GOOD MORNING! Thirty days before each holiday we are directed by the Sages to prepare for the holiday. We are now 30 days and closing on Passover! The seders are Wednesday night, March 31st and Thursday night, April 1st. In order to transform what may have become an overly ritualized family reunion into a fountainhead of insight and inspiration, I cannot recommend highly enough, The Passover Survival Kit. It's for people with a lot more than four questions. Available at your local Jewish bookstore or call 877-758-3242. Also, check out the Aish website on Passover -- Of course, it wouldn't hurt to also save the next four weeks' copies of the Shabbat Shalom to have at the Seder table ...


Every Jewish holiday is an opportunity to work on a certain aspect of personal growth. Succot is the time to work on Joy; Yom Kippur the time to work on Teshuva, spiritual accounting; Shavuot is the time to work on Kabbalat HaTorah, taking Torah seriously.

Passover is the holiday of Freedom -- spiritual freedom. For this the Almighty brought us out of Egypt. So, 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 develop.

People think they are free when in reality they are often "slaves" to the fads and fashion 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 true freedom!

All of the commandments associated with Pesach enable us to relive and experience the freedom our forefathers experienced in leaving the land of Egypt in order to serve the Almighty.

During all eight days of 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. Why the emphasis on being chametz-free? Chametz represents arrogance ("puffing up"). The only thing that stands between you and G-d ... 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 arrogance. The external act brings the internal appreciation; we remove chametz from our homes and we must likewise work on the character trait of humility.

On the evening preceding Pesach there is a serious search of the home for chametz. There is a custom to put 10 pieces of bread out so there will be something to find during the search. (I believe this is the source for the Easter Egg hunt amongst Christians). It is done by the light of a candle or with a flashlight. It is a memorable experience for the whole family!

Torah Portion of the Week
Ki Tisa

The Torah portion includes: instructions for taking a census (by each person donating a half shekel); instructions to make the Washstand, Anointing Oil, and The Incense for the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary; appointing Bezalel and Oholiab to head up the architects and craftsmen for the Mishkan; a special commandment forbidding the building of the Mishkan on Shabbat (people might have thought that they would be allowed to violate the Shabbat to do a mitzvah ...).

The Torah portion continues with the infamous story of the Golden Calf. The people wrongly calculated that Moses was late in coming down from Mt. Sinai and the people were already seeking a replacement for him by making the Golden Calf (there is a big lesson in patience for us here). Moses sees them dancing around the calf and in anger breaks the Two Tablets; he then punishes the 3,000 wrongdoers (less than .1% of the 3 million people), pleads to G-d not to wipe out the people, requests to see the Divine Glory, and receives the second set of Tablets of the Ten Commandments.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states, "And the Almighty spoke to Moshe saying, 'Speak to the Children of Israel saying, my Shabbat you shall keep, for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Almighty Who sanctifies you." (Exodus 31:12,13) How is Shabbat ("Shabbos" in the Ashkenazic pronunciation) a sign of the relationship between the Almighty and the Jewish people?

The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, the leading rabbi of his generation until he passed on in 1933, gives two parables to illustrate how Shabbat serves as a sign of the relationship between the Jewish people and the Almighty. When two people are engaged to be married they send each other gifts. Even if difficulties arise between them, as long as they keep the gifts, then we know that they still plan to get married. If they return the gifts, then we know that the relationship between them is over. Similarly, as long as a person observes Shabbat we see that he still has a relationship with the Almighty. The Talmud (Shabbat 10b) describes the Shabbat as a special gift the Almighty gave to the Jewish people. If a person, as it were, returns this gift of Shabbat, it signifies difficulties with the relationship.

The second parable: "When a person opens a new store, he puts a sign outside that tells everyone what kind of store it is. A tailor will have a symbol that shows he is a tailor; a shoemaker will have a symbol that he is a shoemaker. Even if a person travels away for a while, as long as his sign is still on the outside of the store, everyone can expect him to eventually return. As soon as he takes down his emblem from his store, we know that he no longer plans to return."

"When you observe Shabbat," continues the Chofetz Chaim, "you testify that the Almighty created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. By keeping Shabbat you proclaim that you have this awareness. A person who fails to keep Shabbat removes this sign. This is the reason for the importance of Shabbat."

There is a common expression that as much as the Jewish people have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Jewish people. Throughout the ages Shabbat has been a focal point for the family and the community. Shabbat should be high on your list for an investment in the Jewish future of your family! For a good start, buy Friday Night and Beyond by Lori Palatnik available at your local Jewish bookstore or call 877-758-3242.