be found in the classical sources that we have studied in this series. These sources reveal that our mission is to serve the Divine purpose through fulfilling the Torah in the Land, as in this way we can become a social model of the Divine Teaching that can inspire other peoples. For example, the Prophet Isaiah conveyed to us the Divine message that we are to become a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). And Isaiah also conveyed to us the Divine promise that when we fulfill our universal mission in the Land, “nations will go by your light” (Isaiah 60:3). 
On the night of the Seder, we are to remember that our Passover journey leads to the Land, and we therefore chant the following words at the beginning of the Seder:
“This year, we are here, but next year we will be in the Land of Israel.”
We later chant the following words from the Haggadah which remind us of our historic arrival at Mount Sinai when we received the Torah and its mandates of service:
“Blessed is the Omnipresent One, Blessed is He. Blessed is the One Who gave the Torah to His people Israel, Blessed is He.”
Through this statement, we thank Hashem at the Seder for giving us the Torah and its path of service. In the following related statement, the Haggadah points out the contrast between our idol-serving ancestors who lived in the era before Avraham and Sarah, and our present status as the people of the Torah:
“In the beginning our ancestors served idols, but now the Omnipresent One has brought us to His service.”
As we shall learn, serving the Divine purpose is a major theme of the Haggadah, for our renewed commitment to this service will enable us to reach the destination of our Passover journey. In this spirit, we chant at the end of the Seder:
“Next Year in Jerusalem!”
Our yearning for Jerusalem is not just for our sake, for our renewal in Jerusalem will inspire other peoples to serve the Divine purpose, and the following prophecy will be fulfilled:
“Many peoples will go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.’ ” (Isaiah 2:3).
Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (See below)
A Related Insight and Comment:
1. In the messianic age of universal enlightenment, the peoples of the earth will serve Hashem. One of the sources for this universal idea is found in the following Divine promise regarding this new age:
“For then I will revolutionize the peoples to speak a pure language, so that they will all proclaim the Name of Hashem, to serve Him with a united resolve.” (Zephaniah 3:9)
“For then I will revolutionize the peoples” – At the dawn of the messianic age, there will be a revolutionary change in human consciousness. This is because human beings will no longer view the creation as an arena for their selfish gratification, and they will finally recognize that they were created to serve the altruistic Divine purpose for creation.
2. Rabbi Chasman’s teaching about the “four children” within each of us is found in the following ArtScroll Haggadah: Pesach Haggadah – With a Commentary Culled from the Classic Baalei Mussar. For information, visit:

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