Food For the Soul
Annie R, a retired schoolteacher, doesn’t consider herself an observant Jew. Yet every year, she turns her home inside out before Passover, cleaning everything, koshering her kitchen and selling her chametz. (For the “how to,” visit Chabad.org). When asked why she bothers with all of this, she says, “it helps me remember that whatever else I am – or was – in this life, I am still a Jew commemorating the greatest escape from slavery the world has ever known.”
In his article “Why Do Jews in Exile Celebrate Passover,” Rabbi Yossy Goldman recounts examples from the Holocaust, from Soviet Russia and from Syrian prisons – where Jewish men and women celebrated Passover under unimaginably difficult conditions. Why?
“Back in the 16th century,” Rabbi Goldman explains, “the holy Rabbi Judah Lowe (known as the Maharal and chief rabbi of Prague) writes that not only did the Jews avoid inheriting a slave mentality from Egypt, but the opposite—the Exodus forever changed the inner identity of the Jew. The Exodus set us free, not only physically and politically, but spiritually and psychologically…The Exodus was not just a one-off historical event or a fantastic, dramatic story that we retell yearly at our Passover Seders. No. The Exodus was a spiritual revolution which changed the mentality, mindset, psyche, and the very nature of a Jew forever. Freedom was wired into our national DNA. We are, by definition, a free people, and nothing and no one can ever change that.”
This year, Passover (Pesach) is from April 5 to April 13, 2023. May you enjoy a kosher and joyous holiday!
arshah Tzav and Shabbat HaGad
This Shabbat (April 1/10 Nissan) we read from the Parshah “Tzav”, which means “command” and is found in Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36. G-d instructs Moses to command Aaron and his sons regarding their duties and rights as kohanim (priests) who offer the korbanot (animal and meal offerings) in the Sanctuary.
On the Shabbat before the Exodus—10 Nissan 1313 BCE –the first-born of Egypt, who occupied the senior positions in the priesthood and government, fought a bloody battle with Pharaoh’s troops, in an effort to secure the release of the Israelites and prevent the Plague of the Firstborn. This “great miracle” is commemorated each year on the Shabbat before Passover, which is therefore called Shabbat HaGadol, “The Great Shabbat.”
Mind Over Matter
Between Matzah and Chametz
What’s the difference between matzah and chametz? They’re both made from flour and water, both baked in an oven, and both provide nourishment. But one stays flat and humble, while the other fills itself with hot air. That’s why matzah is a key ingredient for leaving your personal Egypt: As long as we are full of delusions of self-importance, there’s no way to break out and grow to a new level. Once we make ourselves small, we can fit through any bars and fly to the highest heights.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Every Individual’s Effort Counts
The recitation and study of the teachings of sacrifices, like their actual offerings, effect not only personal atonement, but also elicit the presence of the Shechinah upon the individual involved in that recitation, and also upon the very place of the Holy Temple, just as when it existed physically in our midst. Each one, therefore, must realize the tremendous responsibility of his or her service of G‑d with Torah and mitzvot. Every individual’s effort and contribution in Torah and prayer has an inestimable positive effect for the whole world. It hastens the time when we shall again be able to offer sacrifices “in accordance with Your (G-d’s) Will”-in the third Beit Hamikdash which will descend from Heaven and become revealed to us with the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our own days.
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
The Lady and the Nose
A young man went on a date. After the first meeting he told his friends that he was impressed with the young lady’s character, but not with the shape of her nose. After several further dates, the young man fell in love. When his friends asked about the nose, he replied, “When I look at her I see a lovely face, not an unattractive nose.” For the first few months the young husband didn’t notice the shape of his wife’s nose, but soon he began to notice it again. Only, this time he surprised himself when he actually came to adore it.
First his love blinded him to the faults in her appearance, and he subconsciously learned to ignore them. Then he came to love her so much that he was infatuated with her every attribute. The unappealing became appealing. The unattractive nose was transformed into a source of even greater attraction. The love between husband and wife is a metaphor for the love between ourselves and G‑d.
G-d instructed our ancestors to build an altar in the Tabernacle and to maintain a continuous fire upon it. The altar represents our hearts; the fire, our love for G‑d. We must keep our love for G‑d aflame, palpable in our hearts at all times; and when we do, “the ‘not’ will be extinguished.”
The “not” is our desire to refuse G‑d’s wishes periodically. This “not” is stimulated by our attraction to worldly pleasures. Nurturing a continuous love for G‑d reduces our attraction to worldly pleasures, thus also extinguishing our “not,” our desire to say no to G‑d.
The first step is to extinguish the “not.” The second step is to turn the “not” into a “shall,” by harnessing our desire for worldly pleasures to the service of G‑d. When our passion for worldly pleasures becomes a passion for G‑d, when the desire to avoid G‑d becomes a desire to embrace Him, then we, like the young husband in the story, have turned a formerly unappealing attribute into a conduit for greater love.
Like the young husband who silenced his ambivalence in order to love his bride, so did G‑d silence the voices of Egyptian opposition in order to liberate His people. The tenth and final plague miraculously accomplished this goal. It terminated Egypt’s opposition to G‑d and to His demand to liberate our people.
The civil war, however, went beyond this step. It not only stopped the opposition, but also turned the oppressors into supporters. For the first time, Egyptians rallied in support of the Jewish cause. This was the first time that the forces arrayed against G‑d crossed the line in support of G‑d.
This was a “great miracle.” Most miracles change the natural order by forcing the natural order to work against itself. Rarely does the natural order transform itself to the point that it desires and embraces the change G‑d wants. This time it did.
It was the Egyptians’ natural inclination to deny the existence of G‑d despite all evidence to the contrary. But the civil war erupted because the firstborn’s natural opposition to G‑d changed into an inclination to embrace G‑d and His instruction to liberate the Jews. This transformation was not forced upon them against their nature. Their natural inclination simply changed when they realized that supporting the Jews would enable their own survival and is thus in their best interest. Like the young man whose ambivalence was ultimately turned by his love into a conduit for greater love, so did their realization transform their opposition to G‑d into faith and advocacy for His people.
This explains why we refer to the Shabbat that commemorates this great miracle as Shabbat HaGadol, “The Great Shabbat.” Shabbat is about escaping the tangled web of worldly affairs. But on this Shabbat we go one step further. Instead of silencing the world, we celebrate it. Rather than escaping the world on this Shabbat, we highlight its divine origin. As the Egyptian firstborn did, we recognize that the weekday world was also created by G‑d, and, rather than view it as a possible distraction, we invite it to worship in Shabbat-style devotion. Among the Shabbatot of the year, this one is “great” because it integrates the world with G‑d, enabling all other Shabbatot to influence the weekday world that is ushered in behind them.
From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow