GOOD MORNING! I suggested in the last Fax using props -- 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 couple of 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!
FLASH!! I just heard, someone has come out with a "Bag of Plagues." (I wonder if they are Shabbat Shalom readers...). Available at local Jewish bookstores or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.
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 Shmurah Matzah! (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 G-d ... 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 direction -- 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.
FEED THE POOR OF JERUSALEM!
Hundreds of families in Israel are unable to afford groceries for Yom Tov (the holiday). This group gives them coupons redeemable only for food. They arrange with the supermarket to get an extra 10% on every dollar you give them. I know they are legitimate and I give them money! Send your tax-deductible contribution to: Keren Y&Y, 805-A Roosevelt Ct., Far Rockaway, NY 11691
Fulfill the special mitzvah of Maos Chitim, helping the poor for Pesach!
Portion of the Week
The book of Vayikra (Leviticus) primarily deals with what are commonly called "sacrifices" or "offerings." According to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch: a "sacrifice" implies giving up something that is of value to oneself for the benefit of another. An "offering" implies a gift which satisfies the receiver. The Almighty does not need our gifts. He has no needs or desires. The Hebrew word is korban, which is best translated as a means of bringing oneself into a closer relationship with the Almighty. The offering of korbanot was only for our benefit to come close to the Almighty.
Ramban, a noted Spanish rabbi, explained that through the vicarious experience of what happened to the animal korbanot, the transgressor realized the seriousness of his transgression. This aided him in the process of teshuva -- correcting his erring ways.
This week's portion includes the details of various types of korbanot: burnt, meal (flour), first grain, peace, sin (private and communal), guilt korbanot (varied upon one's ability to pay), korban for inadvertently expropriating something sacred to G-d, and also to help atone for dishonesty.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "If a person sins and commits a trespass against G-d, in that he has denied to his fellow man concerning that which was entrusted to his keep..." (Leviticus 5:21) Why is denying the possession of an item entrusted to a person to watch a trespass against G-d?
Rabbi Akiva gave the following insight: "A person who deposits something with his fellow man does not want other people to know about it; he wants the matter to remain between the two of them and G-d. Therefore, when the recipient of the object denies that he received it, he denies G-d." He denies that G-d forbids his action, sees the act, cares what happens and he denies that ultimately G-d will mete out a consequence for his action. The Jewish concept of G-d is that He is the Creator, Sustainer and Supervisor; He is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good. He cares about each of us and gives us what we need to grow to our maximum potential.
Once when Rabbi Zundel Salanter was riding in a wagon, the driver passed by an apple tree and was overcome by the desire to take a few apples. Not realizing the identity of his passenger, the driver told him, "You keep watch and warn me if you see anyone looking." A few seconds later, Rav Zundel cried out, "Someone's looking!" The wagon driver jumped onto his wagon and rode off. As he was driving away, he looked back and did not see anyone.
"What's the idea of fooling me?" shouted the driver. "My dear friend," replied Raz Zundel, "I wouldn't lie to you. G-d sees every action!"