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.

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

The Battle Within

B”H

The Battle Within, by Tzvi Schnee

“And the children struggled together within her; and she said: ‘If it be so, wherefore do I live?’ And she went to inquire of the L-RD. And the L-RD said unto her: Two nations are in thy womb, And two peoples shall be separated from thy bowels; And the one people shall be stronger than the other people; And the elder shall serve the younger.”

-Genesis 25:22-23, JPS 1917 Tanach

Even before their birth, Jacob and Esau contended against each other; “the children struggled together” within the womb of Rebekah; “and she said: ‘If it be so, wherefore do I live?’ And she went to inquire of the L-RD” (see above, Genesis 22:22). H’Shem (the L-RD; literally, the Name), responded to Rebekah’s inquiry as a concerned parent, and the next Matriarch of the Jewish people, “Two nations are in thy womb, and the two peoples shall be separated from thy bowels” (Genesis 22:23). These are the nations and peoples that would descend from Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s descendants would be the twelve tribes of Israel (the name given later to Jacob); and, Esau’s descendants would be the Edomites.

Although, on the literal level, the prophecy given to Rebekah refers to the enmity that would persist throughout the ages between the descendants of Jacob and Esau, on a metaphorical level, the struggle between Jacob and Esau in their mother’s womb indicates a battle between the forces of good and evil. This same struggle exists within every human being: the battle between the yetzer tov (good inclination), and the yetzer harah (evil inclination). When we become conscious of this inner conflict, we may realize that while we have the opportunity to good in any given moment, there is a part of us that resists our inclination to do what is right on the level of morality.

As the prophecy concludes, “the elder will serve the younger” (Genesis 22:23); in other words, the descendants of the wicked Esau will serve the righteous descendants of Jacob; so, we should also aspire to compel our evil inclination to be subservient to our good inclination. H’Shem has given mankind free will, so that we can choose what is right, despite the opposing inclination within us. As is written, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed” (Deuteronomy 30:19, JPS 1917 Tanach).