By the Grace of G-d
Sixth Dayl of the Week,
Erev Shabbos2-Kodesh-Shabbos HaGodol,3
11th day of Nissan,4 5744
To the Sons and Daughters of
Our People Israel, Everywhere,
G-d bless you all!
Greeting and Blessing:
On this day of Erev Shabbos HaGodol,5 with only a few days remaining to Pesach which, this year, begins6 and ends7 on the Third Day of the week, a day “twice blessed with good”5 (as also today, the Sixth Day of the week, was “twice blessed with good”),9
It is timely to reflect on a further point that is connected with Chag HaMatzos, Zman Cheiruseinu (Festival of Our Liberation), pursuant to our previous letter, dated Rosh Chodesh Nissan.
* * *
One of the details which differentiate the Festival of Pesach from our other festivals is the fact that, in addition to having its exact date specified in the Torah as to the day and month of the year when Chag HaMatzos
is to be observed (which is the case also in regard to our other festivals),10 the Torah emphasizes the exact point of the day,
the very moment,
when the Geulah (deliverance)10* from Egyptian bondage came, namely, bachatzi
halaila,11 “in the very middle
of the night”; and similarly pinpoints the exact moment
of Yetzias-Mitzraim10* (the Exodus from Egypt), namely, btetzem1l HaYom hazeh, bachatzi hayom,12 “in
the very middle of the day.”
It was exactly at midnight13 that the moment of the Geulah struck: Pharoah freed the Jews immediately, bringing the Galus to an end;14 moreover, he ordered them and urged them to leave Egypt, while the Egyptians did all they could to speed and aid this departure.15
A turning point in this direction occurred (five days earlier, on Shabbos) at the beginning of the preparations for the Korban-Pesach, when every Jew told his Egyptian neighbors,16 with absolute certainty, that the day of the Deliverance was approaching. It evoked a response akin to the spirit of liberation, whereupon the Egyptian firstborn (their eldest and strongest,17 representing the “bachatzi halaila” of Egyptian society) took up arms against their king, demanding that he let the Jewish people go. This resulted in a “slaughter of Egyptians by their own firstborn,” and served as a prelude to Yetzias-Mitzraim, as emphasized also by the designation and observance of the Shabbos before Pesach as “Shabbos HaGadol.”
And it was exactly at midday18 that the Jewish people went out of Egypt “with uplifted arm,”19 free men and women and proud to be Jews.
“Night” and “Day” are opposite phenomena, symbolizing opposing concepts of “darkness” and “light”20 in the spiritual sense;
Especially “midnight” and “midday,” connoting, respectively, the bleakest darkness of the night and the brightest light of the day.21
All this is also connected with the symbolic concepts of the “moon” and of the “sun,” discussed in the letter of Rosh Chodesh Nissan.
In addition to the conspicuous difference between the sun and the moon mentioned in the previous letter, namely, that the sun symbolizes constancy and sameness, while the moon represents change and renewal, yet both these contrary elements combined together are indispensable to achieve completeness in Avodas HaShem, there is a further fundamental distinction between the sun and the moon, as stated in the Torah:22 the sun being the “Great Luminary”23 to rule by day,24 while the moon is the “Small Luminary” to rule by night. This indicates two different and contrary ways in their “illuminating the earth”: The lunar light, however brightly the moon shines, even at its maximum fullness,25 does not transform night into day; the night remains night, which is synonymous with “darkness”, and “darkness He called ‘night’.”26 On the other hand, however weak is the light of the sun on the earth, such as at the beginning of the day or at day’s end, when the sun’s rays are at their weakest, it still makes “day,” which is synonymous with light, and “HaShem called light — ‘day’.”
This difference — metaphorically speaking — is reflected also in Avodas-HaShem. As explained in our Torah, Toras-Chaim (“instruction in living”27), Avodas-HaShem (serving G-d) encompasses the totality of a Jew’s everyday life in all, literally all, detailed aspects, as defined by the principle “Know HaShem in all your ways,”25 meaning, to acknowledge and serve29 HaShem in every way and in all activities. These comprise two categories: Mitzvah — the domain of religious duties, and R’Shus — the so-called “secular” domain.
The “Mitzvah” domain embraces all those ways and actions which a Jew is obligated to carry out, because HaShem has commanded to do them; these are all matters of Torah and Mitzvos. When a Jew learns Torah and does Mitzvos, he irradiates himself as well as his surroundings and the world at large30 with the Divine light of Ner Mitzvah vTorah Or31 (“a Mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light”). Whether he does it with a full measure of inspiration or, sometimes, with less enthusiasm, it is always Ner Mitzvah vTorah Or — the “Great Luminary” in Avodas-HaShem.
The second category, that of R’shus, is the domain of ordinary matters, such as eating, drinking and the like, which in themselves and for themselves are no Mitzvah (except on Shabbos and Yom Tov, or in the case of Pikuach-Nefesh, etc.).
And although the so-called secular aspects of the everyday life should, and must, be ruled by the Torah, Torah Or, they bear no comparison32 with Torah and Mitzvos.
They receive their minor light of a “Small Luminary” from the Torah, the “Great Luminary,” in the way the moon is illuminated, and illuminates, by reflecting the light of the sun. 33
In one realm of R’shus in particular, because of its close association with powerful natural tendencies,34 special vigilance is called for in order to insure that it be l’Shem-Shomayim,35 “for the sake of Heaven.” If even in the realm of Mitzvos there is the possibility of “performance by rote,”36 where routine practice could not only pose a hindrance to the principle of ma’alin b’Kodesh37 (keeping holy matters on the ascendancy), but even to the proper observance to the Mitzvos themselves38 — how much more so in the “secular” matters, where habit can cause, G-d forbid, a downright debasement, even to the extent of the opposite of l’Shem Shamayim, e.g. gluttony, drunkenness, and the like. Hence, a special vigilance and a special effort is required to infuse in this area of the everyday life an ever greater measure of l’Shem-Shamayim, a growing measure of light, reaching out for the “moon at its fullest”; though even then it still is only “I’Shem Shomayim,”39 for the sake of Heaven to be utilized later in the performance of Matters-matters (Torah and Mitzvos). In the meantime it is still “night,” the realm of R’shus.
This is one of the lessons implied in the emphasis on the deliverance taking place bachatzi halaila, alluding, as mentioned, to R’shus-matters, which, in relation to Torah and Mitzvos, are like “night” to “day,” namely, that even in the most materialistic aspects of secular matters one can, and must, completely free one’s self from “Galus Mitzrayim” (subservience to materialism and its limitations).
Similarly also in matters which are alluded to in bachatzi HaYom, namely, matters of Ner Mitzvah vTorah Or, when one has reached the height of one’s strength and brightness — there is a need of “Yetzias Mitzrayim,” of breaking through and elevating oneself above all limitations and standards, including those of the realm of holiness40 — to break out of one’s complacency41 with one’s self and with one’s standards, and of the feeling of having completely satisfied one’s Rotzon (desire). On the contrary, regardless of how high are one’s achievements, one must strive for still higher standards 42 SO we declare in our daily prayers, both in the day and at night: To love HaShem with all one’s might43, meaning with Mesirus Nefesh, totally surrendering one’s Rotzon44 to HaShem.
Thus one proceeds “from strength to strength”45 — (not from weakness to strength) since there is no weakness in him. Indeed, recognizing that it is HaShem46 who gives him the capacity47 to gairi strength, which is in itself a source of strength, he strives to serve HaShem as one should, totally45, which means not to remain on the same level, however high it be, but to advance from one level of strength to a higher level.
The above will provide a deeper insight into the obligation49 to remember Yetzias Mitzrayim every day, and both by day and by night. At first glance,50 having already remembered and experienced Yetzias Mitzrayim yesterday, both in matters symbolized by “day” (Torah and Mitzvos) as well as those symbolized by “night,” so what is the point of remembering Yetzias Mitzrayim again today?
The answer is that inasmuch as a new day has come, yesterday’s level, however satisfactory it was yesterday, must now be considered “Mitzrayim” in relation to the new level which one can attain on this new day; and also from this category of “Mitzrayim” one should, and must, free oneself, and in a manner of an “uplifted arm.”
* * *
May HaShem grant that since we still find ourselves in the “night” of the Golus,51 and, moreover, with darkness covering the earth,
52 prior to the imminent coming of Moshiach,53
We should all very soon merit to see the true Geulah, to be celebrated as the Geulah from Mitzrayim was celebrated while still in Mitzrayim, in the middle of the night, and with such a measure of enthusiasm and joy as to “break through the roof”,54 being the preparation and prelude to Yetzias Mitzraim55 in the ordinary sense, and with uplifted arm, in the very middle of the day;
And merit it we will, through strengthened bitachon (trust) in HaShem, the deliverer of our people Israel, and through heightened desire and “hope for Your liberation every day,”56 hoping and praying56* every day57 and the whole day, and every minute of the day, for the Divine liberation through Mashiach Tzidkeinu.
And this will hasten still more the fulfillment of the prophetic words referring to our true and complete Geulah:
Your58 light shall shine forth in the darkness, and your profound darkness59 shall be as the noonday,60
In accordance with the prophecy61 that the wonders of the coming Geulah will be wonderful even in comparison with the miracles and wonders of the Exodus from Mitzraim:62 At that time it took hours from “midnight” to “noonday,” whereas the forthcoming Geulah will come immediately,63 from profound bleakness to the brightness of high noon. In words of our prophets:
Arise,64 shine forth, for your light is eome,65 and the glory66 of HaShem shines upon you ... Nations shall walk by your light67 ... Your sun shall no more go down, nor shall your moon withdraw, for HaShem will be your everlasting light ... And all (nations) shall know that you, whose Name is HaShem, is the only Supreme Ruler over all the earth.68
With esteem and with blessing for a
Kosher and Joyous Pesach
/Signed: Menachem Schneerson/