The Prophet Ezekiel conveyed to us the following Divine reminder regarding our liberation from Egypt:
“I passed by you and saw you, and behold, your time was the time of love” (Ezekiel 16:8) – The classical commentator, Radak, interprets this Divine statement in the following manner: “I revealed Myself to Moshe at the burning bush, and he did signs and wonders at My command, and I showed him that the time of love had come, for I fought for you against Egypt until I brought you out from there with a strong hand.”
Our liberation from the physical and spiritual bondage of Egypt enabled us to experience the love of Hashem – the Compassionate One – without an intermediary. During the Passover Seder, we remind ourselves of this direct relationship by chanting the following passage from the Haggadah, which begins with a biblical quote:
“ ‘And Hashem brought us out of Egypt with an outstretched arm, with great awe, with signs and wonders’ (Deut. 26:8) – not through an angel, not through a seraph, and not through a messenger, but the Holy One, Blessed Be He, Himself in all His glory, as it says, ‘I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night...I Hashem!’ (Exodus 12:12).”
The Passover Haggadah adds that we also experienced the intimate, “feminine” aspect of Hashem, known as the Shechinah - the Divine Presence. Through the miracles of the Exodus, the loving and motherly Shechinah was revealed with great awe, and the Haggadah finds an allusion to this idea in the following words:
“Hashem brought us out of Egypt... with great awe” (Deut. 28:6).
The Haggadah states that the words "great awe" refer to the “Revelation of the Shechinah.”
The commentators on the Haggadah point out that through the miraculous ten plagues and the splitting of the sea, the awesome and powerful love of the Shechinah for our oppressed people was revealed to the world. Another allusion to this idea is found in the following statement of Moshe to our people when we arrived at the sea and discovered that the Egyptian army was pursuing us:
“Hashem shall do battle for you, and you shall remain silent.” (Exodus 14:14)
The ancient midrashic translation and commentary known as “Targum Yerushalmi” interprets this verse in the following manner: “Do not be afraid, for Hashem - through the glory of His Shechinah - will cause you to have victory in your battles.”
The Shechinah represents those attributes of Hashem that we understand as “feminine.” Why, however, is the loving and motherly Schechinah also associated with might and war? If we consider the nature of the female among various species of living creatures and how the female reacts when her young are in danger, we may gain some insight into the nature of the Shechinah – the Divine Presence of the Creator. For example, it has been said that one of the most dangerous animals in the world is a mother bear defending her young. She intensely cares for her young over a long period, and her love and concern for them is therefore very powerful. In general, the female of various species of living creatures has awesome and powerful love which enables her to fight for the life that comes from her womb.
According to the above teachings from the Haggadah, the Passover story reveals the following aspects of the Divine love for us:
1. It is a direct love, without an intermediary.
2. It is an awesome, powerful love.
We experienced both aspects of the Divine love through the Exodus from Egypt, and on the night of the Seder, each of us is to personally experience both aspects of this love. In this spirit, the Haggadah states:
“In every generation, one is obligated to regard himself as if he personally had gone out of Egypt, as it says in the Torah (regarding future Passovers): And you shall relate to your child on that day, saying, “For the sake of this, Hashem did for me, when I went out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:8).
Yes, in each generation, each person can experience the loving liberation of the Compassionate One. The Divine love was not limited to the generation that left Egypt, as when the Compassionate One reminded us of the Exodus from Egypt, He added the following message for all generations: “And I have loved you with an eternal love, therefore I have extended lovingkindness to you” (Jeremiah 31:2).
Passover is especially suitable for re-experiencing this Divine love, as our tradition teaches that each festival which commemorates a special and historical encounter with the Compassionate One, also enables us to re-experience in some way the special encounter with the Compassionate One that our ancestors experienced. In the words of our mystical tradition, the “tikun” – rectification and healing – that our ancestors experienced during a particular encounter is also available to us during the festival which commemorate this particular encounter. As the noted sage and kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto, explains in his comments on Passover:
“The Highest Wisdom decreed that any tikun that was attained and any great light that shone at a certain time – when that time comes around again, a semblance of that light will shine on us again; moreover, the result of that tikun will be renewed within the one who accepts it.” (Derech Hashem, Part 4, Chapter 7, Periodic Observances)
During the Exodus from Egypt, our ancestors attained their tikun through experiencing the Divine love, and every celebration of Passover brings each of us a new opportunity to achieve this tikun. May we therefore experience a loving and liberating Passover!
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
1. We can approach the Compassionate One directly, without an intermediary, for we are the children of the Compassionate One, as it is written, “You are children to Hashem, your God” (Deuteronomy 14:1). The Tiferes Yisrael discusses this idea in his commentary on the Mishnah (Yoma 8:9), and he writes: “There is no need for any intermediary whatsoever between the children and their Father, the Compassionate One, since it is His compassion itself that serves as Israel's purification and mikvah (purifying waters).” The Tiferes Yisrael adds: “His hands are always open to receive their teshuvah (spiritual return) and to embrace them with great love and eternal love.”
2. Any human being can be close to the Compassionate One without an intermediary, as it is written, “Hashem is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely” (Psalm 145:18). The classical commentator, Radak, explains that this verse is revealing that the Compassionate One is close to “all” who call upon Him, “regardless of nationality.”
3. The Compassionate One reveals “motherly” love in the following promise regarding the messianic age: “Like a person whose mother comforts him, so will I comfort you, and in Jerusalem you will be comforted” (Isaiah 66:13). We will experience the ultimate comfort in Jerusalem, and this is one reason why we chant at the conclusion of the Seder, “Next year in Jerusalem!”