Are We Different This Night?
By Yosef Y. Jacobson
At the Seder, the child asks "Why is this night different from all other nights?" But "Mah Nishtanah" is not merely a childish recitation, as there are profound insights and commentaries contained in this sacred text. According to the Kabbalah, the Seder opens with a four-step program to spiritual liberation.
The Real Question is not only about the night, but about ourselves. "How do we change and differ tonight from all other nights?" Acting differently tonight can change and free us from our year round patterns and addictions.a
Willingness to Change
"On all other nights, we do not dip even once. Tonight we dip twice." Otherwise, we do not feel the need to go deeper by immersing; we accept our status quo, uninterested in deeper self-awareness and improvement. We declare, "This is who I am and I refuse to change."
The first step to personal liberation requires the recognition that "I need to immerse twice." First, I must clean up my act. Second, I need to purge and cleanse my spirit and attitudes.
Suspending the Ego
"All other nights we eat chametz (leaven) or matzah. Tonight we eat only matzah."
Chametz (leaven) dough that has risen symbolizes inflated ego and arrogance, while matzah that keeps a low profile, represents humility and suspension of the self, becoming a conduit for a higher flow of Divine light.
On other nights, we vacillate between chametz and matzah, between attachment to our egos vs. our moments of self-transcendence. We may invite G-d into our lives, but only up to a certain point. This dichotomy between chametz and matzah traps us into our narrow and limited character and hinders us from genuine liberation.
Passover's matzah regimen helps us let go of our egos, allowing G-d to fill our whole consciousness.
Sensitivity to one's soul
"On all other nights, we eat any type of vegetable. This night, we eat maror (bitter herbs)."
Following the first two steps of "dipping" and "matzah" -- the willingness to change and the suspension of one's ego which introduce the spirit of liberation into our lives, we reach the third step, designated to help us maintain a lifestyle of inner liberation.
How do we create a discipline and pattern that is free from unhealthy urges and weaknesses in one's character?
By paying attention to the bitter maror in our soul within.
We possess both an animal consciousness and a Divine soul. Our animal consciousness is the source of our bodily sensations, physical urges and earthly cravings. But we also possess a Divine soul, a spark of infinity, a ray of G-d from heaven. This soul yearns to transcend the ego, and the painful descent to a morally deprived environment.
Imagine the horror if you observed somebody placing a baby's hand on a hot stove. Yet, according to the mystics each time we utter a lie, humiliate a person, each time we sin, we are abusing and torturing the precious innocent spirituality of our soul.
On other nights, we do not focus on the pain of our souls violated by coarse and immoral behavior. But on Passover night, we eat maror, opening our heart to the soul's bitter cries.
Reorientation of Pleasures
"On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining. Tonight, we all recline."
To achieve true inner liberation, we most cultivate the fourth and most difficult step, namely, the reorientation of one's pleasures in life.
On other nights, our delight from honest relationships and genuine spirituality is only a "sitting" type, it's not all-pervading and all-consuming. Our satisfaction from inner spirituality is dulled as we still indulge the animal within us and still seek gratification in shallow places.
This fragmentation, though tempting, ultimately tears us apart and robs us of the opportunity to live a truly fulfilled life. On Passover night, we recline. We allow our entire identity to dissolve in the ecstasy of spirituality and love. We give up our search for satisfaction in alien places as we welcome the joy of our souls into every fiber of our being.