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Acharei Mot(Leviticus 16-18)

Acharei Mot 5765

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GOOD MORNING!   The first Seder is Motza'ai Shabbat, Saturday evening, April 23rd.


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 either experience the affliction or the redemption.

The matza is called "lechem ani" - the bread of the poor man and "lechem oni" - the bread of affliction. In a play on pronunciation, the Sages also called it the bread over which many things are answered. It has the dual symbolism of representing our affliction and our redemption.

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.


Torah Portion of the Week
Acharei Mot

Acharei Mot 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 very popular epithet in Israel to instruct another person in the heat of an argument 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.

 

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And Aharon shall come into the tent of the meeting." (Leviticus 16:23)

Why did Aharon go into the tent and what can we learn from it to improve our outlook in life?

Rashi, the great commentator, explains that Aharon went into the Tent of Meeting this time to remove the spoon and the censer in which he previously burned the incense.

The Baal Shem Tov, a great Hassidic master, brought a proof from here that when someone serves food to a Torah scholar, once the food is already eaten and the empty plates and used silverware need to be removed, removing them is part of the mitzvah of serving the Torah scholar. Just as removing the vessels was considered part of the service on Yom Kippur, so too when removing any vessels that were previously used for a mitzvah their removal is included in the good deed.

This has application with many mitzvot and especially with the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim, serving a guest. With the Pesach Seder upon us, we should take pleasure not only in setting the table, serving the food, eating the meal, but also in clearing the table and cleaning up. And those of us who are guests should take pleasure in helping our hosts if it doesn't make them uncomfortable!



THE TWO ANNUAL PESACH JOKES

  1. A Jewish man was waiting in line to be knighted by the Queen of England. He was supposed to kneel and recite a sentence in Latin. Comes his turn, he kneels, the Queen taps him on the shoulders with the sword ... and in the panic of excitement he forgets the Latin line. Thinking quickly, he recites the only other line he knows in a foreign language which he remembers from the Passover Seder: "Mah nishtana ha-lailah ha-zeh mi-kol ha-leilot." The puzzled Queen turns to her adviser and asks, "Why is this knight different from all other knights?"

  2. The supply of ch'rain (horseradish used by many for bitter herbs at the Pesach Seder) being off-loaded at the Madrid airport was stopped by a freight handlers strike. It seems that the ch'rain in Spain stayed mainly on the plane...




CANDLE LIGHTING - April 22:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)

Jerusalem  6:38
Chicago 7:19  Guatemala 6:27  Hong Kong 6:27
Honolulu 6:33  J'Burg 5:27  London 7:49
Los Angeles 7:11  Melbourne 5:23  Mexico City 6:41
Miami 7:28  Moscow 7:31  New York 7:24
Singapore 6:50  Toronto 6:50



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

Love of being Jewish is caught, not taught .





In Loving Memory of
My Beloved Wife
Susan Roth Fastow
On the Occassion of
Her 5th Yahrzeit
May Her Memory be for a Blessing
--  Melvin




Published: April 16, 2005

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