In this week’s parsha, Parshat Bo, the Jewish people celebrate their very first Pesach. God commands the people, “Seven days you shall eat matzot, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival to the Lord. Matzot shall be eaten throughout the seven-day period; no chametz may been seen in your possession, nor may leaven be seen in your possession in all your borders. And you shall tell your child on that day, saying, ‘It is on account of this that the Lord did for me when I left Egypt.’ And it will be for you for a sign on your hand and for a remembrance between your eyes, so that the Lord’s Torah may be in your mouth – for with a strong hand the Lord removed you from Egypt. You shall observe this decree at its designated time from days to days” (Shemot 13:6-10). The Talmud in tractate Menachot 36b seeks to understand what the pasuk, “You shall observe this decree at its designated time from days to days,” is referring to. While Rebbe Yossi HaGelili holds that this pasuk is referring to tefillin, Rebbe Akiva maintains that this pasuk is referring to observing Pesach. Rashi agrees with Rebbe Akiva’s view, as do many other classical mefarshim. However, if this pasuk denotes the observance of Pesach, we must ask ourselves, “Why do we need to be commanded to observe it every year? Don’t we know that this rite must be observed annually, as it says, ‘from days to days,’” which, as Rashi notes, means, “from year to year?” (Rashi on Shemot 13:10). To help answer this question, I would like to turn to the words of Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, also known as the Netziv, who writes: “Do not think that a person only needs to work at the beginning of his or her life in order to implant seeds of faith within their souls, and that after their faith has been implanted, they no longer need to work at it. For this reason the Torah cautions us, ‘You shall observe this decree at its designated time from days to days.’ Just as this mitzvah was meant to be meticulously observed in the past, so too it must be carefully observed in the future and for all time…” (HaEmek Davar, Shemot). Faith takes a lot of work because faith is not an event; it is a process which requires constant attention and exercise, like a delicate flower which has blossomed but which requires constant care in order to ensure its vitality, strength and beauty. It is very easy to fall into the inviting trap of routine, especially when it comes to our observance of mitzvot. However, our challenge is to be vigilant and thoughtful in our observances so that each day can be viewed as a new day, and that each mitzah, no matter how light or how heavy, can be viewed as a new opportunity to grow closer to our Creator, as Rashi writes, “the words of Torah should be new to you as if it was given to you today!” (Rashi on Shemot 19:1).
This Shabbat, as we learn about the Exodus of our people from the iron crucible of Egyptian bondage, let us celebrate our freedom – our spiritual freedom, by always seeking to improve our faith and our ritual observance so that we may all feel that we are constantly growing stronger in our relationships with each other and with the Divine, creating an unbreakable chain of faith and love whose cords will unite us as a covenanted people, and whose reach will span the generations “from days to days.”