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Tuesday, 27th March 2018

Pesach (Passover) is the classic example of a festival in which we eat, drink, and live the ideas that it represents. We modify our home environment by removing all leavened products, we change our diet to eat matzah. We refrain from working, and we transform a festive meal into a high-impact, super-charged educational experience – the Pesach Seder.

Why do we go to such lengths? Wouldn’t it be easier if we just spent some time thinking about the Exodus and the lessons it teaches? The following source answers this question.

Quoting from Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah #16 – A person is shaped and influenced by his actions. Therefore, Pesach involves many actions to ensure that the miracles of the Exodus and its lessons are imprinted permanently into our consciousness.

It is fitting for us to do symbolic actions [e.g. eating matzah, having a Pesach Seder and telling the story of the Exodus] that remind us of the tremendous spiritual heights we reached at the Exodus. Through these actions and symbols the experience of the Exodus is imprinted permanently into our consciousness.

A person is affected and shaped by his actions [more than by his thoughts alone]. A person’s thoughts and feelings follow after his actions, either for good or for bad …

For example, if a complete degenerate … will inspire himself and exert himself to study Torah and perform mitzvos – even for the wrong reasons, such as honour and prestige – he will still begin to change in a positive direction. His self-destructive tendencies (yetzer hara – evil inclination) will be weakened since he will be influenced by his positive actions.

And on the other hand, if a completely righteous and upstanding person, who exerts himself in Torah and mitzvos, will occupy himself with negativity and impurity all day long (for example, is someone forced him to do it), at some point he will turn into a degenerate. For even the strongest person is affected by his actions …

With this principle in mind – that a person is shaped by his actions – we understand the need for the many “mitzvos and actions” regarding remembering the Exodus and its miracles, for they are a central feature of the entire Torah.


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