National Redemption and Universal Freedom
Rabbi Kook’s teachings and customs on Pesach have been excerpted from the book “Celebration of the Soul” by HaRav Moshe Neriyah. Translated by Rabbi Pesach Yaffe.
The Redemption Continues
The Redemption from Egypt and the complete Redemption in the future are one continuous act of God’s strong hand and outstretched arm. They began to operate in Egypt and continue to act in all subsequent events. (Orot, p. 44).
Thirty days before Pesach, questions about the laws of the festival are asked and expounded” (O. Ch. 429:1). This would appear to be a positive, Biblical commandment, for it was on Pesach that Moses forewarned the people about observing Pesach Sheni one month later. At the very least, it is a rabbinic precept. Because study leads to action, every student of Torah is obligated to study the laws of Pesach to the extent that his abilities and time permit; and so, too, before every holiday
(Orach Mishpat, p. 155).
Eliyahu Koren, publisher of the Koren Bible, immigrated to Eretz Yisrael from Germany. Among the kitchen utensils he brought with him was a pot with a long, hollow handle which he did not know how to make fit for Pesach use. He decided to approach Rav Kook with his question and made his way to the Rav’s home. He waited patiently at the door to the Rav’s study, which opened periodically, offering a glimpse of the Rav conversing with several guests. One of them emerged from the study and asked Koren why he had come to the Rav. Upon hearing the reason, he said, “What, you dare bother the Chief Rabbi with such a trivial question? Besides, there is no question about it. A vessel like this cannot be made fit for Pesach.” Koren was confused and embarrassed. Just then the Rav appeared and asked him what his question was. The other man repeated his opinion about the pot. The Rav took the pot and examined it. When he noticed the hollow handle, he smiled and said, “This is definitely a question; I am pleased that you have come to ask. Take a thread and draw it through the hollow of the handle. Heat the pot from without until the string bums, and the vessel will then be fit for Pesach use.”
“To Perfect the World”
We were liberated from Egyptian bondage in order to bring liberation to the entire world. The Torah repeats three times that we departed Egypt in the spring season (Ex. 13:4, 26:15; Deut. 16:1), because our freedom is not only the spring of our people, but the spring of the entire world and its inhabitants. The objective of our liberation is to perfect the world under the reign of the Almighty, as God promised Abraham, “and all the families of the earth will be blessed in you” (Gen. 12:3).
The winter season arrests the forces of growth. But this cessation itself, with the advent of spring, results in a powerful explosion of confined forces. So, too, the impurity of idolatry obscures the brilliance of the world, conceals its beauty, and restrains the good from coming to the world (cf. Mechilta on Ex.
20:3). But idolatry only delays the arrival of the good; it cannot completely prevent it. The good must eventually burst forth from its detention, and when it does, it will have added power and glorious strength.
Hence, our mission is to proclaim the unity of the Creator and the unity of His world, to make Him King over His world and bring days of good and blessing, light and joy: “May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in His works” (Tehillim 104:31).
This was the great test described at the Covenant of the Pieces, in which God told Abraham: “Know surely that your descendants shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and they shall serve them and afflict them,” so that “afterwards they will leave with great wealth” (Gen. 15:13). It was necessary that we descend to Egypt, the land of impurity, so that we could rise to greater heights from the deep abyss. God speaks not of departure from Egypt, but of ascent from Egypt; “I am the Lord your God, Who raised you up from the land of Egypt” (Lev. 11:45).
Therefore, we find something exceptional about the Pesach sacrifice in Egypt. Every offering to God in the Temple must be totally free of idolatrous impurity. Any animal worshipped for idolatrous purposes is unfit for the altar (Sifra, beginning of Lev.). The law of the Paschal lamb in Egypt, however, was just the opposite. The lamb was the object of Egyptian worship, as Moses said to Pharaoh, “If we shall sacrifice the abomination of Egypt before their eyes, will they not stone us?” (Ex. 8:22). Yet the Jews were commanded to sacrifice a lamb. Why? That sacrifice was intended to cleanse Israel of the impurities of Egypt and to sanctify the Jews. Therefore, they were commanded to take from the most impure and elevate it to the highest sanctity. A similar notion applies to the Davidic dynasty. The first of Nisan is the “new year” for Jewish kings (Rosh HaShanah 3a). Why do kings begin their year in Nisan? Rabbenu Nissim explains that it is to commemorate the exodus from Egypt, because the need for a king arose only when the Jewish people were freed from slavery. Yet the Davidic dynasty, which enjoys the sole claim to the Jewish throne (cf. Gen. 49:10), originates from a nation whose members are forbidden to marry Jews, from Ruth the Moabite, “the mother of royalty” (Baba Batra 91b). Furthermore, King David’s crown was taken from the booty captured from Ammon. The crown, which had previously rested on the head of their idol (cf. Rashi on II Sam. 12:30), fit David’s head perfectly. How can we explain this?
The Davidic dynasty is destined to make the Holy One King over His world, and therefore must transform the impure into the pure. The crown of the idol was purified and sanctified on the head of David, king of Israel, who devoted himself to fighting for the benefit of the Jewish people, and who consecrated the spoils of his victories to construct the sanctuary of the Lord in Jerusalem.
So shall the shofar of Mashiach, scion of David, awaken and draw near the souls who have strayed the farthest, “they who were lost in the land of Assyria and they who were oppressed in the land of Egypt,” and they will ascend and come to “worship the Lord at the holy mountain in Jerusalem” (Is. 27:13). May it be soon.