Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Passover - Pesach
To dedicate this lesson

Between Salvation And Redemption


Rabbi Berel Wein

With Purim safely behind us we are now entering the final phases of preparation for the great holiday of Pesach. The period of time between Purim and Pesach is usually a period of great frenzy and intense work. Even those who leave to spend Pesach at hotels or with relatives are halachically obligated to clean and prepare their houses for Pesach. But preparing for Pesach is more than a physical requirement. It also requires a certain mindset, a feeling of redemption and spiritual uplift. Perhaps this is the change that this time brings in this period of time between Purim and Pesach. Purim is a commemoration of salvation from physical destruction and national genocide. Though it certainly ahs spiritual overtones and halachic ritual attached to it, it remains basically a holiday of the body, of joy unrestrained and food and drink without limit or measure. Though Pesach also has food, drink and physical enjoyment connected to it in an integral fashion, it nevertheless demands a more spiritual reckoning from its celebrants. We thank God not only for our freedom from Egyptian bondage but for the redemption of our souls as well. We were redeemed from paganism and from Egypt’s culture of the exploitation of others for the selfish benefit of the ruling few. Physical freedom, though important, is in itself no guarantee of a productive life or of noble deeds. Many times just the opposite is true when freedom descends into licentiousness, violence and cruelty towards others. It is the redemptive quality of Pesach that reaches our souls that makes it the glorious holiday that it is.

Salvation from our enemies is an eternal requirement of the survival of the Jewish people. If we wished to we could declare a Purim holiday many times through the year to mark the salvation of Jewish communities throughout the world and the ages. Salvation is a constant companion of the Jewish people. Redemption is a much rarer commodity. We still await the ultimate redemption promised to us by the great prophets of Israel millennia ago. For redemption has this strong spiritual dimension to it and without this advancing and nobility of spirit redemption is only further delayed and postponed. Whereas Purim prefers a somewhat befuddled brain to mark our salvation from Haman Pesach requires clarity of thought and intensity of soul. Redemption comes from the inside while salvation arrives always from the outside and often if not most times unexpectedly, unplanned and illogically. Thus salvation can occur immediately and surprisingly. Not so redemption which requires planning, forethought, training and education. Purim requires relatively little preparation - it almost just descends upon us. Pesach requires a month or more of preparation and readiness because our souls have to become attuned to the ideas and goals of redemption. And that is usual a matter of great effort and struggle. It does not happen automatically or by itself. This period of time between Purim and Pesach is meant to remind us of this important lesson and to allow us to concentrate ourselves on preparing not only for salvation but rather for redemption.

The national independence of the Jewish people as personified in the existence of the State of Israel is alone insufficient to bring us a feeling of redemption. Since the state and the people of Israel generally are still a work in progress we can only continue to struggle towards our ultimate goal of the final redemption of Israel and the world at large. Every good deed, every act of social justice carries with it a message of redemption being brought nearer. No act of kindness and goodness, no matter how slight and minor we may consider it to be, escapers Heaven’s notice. It marks another step on our road to ultimate redemption. Therefore the laws of Pesach as recorded for us in Shulchan Aruch begin with the requirement to donate to the cause of the poor so that they may also enjoy a bountiful Pesach. Every Jewish holiday requires acts of charity and goodness towards others. It highlights the redemptive qualities of our holidays and of traditional Jewish life as lived over millennia. Purim also requires charity and its purpose there as everywhere is to move pure salvation to the level of redemption. One can only redeem one’s self by aiding others in need of help. Salvation saves one’s self. Redemption can save an entire world. Pesach, the holiday of redemption is fast upon us. Let us prepare properly for its joyous arrival.
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