Monday, March 22, 2010

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From Slavery to Freedom

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by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

We were rushing home for the Passover Seder last year, when one of my guests asked me a question that was really bothering him. He felt that he was so attached to food that he was actually addicted to it. I pointed out that he was not at all overweight, so he could not be too attached to it. He insisted that his desire for food was so strong that it ruled over him. I told him that his self-judgment was way too critical, that he was being unfair to himself. But this very meal that we were going to have would provide him with a clear answer to his question.

There are many religions, especially from the East, that insist their followers minimize their relationship with the world. Asceticism is quite common there. The Torah’s view is the opposite of this. While followers of Eastern religions wish to withdraw from the world, we are commanded to be involved with it. Our job is the same job that G-d originally gave to the first man, Adam, in the Garden of Eden. We are charged with taking care of His garden. We are to guard it and make sure that it flourishes. We are to do this by elevating it.

At first, the garden seems to be an entirely physical world. But that view only addresses its surface. The physical garden is not only Hashem’s gorgeous, physical creation. This lower, physical garden is a reflection of His upper, entirely spiritual garden. It is our job to reveal the underlying spiritual garden that permeates the physical garden. We do this by elevating the lower, physical world. How do we elevate the lower, physical world? We use it for holy purposes.

Back to my guest, I explained that the actual purpose of life is to reveal G-d’s Presence right here in this lower world. The sages tell us that this revelation can only come in joy.[i] They go on to explain that the joy they are speaking of is not the lower, sensual joy, but the joy that comes from doing a mitzvah. Well, not everyone can get ecstatic over elevating cow skin by writing on it and putting it on a doorpost. But after you learn and experience what a mezuzah really is such joy can come. Sadly, this is not a source of instant great joy for most Jews. However, eating is. And Passover night is the best time of the year to be totally involved with eating, and this eating is for a most holy purpose.

Why do we eat those delicious, gourmet matzahs? Gourmet? You bet. The definition of gourmet is that their preparation “involves high-quality ingredients and skilled preparation.” If you are fortunate enough to be eating those delicious, handmade, round, guarded matzahs, they certainly are all this and more. Their ingredients are guarded and their preparation is done by only skilled workers. They even have a guard standing over them with a stop watch to make sure they are made properly!

Then there is the strongest horse radish possible. It is so strong that you have to use goggles, and maybe a clothespin to pinch your nose shut while you grind it!

There is the best red wine you can afford, special foods tied to historical facts, plus the most delicious, festival meal to go along with it all (if you have any room for it). What a wonderful menu.

What a great night to indulge your senses. But with every bite we are reminded why we are eating this food. We are not eating this great food for our senses alone. But obviously we have to use our senses to eat it. We are eating it to satisfy the commandment to remember our going out of Egypt. Every bite is taken and enjoyed for a spiritual reason.

And this is how we elevate our senses and the physical world around us. We use them for holy purposes. Whatever you feel you want, you can find a holy way to have it.

When we go to work solely for money, we become slaves to our work. No matter how much money we earn, we will always want more. We will be so attached to it that we will want to work seven days a week in order to get more.

But when we go to that same job, not just to make money, but to make money to be able to do good deeds, then that very job turns into a holy job. The same work that enslaves us can become a source of freedom. It is then that we find ourselves leaving the slavery of Egypt, going out headed for the Promised Land.

[i] Gemora Shabbos 30b

2 comments:

yaakov said...

yasher koach, very well done. thank you!
perhaps you would consider a piece on how to derive joy from common mitzvot: brachas, torah study etc.
things that we can help each other with.

Neshama said...

Beautiful article, I agree wholeheartedly, you are so right about the Gourmet aspect. However, maybe your guest was trying to tell you that he has a hard time waiting so long to eat the chicken and potatoes after all the esoterical aspects of the evening! :-]

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