We are in the midst of the Pesach festival, "the Season of our Freedom," i.e., a time when every single Jew experiences freedom. The exodus from Egypt (through which the Jews were granted their freedom) is not merely a historical event, something which happened to our ancestors, but rather an exodus and an experience of freedom which every Jew actually lives.
Thus, the Haggadah tells us, "In each and every generation, (and more particularly, every single day,) a person is obligated to see himself as if he left Egypt." He, himself, together with his parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren, leaves Egypt on this very night. Furthermore, the reliving of the exodus is not only confined to speech, but is expressed in deed, in the drinking of the four cups of wine and the eating of matzah.
Thus, the festival of Pesach is "the season of our freedom" for each and every Jew in each and every generation. In particular, this is relevant to children for they live free of all financial worries because their parents provide them with all their needs.
In a larger sense, however, this freedom is relevant to the entire Jewish people, for we are all G-d's children. He provides us with all our needs, granting us everything that we require. In particular, this is true at the present time, "the Season of our Freedom."
This is enhanced by our eating matzah, "the food of faith." All Jews are "believers and the descendants of believers." Partaking matzah, however, amplifies our powers of faith; we believe that G-d performs miracles for us at all times, even in the present generation. Though our foes "rise up against us to destroy us, G-d saves us from their hand."
There is no need to repeat these concepts -- indeed, it is undesirable to do so unless it is, as it is in the Haggadah, part of a standard order of prayer -- for the existence of those who want to destroy us will be negated from the very outset. In contrast, those nations who help the Jews and in particular, those who support the advance of Yiddishkeit will be reinforced and strengthened.
The concept that the entire Jewish people, and in particular, Jewish children are free men is particularly emphasized on a festival when we are forbidden to work with the intent of earning our livelihood and therefore, our needs are taken care of from what was prepared previously. There is a special emphasis on this during Pesach when there are far many more expenses than on other festivals. The Jews, nevertheless, do not have to worry about meeting these expenses. From "His full, open, holy, and generous hand," G-d grants them food, clothing, and all their other needs in a manner which is appropriate to the festival of freedom.
(You have experienced this yourselves. Surely, many of the children here were given new clothes for Pesach. And everyone of you was granted what to eat and drink, beginning from the four cups of wine at the Seder.)
In regard to the above, there is a special emphasis in connection with children, for it is natural to give to children generously, without waiting for them to ask. Furthermore, even after a child has been given his needs, it is natural to look and see if he needs more. And also, what is given to a child is given happily, with good feeling.
Happiness is particularly related to the festivals and it is from the festivals that the Jews draw down happiness for the entire year to come. In particular, this concept is emphasized on Pesach, "the first of the festivals," where influence is granted to the Jewish people in a manner that befits free men.
The freedom granted the Jewish people is intended as one of the preparatory steps for the giving of the Torah as it is written, "When you take the people out of Egypt, you will serve G-d on this mountain." This is a lesson for every person and particularly for children, to realize that the freedom they are granted is intended to prepare them to receive the Torah, to allow them to study in a calm and receptive frame of mind. This allows the Torah to make a deeper impression upon them and for it to be engraved within their thinking processes as the letters of the Ten Commandments were engraved upon the tablets.
When a child receives the Torah in this fashion, it makes a powerful impression on his parents and motivates them to have all the concepts included in the Ten Commandments, i.e., the entire Torah, engraved upon the child's heart. This in turn will cause these matters to become engraved more deeply in the hearts of the child's parents, grandparents, and teachers.
The impression from Pesach remains throughout the entire year, as reflected in our mention of the exodus from Egypt twice each day. This keeps a child -- and an adult -- constantly aware that G-d redeemed him from Egypt and granted him freedom. And that He did this with the purpose that one should "serve G-d on this mountain," and appreciate his identity as G-d's servant.
The fulfillment of the intent for which G-d grants us our freedom and grants us our needs, i.e., our acceptance of our role as G-d's servants, amplifies the extent of the blessings He will grant us. Even an earthly king gives his servants all that they need -- and even things that they do not need -- in a generous manner. Surely this applies in regard to the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
May He grant us the ultimate freedom and happiness, the redemption. And we will proceed from the exile to Eretz Yisrael, to Jerusalem, and to the Beis HaMikdash with "eternal joy." And that joy will continue to increase and shine forth.
Each of the days of Pesach provides us with a unique lesson. The importance of the lesson of the present day is reflected in the fact that 18 is numerically equivalent to the word Chai. Thus Chai Nissan reveals "the life of Nissan." Since Nissan is "the month of redemption," Chai Nissan is associated with the vital force of this redemption.
Chai Nissan also relates to the unique vitality which charges every Jew's study of Torah and fulfillment of its mitzvos, and in particular, the mitzvos which are connected with "the Season of our Freedom."
Also, today is a Tuesday, a day associated with the repetition of the verse "And G-d saw that it was good." Similarly, it is associated with Parshas Shemini. Also, there is another unique dimension of the present day associated with the name Levi Yitzchok. [Chai Nissan is the birthday of the Rebbe's father, Rav Levi Yitzchok.]
The name Levi is related to the tribe of Levi of whom it is said, "They shall join you and serve you," i.e., the Levites would join the Kohanim and help them in their service in the Beis HaMikdash. This is the function of a Levi, to help a Jew in his holy service
This relates to the mission of every Jew, and in particular, every Jewish child: He must know that when he sees another Jew who wants to study Torah or fulfill mitzvos, he should join him and assist him.
Yitzchok is connected with joy. For the service of G-d (Levi) must be permeated by joy. This joy should not come only because G-d commanded us to rejoice in the performance of the mitzvos. Rather, it should come as a natural byproduct of the realization that we have been chosen and have been given the merit of studying the Torah and performing mitzvos.
This happiness must be so great that "Whoever hears will rejoice with me;" i.e., whoever hears the happy melodies with which a Jew reads the Haggadah and similarly, sees the other mitzvos he fulfills, will join in his joy.
The expression "whoever hears" can also be interpreted as referring even to a person who hears accidentally, i.e., not only a person who is in the same house where the Seder is being held, but also someone passing in the street. For example, here in New York, there are non-Jews who do not have Sedorim and do not eat matzah who walk down the streets of the city. When these people hear the joy with which the Jews relate the story of their being granted their freedom, they will also rejoice. This reflects the power that a Jew's happiness can have in the world at large.
Through increasing our fulfillment of the mitzvos and study of the Torah, in particular the laws of Pesach, we will bring close the Redemption. This is particularly true in regard to Jewish children, whose study is not tainted by sin.
May all of the above hasten the conclusion of the exile. And may we with a new song, proceed to the ultimate redemption even before we recite the evening service. This will be enhanced by making each one of you an emissary to distribute tzedakah for tzedakah brings close the redemption and we will proceed "with our youth and with our elders... with our sons and with our daughters" on the clouds of heaven to Eretz Yisrael, to Jerusalem, and to "the Sanctuary of G-d established by Your hands." May this be in the immediate future and may it be with great happiness and joy.
- (Back to text) The matzah emphasizes how the redemption came to the Jews unexpectedly, without them having time to prepare. Therefore, "the dough of our ancestors did not have time to leaven." To commemorate this, the Jews of all time fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah.
- (Back to text) It is a mitzvah to eat meat and drink wine each day of the festival as an expression of our holiday joy.
- (Back to text) Torah study is also a mitzvah; indeed, one of the most fundamental mitzvos as we recite each morning, "The study of the Torah is equivalent to them all."
- (Back to text) It is a mitzvah to prolong the recitation and the discussion of the Haggadah, and to do so "for the entire night." Homiletically, this can be understood as a reference to the night of exile.