Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Torah of Opposites

The Rabbi's Muse:  Solomon Schechter Day School of Albquerque recently presented the closing event in its Spring Speakers Series, a talk by Schechter's (and Kavod New Mexico's) Rabbi Stephen Landau on The Inner Meaning of Passover.

Abq Jew was among those fortunate to hear Rabbi Landau's remarks firsthand.  Rabbi Landau has expanded and refined those remarks into a blog posting, The Torah of Opposites, at - where else? - the Kavod New Mexico website.  Rabbi Landau states:
Passover is the grand pageant of our People. In the large sense of our Jewish history, it is the moment of our transformation from an enslaved tribal people into a free political nation on the way to having a land of our own. It is zman cheiruteinu / the time of our freedom.

It is the epic tale that Cecil B. DeMille made into an epic movie twice (1923, 1956), and it is the only story large and powerful enough to be borrowed by African-American slaves in their own long and terrible fight for freedom. It is the most monumental story of homecoming and freedom ever told.
A grand pageant, yes.  But Rabbi Landau continues:
Yet [Passover] is also meant to be an intensely personal observance. We’re required to view ourselves as if we personally came out of Egypt. We’re required to consider the story of yetziat mitzrayim as our very own personal story. Pesach falls exactly 26 weeks after Yom Kippur to the day, making it exactly half way between one Yom Kippur and the next (sans our “leap month” of Adar II). It’s as if the calendar itself reminds us to take another accounting of ourselves now, halfway through the year, to use Passover for our own liberation as we do Yom Kippur.
How can we take accounting?
Just as the symbols of Passover are mnemonic devices to help us tell the story of our collective / political liberation as a people, so too they are reminders for our personal spiritual liberation. 
The most opposite symbols of Passover are the maror and the charoset - the bitter and the sweet.  What can we learn from them?  Rabbi Landau explains:
Maror and charoset come to give us an even deeper teaching in Korech, the “Hillel Sandwich," when we eat sweet charoset and bitter maror surrounded by matzah. Remember that matzah represents the Inward Point of Holiness, the spark of God, which is our true nature. And we have learned that Adonai is Echad, One, Unique, a Singularity, Indivisible. If we have both bitter and sweet together contained inside the Matzah-Inward-Point-of-Holiness, then it must be that somehow bitter and sweet are not, in fact, opposites.
Korech teaches us the Torah of Opposites. In the “Realm of Matzah,” the deepest reality inside us, opposites do not exist. Ein Od Mil’vado. There is nothing but God. Everything that is, is God. All there is, is God. Maror and charoset are the same thing: God.
 Click here to read more!

A Zissen Pesach, Albuquerque!
Chag Kasher veSameach, New Mexico!

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