Passover is the most Kabbalistic holiday. Everything that is written about it talks about the personal spiritual work of a person, and this I felt. Two months after I found my teacher Rabash, the Passover holiday began. I saw for the first time how serious men, who had gone through this holiday 50 to 60 or more times during their lives, became excited by the preparations for the holiday.
My inner excitement was conveyed to them. I was among people who were central pillars, half of them had studied with Baal HaSulam, and I, a beginning student, didn’t understand anything. I wanted to please them somehow, so I immediately asked how it would be possible to help. They said that the oven for baking Matzot hadn’t been prepared, and for them that was the main thing. I brought a large compressor, connected it to the oven, cleaned all of the burners with compressed air and then cleaned it with an iron brush. They lit it and were very pleased. But it was small because the bricks on which the Matzot were baked were no longer usable. I brought an expert from a factory near Haifa who had very large ovens. He advised finding good stones. I did everything I could and found them, I fixed the doors and everything else.
After that, I discovered that even though I understood the laws of Passover, they had their own laws, a large amount of supplements, restrictions, and many conventional restrictions that amazed me. I was told that “this is what they do and that is everything.” In general, they didn’t ask about them, but just carried them out. Everything was derived from Passover embodying the departure of a person from his ego. Moreover, this was an absolute departure, detachment and ascension to the upper world! You detach and fly to another world! So, all of the laws are built on the basis of very strict conditions. I was compelled to draw this out from them and find out.
They didn’t want to tell me anything so that I wouldn’t make life difficult at home. They immediately told me that new students always overburden themselves and then “burn out” because of it. But in spite of it all, I clarified all of these laws. Understandably, at home, I didn’t act like this; that was impossible, especially with a wife and little children. In particular, because I intended to spend the holidays in Bnei Brak with the students of Rabash, I wanted to feel everything deeply myself because they carried out the instructions of Baal HaSulam, and he was strict about very severe limitations.
My teacher Rav Baruch Shalom Ashlag invited me to a meal and so I saw how Passover was organized by him. After every meal, he would throw the plate, spoon and fork into a bucket. All of this would remain there until the end of Passover and would not be washed, because if a crumb of Matzo would touch water, Chametz would be created. So they washed the dishes only after the holiday and kept them until the next holiday. At the time of the meal, Rabash sat me next to him, but I felt that everything that was around me was an area forbidden to enter, a kind of fence. The eating utensils with which I ate were also placed in a separate bucket. I didn’t feel opposed to this; I understood that this was the law.
This would be my acquaintance with the Passover holiday. To be honest, I “copied” all of their customs and we used them. Before Passover there was lots of work. In those days only I had a car, so I travelled with Rabash to the market to buy coffee for Passover, plates, and so forth. Besides that, he collected money for Passover all year, and before the holiday he travelled to all kinds of places and checked what he had to buy: pots, buckets, plates, and cups; everything was very simple. He loved stainless steel and glass because they were clean, and he was not familiar with and didn’t want plastic utensils. Grinders for meat and fish were also bought, which also had to be without plastic parts. In our time, it is very difficult to find meat grinders without plastic parts. Therefore I was compelled to take them apart and prepare identical parts and metal gaskets: lead, bronze and the like.
Question: You didn’t have the feeling that all of these laws were excessive?
Answer: No, I simply knew that our world consists of branches that come from spiritual roots, belonging to egoistic desire. Therefore, they are completely cut off and not used on Passover, and if they are used, it is in a limited manner. Suppose that it were possible to use wood, but it was not permitted to cook in it because it absorbs everything that is cooked in it. Generally, there are thousands of different restrictions. For example, eggs must be cooked from the start for the entire holiday, tomatoes, cucumbers, and garlic are not eaten. In short, besides meat and potatoes, in fact there was nothing. It was possible to use only salt from the Dead Sea. Naturally, we prepared pepper for ourselves. We bought the coffee green, sorted it, then baked it, ground it, and only then drank it. During the sorting we examined all the grains so that there would be no trace of worms. This was very difficult work.
Question: Did Rabash see how difficult it was for you to select the coffee?
Answer: Yes. Once he saw that I was no longer able to continue, he took a grain and said, “I sit and examine the grains because I want this grain to be clean and good, and from it my teacher can drink coffee.” Clearly, this was a very difficult lesson! But I was not ready to be involved with this for much time! A minute after the shock of his words passed, I again could not obligate myself to continue! These were not physical obstacles. If you were to take a person from the outside, or me, especially in those years when I had only just arrived in Israel, and say, “Select the coffee and you will get money in exchange for it,” I would have done this correctly and well. But this was done here to serve my teacher whom I thought was great, and specifically because of this, it was so difficult.
Comment: And yet, Passover is a profoundly internal holiday that indicates detachment from the ego.
Answer: The idea is that this is something that must be felt. So I was young, and also in the second and third year this had not yet penetrated inside; there was resistance, a person doesn’t want to hear or understand even though he is told. That is how many years pass until a person, under the influence of the Light, begins to listen. Small doses of Light over much time influence you and you gradually begin to understand everything. It is impossible to demand this of a new student. In the beginning, when he is still excited, he can sit and study from morning to night. But I wasn’t like that. From the start I was rigid, egoistic, and greatly resistant.
Comment: In spite of it all, this is an internal holiday with efforts to reach external accommodation! You cleaned the place, you thought and worked with your ego!
Answer: No. When you carry out all of these activities, you feel how loathsome they are to you and how much they are against your ego. Passover is the embodiment of a special first examination: ascent above the ego from which begins all spiritual ascent. A person feels, in contrast, when a person puts on Tefillin, wraps himself in a Tallit, and carries out other physical Mitzvot (commandments) in our world, he doesn’t feel anything. This is a Light that is too high, a high level.
When you know clearly that this is Kabbalah, this is bestowal, it is possible to some degree to understand, to feel something. This is very tangible because with every action that you carry out, it is a very simple action, you are detaching the ego from yourself. Therefore, to the same degree that you want to carry everything out, you truly want to detach the ego from yourself. You clothe every physical action with a spiritual intention. Even though it has no relevance to physical actions, you attach it. Actions like this are the embodiment of a sign of spiritual intent. Therefore, it is so important and close to us.
Comment: I have the sensation that in the lessons you are conveying the material about Passover through you! You don’t even let us talk to each other so that we would read and convey it through us.
Answer: First of all, there isn’t enough time and you also need to absorb and prepare this, even “swallowing” it without chewing. That is why I am in a hurry.
Question: When do the seven years of hunger begin? When does the cry appear in a person, “Save us and take us out!”?
Answer: It is when a person feels that working on himself is useless. But it isn’t useless because it is specifically this that brings him to a recognition and understanding of his inability to succeed with his efforts and that he truly requires help through the group. But it is necessary to see all of this! The main thing is to connect the entire chain in a person: In what manner should he carry out work on the ego, how is his form changed, which changes in form is he going through and in what manner, where does Passover begin and where does it end, and what happens after Passover? Which is to say, “Passover” is detachment from the ground and departure to a higher dimension. This is a transitional level to the spiritual world that the world implements while living here together with us on this Earth. And therefore this is so important.
Question: Did you feel the inner work of Rabash?
Answer: With very great difficulty, with very great internal tension. We no longer travelled to the sea, or a park, anywhere. We had only one task: to prepare the eating utensils. For this we travelled to the sea, I went into the water even though it was very cold (sometimes it almost snowed on Passover) and there I immersed the eating utensils. Rabash was not really sure of a Mikvah, he used to say: “There are no questions about the sea.” The sea is water that is completely ready for the immersion of traditional dishes.
Question: So what were the dishes prepared for?
Answer: In itself, water symbolizes Ohr Hassadim, which purifies all kinds of Kelim. We immerse all the dishes in water, those from which we eat and also those with which we eat. Immersion by itself symbolizes their purification from the ego.
Question: Was Rabash afraid of eating something that was not kosher for Passover?
Answer: When I came to him, among his students there were three old men with serious problems with their teeth, like those with false teeth, Rabash’s younger brother, and Moshe Gebelstein with whom I had studied in the first months. I suggested to them that I could prepare new false teeth for them. They were so happy that toward Passover they would have completely new false teeth. Then Rabash told me, how he lost his teeth at a very young age, this happened on Passover.
On Shabbat it was customary to eat fish, so on Friday, Rabash together with his student Krakovsky, the American, travelled from Jerusalem to Jericho, a place where it was possible to buy fish. When they arrived there, they bought fish, and on the way back, it became clear that their car had broken down and they were compelled to remain for Shabbat with the Arabs in a kind of caravan, a shack.
In Jerusalem, frightening rumors were spread about where they might be found and they wondered where they were! What happened to them?! There was talk about losing the family of a Rav and his students! Meanwhile, they were sitting in Jericho and could not leave there and could not communicate because this was many years ago, around 1935. They remained without food. It was Passover and there was nothing to eat. In a corner stood sacks of lemons and this was the only thing that was possible to eat.
Rabash said that the lemons that he ate were sweet. After that, his teeth began to hurt, the enamel began to crack. The prohibition against eating food that was not kosher was so strong! Moreover, this was Shabbat on which there is a real limitation on everything, it was impossible to pluck anything from a tree, it was impossible to do anything. Rabash told me about this when I was preparing false teeth for him. On Passover they were also accustomed to bring salt from the Dead Sea, so there was no other salt at all. There is a special mountain there from which it was possible to get relatively clean salt.
Comment: You said that sometimes when you looked at Rabash, you felt that he was going through terrible states.
Answer: He was very closed; therefore, in fact, it was impossible to see anything. I had already known him for many years, and in spite of it all, it was impossible to determine the spiritual states of the man. We feel the physical states because we are found in them ourselves. Therefore, analogously, it is possible to know and feel in what state a person is found. But regarding spiritual states, there is no way.
Question: What does Passover symbolize for a person?
Answer: This is a personal matter for a person. But the Passover that we celebrate, for those of us who want to detach from the physical ego and begin to work in the spiritual world, is the first system of communication between us and the Creator. We want to feel the spiritual world, its actions, its characteristics, its influence on us, its responses to our influence, meaning the entire system of creation, the Creator on the one hand, and on the other hand, ourselves through this system. Passover symbolizes the transition in which we leave (pass over) from a state of detachment from the Creator to a state of consciousness and contact with Him.
Question: Does this mean that we put aside all that we have, intelligence, logic, and so forth?
Answer: Naturally, this is a result of the influence of the Light. It is not necessary to quibble subtly; the Light simply influences the person and the person becomes different.
Question: What is this desire inside of me to go out to the upper world? What is this cry within me, the exit itself?
Answer: This is a given. It is given to a person when he works on himself and ascends with the help of his internal forces and means.
From KabTV’s “News with Michael Laitman” 4/4/17