Question: The Pesach Haggadah, the story of exiting from Egypt begins with the words: “We were slaves in Egypt…”
Answer: We still are slaves, but we don’t realize it. We consider ourselves a free nation living in the “land of Israel,” but it is not the “land of Israel.” It is not even Egypt yet. “Egypt” means that we acknowledge the Pharaoh’s authority over us. However, we think differently.
Look what’s going on! What kind of game our ego plays with the people of Israel! We are submerged in endless arguments, quarrels… We are completely immersed in all sorts of problems. Our government and the entire country are split into numerous fragments. We are almost facing a civil war!
We are very far from Pesach! We still are in the deepest and darkest Egyptian slavery of the seven “years of hunger.” We don’t realize that it is our ego that governs us, plays with us, and pits us against each other.
Pesach is about a decision to run away from slavery, to exit from the power of egoism, from the state in which we “gobble” each other up, as it is said, “And the children of Israel cried out from the work…”
Question: Are we slaves today?
Answer: No, we are not, since “a slave” means that one feels one’s slavery and realizes one’s dependence on one’s evil nature. We admit that we hate our neighbor and that we are compelled to argue and fight with each other. We don’t know where this desire comes from. It rises from the inside and we don’t even acknowledge it, nor do we feel that the force that governs us is alien to us. We think it is we who choose to behave this way.
Many people do bad things, but do not consider them wrong. However, there are people who acknowledge: “I am tired of my wickedness! I don’t know what to do with this body of mine, with my nature, nerves, moods… I look at others and want to ravage them. I love neither my wife, nor my family. I want to abandon this world. Let it burn completely. I have no idea where to run away from this life! I wouldn’t mind living on a desert island.”
The wisdom of Kabbalah explains that human nature was created evil on purpose so that we come to the realization of its wickedness. First of all, we don’t feel that we are evil. We think it is natural for humans to be wicked. Then, we gradually learn to differentiate between ourselves and our nature and realize that we are built of two powers—“us” and our opposition, the evil inclination called “the Pharaoh.”
At this point, we regard the Pharaoh as the evil inclination that dwells in us, and think: “Maybe I should try to avoid its power? Let me try treating everybody well. It doesn’t matter what my attempts will end up with, but I still want to learn how to control myself!” The Pharaoh constantly turns off our “dual vision” that is set to differentiate between “us” and “him.” He makes us treat others in a bad way.
Eventually, we will come to understand that the Pharaoh is an evil and hostile power that took us over in order to make us acknowledge that it is an alien to us, thus bringing us to a desire to run away from it. It is not in our power to fight it, but we are able to detach from it. The detachment from the evil power is called the “escape from Egypt.” The evil stays intact; it is us who stop associating ourselves with it.
The evil is still inside us, somewhere in the deepest layers of us, but we don’t allow it to “jump” out; we suppress it and detach from it. Detachment from the evil by rising above it is called “exiting Egypt, an escape from the power of the Pharaoh.” At this point, we reach redemption. We are not yet a free people in the free land. We haven’t transitioned from slavery to liberty yet. We just ran away from slavery, but haven’t yet attained freedom.
At this point, we desperately need to detach from the Pharaoh. This state is called “Pesach.” We start correcting the properties associated with Egypt and the Pharaoh. We don’t have another nature. All we have is the evil inclination that we must correct and turn it into benevolence. In order to achieve this state after exiting from Egypt, we need a special power that allows us to make clarifications on our self-correction. This period is called “counting down the days of Omer.”
In Egypt, there was plenty of bread for us. During the first week after we exited Egypt we ate “frugal bread” called “matza.” Later, we returned to regular bread. This period is called “counting down the days of Omer. “Omer” is a sheaf of grains.
We check our wicked desires, all 49 of them. These desires are called “Sefirot.” Seven Sefirot or seven parts of our desire are called “Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet, Netzah, Hod, Yesod, and Malchut.” Each of them splits into 7 parts. That’s why we have 7 X 7 = 49 different desires that we are ready to correct.
We “abandoned” these desires at the time of our exodus from Egypt, i.e., we stopped using them. Now, we start testing them again. We check each desire and evaluate whether we used them to hurt others, slander, fight, etc. We should find a way of using the same desires to benefit others.
We should transition from the evil to the good inclination in each of our desires. We have to do an “inventory” of our wickedness. We must find a way of using our desires for benevolent purposes.
So far, it is not yet about detaching from our prior state. During Pesach night, we run away and hide from all desires. We check them and try to understand what our desires look like now. We contemplate them from a new level already being “out of Egypt” and away from the power of the Pharaoh.
We look at our desires and become terrified that we previously had them. However, now we have already distanced them away from us; we do not consider them ours any more. We identify ourselves with the point that exited from Egypt and is outside of any egoistic desire.
At this time, from a new “height” we check each desire, one by one, all 49 of them. It is called “49 days of the Omer count” since from the new level that we have just achieved, we start counting and testing all of our desires and see if we are able to alter them and use them for good purposes instead of the wicked ones as we did before.
It is possible because of the Pharaoh who reveals our wickedness to us. Now, we can gradually turn the evil into the good. 49 days of the Omer count is the preparation for the 50th day that is called “Shavuot”—the Giving of the Torah.
On one hand, it is called “Shavuot” because we counted all of our desires and made an “inventory” of them, on the other hand, it is called “The Giving of the Torah” since we receive the Light that Reforms.” The Creator said: “I created the evil inclination and made the Torah as a spice for it.”
At this time, we clearly see the evil since we made an inventory of our desires. Now, we need a special Light, a specific force, called “the Torah” that will help us use our desires one after another and all of them together for the sake of bestowal and benevolence of others since the major law of the Torah is “love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the level we eventually will attain.
From KabTV’s “A New Life” 3/24/15