Eighth Day of Pesach  22nd Nisan 5779 שמונה יום של פסח, כ”ב ניסן תשע”ט

The Eighth day of Pesach actually says it all… in the Torah there is no eighth day of Pesach. So why do we all celebrate it? Does the Bore Olam needs adulation? No! what He wants is a two-way relationship!

What was the first part of the First Commandment given by God to Israel?

“I am the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage… אָנֹכִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים” Exodus 20:2.

OUT OF BONDAGE! This is the heart of the message of Pesach that our Creator had and still has for the world – not only for Israel. But which is easier for mankind…to choose how to live for ourselves or to allow others to choose for us? We have given over every area of our lives to those who have taken the positions of authority – especially in the spiritual realm. They are our religious leaders. I have been watching a documentary on preachers who have amassed millions of dollars by selling a message of positive thinking and prosperity to their followers who prefer to allow others to think for them. This is not much different than the Judaism where the religious authority holds the people captive, even those who call themselves secular. In Israel, a secular Jew cannot obtain a marriage license except from an Orthodox Rabbi; instead the couple needs to travel to Cyprus where they can get married by anyone who has the authority to give them a license. Without realizing it, secular Jews around the world are held captive by the rules and regulations set down by our rabbis, mainly because they do not know what is written in the Torah.

The Creator told us in Deut. 4:2 לֹא תֹסִפוּ, עַל-הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם, וְלֹא תִגְרְעוּ, מִמֶּנּוּ–לִשְׁמֹר, אֶת-מִצְות יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי, מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם. “You shall not add to the words which I command you, nor shall you diminish from it, so that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” That is exactly what we do. Not only have we added through all the additional and “later” writings, but we have changed the words and taken the authority away from the Creator, putting it in the hands of man. Why? We are basically lazy and prefer that others do the thinking for us. In this way we do not have to assume the responsibility for our actions. We can plead ignorance. That is why the notion of freedom is so difficult for us. Our people never wanted to leave Egypt; instead they wanted their lives to be made easier but if we had not left Egypt, there would be no Israel today. We had almost forgotten that our Creator had chosen Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to form a people through whom the world would be blessed. We needed a reminder. We still need that reminder today.

Those who sell religion to unsuspecting followers are the Bilams of today. Bilam – בִלְעָם was a prophet of the Almighty who had never heard of Israel. He was told by the Creator that he could not curse the people that King Balak wanted to destroy. When Bilam opened his mouth to curse Israel, a blessing came out instead– a blessing we recite every Shabbat from Numbers 24:5, מַה-טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ, יַעֲקֹב; מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ, יִשְׂרָאֵל. “How lovely are your tents Oh Jacob, your dwellings, Oh Israel.” In the end however, Bilam was destroyed because he, as a prophet, tried to profit from God. Without realizing it, we have bowed to the rules and traditions of the religious authorities without asking whether or not they are true.

I was once invited to a Pesach Seder and was asked to bring a dish to share. All I had to offer was a bowl of rice which I humbly handed to the hostess. She cried out, “we are not supposed to eat rice on Passover”, and threw my rice in the garbage! I am Sephardic Jew and the only thing that we are not allowed to eat during Pesach is bread or anything with yeast, leaven. I had no knowledge of the Ashkenazi customs which dictate that nothing that rises can be eaten. This is not Torah!

Of course, the rabbis will say that they have been given authority to supersede the Words of the Creator according to the authority given to the judges by Moshe Rabeinu. This however had more to do with the legal authority to rule in cases of law; they were not given spiritual authority in all matters.

Ask yourself these questions, “Am I in still in Egypt or have I accepted the freedom that the Creator has given me? Do I bow down to the gods of religion or do I refuse them and prefer to think for myself? Am I willing to step outside the constraints of religion and into a relationship with the Creator?” These are not easy to do in a world that doesn’t honor those who question and think for themselves.

The message of Pesach is that we have been set free from bondage to anything that holds us back from having a true relationship with the Creator of the universe. It was not a message given only to the Jews, rather it is a universal one since it was a mixed multitude who left Egypt. A true relationship with the Creator is based on mutual agreement. It is like a strong marriage that stems from Love – (loyalty); not by coercion, fear, or simple convenience, but out of true commitment!