Yitzchak Ginsburgh
Head of Gal Einai Institutes, authority on Kabbalah and Chassidut

The Joy of Freedom

Illustrative. (Wikimedia Commons)
Illustrative. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Torah does not explicitly command us to be happy on the holiday of Pesach (although according to Jewish law, joy is also part and parcel of the holiday, of course). Nevertheless, Pesach is the source of joy for the entire year. First, Pesach is the “New Year for the three pilgrimage festivals” – the source of all the “mo’adim l’simcha”/joyous dates –which are all “a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt.” Second, Pesach is “the time of our freedom” and freedom, “alma d’chiru”/the World of Freedom is identified in Kabbalah with the sefirah of Binah/understanding, the inner dimension of which is joy. Thus, Pesach brings with it an increase in joy. What is the unique joy of Pesach?

In Hebrew, the word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, also means ‘straits’. The freedom of Pesach is the freedom not just from the straits of the kelipah/outer husks, but from all the limitations of this world. The world was created in the Six Days of Creation, corresponding to the six traits of the heart – six extremes that limit and measure all of reality. The World of Freedom, – the sefirah of Binah – is the liberation from all the limitations of reality, the exit from the laws of gravity that weigh on this world. Within the limitations of ordinary reality, joy is contingent on external events or on one’s fleeting mood. On the other hand, “the World of Freedom”   is the world of pure intellect, in which the person generates joy by the power of contemplation with his faculties of Chochmah-Binah-Da’at/wisdom, understanding and knowledge, independent of external factors. This is alluded to by the fact that the numerical value of Cherut/liberty equals Chochmah-Binah-Da’at.

Now we can understand why regarding the holiday of Pesach – the source of joy, as above, joy is not explicitly mentioned in the Torah. The joy of Pesach is not even dependent on an explicit mitzvah. It is joy that flows from the freedom and choice of the individual. That same internal joy – non-dependent happiness that begins on Pesach, continues on through all the days of the Counting of the Omer. Despite the fact that externally, those are days during which we observe customs of mourning, a truly free person is also joyous then. As the Book of Formation explains, the sense of the month of Iyar – the month during which the Omer is counted every day of the month and which is the main time of mourning during the sefirah – is the sense of thought (the garment of Binah and of the intellectual faculties in general). In the World of Thought, the World of Understanding, one is free to rejoice in every reality and every situation. Machshavah/thought is a permutation of b’simcha/with joy – and every thought has the potential to transform every marah shchorah/dark thought to a hirhur sameach/happy thought. (These two Hebrew expressions have the same letters but can be re-arranged to create the opposite meanings).

It is important to emphasize that the liberation that we are discussing is not a flight from external reality to the world of intellect and thought. On the contrary, while on Purim, when we are “still servants of Ahashverosh”, the joy of “until he does not know” includes a dimension of flight, of “running” and exiting reality, the ultimate purpose of Pesach is “return” – entering a state of freedom in order to act within reality. This means that reality does not impose its will upon the person, but rather, the person imposes his will upon reality: Freedom begins with freedom of thought, the freedom to see the potential good concealed within every reality and to liberate it with inner contemplation that brings joy. That same contemplation acts upon reality – “think positively and all will be positive.” The ultimate goal of Pesach (Pe-sach/the mouth that speaks) is to freely express that contemplation in reality – the full freedom of speech. (Speech is also the sense of the month of Nissan). Ultimately, the liberated, free-flowing, rectified speech becomes royal leadership that acts within reality and leads it, as befits the month of Nissan, the “New Year for the kings of Israel.”

About the Author
Rabbi Ginsburgh was born in S. Louis, Missouri in 1944. He initially pursued an academic career in mathematics and philosophy, later studying Torah under the guidance of several great sages–most notably, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Rabbi Ginsburgh made Aliyah to Israel in 1965. His familiarity with mathematics, science, philosophy, psychology and music has enabled him to lecture throughout Israel, relating the ancient wisdom of Torah to many currents trends in academic thought and art.
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