Friday, March 22, 2013

The Message of Pesach

With sincere apologies to Parshas Tzav, this week we'll be discussing the upcoming yom tov of Pesach.
This is not gonna be one of those ¨Pesach is about cleaning the chametz, not cleaning the chandelier¨ posts. 
But, it is true that when simply hearing the word Pesach, many of us transform into some kind of unrecognizable form of ourselves. Even if that word is mentioned in July.
Panic, anxiety, and hyperventilation creep up on us, and though we try to bury the negative feelings, sometimes a tad of loathing comes to join the emotional party.
Is this really what Pesach is supposed to be like? Somehow I don't think G-d had intended that this holy and delightful holiday become a turn-off to all family members living with a harried pre Pesach woman.  

We are commanded to get rid of the chametz. Period. No need to remove the curtains, paint the house, or go through picture albums from the 80´s. You´re not missing much anyway in those albums, it´s just a bunch of hairspray and leg warmers.

 When was the last time you ate your peanut butter sandwich while hanging from the chandelier? Probably when you were a monkey.
So, I´m going to take just a few minutes to focus on what Pesach is and to stay away from what it's not.

Pesach, in a nutshell.

The Jews were set free from 210 years of bitter slavery. The possuk writes that they left Egypt bechipazon, in a rush, and if they would not have left at the exact moment that they did, they would not have been worthy of leaving at all!
At this point, the Jews as a nation, were on the 49th level of impurity. Had they stayed in that morally depraved country for another minute they would´ve fallen down to the 50th level, the lowest possible one, disabling their redemption permanently.

Ok. I have a problem with this. Do you mean to tell me that it took 210 years for them to fall down to the 49th level, and in 4 1/2 more seconds of being around the corruption, they´d fall down a whole nother level?

Rabbi Akiva Tatz says, it wasn´t the Egyptian influence that would have caused their descent. The offense would have been an internal one. It would have been the waiting, itself.

Laziness. Procrastination. 

Had they decided to first finish the game they were playing, or finish a conversation with someone, take a nap before the trip, or even finish the bread they were baking, they would have been guilty of procrastination.
That would have been a transgression so great that it would have rendered them...and us...slaves, forever and ever.
That´s a frightening thought.  
My name would probably be Yafhadenijad.  I wouldn´t even know how to spell that.

Bechipazon. THAT was the second to act, and not a moment later.

I once missed out on an opportunity to redt a shidduch between two people, because I moved too slowly. I was very young and felt intimidated to call. I had this excuse, and that one. On the day that  I finally decided to do it, I heard the news: They had gotten engaged! To each other! 
And I had lost that irreplaceable mitzvah. 
 I have another question. 
We all understand the reason we have to eat matzoh on Pesach, but why do we have to get rid of all the chametz? On sukkos we move into the  sukkah, but we don't have to destroy our homes while eating in it!
So why isn't it enough to just eat matzoh- why are we commanded to get rid of all the chametz as well? 
I have another question.  
Why do we start counting the omer on the second night of Pesach and not on the first?
Ok, I´m gonna be very Jewish for a minute, and answer my questions with another question.
What's the difference between chametz and matzah?
Look at their spelling. They both have a mem,and tzadi. But their third letters are different. One has a ches, and the other, a hei. The difference between a ches and a hei, is just a teeny tiny line. But that minuscule line is the entire difference between the two.
Now, check out their ingredients. Flour, and water. They're both made out of the same exact things.
Being that both of these items are so similar, it arouses my curiosity that eating one of them on Pesach is such a great mitzvah, and eating the other is such a great aveirah.
So, what exactly is the halachik difference between the two? 

1- Time factor. For the matzah to be kosher, it has to be completely finished within 18 minutes. Otherwise, it's  chametz.  
It needs to be made immediately. 
No procrastinating. No being lazy.

2- Constant work. As long as the dough is being kneaded consistently, it's good to go. When you stop kneading it and leave it to sit around, it starts to rise a bit, causing it to become chametz. 
No procrastinating. No being lazy.

Everything in the physical world is mirrored in the spiritual world. Cleaning for physical crumbs in all the cracks and crevices of the home is meant to reflect cleaning the hidden corners within ourselves to get rid of spiritual crumbs.
 Matzah is simple and humble. The only way for it to lose that status is through lack of movement and work. 
We, too are born simple and humble. But if we let ourselves sit around, we stop working on ourselves, and we become chametz. Because when we sit, when we´re spiritually lazy, we start rising. Our ego's naturally get pumped with helium. We become arrogant.
Throughout the year we are obligated to remember our stay in egypt and our negative experience there, but we can be surrounded by chametz while doing so.
On Pesach, we have to concentrate so intensely on what happened in Egypt, that we can't be distracted by the chamtez. Nothing can get in the way of our focus on The message of Pesach. 
The message of Pesach is so important that we cannot even focus on the highlight of history, the essence of who we are, the day of matan Torah!  
That´s why we count the omer starting on the second day of Pesach instead of the first, so that our focus on the seder night can be purely on the message of the chag.

The message of Pesach is TIME MANAGEMENT
Physically, as well as spiritually, we gotta move immediately and consistently.

Remember the famous story of Rabbi Akiva? He eventually became the greatest Torah teacher of all time. But in order to achieve that status, his selfless and devoted wife, Rochelle, encouraged him to travel to a top yeshiva where he can study away from home and uninterrupted for 12 years. 
As arranged, he returned home after being away that long, and as he approached his house, he heard his wife having a conversation inside with a neighbor. The neighbor, clearly impressed with her sacrifice and determination, asked her how she would react if her husband walked through the door and announced that he wants to return the yeshiva for another 12 years.
Her response? GO!

Rabbi Akiva heard her response, and without missing a beat, turned 360 degrees, and his destination became one with his original departure.  He stayed at the yeshiva for another 12 years, becoming the preeminent Torah teacher that he was, and molding 24,000 students into true talmidei chachamim and future Torah teachers.

There´s one little detail that always bothered me about that very inspiring story. He didn´t see his wife for 12 flippin years! Couldn´t he just go in and say hello? Couldn´t he have a cup of coffee with her before departing again? 

After learning about bechipazon, I have my answer. 
No. He couldn´t. 
Had he gone in to see his wife, he may never have left again.
Rabbi Akiva knew that he needed to make a split second decision. It´s now or never.  

THAT was the second to act, and not a moment later. 
One more question, just to fill up your seder with lots of ´em. What does chametz have to do with the avoda of pesach? Why doesn't chametz interfere with Rosh Hashana, or Shabbos?
 The only time we have an obligation from the Torah to educate our children, is at the Pesach seder. As a matter of fact, that is the entire point of Pesach. V'heegadita l´bincha... Transmission to children.  

At the seder, we do everything just for the kids to ask and learn. But, a person cannot transmit when he has gaava, arrogance. 
 Because an arrogant person doesn't listen to anyone, and therefore doesn´t learn from anyone. And he can't connect with those that he's teaching. A person can only teach something to others when he has humility.
And, this is why, right after we learn the message of Pesach from Rabbi Akiva, each of his 24,000 students fell sick and left this world. 
Because, since they didn't have enough humility and couldn´t respect each other properly, they were unable to transmit the Torah. They had to be disqualified.
Time management. 
The time is now.

It seems like a message so simple and insigficant for a holiday as grand as Pesach

Simple? Indeed it is. It´s that little miniscule line causing the hei to become a ches 
It´s that little mitzvah that I lost forever.
It´s that little split second decision of doing something now...or perhaps never.

Chametz or matzah. Arrogance or humility. Life or death.

Insignificant? Indeed it is...if you´d rather still be wearing a burqa.
Btw, I used blue ink this week because I'm in middle of cleaning out my black ink cartridge for Pesach.

Have a great shabbos and a chag kasher v'sameach.