GOOD MORNING! What if there was a total eclipse of the moon Monday at 3 a.m., but Wednesday at 10 a.m. was more convenient for you to view it? You'd miss the experience! Timing is everything. Well, the Jewish people has an appointment with the Almighty Monday evening April 14th to celebrate the first Seder. It is a special time infused with spiritual opportunity. Having your Seder on the weekend because it's more convenient is like showing up for a job interview or to vote on the wrong day...
Now is the time to buy your wine and matzos -- and to prepare the insights you wish to share at the Seder! Robert Heinlein once said, "A generation which ignores history has no past and no future." Learn, share and help create a future!
Q & A: WHAT IS PESACH (PASSOVER)
AND HOW IS IT CELEBRATED?
There are five mitzvot (commandments) for the Passover Seder, two from the Torah and three from our Sages. The two mitzvot from the Torah are to eat matza ("In the evening you shall eat unleavened bread" -- Exodus 12:18) and to tell the story of our exodus from Egypt ("And you shall relate to your son [the story of the Exodus] on this day" -- Exodus 13:9). The rabbis added the mitzvot of drinking the four cups of wine, eating marror (bitter herbs) and reciting Hallel (Psalms of praise for the Almighty). During the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, there were 16 additional mitzvot associated with the Pesach offering.
All of these commandments are to help us re-experience the Exodus and to feel and strengthen our sense of freedom. The mitzvot are to experience either the affliction or the redemption.
The matza is called "lechem ani" -- the bread of the poor man ... and "lechem oni" -- the bread of affliction. It has the dual symbolism of representing our affliction (we ate it while slaves) and our redemption (we hastily made matza to eat when we left Egypt).
The four cups of wine represent the four different terms for our redemption in the Torah (Exodus 6:6-7). Wine is the drink of free men! Bitter herbs is affliction (just look at the faces of those eating horseradish!) And Hallel is our thanks to the Almighty for our redemption and freedom.
Passover is the "Holiday of Freedom" -- spiritual freedom. The Almighty brought us out of Egypt to serve Him and to be free. Isn't this a contradiction? What is the essence of freedom?
Is freedom the ability to do what one desires unhampered and without consequence? That is license, not freedom. James Bond had a "license to kill," not the freedom to kill. Freedom means having the ability to use your free will to grow and to develop.
Our leaving Egypt led us to Mt. Sinai and the acceptance upon ourselves the yoke of Torah. This is the centerpiece of our freedom. It sets the boundaries of right and wrong, it sets forth the means to perfect ourselves and the world we live in, it defines ultimate meaning and satisfaction in life. Only with boundaries does one have the ability to grow and develop. Otherwise, with unlimited license, life is out of control.
People think they are free when they throw off the yoke of the Torah. However, unless one has the revealed wisdom of the Torah, he is at risk at becoming a "slave" to the fads and fashion of his 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 true freedom and to develop a closer relationship with the Almighty!
During all eight days of Pesach we are forbidden to own or eat chametz (leavened bread -- i.e., virtually any flour product not especially produced for Pesach) or have it in our possession (Exodus 13:7). Why the emphasis on being chametz-free? Chametz represents arrogance ("puffing up"). The only thing that stands between you and God ... is you. To come close to the Almighty, which is the ultimate pleasure in life and the opportunity of every mitzvah and holiday, one must remove his own personal barriers. The external act brings the internal appreciation -- we remove chametz from our homes and likewise work on the character trait of humility.
To understand more about Passover and to have fascinating ideas to share at the Seder, go to: Aish.com/Pesach . Check out: "All in the Seder"; "It Ain't Over 'til it's Passover"; "The ABC's of Passover"; and "The Passover Primer -- An inspiring and thought-provoking compendium of articles."
Metzora, Leviticus 14:1 - 15:33
The Torah continues with the laws of physical and spiritual purity. The focus of this portion is upon tzora'as, a supernatural physical affliction sent to warn someone to refrain from speaking badly about others. The disease progressively afflicted home, clothes and then one's skin -- unless the individual corrected his ways and followed the purification process stated in the Torah.
This week's portion continues with the purification process for the metzora, the person afflicted with tzora'as and then the home afflicted with tzora'as. The portion ends with the purification process for discharges from the flesh.
* * *
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah portion (Shemini) preceeding the laws concerning proper speech, delineated those animals which are tamei (unclean) and which may not be eaten. The Midrash states that after discussing unclean animals, the Torah then cites conditions which render a person tamei. Rashi says that just as animals preceded man in creation, the law pertaining to animals preceded those pertaining to man.
There is also a Midrash that states that if a person lives a proper life as befits a human being, he is consider the first of creation, because the Divine idea of creation was that there should be a human being that would recognize and worship God. If, however, man fails to develop his unique abilities, he is told, "The lowly insect preceded you in creation."
Precisely because a human being has a physical body that has many animalistic drives, a person who subdues these drives in the interest of drawing closer to God actually surpasses angels in spirituality. Angels are holy because they were created holy, whereas man becomes holy through his own effort.
However, man may descend to a level beneath that of animals. Animals have inborn limitations to their bodily drives. They eat to provide the necessary nutrients for the body, and then they stop. They mate to preserve the species, and then they stop. Even predatory animals kill only for their food, but when they are not hungry, they will not kill unless provoked. Animal drives are in the interest of survival.
Man, on the other hand, is not bound by such limitations. Man may indulge far in excess of bodily needs, and man may pervert his urges. Indeed, man may indulge himself to the point of self-destruction. Furthermore, whereas predatory animals kill only for self-survival, man's aggressiveness can be totally senseless. When a person corrupts his bodily drives, he sinks to a level lower than animals.
When a person fulfills himself spiritually, he becomes the primary goal of creation, and he not only precedes animas, but also precedes angels, who were not created until the second of the six days. However, if he fails to live a spiritual life, he deteriorates to a level beneath an insect.
Although the human ego-drive may lead a person astray, there is one aspect of the ego-drive that is constructive. We should be proud to be the goal of creation.
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Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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