Acharei Mot(Leviticus 16-18)
Acharei Mot 5774
GOOD MORNING! Recently, I suggested using props at the Seder -- such as frogs to throw during mention of the plague of frogs and Ping-Pong balls to throw during mention of the plague of hail -- to make the Seder more interesting for the kids. A few years ago, I went to Toys-R-Us the day of the Seder. I asked an employee where the plastic frogs were. He looked at me strangely and said, "You're the 7th person today to ask me for frogs ... and we're all out. And not only that, but we're out of Ping-Pong balls, too!" So, shop early!
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 why it is very important to purchase matzah that is kosher for Pesach -- not all matzah is chametz-free. (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, it is the only part of the body that has 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.
Acharei Mos, Leviticus 16:1 - 18:30
Acharei Mos includes the Yom Kippur service where the Cohen Gadol cast lots to designate two goats -- one to be sacrificed, the other to be driven to a place called Azazel -- after the Cohen Gadol (the High Priest) confessed the sins of the people upon its head. Today it is a phrase in the vernacular in Israel in the heat of an argument to instruct another person to "go to Azazel." I don't believe the intent, however, is to look for the goat....
The goat sent to Azazel carried away the sins of the Jewish people. This, I surmise, is the source of the concept of using a scapegoat. One thing you can truly give credit to the Jewish people -- when we use a scapegoat, at least we use a real goat!
The Torah then proceeds to set forth the sexual laws -- who you are not allowed to marry or have relations with. If one appreciates that the goal of life is to be holy, to perfect oneself and to be as much as possible like God, then he/she can appreciate that it is impossible to orgy at night and be spiritual by day.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances, which a person shall do and live by them, I am the Almighty" (Leviticus 18:5).
What lesson for life can we learn from the words "and live by them"?
Rabbi Yeshayahu Hurwitz (author of Shnai Luchos HaBris) comments that when you do good deeds they should be done with life -- that is, with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. This makes your whole being come alive.
There is no comparison between doing a good deed with a feeling of being oppressed and forced with doing the same thing with joy and excitement. The life of a person who lives with joy is a life of pleasure and elevation -- and one which motivates others. When they see how much enjoyment you have from doing good deeds, they will be motivated to emulate your behavior.
What does one do if he doesn't feel enthusiasm? Mesilat Yesharim, The Path of the Just, teaches that the outward act brings the inner appreciation. Act as if you felt enthusiasm and you will feel enthusiasm!
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The fruits of rushing are regrets
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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