When we retell the Pesach story every year — how Bnei Yisrael, enslaved to foreign Egyptian masters, was liberated by Hashem — are we merely recounting a historical event? While that miracle deserves celebration and commemoration simply for being a part of our national history and tradition, the holiday of Pesach is imbued with more than just remembrance. Nowadays, we can often feel enslaved in our own lives, whether by work, school, friends, society, or even ourselves; Pesach is the time to free ourselves from those contemporary chains.
In Talelei Chaim on Pesach, the Chalban explains that Pesach is not merely a time for reviewing a history lesson. Rather, our freedom of Egypt and our slave masters is the source of the redemptive light, the force throughout time that gave people liberty, independence, and a sense of self. When the holiday begins, we enter into a different reality. The Chalban says, “In each and every year, the light returns to illuminate … So, on this night, we were taken out from working to redemption, slavery to freedom, and so, too, this is literally each and every year” (p. 17). Similar to how we can imagine that one is in a different headspace and “reality” at their wedding, a concert, or an important exam, Pesach brings us into a different place, too: one that empowers us and the world to strive for ultimate liberation.
Nili Salem powerfully shared that, in each of our lives, we have internal and external Pharaohs who suppress our sense of self and our potential. On this night, we find newfound strength to break free of their hold.
Writing on the true and ultimate freedom, Rav Kook explains that freedom is not simply about who is chained and who is not, who has a master and who does not, as free people can have the spirits of slaves and slaves the spirits of free people. Rather, he says that true freedom is, “is the exalted spirit that the person and the nation are raised by it to be true to their inner essence, to the soul’s quality of the Divine image within. And in this feature, one is able to feel their life is a purposeful life that is equal to its worth” (Olat Reiyah, Pesach).
Here, Rav Kook tells us that the path to being a free person is being true to yourself, the divorced from other’s expectations, hopes, judgments, intimidation, and the list goes on. In our deepest essence, we are each a soul made in the divine image of Hashem, an ineffable, indescribable ray of His light. Our emotions, insecurities, struggles, and confusions throughout life often cloud this truth from us, imprisoning what we could be to an alien authority.
External influences are always beside us — whether it’s from the media, preconceived notions, our environment, or anything of the like. Who says that money is the metric of success? Why does what other people think to become a consideration in our decisions? What is holding us back from living lives that we find meaningful? Since when were self-love and self-worth a democratic vote?
Becoming a free person is becoming the master of your own life, a life in service to your truest essence: a soul. Hashem wants us to be free so we can strive to bring peace, love, justice, stability, holiness, truth, and liberation to the world. Anyone who desires to live a life powered by these values desires to live a Hashem-powered life. Pesach is a time to break free of all that holds us back. It’s a time to get in touch with our deepest essence and strengthen our connection to Hashem. Pesach is a time to align ourselves with who we truly are, to find inner freedom.