Reflections: Important Findings

B”H

April 13, 2020 (19 Nissan 2020)

The Intermediate days (Chol HaMoed) of Pesach occur within the of the yom tov (festival days; literally, “good days”) of Passover. The first two and last two days of Passover (outside of Israel) are like bookends for Chol HaMoed. These intermediate days have less holiness; yet, they are still part of the overall holiday of Passover.

I think that this is less known by many who do not celebrate Passover. Outside of Israel, there are eight days of Passover. Even of those amongst us, who celebrate Passover, there are some who may be less aware of maintaining a certain level of respect towards the Intermediate days. Honoring Pesach goes beyond having a seder, or two for the more observant. And, we all continue to eat matzoh for a full eight days.

The Biblical consequence for not doing so is strict: kares. This Hebrew word means to be cut off, as in to be cut off from one’s people. Yet, the exact implication is not necessarily to be somehow cut off from one’s people in this world (Olam HaZeh); rather, according the chazal (the sages), kares means to be cut off in the next world (Olam HaBa). In other words, the consequence is eternal separation.

Many of us who receive the modern day understanding of Judaism as a religion that focuses primarily on this world will miss the point. There are eternal consequences for our actions. What we do in this world will influence our place in Olam HaBa (the World to Come). Therefore, abstaining from chometz (leavened foods) on Pesach is crucial.

Additionally, there must be some understanding beyond the surface of this commandment. According to various rabbinical commentaries, chometz represents sin, pride, and the yetzer hara (evil inclination). Removing these from our lives is integral to our souls. We may abstain from aveiros (transgressions) by being aware of what constitutes sin. We may humble ourselves, to lessen our sense of self importance. And, we may diminish the influence of our yetzer hara by focusing on H’Shem and mitzvot (good deeds).

In like manner that we search for and remove all remaining chometz from our homes, before Passover starts, so should we look for the hidden faults in our character and way of life, not only during Passover, rather, also throughout the entire year. Finding out our own deficiencies is necessary in order to make a change for the better. May our resultant level of kedusha (holiness) prepare us to receive Moshiach (Messiah). Next Year in Jerusalem.

Redemptive Prayer

B”H

16 Nissan 5780

March 10, 2020

Shiur for Pesach 5780

“And Moses said unto the people: Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the L-RD, which He will work for you to-day; for whereas ye have seen the Egyptians to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.”

– Exodus 14:13, JPS 1917 Tanach

As the Egyptian army approached, Torah records that B’nei Yisrael, encamped near the Sea of Reeds, cried out to H’Shem in great fear (14:10). Commentary notes that the people were divided in their response: 1). Some cried out to H’Shem in prayer, akin to the later writing of the psalmist, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will make mention of the name of the L-RD our G-d” (Psalm 20:8, JPS). 2). Another group of the people, having great trepidation about their circumstances, took the exact opposite approach, expressing their regret for having left Egypt, and complaining to Moshe (see Exodus 14:10-12).

When Moshe responded to the consternation of B’nei Yisrael, in light of their present circumstances, despite the seemingly near danger that was imminent, he said to them, “Fear ye not, stand still and see” (see above). Or HaChayim comments, that the words “stand still” convey the essence of prayer, a reliance on H’Shem, turning to Him in the midst of nisyanos (trials). He notes that the same Hebrew phrase is used in the Tanach, in regard to the prayer of Hannah, Samuel’s mother, who prayed in all sincerity to H’Shem. The picture derived from this understanding is one of a people’s reliance on H’Shem, in hope of seeing His salvation at a time of great need, when Pharaoh’s army was bearing down on them.

That night, an angel of H’Shem protected the people from the Egyptians, a cloud darkened the Egyptian camp, while a pillar of light shined upon the B’nei Yisrael. Moshe stretched his hand over the sea; and, H’Shem caused the sea to part by way of a strong east wind. The Children of Israel passed through the sea; however, when the Egyptians pursued them, Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the sea. Our own expectations of H’Shem for deliverance in our lives, regardless of our circumstances, when made through the prayer of sincerity, may bring results greater than our expectations. Especially, when there is no other recourse to be made, it is then that we may see the grandeur of His salvation.

Passover Reflections

B”H

14 Nissan 5780

March 8, 2020

Passover preparations, ideally performed in a meticulous manner, especially in regard to removing any speck of chometz (leavened products) that might be left after removing items like breads and cereals from the cupboards, may be viewed as a transition from ordinary time into redemptive time.

The seder, a traditional 2-4 hour meal, inclusive of various foods eaten for their symbolic value, plus the reading of the Hagaddah (Exodus narrative, embellished with songs and commentaries), is the way we relive our Redemption from slavery in Egypt. Each food represents part of the experience leading towards Redemption.

The search for chometz, in and of itself, is symbolic. Chometz represents sin, pride, and the yetzer hara (evil inclination). As meticulous as we may be in our search for crumbs, we need to look inside ourselves, as well, in order to bring to light what lurks in the darkness of our personalities. Then, we may transition from being enslaved to our yetzer hara, into the freedom of our redemptive selves, wherein we seek to follow our yetzer tov (good inclination).

“Depart from evil, and do good;

seek peace, and pursue it.”

– Psalm 34:14, JPS 1917 Tanach

Behind Closed Doors

B”H

14 Nissan 5780

Lev Emes: The Heart of Truth v.1, 3

“It is good that a man should quietly wait for the salvation of the L-RD.”

– Lamentations 3:26

In expectation of redemption from this modern day plague, I wait, knowing that there is a purpose to everything, including my waiting. This time of isolation is valuable beyond words, not only for me, rather, for others as well. If only we are able to use this time in a meaningful way, without stressing, or becoming inundated by the news. I carefully sift through articles, only reading what is accurate, relevant, and essential. For each person this may differ, depending upon various circumstances. However, the so-called “shared” common experience, is that most of us are spending a lot of time behind closed doors.

Yet, what kind of world will we have to look forward to after the plague is eradicated? The world is already being transformed. We can not expect a continuation of “business as usual.” If anything, we are seeing the beginning of the birthpangs of Moshiach (Messiah). Our eyes should be cast towards Shomayim (Heaven). Few may understand, what lies ahead. According to the sages, the Final Redemption will be like the First Redemption. The plagues in Egypt will not compare. “As in the days of thy coming forth out of the land of Egypt will I show unto him [Israel] marvellous things” (Micah 7:15, JPS 1917 Tanach).

3,332 years ago, the Israelites ate the Pesach meal, in their own homes, behind closed doors, while the the tenth plague was enacted upon the Egyptian homes. The Destroying Angel roamed the streets of Egypt, taking the first born of every home, except for the homes wherein the blood of the Pesach lamb was placed upon the lintels and doorposts. This Passover will very closely resemble the original Pesach – the last night before our freedom ensued. Most of us will be behind the closed doors of our own homes. Although there is a mitzvah (commandment) to invite others into our homes, the only guest that we will be inviting, towards the end of the seder is Elijah the Prophet.

May we all be able to say together in spirit, and in expectation of the our Redemption, at the end of the seder, “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Moreover, it is interesting to note, that in Jerusalem they say, “Next Year in Rebuilt Jerusalem.” This pertains to the rebuilding of the Third Temple in Jerusalem. That is the true significance of the phrase, that we are looking forward to the Messianic Redemption.

The Tenth Plague

B”H
erev 11 Nissan 5780
Motzei Shabbos Shiur

The redemption of B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) began on Shabbos, specifically, the tenth of Nissan. That Shabbos became known as Shabbat HaGadol. What was so special about the Tenth of Nissan? That day was when the Children of Israel were commanded to bring a lamb into each and every one of their homes. “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying: In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household” (Exodus 12:3, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Why was this the beginning of the Redemption for B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel)? Because the lamb was to be the first national offering, made by each and every family, for the sake of using the blood of the lamb as a sign, placed upon the doorposts and lintels of their homes. The blood would serve as a sign, whereby, “the L-RD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side-posts, the L-RD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” (Exodus 12:23).

And, so, the tenth plague, the slaying of the first born, was not enacted upon the Children of Israel. They were spared, because of their emunah (faith) in H’Shem, that compelled them to carry out the commandment, regarding the Pesach lamb. They had been further commanded, “none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning” (Exodus 12:23).

“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, And shut thy doors about thee; Hide thyself for a little moment, Until the indignation be overpast.”

– Isaiah 26:20, JPS 1917 Tanach