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Why the Festival of Matzot Is Called Passover
Article No. 13, Tav-Shin-Mem-Zayin, 1986-87
There is a question: Why do we call the good day, which is called in the Torah “Festival of Matzot [unleavened bread],” “Passover” (Kedushat Levi, Bo). The answer is because it is written, “I am for my Beloved and my Beloved is for me.” That is, we praise the Creator and the Creator praises Israel. This is why this good day is called in the Torah, the “Festival of Matzot.” It is as though the Creator praises Israel, meaning that Israel and I call the good day by the name “Passover,” as it is written, “And you shall say, ‘It is a Passover offering to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, and spared our homes.’”
We likewise find in the war of Midian (Numbers 31:2-3), “And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘Avenge the vengeance for the children of Israel on the Midianites.’ And Moses spoke to the people, saying, ‘Bring out men from among you for an army, that they may go against Midian to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian.’” We should understand why the Creator said to Moses that the war against Midian is the vengeance of the children of Israel, and Moses said to the people the opposite of what the Creator had told him: He said that the war against Midian was the Lord’s vengeance. We should explain this in the same manner: The Creator praised Israel, that it is the vengeance of the children of Israel, and Moses praised the Creator before Israel. This is why he changed what the Creator had said to him.
However, we should also understand what does it mean that the Creator praises Israel and the people of Israel praise the Creator. Are we speaking of flesh and blood people, where each one respects the other? Can you imagine that the Creator needs to be respected? I already said an allegory about this: It is like a man walking into a hen-house, and since he heard what our sages said (Shabbat 113a), “Rabbi Yochanan called his garments ‘My honorers’” (meaning that when a person wears dignified clothes he is respected). For this reason, since he wants the hens to respect him, he wears nice clothes. Clearly, anyone who sees him doing this will laugh at him because what honor can one receive from hens?
Accordingly, how can we say that the Creator wants us to respect and praise Him? Evidently, the Creator is not even similar to our allegory, since the distance between a human and a hen is only one degree, for chickens are animals and we are regarded as speaking, but it is all corporeality. But what distance is there between us and the Creator that you can say that the Creator is impressed by our praise, and that this is why Moses changed the words of the Creator, who said, “Avenge the vengeance of the children of Israel,” and he said to Israel, “the Lord’s vengeance”?
To understand the above, we must remember the purpose of creation, which—as our sages said—is to do good to His creations. In order for the benefit that He wishes to impart upon the creatures to be complete, meaning so that there will be no shame in it, there was a correction called “concealment.” Accordingly, while a person is still unable to do all his work in order to bestow, only when he corrects his actions and exits self-love, to that extent he exits the darkness and enters the light. This is called “coming out from darkness to light,” for then all of his receptions are only because he wants to impart pleasure upon the Creator by helping Him carry out His goal, which is unbounded bestowal, meaning a gift without any shame upon reception of the pleasure from the Creator.
By this we will understand why the Creator praises Israel. That is, the Creator wants to do good to His creations; this is why He praises Israel, for the intention is to benefit Israel. From this, the will to receive was created in the creatures, who want to receive in order to receive. This is regarded as wanting to receive because of self-love, since due to the will to receive that the Creator created in the creatures, they crave to receive abundance in order to satisfy the need that the craving causes them, which is why they receive. This is called “in order to receive.”
However, from this extends separation due to disparity of form. For this reason, the people of Israel take upon themselves the Tzimtzum [restriction]—not to receive delight and pleasure despite their craving. Nevertheless, they do not want to receive unless they know that they can aim to receive the pleasure in order to bestow. This means that since He desires to give, this is why they receive the abundance. But as far as their own benefit, they relinquish the pleasures. It follows that the people of Israel are praising the Creator. That is, they relinquish their own will and engage only in praising the King, meaning that which the King wants, they do.
This is why Moses changed what the Creator had said, “Avenge the vengeance of Israel.” The Creator said what Israel should do only for Israel’s benefit, but Moses changed what the Creator had told him, but this is not regarded as deviating from the purpose of benefiting His creations. Rather, the reason for the change was also to do good. Additionally, it was not because it is impossible for Israel to receive the benefit of delight and pleasure unless they aim their actions only to benefit the Creator. This is regarded as all their actions being only because of the praise of the Creator, meaning due to the fear of sublimity, which is because of the greatness and importance of the King.
However, we should understand why the praise of the Creator is called “Passover,” after the Creator’s passing over. It is also written, “and you shall eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.” RASHI interprets that the offering is called Passover after the passing over, and the passing over is that the Creator skipped over the houses of Israel from among the houses of the Egyptians. He would jump from Egyptian to Egyptian, and Israel in the middle escaped.
We should understand the meaning of skipping and passing over in the work. It is known that the essence of our work is to achieve Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, which is equivalence of form, by which we receive Kelim [vessels] that are suitable for reception of the abundance. It is also known that our Kelim come from the breaking of the vessels. The breaking of the vessels means that we want to use the vessels of reception in order to receive, and this is regarded as separation from the Creator. This occurred in the upper worlds, and also through the sin of the tree of knowledge, when the Kelim fell into the Klipot [shells/peels], and we must elevate them because we come from their Kelim. By working with our desires to receive—which come from there—in order to bestow, we correct each time a piece of these Kelim, which are in the Klipot, and raise them to Kedusha[holiness/sanctity] by wanting to work only with the aim to bestow contentment upon the Creator.
Each time and each day, pieces of the Klipot—called “in order to receive”—are sorted. They are corrected so they can be used in order to bestow. The order is that a piece is elevated to Kedusha, and then we come down to a state of reception once again, and even forget that there is the matter of bestowal. But then we receive an ascent once more, take the part of the will to receive in us, overcome it, and correct it to work in order to bestow. This repeats itself each time until we acquire a certain measure of reception that has received the correction of bestowal. To that extent, there will be room for the upper abundance to enter. This Kli [vessel] is made by adding all the ascents that one had into one Kli, as it is written, “Penny by penny joins into a great amount” (Sotah 8).
By this we can interpret what we asked about Passover, that our sages said, “He would jump from Egyptian to Egyptian, and Israel in the middle escaped.” This means that every descent is called “Egyptian,” meaning he receives everything for self-love. “Israel in the middle” is an ascent, when he overcomes and does everything in order to bestow and not for his own sake. That state is called “Israel.” But afterwards he descends once more. It follows that he descends once more into being an Egyptian, and so on and so forth. “And Israel … escaped” means that he escaped from the Egyptians and became Israel.
In order for a person to have a complete Kli that can receive within it upper abundance, the Creator jumps from Egyptian to Egyptian, meaning He takes into account only the Israel that is between each two Egyptians and joins them into a great amount. It is as though there is no interruption between Israel and Israel. Skips over the Egyptian means that it is as though the Egyptian does not exist in reality. For this reason, all the Israelites are joined into a great amount until he has a complete Kli.
Accordingly, we should interpret what is written there, that He skipped over the houses of Israel and only the Egyptians were killed. It is as RASHI interprets, He passed over, meaning jumped from Egyptian to Egyptian, and Israel in the middle escaped. This means that all the Egyptians were killed, and only the Israelite, who were in the middle, in between the Egyptians, stayed alive. The literal meaning is that all the descents that are between the ascents were erased, and only ascents remained.
This is as though they never had descents, since they were erased. This is the meaning of the Egyptians being killed. Hence, now it is possible for all their ascents to connect and become one state.
There are many discernments in the will to receive that was corrected into working in order to bestow and become one complete Kli for reception of the light of redemption, called the “exodus from Egypt,” when they were liberated from the exile in Egypt, enslaved to self-love, called the “Klipa of Egypt,” as it is written, “and He brought out His people, Israel, from among them, to eternal freedom.”
Had the descents remained, there would be interruptions between each two ascents due to the descent in the middle. But when the descents disappear we should look only at the ascents, and then we can speak of the Kli that will be fit to receive the light of redemption.
For this reason, we should learn that one should not focus on the descents, when he always falls from his spiritual state. Rather, he should focus on the ascents. Therefore, when he sees that he is in a state of lowliness, he must not despair. Instead, he must overcome above reason and rise again. He must not look at the past and say, “Since until now I thought that I had already understood that it is not worthwhile to focus on self-love,” still he sees that he soon suffers a descent. Therefore, a person asks, “What’s the point of ascending if I must keep falling? What do I gain by this?”
To this comes the answer: “And the children of Israel sighed from the work, and their cry rose up to the Lord.” That is, there was an awakening from below. Then the Creator killed the Egyptians and the Israelites remained and joined into a great amount, meaning because of all the ascents that they had one at a time, they had a big Kli in which to receive the abundance.
It therefore follows that no good deed of a person is lost. For this reason, we must not say, “How do the ascents help me if I lose them right away?” This would be true if he could hang on to them henceforth and not descend. But it was said about this, “Who will climb up the mountain of the Lord?” This is one discernment.
The other discernment is “And who will rise in the place of His holiness?” To this comes the answer, “He who is of clean hands and a pure heart,” meaning one who has been rewarded with clean hands and has no more self-love in him, but his only intention is to bestow. “A pure heart” means that his heart is with the Creator, that faith is fixed in his heart. These people have no descent in the degrees of lowliness, but all their ascents and descents are in spiritual degrees. Since we should attain complete degrees, called NRNHY de Nefesh and NRNHY de Ruach, their ascents and descents are all in the King’s palace, and not outside the King’s palace, and they are not thrown down to the place of darkness and the shadow of death.
However, at the same time we must know that no ascent is lost. Rather, “penny by penny joins into a great amount.” For this reason, a person should be happy when he feels that spirituality is desirable to him and he wishes to come as close as possible to the Creator. He considers it a great privilege that an awakening from above has suddenly come to him, and he begins to look at self-love as loathsome and not worth living for, and yearns only for spirituality.
Yet, one should know that he should not say, “When I have an awakening from above, I will begin to do the holy work.” Rather, the fact that a person remembers that there is spirituality, even if he has no desire for it, he should already be thankful to the Creator for knowing that there is spirituality in the work, though he has no desire for the work.
This is similar to a great king who comes to town but not all the people are told about it. Only a handful of people are informed, and not all of them are permitted to enter, but only a chosen few, and they, too, require much persuasion among the ministers in order to receive the permit to enter.
And this person was informed only that the king has come, but he was not given an entry permit. How is that person thankful to those who notified him?
It is likewise here. He is aware that there is a King in the world, but he was not yet permitted to enter and serve the King. That is, he knows and believes to some extent that there is a Creator to the world, but he has not been granted permission to leave his work and work for the sake of the King. That is, he has not received from above a desire to leave his corporeal engagements and engage in spirituality. That person should be delighted with this knowledge, meaning that he has some faith in the Creator.
If a person appreciates this knowledge although he cannot overcome and engage in serving the Creator, still, the joy from remembering that there is a King in the world can lift him from his lowliness, admit him into the work, and give him a desire to overcome his body. This is so precisely if a person pays attention and values this awareness.
This extends from the root, as our sages said, the Shechina [Divinity] is present only out of joy of Mitzva [good deed/commandment]” (Shabbat 30). This means that the joy he has while performing the Mitzva causes him Dvekut with the Creator, as said above, “The blessed clings to the blessed,” since joy is a result of wholeness.
Since he values the Giver, His importance and greatness, and there is a rule that if the giver of the gift is an important person, even if he gives a small gift, it is still regarded as a great thing. For this reason, from the awareness that he believes that he was notified from above that the King is in town, although he was not permitted to come in and speak with the King, since it is evident that he values the knowledge that the King exists, he is immediately permitted to enter and serve the King. Because they see that he values the King, they treat him with consideration and give him strength to overcome the thoughts and desires of the body.
Accordingly, we can praise joy. That is, because of the joy of being inspired by the importance of the King, he is given from above an illumination that is placed on the Kli of joy, which he has given from below as an awakening from below. This causes an awakening from above, and he is given permission, meaning a desire and craving to overcome the thoughts of the body.
It therefore follows that Passover is named after the Creator’s passing over the houses of Israel and leaving each and every one from Israel alive. It is known that there is no absence in spirituality, for the smallest discernment in Israel remained alive, and nothing was lost. Because the Creator saved Israel, this good day is called Passover, after the Creator’s deeds.
And regarding what we asked about the praise, how can it be said that the Creator wants to be praised and is He impressed by the praise of flesh and blood, there are two answers to this: 1) With respect to the goal, that His desire is to do good to His creations, meaning that all the delight and pleasure that the people of Israel receive, while they receive them, they aim to benefit the Creator, meaning that the Creator will enjoy this because He wants the creatures to receive delight and pleasure. And since they want equivalence of form, when they engage in Torah and Mitzvot, it is only because they want to bestow upon the Creator and not for their own benefit. This is regarded as the people of Israel praising the Creator, that because of the greatness and importance of the Creator, we try to please Him.
The Creator praising Israel means that He wants to give delight and pleasure, which is the purpose of creation, and He also wants that there will be no shame upon receiving the delight and pleasure. For this reason, He wants them to work in order to bestow. It follows that His praising Israel means that the people of Israel relinquish self-love and want to work only in order to bestow.
For this reason, He always focuses on their merit, meaning He counts the works that they do in order to bestow, so that He will be able to bestow abundance and there will be no flaw of shame. He does not speak of what they do in order to receive; He wants to erase this from the face of the Earth, as said in the clarification on the name, “Passover,” that He passed over, meaning killed the Egyptians that were between Israel and Israel, and spared the Israel in between. Naturally, He could have focused only on the merit of Israel, meaning on the ascents that they had, which is the merit of Israel, meaning the awakening from below that they did then in baking the Matzot [unleavened bread].
This is why the festival of Matzot and the people of Israel were written in the Torah, since the Creator focused on the merit of Israel while baking Matzot for the sake of the Creator, and did not focus on other things. This is called that the Egyptians who were there, He killed, meaning obliterated them as though they weren’t in reality. By this, all of Israel joined into one big degree, which was whole, becoming a Kli to receive the abundance. This is regarded as the people of Israel calling that good day “Passover.”
Now we can understand the second reason why the people of Israel named it in praise of the Creator. The first reason is His desire to do good to His creations, and their not wanting to receive because of self-love. Therefore, they receive the delight and pleasure because He wants us to receive. This is called “in order to bestow,” and this is in praise of the Creator.
The second reason that we praise the Creator is that He did not regard the descents and focused only on the ascents. This is regarded as passing over, where He took all the ascents into account and erased the descents from the face of the Earth. This is the praise of Passover, and this is regarded as speaking in praise of the Creator.
We should understand why it is written, “And you shall eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.” Why Passover is called “haste”? According to what RASHI interprets, Passover is called “haste” because the Creator jumped and passed over from Egyptian to Egyptian, and Israel in the middle, escaped. We see that skipping to the end means that He rushed the end, as though it was not yet time. Since he rushed himself, this is why Passover is called “haste.” It is as though he had to hurry so that the Egyptians who were among the Israelites would not awaken, as it was still not their time to be corrected. This is why He rushed Himself and saved what He could save. That is, only Israel received correction and not the Egyptians. This is why it is called “haste.”
However, it is written concerning the end of correction (Isaiah 52:12), “For you will not go out in haste, nor will you not flee, for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. Behold, My servant will be enlightened, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.” The ARI interprets that this will be at the end of correction, when even SAM becomes a holy angel, and the stony heart, which was forbidden to sort prior to the end of correction and remained in the Klipot, it, too, will then be sorted into Kedusha.
This is the meaning of “very good.” “Good” is the angel of life. “Very” is the angel of death, and it, too, will be a holy angel. This is called “Death will be swallowed up forever.” This is how the ARI interprets.
Indeed, we can interpret what is written, “For you will not go out in haste, nor will flee,” not as it was in the land of Egypt, when redemption was in haste and He jumped from Egyptian to Egyptian, and Israel in the middle escaped, since He had to obliterate the Egyptians and only the people of Israel remained alive.
But at the end of correction, when the Egyptians will also be corrected, there will be no need to be in haste because there will be no need to jump from Egyptian to Egyptian with Israel in the middle remaining in Kedusha. Rather, all the Egyptians will receive their correction from the Whole One. Therefore, there will be no need to hurry, meaning jump, but all the discernments that were in the Klipot will be corrected, as it is written, “And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.”
Therefore, a person should be happy. Through the joy he can come out of the state of lowliness that he is in. If a person asks, “What is there to rejoice about when he sees that he is in lowliness and has no desire to engage in Torah and Mitzvot?” He should receive his joy from the fact that he nonetheless knows that there is a King in the world. From this awareness alone he can be happy, as in the above allegory, that he was informed that the king came to town, and this gives him strength to ascend.
Inapoi la pagina 1987 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link