Is Freedom Bland or Flavorful? - וארא

Friday, 12 January, 2024 - 9:37 am


Is Freedom Bland or Flavorful?

The sages instituted that we drink four cups of wine at the Passover Seder representing the four expressions of redemption at the beginning of our Torah portion: 

Therefore, say to the children of Israel, 'I am the Lord, and (1) I will take you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and (2) I will save you from their labor, (3) and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. And (4) I will take you to Me as a people, and I will be a God to you, and you will know that I am the Lord your God, Who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exodus 6:6-7)

But if the number four is related to redemption, why do we use three Matzot and not four? 

Both Matzah and wine represent redemption, yet they are very different and even opposite from one another: while Matzah is bland, wine is full of taste and causes great joy and pleasure. 

Redemption is not always enjoyable. In fact breaking free of negative habits and patterns of behavior is often very difficult and, in the short term, can cause deep hurt and pain. Attaining freedom, escaping the inner Egypt, requires a great deal of self-control; ignoring and turning away from the comfort of destructive indulgence. Only after much work, acquiring new habits and developing a taste for positive forms of pleasure, music, knowledge, positive relationships, spirituality, and connection to G-d, can a person internalize freedom and enjoy its blessings. 

When the Jewish people left Egypt, they were still steeped in the negativity of Egypt. G-d hastened to redeem them so that they would not be completely swallowed up by the unholiness of Egypt. Initially, the Exodus was gifted to them from above and not internalized within their personalities. That's why we eat three Matzot, called "bread of poverty", because Matzot have no taste and bring no pleasure, referring to the first three expressions of redemption which refer to the moment of the Exodus brought about by G-d. 

The fourth expression of redemption, "And I will take you to Me as a people", refers to the events at Mount Sinai, when the Jewish people became G-d's people. We, therefore, drink four cups of wine to symbolize that, after weeks of preparation and self-refinement, the people internalized the state of redemption and appreciated the joy and pleasure of their relationship with G-d.  

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Lekutei Sichos 26 Vaera 1 

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