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April 8, 2022

04/08/2022 12:18:51 PM

Apr8

Rabbi Hearshen

There’s a very humorous story in Rabbi Richard J Israel’s book The Kosher Pig about his time flying for work. He explained that he was a regular on a certain flight, and every week they would bring him his meal, which he couldn’t eat because it wasn’t kosher. Each week the different flight attendants would bring him food and he’d need to explain all over again why he couldn’t eat the food. Finally, one morning a very excited flight attendant brought him a kosher meal for the flight. The rabbi chuckled and apologized. He explained that 357 days of the year the meal was indeed kosher, but for eight days it wasn’t because of Passover, so he wouldn’t be able to eat the kosher meal that day.

I’m writing this article from home as I’m taking a break from the back-breaking labor (I literally threw my back out this week) of cleaning our house for Passover. Each year, we spend days and/or weeks getting our homes ready for the holiday. The “stuff” we’re commanded to get rid of is called "חמץ" Chametz. This category of food is not only foods that have “risen” but all the utensils used in making them. It’s all our cooking vessels, appliances, surfaces and sinks. It’s a lot, and the reason is complicated, but to summarize, there are two points that must be understood to better appreciate the intricate issues of Pesach.

  1. For the eight days of Passover it’s forbidden for a Jew to eat, derive benefit from or even own anything that is Chametz. In fact, we aren’t even allowed to see these items.
  2. Chametz is not nullified in any ratio. During the regular year, if a drop of milk accidentally falls into a meat soup, it’s nullified because its measurement is less than 1/60 of the entire soup. This principle is about accidental mixtures and not about intentional mixing of meat and dairy and/or other forbidden foods for Jews.

 

Passover is the most widely observed holiday for the Jewish people. More Jews will participate in Passover in some way each year than any other Jewish behavior. Clearly, there are always going to be varying levels of how we celebrate Passover. In Israel just this week, the government has been brought to the brink of collapse because of the issue of Chametz. (BTW, if you really believe that’s what’s beneath this latest crisis for the Knesset… well I have a bridge to sell you.) One of the highest-ranking members of Prime Minister Naftali Bennetts’s party left the government and joined the opposition. Her claim was she left because the Minister of Health is planning to enforce a ruling of the Supreme Court that prevents hospitals from searching hospital visitors for chametz during Passover.

To be honest, I understand both sides of the argument. Religious freedom isn’t a legal concept in Israel nor is it a value. The country is foundationally a Jewish one and as such it’s a democratic theocracy. While many of us want Israel to be more open to pluralism and to see there are multiple paths to Jewish observance, in this case it’s true Chametz is different because most Jews observe Passover and the law leaves no wiggle room. At the same time, it’s undeniable that it feels wrong to have people checking visitors to make sure they’re not bringing chametz into the hospital with them. With all of that said, it’s clear that Chametz isn’t what caused this defection.

Chametz is emblematic of much more. It’s the symbol of the Jewish observance of Passover. It’s our collective abstaining from one thing that allows us to do something Jewish together while apart. Chametz is also emblematic of the evil inclination in all of us. During Passover, when we’re celebrating our freedom, it’s important to also rid ourselves of all that enslaves us. Our evil inclinations are definitely at the top of our lists as we’re all slaves to the darkness inside ourselves. So, as we’re preparing to rid ourselves of all of the Chametz that’s physically around us, we should also prepare to rid ourselves of the Chametz within us. Each year we sell our physical Chametz (please click here to sell us your chametz so we can help you celebrate Pesach this year) and perhaps we should engage in selling our emotional and spiritual chametz as well. We can all work harder to conquer our evil inclinations if we take the time to clean it out and offload it for at least the eight days of the holiday. We can then work on the other 357 days of the secular year.

Sun, June 26 2022 27 Sivan 5782