I went to the Kotel during Pesach and as soon as I arrived I saw my friend Gedalia MSG. We shared some Torah and he told me the gematria of Pesach is 148 Nachman, which I hadn’t known before. I immediately thought then it is also gematria קמח (flour). That was interesting because Pesach is all about eating matzah, that is, how we use flour. So this got me thinking all the rest of Pesach what the deeper meaning of this was.
I spent a lot of time recently reading and reflecting on Pesach ג in Lechutei Halachot. Here Reb Noson explains that the spiritual dimension of Pesach centers around the battle between the ruach d’kedusha of Moshe Rabbeinu and the the ruach d’tumah of Egypt, ruled by Pharaoah and under the dominion of Esau.
This is part of a theme that is of vital importance to understanding Rebbe Nachman’s Torah, that is the four elements of nature: earth, water, air and fire. These are called yesodot in Hebrew and the Tzaddik yesod olam is the master of these elements of nature. Thus through the Tzaddik flows all the shefa of the world.
Reb Noson goes on to explain how bread is made from these four elements:
Air: Yeast and the rising of the bread
The difference between bread and matzah is only in the element of air. This then is the secret of Pesach. Pesach is the time that we purify the ruach (the air element in our soul), the time we have the opportunity to free ourselves from the ruach d’tumah and connect more strongly to the ruach d’kedusha. This is done through the breaking of our desires and connection to the sitra achra and strengthening our connection to the purity of the highest part of our soul, which gets its life from the neshama klali, the soul of Israel -- the Tzaddik HaEmet.
So this made me wonder: how is it that simply cleaning our houses from chametz and eating matza for a week could have such an important part in this process?
First we need to realize that Pesach is the holiday that celebrates the birth of the people of Israel and is probably the central holiday in our calendar and the defining moment in our history -- leaving Egypt. However, the holiday is not called the holiday of leaving Egypt, it is called the Festival of Matza.
Bread is the basis of all eating. A seudah is only a seudah because we eat bread. It is the reasson we say birkat hamazon. And of course the basis of the bread is the flour (קמח 148). Therefore, Pesach is the time we can focus on eating in greater holiness. The chametz is an aspect of the ruach d’tumah and so Hashem Yitbarach gives us this mitvah to free ourselves from chametz in order to use this time to purify ourselves and gain the spiritual strength to transform the ruach in our lives so that we have the power to eat bread and all our meals the rest of the year in greater holiness.
Reb Noson explains that matza is a food like that Manna that is heavenly and is free of the mixture of good and bad that came into the world from the eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Thus through the eating in accordance with the mitzva, Hashem Yitbarach gives us a way to connect back to the light olam haba that is all good. This is the ultimate nourishment for our souls.
There are three primary elements to the soul. Nefesh, Ruach and Neshama.
Nefesh: Physical Aspect
Ruach : Emotional Aspect
Neshama: Spiritual and Intellectual Aspect
The Torah teaches us that our primary work is to heal our emotional aspect, that is our middot. The Tzaddik is one whose emotions are guided by the pure Torah of his neshama and he uses his emotions and will power to rule his body and physical inclinations.
And here is the secret of Pesach...Pesach gematria 148, flour 148 and Nachman 148. Pesach, the time of our freedom from Egypt is celebrated through the festival of matza. Matza is the taking of flour and freeing it from the element of air so that it becomes a perfect kli for the ruach d’kedusha. In other words, as Reb Noson explains, matza is daat, the pure wisdom that is all good. And this is essence of the soul of the Tzaddik HaEmet, NACHMAN, Nachal Novea Mekor Chochma, the flowing stream and source of wisdom.
Now that we have eaten the matza and have received this higher wisdom, it is our work to cultivate this wisdom in our lives through the process of Counting the Omer -- the purification of the middot in preparation for receiving the Torah and our true life as Holy Servants of the Blessed Creator.