Published Date: April 03, 2020
This week’s music: “The Time is Coming Now”
Before anything else, I want to share my respect and thanks to all of the fine medical people of the world who have been sacrificing a major part of their lives to save us all from further pain and suffering. May they be blessed to continue to be great and strong messengers of Hashem to heal and comfort us all.
Here we go! Heading into the “Holiday of Love.” Time to “clean up my act.” Getting ready for the second successive Shabbat that we are all in our homes. Hashem sends the perfect gift to help deal with the process. Shabbat Hagadol! The greatest of all Shabbatot in the year. They are all great, but this one is the greatest. It is the designated Shabbat, on which more than any other Shabbat, we receive the “koach” to head into this great Holiday of Pesach and prepare ourselves to receive Hashem’s love which is melting all obstacles between us.
Thus, the Mishnah prescribes that on the 14th of Nissan, the day before Pesach (Tractate Pesachim 1) we need to search for our “chametz,” identify it, clean it out of our personal domain and totally burn it out of the world. On a spiritual level this would mean to immediately check in with myself, my soul, and identify who I really am. With God’s help, this would give me the strength to do an honest cleaning, to prepare myself to re-enter into a beautiful love relationship with Hashem. It is essentially the cleaning of the closets of my heart.
No coincidence that this week’s Torah portion “Tzav,” always read on Shabbat Hagadol, opens with the statement from Hashem to Moshe, “Tzav et Aharon v’et banav lamor,” Command Aaron and his sons saying the following (Vayikra 6.2) The Slonimer Rebbe quotes the Beit Avraham, himself quoting Rashi, saying that when the Torah uses the language, “Tzav,” it always translates to the term, “zariz,” swiftly. Tzav is a command and when I am commanded by my Master I desire to jump be complete with His request as quickly as possible.
I need to get ready for a rebirth. Reb Chaim Vital draws a beautiful analogy between a young Jewish man becoming a Bar Mitzvah, a son of commandments and or experience as a nation in the first days of Nissan. A young man when he is beginning his 14th year of life, this is when he becomes a Jew. It is time to take responsibility for all my own actions. It is time to check inside and identify the negative traits that I’ve picked up over these first thirteen years of life. “Ki yetzer lev ha’adam ra me’neurav,” the will of the heart of man is bad from his youth (Bereshit 8.21). Similarly, we have the first 13 days of Nissan to prepare for that cleaning out on the 14th day, the day just prior to us becoming a new Jewish nation. That day we can be redeemed together.
That’s exactly what we get to do at “leil haseder,” the seder night. On “leil Haseder” we don’t relegate our connection to simply remember. We remember and appreciate the exodus from Mitzraim which took place 3500 years ago on a daily basis. We do this all year. We say it twice a day in the Shema prayer, we recall the six “remembrances” daily after morning prayers. In addition on Shabbat in “Kiddush” we literally connect creation and freedom when we say, “zecher l’ yetziat mitzraim,” as a memorial to the exodus from Miztraim.” At the Seder table we need to do more than appreciate and remember. We are directed to tell the story, as one of the three most critical mitzvot of the evening’s experience (eating matzah and marror the other two). Telling the story means telling myself my story. The story of my life. My great desire and yearning to get out of my personal servitude right now, just as my ancestors did 3500 years ago, no matter how dark it appears to be. I want out! No more addictions, no more desire for things that take me away from Hashem. No more chasing after personal pride. As the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot, Ethics of Our Fathers, clearly teaches. “There are three things that take a person out of the world, jealousy, purely physical desires and seeking honor for myself” (Avot Chapter 4). “Every person needs to see himself/herself as if he/she is going out of Mitzraim tonight,” writes the author of the Pesach Haggadah, and we say it every year .
How can I start the process? I look to the Tanach and I see many beautiful examples of how I can purify my life . The first step, says the Slonimer, is to take a candle. We look for our “chametz” on the 14th at night with a candle. “Ki ner Hashem nishmat adam,” because the candle of God is the soul of man (Mishlei 20.27). I need to go inside myself and look for the deep message and revelation that my soul can offer me right now.
I need to seek out and be rid not only the “chametz, the leaven, my haughtiness which grows inside of me like bread rising,” but also the “se’or,” the yeast. That is the part of my character which constantly looks for ways to make myself big and important. It is the element of character which “blows up” the “chametz” in me. “For seven days you shall find no yeast in your homes” (Shmot 12.19). I need to get rid of the stuff which I am clearly aware of as well as those aspects of my character that I have conveniently learned to hide from my consciousness.
Now and right now, I need to replace that behavior and character which I will, with God’s help, clean out with a dedicated heart. I need to strengthen all of the “heart mitzvot,” which Hashem commanded me, which serve to help make me a better person and thus a more beautiful representative of Am Yisrael in the world. Strengthen my belief in God, actualize it and apply to my daily life as a reality and not merely a philosophy. Heighten every aspect of my relationship with Hashem. My awe of Hashem and my desire to connect to that love relationship from my side, and of course with “Ahavat Yisrael,” love for all of my fellow Jewish family members and increase my love of all mankind. All of this will heighten my channels to cling to my Creator.
Friends from the bottom of my heart, I am praying every day that our situation does not get much worse. We should all be blessed to hear Hashem calling. We are capable of going beyond our desires. If in the past we reacted to tragedy with an understandable simple wish and thankfulness that we are alive, to be healthy and to prosper, now we must demand more, both of ourselves and subsequently, of Hashem. I need to replace my lesser physical hope with a higher spiritual one which says to God that this is my number one priority in life, second to none. Please grant us a higher love.
We have this “Shabbat Hagadol” to jump start this higher love. Certainly for the past two weeks, every day has been the same. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc what’s the difference? Only one day stands out with life and joy. Shabbat! Let’s pray for us all to have a Shabbat Shalom. Let’s pray today for a speedy healing to all of those who have been physically hit by this plague. While we are at it, let’s pray that all of our statements and opinions will be “l”Shem Shamayim,” in God’s name with no concern for personal honor, and for all of our actions be 100% only “L’kiddush Hashem,” to share the holiness and glory of Hashem.
May we all be blessed to take the great light and power of this Shabbat to direct us to a total spiritual cleansing. May we give ourselves permission to be lifted up this Shabbat, as we clear all barriers between ourselves and Hashem.
I would like to close with a quote of a great lesson that we learned from Reb Shlomo, “May God bless you and me to have different eyes; not eyes to see what there is but to see that which we can’t see. There are things that we can see all of the time and then there are things that we can only see with tears in our eyes. I am not speaking of tears of sadness but rather, tears from the depth of my soul.
May we all be ready to be together for the final freedom and redemption now!