How will we celebrate Pesach in the time of the Messiah?

Hopefully we will all manage to squeeze into the old city of Jerusalem for the Seder Night. The fact that large numbers of people managed to do so two millennia ago was considered miraculous. Now we are rather more numerous and an even more obvious miracle will be required. The Seder will be conducted much as described in the Haggadah, with the key addition of the Paschal Lamb instead of the shank bone on the Seder Plate, and a Festive Offering instead of the Egg.

The advent of the Messiah will mean real freedom, for us and for every human being. Yet the memory and celebration of the Exodus from Egypt will still be significant. Our liberation from Egypt more than 3,300 years ago, celebrated at our Seder nights and the Pesach festival, set the pattern for the future: the ability to break free from a state of limitation and exile, to reach for and to achieve freedom.

In historical terms we can see a number of later instances when the Jewish people were in exile, suffering subjugation in some form, and then we broke free. Yet there is also a constantly repeated personal and psychological process. The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, has the same letters as the word metzarim meaning "limitations." Each day is potentially an "Egypt" from which we might go free in a fulfilled and joyful Exodus; then that new freedom is again seen to be limited compared with the possibility of greater and deeper freedom.1

Might this not sound rather dangerous and chaotic? Perhaps here we can take a message from the parshah read this Shabbat, which mentions the tragic death of the two sons of Aaron, described earlier in Leviticus 10:1-7. They too were seeking "freedom" from the limitations of worldliness and materiality. They were seeking closeness with the Infinite, trying to enter the Holy of Holies, but in a dangerous and uncontrolled way.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe comments that indeed there is a paradoxical demand for each individual. Each one of us has to seek the highest level of freedom, including the ultimate of spiritual freedom and closeness to the Divine. At the same time, we have to be able to keep our feet on the ground and remain part of this physical and normal world!

It may seem that this paradox is not sustainable. The revolutionary attempt to break out of limitations without self-destructing is doomed to failure. Consequently, one might feel, do not try, it is too risky. Just keep your head down and go on making bricks for Pharaoh, meaning one's personal Pharaoh in one's personal Egypt.

However, the Rebbe comments, the teaching of our parshah is that it is possible. There is a way for Aaron to accomplish what his sons failed to achieve, as described in the parshah: on Yom Kippur he leaves worldly limitations, enters the Holy of Holies, and safely returns.

The Rebbe explains that each one of us can do this too, in an appropriate way, through observance of Jewish law and dedication to Jewish ideals. The teachings of the Torah and the chain of Torah leaders and teachers through the generations are there precisely in order to help each person achieve this successful revolution in his or her personal life, simultaneously reaching for the Infinite and keeping one's feet on the ground. With the advent of the Messiah this will be achieved by the entire Jewish people, bringing wholesome freedom to all humanity.2