The name of the holiday Pesach, or Passover, derives from the Hebrew words meaning “and G‑d will leap over.”1 Rashi2 explains further: “The festival is called Pesach because of [G‑d’s] leaping... Therefore perform all its aspects in a manner of bounding and leaping.”

What is the particular relationship between the holiday that celebrates the Exodus, and bounding and leaping?

The Jewish people lived in Egypt for many generations, eventually descending to a state of slavery. Some became so mired in slavery that when the time came for their liberation they did not want to leave Egypt!3

During the period that the Jews were in Egypt, the country was considered to be the most culturally advanced of its time in terms of knowledge, art, technology and philosophy4 — the things people commonly refer to when they speak of “culture” and “civilization.” But in terms of morality and ethics, Egypt was the most depraved, degenerate and immoral of lands,5 so much so that it was known as the “abomination of the earth.”6

It was from a land such that the Jewish people had to attain complete physical and spiritual freedom, so that soon afterward they would be able to lift themselves to the heights necessary for receiving G‑d’s Torah. For the main purpose of the Exodus was the receipt of Torah, as G‑d told Moshe: “When you will take the nation out of Egypt, they shall serve G‑d upon this mountain [of Sinai].”7 Indeed, Rashi notes8 that it was in merit of their eventual service to G‑d at Sinai that the Jewish people were redeemed from exile.

Receiving the Torah from G‑d involved the acceptance of all its decrees, beginning with the Ten Commandments, the first of which was: “I am the L-rd your G‑d, you shall have no other gods,” and the last of which was: “You shall not covet… anything that belongs to your fellow man.”9 These themes of G‑d’s absolute unity and the highest degree of ethics and morality in terms of man’s relationship with his fellows stood in stark contrast to the depravity of Egyptian “culture” and “civilization.”

Clearly, departing from such an abject state and achieving true inner freedom to the extent of accepting Torah and mitzvos before fully comprehending them10 required the mighty leap of “Pesach — in a manner of bounding and leaping.”

All this began while the Jews were still in Egypt, when G‑d told them about the Passover service, including the instruction that the entire service be done “in a manner of bounding and leaping.”

This vaulting manner of service culminated on the first night of Pesach , when G‑d Himself leapt over the bonds and fetters of exile, revealed Himself to the Jewish people while they were still in Egypt, released them from their captivity and established that from then on their inner state would be one of spiritual freedom.

This Passover theme of vaulting and leaping is fundamental to Jews and Judaism at all times and in all places, and is to be carried through the rest of the year.

We find ourselves exiled in a physical world, with a preponderance of our time required for physical acts such as eating, drinking, sleeping, earning a living, etc. The time remaining for spiritual affairs such as Torah study, prayer and the performance of mitzvos is thus severely restricted.

Nevertheless, Pesach tells us that as Jews we are expected and empowered to “leap over” all physical and corporeal limitations to attain true spiritual freedom the whole year through.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XII, pp. 160-164.