Getting out of Egypt was more than a political emancipation of the Jewish people. It was a spiritual transformation. The Jews were not only physically enslaved but also spiritually enmeshed in Egyptian culture. Egypt was the epitome of egotism and haughtiness. But in truth we all know that in actuality, a person is egotistical because he lacks true self-esteem and confidence of his self-worth. His haughty airs are really a cover-up, a guise. He is trying to compensate for his painful sense of inadequacy and insecurity.
Maimonides, the great Jewish philosopher living in the Twelfth century, explains that humanity’s lack of self worth was what led them to idolatry. He explains that the ancients were unable to fathom that G-d would personally care about them. Therefore, they sought out help from an intermediate power other than G-d. They believed that their lives were guided by the power of the stars because G-d, the Creator, does not personally care about them. They reasoned, “Of what worth are we that the Creator would have any regard for our situation?”
The Passover story teaches us that this despairing attitude is false. A verse in the Torah reads, “Don’t make intermediate gods, guard the Festival of the Matza.” The Sages explain this odd juxtaposition: “This is to teach us that anyone who disgraces the Festival is as if performs idolatry.” In other words, celebrating Passover affirms our belief that G-d loves us and personally takes care of us; there is no need for any intermediaries between us. To think otherwise is the beginning of idolatry.
Judaism teaches that G-d’s love and care for us is unconditional. Therefore, in the times when the Temple stood in Jerusalem we were obligated to come there and, so to speak, greet G-d face to face. Of-course the presence of G-d fills the earth and we are in His presence wherever. However, in Jerusalem that truth is more readily experienced. On the holiday of Passover even a simpleton with no preparation could experience a sudden quantum leap in his spiritual level and feel worthy to enjoy a personal loving relation with G-d. Each and every one of us is befitting to bask in G-d’s loving presence.
The Torah refers to a Festival as a Moed, which literally means “to meet.” The portable sanctuary that the Jews carried with them in the desert was called the Ohel Moed—the Meeting Tent. It was a place to meet G-d. The Festivals, however, are a time to meet G-d. The Torah also refers to a festival as a Mikra Kodesh a “Calling of Holiness,” because it calls forth from each of us our innate holiness and godliness. Therefore, to deny yourself the celebration of a Moed—a direct meeting with G-d — is as if to accept the claim of idolatry; that G-d doesn’t love and care about you because you are insignificant and, therefore, unworthy of His personal attention.
In truth, we are always connected to and loved by G-d. However, three times a year on the holidays of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot we are able to readily feel that truth without preparation.