Passover (first day)(Exodus 12:21-51)
GOOD MORNING! An elderly American was waiting in line for Passport Control at Charles de Gaulle Airport. While fumbling for his passport, the passport control agent chastised him, "You should have your passport ready! Everyone knows you cannot enter France without a passport!" The American softly replied, "You know, the last time I visited France no one asked for my passport." "Impossible!" declared the Passport Agent, "No one enters France without a passport!"
"Well," responds the American, "I can guarantee you that when my unit hit Omaha Beach on D-Day there was no Frenchman there asking me if I had a passport!" Then the American asked the Frenchman, "Excuse me, but do you speak German? In a huff, the Frenchman replied, "Of course not!" To which the American quietly responded, "You're welcome."
How, you might ask, does this connect to Pesach? First, one of the obstacles to spirituality (as well as good human relations) is arrogance. As you will see below, there is a connection between chametz (the leaven that we are to remove from our homes and our hearts) and arrogance. Second, the Haggadah is built around questions -- it is important to have good questions ... and good answers. Third, if you can share a story with someone and lighten his or her burden with a laugh -- then you have earned your keep for the day.
Q & A: WHY THE EMPHASIS ON PESACH
TO BE CHAMETZ-FREE?
On Pesach we are forbidden to own chametz (leavened bread -- i.e.., virtually any flour product not especially produced for Pesach) or have it in our possession. On the evening preceding Pesach there is a serious search of the home for chametz. This is also why it is very important to purchase Matzah specifically marked "For Passover Use". (I suggest buying round hand matzot for a unique and real treat at the Seder!)
Chametz represents arrogance ("puffing up"). Passover is the time of freedom -- spiritual freedom (which is the essence of why the Almighty brought us out of Egypt). As I've mentioned before, the only thing that stands between you and God ... is you. To come close to the Almighty (which is the essence of life and the opportunity of every mitzvah and holiday), one must remove his arrogance. This is the lesson of removing the chametz from our possession.
Freedom means having the ability to use your free will to grow and develop. People think they are free when really they are "slaves" to the fads and fashions of their society. Slavery is non-thinking action, rote behavior, following the impulse desires of the body. Our job on Pesach is to come out of slavery into freedom.
One of the freedoms to work on during Pesach is "freedom of the mouth." The sages view the mouth as the most dangerous part of the body. It is the only organ that can cause problems in both directions -- what comes in (food and drink) and what goes out (speech). It is so dangerous that it has two two coverings -- hard teeth and soft lips. Most of us are slaves to the mouth, both in what we eat and in what we speak.
On Seder night we fix this. We have the mitzvah to speak about the Jewish people leaving Egypt to elevate speech, and the matzah and Four Cups of wine to elevate eating and drinking.
The structure of the Hebrew language hints at the goal of "freedom of the mouth." Pesach can be divided into two words: Peh Sach, which means "the mouth speaks" -- we are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus the whole night. The Hebrew word, Paroh, (Pharaoh, the persecutor of the Jewish people in the Pesach story) can be divided into two words: Peh Rah, a "bad mouth." Our affliction of the slavery in Egypt was characterized as Perach, (difficult work) which can be read as two words: Peh Rach, "a loose mouth."
May we all merit on this Pesach to free ourselves from the "bad mouth," and to overcome the "loose mouth" where too much of the wrong food and drink come in and too many inappropriate words slip out.
Torah Portion of the Week
This Shabbat coincides with Pesach (Passover). Therefore, there is a special reading for Shabbat of Pesach which supersedes the usual weekly Torah portion. The Torah portion read is Exodus 12:21-51 including: The Passover offering, the 10th plague (death of the firstborn Egyptian), Pharaoh's surrender, the Exodus from Egypt, and additional laws of the Passover offering. Also read is Numbers 28:16-25 including: the laws of Pesach, the offerings of the holiday and the designation of Pesach as a seven day holiday.
Passover is observed as a seven day holiday in Israel and an eight day holiday outside of Israel due originally to difficulties in communication. The day of the holiday depended upon the Sanhedrin (the Jewish court in Jerusalem) declaring the start of the new month. (The DATE we know from the Torah is the "15th day of the first month." Nissan is called the first month with regards to counting the year of the rule of a king.) This declaration was based on cross-examination of witnesses testifying that they had seen the beginning of the new moon. Since there was a two day possibility for seeing the new moon, the Sage decreed that outside of Israel the first two days and the last two days should be considered full-fledged Yom Tovim, holidays; the in-between days are considered intermediate days. At one point, before this decree, the new month was communicated by a system of bonfires from hilltops from Jerusalem to Babylon. However, once our enemies found out about the meaning of the bonfires, they would light fires for the sole purpose of causing the Jews problems.
* * *
adapted from The Passover Survival Kit
by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf
During the Passover Seder we ask the Four Questions. So, why IS this night different? Because on this night we experienced our freedom. Because only on this holiday do all of the special observances, mitzvot, apply only at night. On Rosh Hashanah we blow the shofar only during the day. On Sukkot we sit in a Sukkah during the day or night. Only on Passover do so many mitzvot apply only at night. Why is this the only night of the year so brimming with mitzvot? Because on the night of Passover we not only commemorate the moment of our birth, but we express the very meaning of our existence as a people. Our sages tell us, "For the mitzvah is like a candle and the Torah a light."
The purpose of Jewish existence is to be a source of light where otherwise darkness would hold sway. No matter how dark the world around us seems to grow, no matter how dim humankind's future may seem -- the Jewish nation never gives up. Deep inside we all know that things can be different. Deep inside we feel the call to cast a light on a darkened life, or to illuminate a clouded corner of the globe.
As dark as our lives may seem, lost though the world may have become, we still believe in the power of light. To illuminate our lives and our potential. to be a radiant force for all mankind. This is our message and our goal. We will not rest until the dark night again shines like the day.
CANDLE LIGHTING - April 6
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J'Burg 5:42 - London 7:24 - Los Angeles 7:00
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New York 7:08 - Singapore 6:53 - Toronto 7:33
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The bend in the road is not the end --
unless you fail to make the turn
With Special Thanks to
James and Patricia Cayne
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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