Monday, April 8, 2019

The Universal Message of Pesach

Exodus Painting by Leslie Ann Cornish

Reb Noson of Breslov
Likutey Halakhos, Har’sha’ah 4:7 (abridged)
Based on Likutey Moharan I, 59 (“Heikhal Hakodesh”)
Translated by Dovid Sears

While Breslov Chasidus clearly affirms the holiness of Israel and the primacy of the role of the Jewish people in the Divine plan, this is not an exclusivist viewpoint, but one that is inclusive, and ultimately universal. See, for example, Likutey Moharan I, 10, which discusses the primacy of “Jacob” (i.e., the Jewish people) in making G-d’s existence and kingship known to all nations. The present teaching is one of many in Likutey Halakhos that express this inclusive sentiment. (For a few other examples, see the Breslov teachings translated in my “Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition” web page here.) 

Every Jew is required to engage in building the “Heikhal Hakodesh (Holy Palace)” [which denotes the collective consciousness of the holy in the world], as discussed in Likutey Moharan I, 59. That is, one should bring other souls closer to G-d. Just as one must leave his personal condition of spiritual exile, he must endeavor to liberate others along with himself, thus to restore many souls to G-d. For this is each person’s primary avodah (spiritual work): to make G-d’s [existence and] mighty acts known to humanity…

This is the gist of the mitzvah of remembering and retelling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. For the Exodus from Egypt constituted the beginning of the Jewish people’s drawing close to G-d, through all the signs and miracles that we beheld with our eyes at that time. Therefore, it is a mitzvah to recall this and to speak about it every day; as it is written, “Speak of all His wonders” (Psalms 105:2)—thus to bring everyone in the world closer to G-d.

For this was G-d’s underlying intent in all of the great wonders and awesome signs that He wrought for us, in taking us out of Egypt—an unprecedented event in the history of the world. All of this was meant to reveal His G-dliness and sovereignty and dominion to all humanity; as it is written, “In order to declare My Name through all of the earth” (Exodus 9:16), and “and in order that you tell into the ears of your son and your son's son” [of My signs ... and you will know that I am the Lord”] (ibid. 10:2).

Therefore, the entire Torah depends upon the Exodus from Egypt, which constitutes the first of the Ten Commandments (ibid. 20:2): “"I am the Lord, your G-d, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Similarly, the Exodus from Egypt is mentioned in connection with many commandments.

For the primary drawing close of all souls to G-d, thus to fulfill the words of the Torah, is through retelling the story of the Exodus from Egypt; that is, by recounting G-d’s mighty acts and wonders, which we witnessed at the time of the Exodus, and which we have seen in our lives ever since. For all miracles and salvations are incorporated within the paradigm of the Exodus from Egypt, which includes all future exiles (Bereishis Rabbah 16:4). Thus it is that the Exodus represents the drawing close of all humanity to G-d, which constitutes the building of the “Heikhal HaKodesh (Holy Palace).”

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