Devar Torah

Friday, 30 March, 2012 - 4:00 pm

True Freedom and the Rebbe’s Pesach Haggadah

We have been discussing the topic of minhagim for the last few weeks.  Sometimes we find that people have a relaxed attitude toward minhagim. They may say; “It’s only a minhag” or, “If I missed it, it’s not so terrible.” The Rebbe explains the great virtue of minhagim. He speaks about how it advances the inner development of a Yid in his connection to Hashem and to the Rebbeim.

An example is the degree simcha we have throughout the Yom Tov of Sukkos. One level of simcha is reached when celebrating the Yom Tov itself which is a commandment from the Torah. An even greater level of simcha is celebrated during Simchas Beis Hashueiva. There is no commandment in the Torah for Simchas Beis Hashueiva.  Although it is derived from a drash (meaning that it is inferred, but not a direct reference from the Torah), nevertheless it is a greater simcha. An even greater level of simcha is celebrated on Simchas Torah even though it is not a commandment in the Torah or even derived from a drash, but is rather a minhag. The reason for the minhag is because we are completing the reading of the Torah and we want to celebrate by expressing our great joy and gratitude in having received it and that we have the opportunity to begin reading it again. Why is the greatest simcha of all not associated with a mitzvah or even a drash, but rather a minhag? The reason is that a minhag has the power to reveal the inner connection of a Yid in the greatest possible way.

The Rebbe explains the difference of our minhag when it comes to the order of the questions in the Mah Nishtana by the Pesach Seder. In most other Haggadas the first question is about chametz and matza which is a commandment from the Torah. In our Haggadah, the first question is about dipping which is only a minhag which was instituted in order to get the children to wonder and ask questions. In other words, we place the minhag first because of the impact that it has upon the child. This shows our emphasis on the importance of a minhag.

In the year 5748 – 1987, Sukkos was a Hakel year. During Yom Tov and Chol HaMoed the Rebbe held the esrog differently than his normal custom. Normally, the Rebbe only picked up the esrog when he waived it during Hallel. During the rest of Hallel in between the pesukim designated for waving the Rebbe would place the esrog back into the box. On this occasion, the Rebbe held the esrog together with the lulav throughout the entire Hallel.

The Rebbe later explained in a sicha that the Previous Rebbe would only hold the esrog when he waved the lulav during hallel. One might have thought that the only reason the Previous Rebbe only held the esrog at that time was because he wasn’t well. And because he was weak there was a concern that the esrog might get scratched. Nevertheless, since this was done publicly, we do it the way the Rebbe did for hiskashrus, in order to be connected. If we change it, it has an effect.

The Rebbe explained that this year is Hakel which is a year of ingathering of Yidden. Since the four types represent the different types Yidden, therefore he held them all together with the esrog the entire time because of the Hakel year. What happened here? What was the purpose of the Rebbe going into such great detail about such a small change? Because he held it a little longer, for that it was necessary to dedicate part of a sicha to explain? The reason is because we do not change the minhagim because it effects our connection to the Rebbe. A chosid has a sense of wanting to always be connected to the Rebbeim. Therefore, notwithstanding other possible explanations, I do not want to do it any other way. This is the path of a chosid.

When it comes to Pesach we do not eat gebrochs. The source for this minhag is because perhaps there is some unbaked flour within the matza. Nevertheless, on Acharon Shel Pesach we eat gebrochs! The reason is because we saw the Previous Rebbe would take his matzah and eat it with every food at the meal of Acharon Shel Pesach. The Rebbe explains in Likutei Sichos how we are not afraid to do this. Every minhag has a solid foundation. It is not arbitrary.

We need to spend time to read the Rebbe’s Haggadah and to follow it carefully throughout the seder. We also need to differentiate between the minhag for us and a ‘minhag from the house of the Rebbe’ (discussed in the previous article). One example for this is that in the house of the Rebbe, the Rebbe himself was the only one to place a plate under the kaira (the matzos). The Rebbe explains in a note that this only applies to the Rebbe’s house. Privately however in our own homes there should be a plate under the matzos. The plate represents the attribute of malchus and therefore needs to be together with the matzos of the kaira. From this we see that even something we saw openly being done at the Rebbe’s house needs clarification as to whether we need to do it ourselves.

Therefore, all the details that we find in the Siddur and the Haggadah have a source. We see many places in the Haggadah where the Rebbe brings the exact source for the minhag. Our job is to learn about them, know them and care for them. When we learn we need to check into what we are learning. Through this we will impact upon ourselves and our entire families, a sense of what is special and unique about minhagim, and how through them we are connected to I’lana d’chaya, the living tree, to the Rebbeim. This enables us to achieve cheirus amiti, a true sense of freedom on Pesach.

A Kosher and Freilichin Pesach!

(See this month’s HaChodesh magazine for details about the minhagim for Pesach.)

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