Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for March, 2010

Laws pertaining to Preparing the House for Pesach – Part II

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

A. Rooms in the House & furniture that need cleaning and Bedikas Chametz:

All rooms of the house that are suspected of having Chametz brought in require cleaning and Bedikas Chametz.. This is because there are times in which a person entered such a room in the middle of his seuda and there is therefore a fear that he may have left some Chametz behind.  This applies even more so when there are children in the house who go from room to room with Chametz.  Bedrooms are an issue in regards to the sick who ate in the bed.  One also needs to perform Bedikas Chametz under the beds it is not uncommon for Chametz to fall there.  This applies even more so to places in which one eats, such as the kitchen, dining-room and living room including the space in-between or under the cupboards if one is able to gain access with his hands.

B.  After cleaning, what are the rules of Bedikas Chametz in these places:

After one has washed the floor with cleaning materials in the open area of the room, there is no need to perform Bedikas Chametz.  With regards to the corners of the room, even though they are halachically considered “holes” or “grooves” requiring Bedikah, since anything remaining would becomes “unfit for a dog to eat” due to the cleaning materials, according to the essential Halacha there is no need to perform Bedikas Chametz there, however, in practice it appears that one should check in there in a superficial manner.

C.  Bathrooms (without toilet) in general require cleaning and Bedikah as it is not uncommon for Chametz to be brought in there during a Seuda, especially on Erev Pesach where one may wash his hands before or after a meal.   Restrooms (containing a toilet) require bedikah when there are children in the house. (Many make the mistake of not performing a bedikas chametz in these places.  So, if one wants to perform bedikas chametz “b’tehara” (“in purity”) without having to do netilas yadayim again, he should leave the restroom till last.

D.  Cupboards outside of the kitchen: The Poskim write that there is a fear that one may have needed something in the middle of a seuda from a cupboard and inadvertently left some Chametz behind.  Therefore, any cupboard that is suspected of having Chametz requires bedikah.  However, if one is used to washing ones hand before opening such cupboards, there would be no need to clean and perform bedikah there.  Furthermore, if access to the higher parts of the cupboards require a chair or ladder, there is no need to clean and perform bedikas Chametz there.  If there are children in the house, any place that they can access would in fact require cleaning and bedikah.  Even more so, cupboards that have children’s toys are certainly considered to be places containing Chametz and would therefore require cleaning and bedikah.

The practical ways to clean and perform bedikas Chametz in cupboards and those places suspected of containing chametz:

  • One should remove all the contents from the shelves and drawers (both fixed and removable) and clean them.
  • One also needs to clean all the surfaces of the cupboard (sides, back bottom etc) and it is preferable to clean these surfaces with cleaning materials as this process will invalidate any remaining chametz there.  Shelves that one is able remove and clean, do not require bedikas chametz.  However, fixed shelving and the bottom of the cupboard do require bedikah in the corners.  Drawers should be removed and cleaned and when performing bedikas chametz, only require superficial checking (unlike the shelves).

E.  Bookshelves: With regards to bookshelves (open or closed) that are in a place where one eats throughout the year, the lower sections are considered to be places almost certain to contain Chametz, even more so in the case of children in the house.  However, the higher less accessible places do not require bedikas chametz.

F.  Clothes: If one’s clothes are laundered, there is no need to clean the pockets to perform bedikas chametz  there since, after laundering, there is unlikely to be any remaining chametz, and any chametz would be deemed invalid by the laundering process.  However, with regards to those clothes that one intends to wear on Pesach, it would seem appropriate to clean their pockets even though they have been laundered in order that no crumbs should inadvertently enter one’s food.  This process of cleaning the pockets after laundering, entails turning them inside-out and dusting them off.

If one was not able to launder his clothes in general before Pesach, one should clean the pockets and hems (as these are considered places suspected of  chametz), and should perform bedikas chametz in the sunlight or under the light of the room on them.  It would be considered a fine bedikah and therefore, one would not need to reform bedikas chametz on the night of the 14th again.

“…Draw me near, we will run after you!”

Amidst the snowy peaks the majestic mountain stood out; no-one had ever seen its full height, because its peak was always enshrouded in a dome of clouds. Its tremendous height caught the imagination of thousands of mountain climbers, and the fact that no-one had yet conquered it, spurred them on even more. Old folk tales spoke of hundreds of climbers buried at its foot; climbers who had found their death in the wide open depths that lay between its sharp cliffs. The few who had returned from it in the middle of their journey told of a treacherous path, smooth rocks and sparse oxygen.

Like others his age who had grown up at the foot of the mountain, he’d heard the folk tales again and again, seen the mountain both in his waking hours and in his dreams and he knew in his heart – “I will beat it.” He began training on the neighbouring mountain ranges; he learnt the terrain, the skills, and became a professional climber – ,then ripened in his heart his resolution – to conquer the mountain and reach its peak.

Everything was well planned – he bought the best and newest equipment, climbing boots, ropes, maps, appropriate clothing, and off he set on his journey. The trek stretched out into many long weeks. At first he was accompanied by green undergrowth and a clearly marked path. After that all he could see was snow and  rock. At times the path disappeared and it was only knowledge of the route passed on to him by seasoned climbers that enabled him to chose his next step. Many times death lay in wait for him on the edge of a cliff, the freezing wind surprising him from behind the rocks, seeking to turn him into a human kite. And then, one morning, the dome of the clouds was pierced and amongst the hazy white fog the peak of the mountain rose up a few hundred metres, breaking the horizon straight up into the sky. New strength flowed through his weary muscles. The last leg of the journey was so difficult as to be almost impossible. The rock of the mountain was absolutely smooth, steep and straight like a wall. But he was resolute – “If I don’t get to the peak, what’s life worth!”

With his two hands on the tip of the rock he lifted himself up, just one more moment and he’d find himself lying on a shelf of stone. “Hurrah!” escaped the cry from within him. He started to feel around with his feet to find a soft piece of earth where he could plant a flag, and then his eyes darkened. A few steps away from him, on a fold-up deck chair, sat a man.

“Who are you?” he choked with a coarse voice. “How… How did you get here?” He started to drag his feet to the edge of the cliff. “What do I have to live for?” he mumbled, a moment before throwing himself into the dome of clouds.

A strong arm grabbed him tightly, “What on earth are you doing? I was brought up here by helicopter to capture the moment the peak was conquered, I’m not a climber.”

◊◊◊

The force of gravity is one of the strongest forces known to man. Its intensity and magnetic force keep gigantic mountains, houses, rocks and billions of people stuck to the earth. No-one can beat it, though many try again and again to escape its clutches, to leap to a sphere beyond its influence. Birds spread their wings and fly high in the sky, they battle it with their wings, but in the end they too bow their heads to its power, and come back down to earth.

From the moment our soul was bound to our physical body, it desires only one thing – to escape, to spread its wings and take off. If the body would loosen just a little its strong hold on the soul, it would vanish in a moment into the spiritual horizon. Everything longs for its source and our souls also long constantly for their source. Holiness, kedushah, like the earth, has a gravitational pull. The Rebbe (Likutei Moharan Torah 70, first section) calls this the (spiritual) ‘force of gravity’.

If holiness is a gravitational pull, then the body is a compelling and opposing force – it compels the soul, against its spiritual nature, to remain constrained within the physical boundaries of matter, time and space. These two forces – the spiritual gravitational pull and the physical compelling force work together in partnership. They appear to be in absolute contradiction, but in fact it is specifically between these two extremes that the creation was made and is sustained.

Reb Nosson explains this with a parable of a wind-up watch. Such a watch works precisely on this principle. Inside it is a strip of metal which is wound around tightly until it cannot be wound any more, creating tension and potential energy. As the strip attempts to return to its natural state, it is forced to turn the wheels of the mechanism, and the watch functions.

This spring in the watch – what a pitiful existence it has. Bent and wrapped tightly around a  wheel, it has only one wish – to stretch out and expand. What sin did it commit that such a decree was made on it, that it must spend its whole life in this painful and unnatural state? It never adjusts to its situation. It puts in so much effort to get back to its original state – to straighten out, and just as its about to achieve this, it’s wound up again, and has to start all over.

Our soul is like this spring. Naturally it is used to the wide open expanses of the spiritual realm. Suddenly it finds itself in such an uncomfortable environment. A world of physical matter and a heavy, cumbersome body. Bent and bound to 248 physical limbs and 365 sinews. There’s no room, everything’s cramped, confined and constricted. The waves of thoughts are hard to bear, the heartstrings tough, hard and relentless, and it doesn’t know itself. “Enough!” it cries out silently, “Give me some room, some space, I’m suffocating!”

At last it succeeds in reviving its bent limbs over a page of Gemorrah, it smells the scent of freedom in its nostrils, it can see itself outside the limits of space and time. But then the body stretches out its arm and puts on the brakes – it’s time for breakfast.

Throughout his life a man attempts to break barriers, to elevate himself, to climb. To find himself beyond all this. But at the very moment that this goal would be achieved – the moment the soul would break through all the barriers of physicality, would also be the moment when the whole story would come to an end.

Why don’t we take mercy on the poor spring, take it out from the cruel clutches of the watch mechanism and let it return to its natural state – a straight and free piece of metal? Why? Because we all know that at that moment it would cease to be a watch. Straight, free pieces of metal can be found anywhere. But the wonderful contraption of a watch exists only when there’s a piece of metal inside it, wound around to the highest tension possible.

Just like the spring, our souls placed down here in this world act as a mechanism that keeps all the worlds spinning on their axes. What creates the force of movement, what causes tens of thousands of angels and firmaments to sing songs every day? A strip of metal – a soul bound and wrapped up in a physical body. The spring inside us, which is sometimes wound to the point that it can’t take any more tension, and that’s stuck between the contradiction of the gravitational pull and the compelling, opposing force – is the pivot upon which Hashem’s wondrous creation spins.

◊◊◊

We’re heading to meet Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the day that the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, was erected. The word “Mishkan” is an expression of “Moshchaini – draw me,” “Draw me, we will run after you,” (Shir HaShirim 1:4). “The Mishkan,” says the Rebbe, “had the power to draw the Divine Presence to wherever it stood. And all the creations are drawn to this place, because they are all drawn towards their source.”

The force of gravity is concealed deep in the earth, because humility is the source of all creation. This is why the Mishkan could only be built by a Tzaddik who had absolute humility.

In Nissan the spiritual gravitational force is aroused. The soul begins to extract itself from the shackles of its physical exile, to stretch out its limbs and spread its wings. Nissan is the month of yearning, when in the core of the earth the wondrous song of the future is sounded, a song of wonders and miracles. But let’s not forget that we are still in the physical world, within a mechanism of spinning wheels and cogs, amidst time, space and a myriad of physical details. This is the mechanism that we are shackled to, and this we bear, move and push.

This is how we build the Mishkan. If the only force in the Mishkan was the spiritual pull, it couldn’t have existed within the physical realm. The Mishkan was specifically assembled from physical objects, and it had precise spatial measurements and boundaries, and a precise timetable of events, because it was the perfect balance between the spiritual gravitational pull and the opposing physical force.

From where can we draw the strength to live in a balanced way amidst this contradiction? Together with the erection of the Mishkan we have Rosh Chodesh. The Rebbe says that on Rosh Chodesh Nissan everyone receives greatness from the Tzaddik. And what is this greatness? Humility. The Tzaddik, who is the source of humility, places in everyone’s soul a power of humility. Without this humility it would be impossible to distinguish between the spiritual and physical pulls. In this physical world it’s very easy to get confused and mistake one for the other.

Humility is already within us, it’s hereditary for us. But we need someone to arouse it in us. This is done on Rosh Chodesh Nissan by the Tzaddik who’s humbler than all men, who erects the Mishkan. He gives each one his greatness, meaning the ability and strength to utilise the spiritual pull to correctly manage the opposing physical force, and forge a wondrous life, a life of joy, a life of service in the Mishkan.

To be up on top of the mountain takes no great skill or wisdom, the wisdom is in climbing to the top. The mountain isn’t conquered in a helicopter. The mountain is only conquered when you schlep up to its peak a heavy physical body, that could have fallen at any point along the way. Hashem placed us in this world, not so we should escape or avoid the mechanism. We’re wound up like a spring, and we simply can’t adjust to this limited physical existence. And this is good, because woe to us if we stop exerting ourselves. The limits that surround and constrict us are also what give meaning to our yearnings and strivings, because only when there is a soul within a body is the Divine purpose achieved and Divine pleasure aroused.

You can download the entire parasha sheet here: Vayakhel 5770

Meshivas Nefesh 30 – “Ayeh”

A person sometimes falls from his spiritual level, and the fall and descent can be very immense. There are those who fall into disgraceful, impure situations. They fall into doubts about their faith and terrible, disgraceful, strange thoughts. The forces of Klippah warp and surround their hearts with bewilderment, as they become dizzy and all sorts of confusion overtake them.

Although in such situations it’s impossible to find Hashem, still, even then there is hope, through searching and seeking Hashem and asking, “Ayeh?, Where is the place of His glory?” As much as one sees himself distant from His glory and honor, he should use his distress to continue asking and seeking even more, “Where is the place of His glory?”

The searching, seeking and yearning for Hashem’s honor, and shouting and asking, “Where is the place of His glory?” in itself causes a tremendous ascent, up to the point of Ayeh, which is a very exalted and holy spiritual level.

This is the most important practice in Teshuvah, to constantly search and seek, “Ayeh, Where is the place of His glory?” and through this all falls can be transformed into great climbs. This is the “going down for the purpose of climbing up” which is discussed in all the holy works.

This is a very deep concept which you should be study in the original source and be sure to understand well.

Based on Likutei Moharan II 12

This teaching, which is known as “Ayeh”, is amongst the principal directives of Hischazkus, together with “Azamra- Nekudos Tovos”, searching for the good points. Reb Noson in Hil’ Eruvei Techumin 6 explains that these ideas are crucial for anybody who wants to be true and everlasting in his Yiddishkeit.

Revealing the Honor of Hashem

There are times when a person merits honoring Hashem. By studying Torah and performing Mitzvos, feelings for Hashem’s honor awaken with him, and his soul is spirited with love and awe of His Greatness. This is in fact the purpose of creation, as everything which Hashem created is only for His honor, meaning that people should recognize His glory in their hearts.

On the other hand, there are times when a person feels distant from Hashem’s honor. These are times when anguish overcomes him, and he falls into the illusion of feeling that he’s not accomplishing enough that day, or that ‘today is not a day.’

There are also personal needs which people need to take care of, such as eating, sleeping, running a family, as well as fiscal requirements. All of these are called ‘Klippas Nogah’, which refers to all things which are permitted activities, but are a ‘mixture’ of good and not. The holiness of these activities depends upon whether or not a person is thinking of Hashem when performing them. But there is a Klippah which surrounds and bewilders a person’s heart when occupied with these necessities which makes it difficult to think of and recognize Hashem at those times.

Sometimes, the Klippah overcomes a person to the degree that he actually causes a dishonor of Hashem, by falling into impure places of sin, G-d forbid.

The situation in which a people find themselves most of the day is more or less one in which it’s hard to discover a possible way to draw close to recognizing Hashem’s honor. Darkness covers the world, and Hashem’s glory remains unrevealed. This klippah is the primary cause for the distance which people feel from Hashem.

Everything Receives its Life-Force from Hashem

The truth is, that a person must be very strong with the fundamental belief that Hashem’s honor is found everywhere in the universe, as ‘the whole world is full of His Glory’. The only thing is, is that there’s many levels in the revelation of His Glory.

It’s imperative to know that in reality, all the klippah and forces of evil also receive their life-force from Hashem. The life-force which they get is actually from the highest levels of His glory and honor, which is called ‘The Hidden Utterance’, and from there is drawn energy for the entire world, including the powers of concealment and evil. The Ariza”l teaches that ‘sheviras keilim’ came about when the supernal light was too great, which teaches us that the life-force from Hashem gives existence even to those ‘broken’ places which are concealing Him, in aspect of a ‘hidden utterance’.  It is impossible to truly understand how Hashem’s glory is really found in all evil places too, and we are forbidden from trying to comprehend it.

The ‘hidden utterance’ is referred to as ‘Ayeh, where is the place of His Glory’, which is the sefirah of Kesser, from which infinite divine mercy and compassion comes forth. We don’t see or understand this, and therefore it’s called “Ayeh, Where?” because Hashem’s honor is hidden within it. On Shabbos by Mussaf when we recite the Kedushah of Kesser, we are elevated to this exalted plane, and we then ask, ‘Ayeh, Where is the place of His Glory?” because then the source of divine mercy is revealed, the great light which cleanses sin and brings a person close to Hashem even if he is now in the darkest places.

Searching Ayeh, Where is His Honor?

Thus, the Rebbe reveals to us this wonderful and crucial directive, that when a person sees that he is in a situation in which he’s fallen into concealment and he cannot discover Hashem’s honor, he should attach himself to this exalted place called Ayeh, which is the light of Kesser which shines every Shabbos morning. He should lift himself up from his feelings of distance and his habit of looking at and measuring his successes. He should know that Hashem’s honor is certainly to be found in these places, and the reality is that if not for Him sustaining them, they wouldn’t even have any existence.

He should cease to follow his own mind and understanding, in which he’s accustomed to differentiating between ‘successful days’ and ‘days of failure’. Instead he should be constantly aware that Hashem is everywhere, and all his negative feelings are baseless. Hashem is certainly here, and He is very great. This that a person doesn’t feel it is because he’s missed the mark in his ‘nogah’ activities, and he repairs himself through the discomfort which he is now experiencing and his asking “Ayeh, Why is my sin concealing His honor, I don’t want this concealment!” Through this searching he connects himself to the understanding that even in this emptiness and void, wondrous things are taking place, and he learns for the future that in every activity there is a wonderful way how to serve Hashem and come close to Him, by revealing His honor in every place to where he’s been sent.

Being strong to continue to want to reveal Hashem’s glory even in those places, in itself rectifies the concealment, and draws upon a person great divine compassion, through which every fall can be transformed into a climb and ascent. The power of Ayeh is very great, and it’s the source of cleansing from sin. All depends and is rooted in a person not following his own understanding of the situation, and being ready to yield his own feelings.

The main thing to keep in mind is that in these places and situations it’s impossible to see Hashem’s glory revealed, and the only solution is through searching and seeking Ayeh? This in itself will break the confusion he feels in his heart, and the concealment which is fooling him into thinking that Hashem’s honor can’t be found here.

This is amazing guidance through which a person can hold fast in any situation it may be, whether in days when he’s feeling down, or when he’s busy with nogah activities. No matter what, he can ask and seek, “Ayeh, Where is the place of His honor?” Hashem’s glory is certainly to be found here. He shouldn’t follow his own understanding and feelings which are tricking him. He should instead be aware that there are many levels of Hashem’s revelation, and the highest level is the honor which is hidden in Ayeh, and the way through which to connect with it is through searching and asking Ayeh, and through this he ascends to exalted levels of holiness.

Laws pertaining to Preparing the House for Pesach – Part I

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

Many people are mistaken in regards to preparing the house for Pesach in that on the one hand, they clean more than is necessary according to the Halacha, yet on the other hand, they overlook those areas that are halachically obligated to be cleaned.   In the upcoming weeks we will B”EH try to clarify these points.

General rules

i) The goal of cleaning the house for Pesach is specifically for the preparation of the Mitzvah of “Biur Chametz” (“Burning the Chametz”).  And since it is impossible to remove all the Chametz in one short period of time, we need to start preparing by cleaning the house well in advance.  Therefore, in preparing for the mitzvah it is appropriate only to clean in those places that are likely to have Chometz, and it is certainly not necessary to clean or check those places where there is no chance of Chametz. 

That being said, our sages give us the guidelines as to which places are most likely to contain Chametz, thereby to check and clean in those places specifically, and which places that are not likely to contain Chometz and can be ignored without checking or cleaning.

ii) The mitzvah of Bedikas Chametz (“checking for Chometz”) is on the night of 14th Nissan and it is possible to bring forward the search up to thirty days before Pesach.  Since today we have significantly larger homes with many cupboards etc the need for checking versus that of previous generations, makes it very difficult to remove all the articles from these places for the requirement of checking on the night of the 14th Nissan, as is required. Therefore, it is not merely good advice to start checking in advance, it almost becomes an obligation.  And so, there are definitely places that one can check early in advance and which do not have to be re-checked on the night of the 14th itself.

iii)  Checking for Chametz must meet three conditions:

1. It must be at night.

2. It must be by the light of a candle.

3. One must guard the place that was checked so that no Chametz will have a chance to enter there again.  If one does not guard this place after checking, one will need to re-check it on the night of the 14th.  (For example, those places where small children go, need to be securely sealed.  That being said, if it is impractical to protect the place appropriately, then one needs to check it as close to Pesach as possible.)

iv) Checking for Chametz as we mentioned needs to be done with a lit candle.  However, any search that is performed before the 14th can be performed l’chatchila (to begin with) using a flash-light!  In fact, it would seem preferable when performing a check before the 14th to use a flash-light, since checking with a candle makes it difficult to check appropriately due to the fact that people are afraid to burn/damage fabric or char the walls etc.  On the 14th however, we must check with a candle as we have no power to chance the decrees of our Sages.

Note:  One cannot rely on the light of the room itself when performing the checking, because it does not adequately illuminate the corners of the room, or under/between the furniture, and these places specifically are the main places halachically obligated for checking.

v)  For what does one need to search and remove?

According to the Poskim, it appears that one is Halachically obligated to remove even small “clean” (edible) crumbs.  However, crumbs that are “dirty”, where “there is no concern of them being eaten” do not require checking or removal.  And so, crumbs that are found on the floor are not obligated by the Halacha for removal.  Also, crumbs that are “not clean” and which are found in cupboards do not need removal either.  However, cupboards that contain food or vessels that are specifically used for Pesach, one would need to remove even such “dirty” crumbs because we are concerned that they may end up in the food and one will eat them inadvertently.  Therefore, only where such crumbs would not be considered “fit for a dog to eat” would we not need to remove them.

vi)  Can one rely on the cleanliness of a place without having to perform Bedikas Chametz?

In practice, there are various types of cleanliness:

1. General cleanliness of a place does not nullify the obligation.

2. If the place is cleaned with specific attention to there not being any crumbs, one does not have to perform Bedikas Chametz there.  Therefore “smooth” places that are cleaned well, would not require Bedikas Chametz.

3. With regards to places that have holes and grooves like corners of a cupboard, drawer, or window sill, it would not suffice to rely on cleanliness and not perform a check. However, if these places were cleaned with a needle or cleaning-cloth in such a way that deem the crumbs inedible, then it would in fact help in removing the obligation to check such a place.

That being said, one who is stringent about Bedikas Chametz in respect to those places that have holes and grooves, even though they were cleaned well before, will find Blessing and the Poskim write that the reason for this is that, even though we are sure that we have cleaned there in an appropriate way, our Sages obligate us to ascertain that the cleanliness is in fact valid (in the same way that for example, a factory needs to perform “Quality Assurance” on its products after manufacturing.)

Next week, I”YH we will clarify what is considered to be a place that has had Chometz in it and that which is not.

The Purifying Effect of the Red Heifer – A life of Divine Providence

The night of the Pesach Seder, a little after midnight, Reb Chaim sits in the company of his family around a table laden with silverware and delicacies. His eyes are becoming heavy and making their way with great difficulty through the text. Nishmas, Hallel, Hodu La’Shem, one page after the other. He is struggling to articulate the words of the story; they seem heavy, as if each one weighs a ton. He searches for a melody to arouse his heart but this too evades him. A sigh of distress escapes from inside him: ‘what’s happened to me, what is missing? I prepared so well and performed all the Mitzvos meticulously, nothing was missing, neither physically nor spiritually…’

The truth is that from the very commencement of the Seder things weren’t going smoothly. The heart simply refused to take part and nothing in the story touched him in particular. He sincerely tried to do what he could, made use of insight, searched in the commentaries for an idea – something to create a connection. Yet his heart only sank even deeper – it just wasn’t interested and nothing seemed to speak to it. When nothing happened by Kiddush, Reb Chaim was sure it would come by the telling of the story and when nothing got moving there either, he placed his hope in the eating of the Matzah – surely then, at such an auspicious moment, something would happen.

When his heart refused to budge even then, Reb Chaim raised his hands in despair; until now he was somewhat patient but what the continuation of the story after Benching demanded of him, was just too much. The songs and praises appeared one after the other as if they would never end. ‘Seriously,’ he bitterly thought, ‘what do they want from me? I have no connection to all this – it doesn’t speak to me – I’m just not in the right frame of mind for this whole celebration.’

Suddenly a more logical thought entered his mind: ‘where did this whole story begin, wasn’t it by the actual exodus from Mitzrayim? The original Pesach was a result of the Jews leaving Mitzrayim.  They experienced firsthand the suffering and the miraculous redemption that followed, they surely rejoiced with all their hearts. If I would have seen the ten plagues and splitting of the sea, I too would have sung the songs and praises with tremendous liveliness and passion. But NOW, what do they want from me, how can they demand of me in the middle of real life, amidst a sea of problems and troubles, to forget everything and celebrate freedom, I’m not at all there!’

Honestly, what do they want from our dear friend…?

Okay, so let’s try and tell this same story with a few minor changes:

On the outskirts of a quiet town stood a small house built of mortar sunk halfway into the ground with its roof stooping to the ground. In it lived Reb Chatzkel the wagon driver, together with his twelve sons. Reb Chatzkel’s Shabboses were as destitute as his weekdays – anything rather than to be dependent on others.  Spring arrived, and with it the Chag of Pesach, but there was not too much work to be done in the house whose floors had never seen bread crumbs. Yet just as a crumb of bread was not to be found, neither was a crumb of Matzah; wine and other necessities were not even a dream. The eve of Pesach arrived and Chatzkel the simple Jew, put his faith in Hashem. Already at midday he donned his ‘Yom Tov clothes’, took his Machzor and made his way to the Beis Ha’knessess. Then, as in all good stories, out of nowhere – a horse and wagon appeared and stopped next to his house. Rugged porters emerged from the wagon carrying baskets filled to the brim with meat, fish, wine, Matzahs and more. The family members stood mesmerized with their eyes peeled wide open and when the wagon went on its way they heard the echoing call of the wagon driver: “More work to be done, hurry, sunset is on its way…”

That wondrous Pesach night, Reb Chatzkel looked like one of the great Tzaddikim. His face radiated with a heavenly light, Kiddush was made with a loud and passionate roar, with awe and trepidation, and with tremendous joy. The ancient story of the Exodus from Mitzrayim flowed from his lips with a sweetness from another world. The wine tasted as if it was from the finest of wineries and the Matzos seemed to come from the jar of Mann that was kept in the Holy Ark. During the recitation of the Hallel the whole family came close to Hispashtus Ha’Gashmiyus (Shedding of Physicality) and during Nishmas it was as if every limb took part in the praises.

Let us look closely and see what is the difference between Reb Chatzkel and Reb Chaim.

It’s very simple. The night of the Seder it supposed to take us to another world completely – to the pinnacle of emunah to which Klal Yisroel were uplifted at Yetziyas Mitzrayim, to the place where the da’as (holy awareness) is freed from the chains of nature and Chametz-like thoughts. Every Jew is obligated to see himself as if he left Mitzrayim. The problem is that it is impossible to attain this when the heart is overloaded with Chametz.

Chametz is a heavy load. It weighs down the soul and doesn’t allow it to spread its wings and ascend to clear emunah.

This is exactly the purpose of the Mitzvah of eradicating chametz. Klal Yisroel fulfills this with tremendous meticulousness and G-d forbid to suspect a Jew like Reb Chaim of making light of such an important Mitzvah. Even from the day after Tu B’Shvat his family members are toiling in eradicating Chametz. Reb Chaim puts no limit on the time and money involved – anything to make sure that his home has no trace of Chametz. Every room, shelf and corridor is checked, cleaned and scrubbed. Reb Chaim works with all his strength yet he doesn’t know that the Chametz has found its hiding place in his heart and mind.

This is how Reb Chaim sat down to his Seder, with his house clean to the extreme, but his heart clogged with Chametz.

The Chametz that accumulates in the mind and heart is the most stubborn of all, being rigid and sticky. It seems as if it is impossible to get rid of it. Everyone knows how hard it is to rid oneself of a bothering thought. These thoughts visit our minds every day and they take over to the extent that the person thinking them becomes unsure of who really is in charge.

So what can be done?

The true problem with Chametz is that it is rooted in tumas meis (the impurity of the dead). Chametz-like thoughts defile the soul with tumas meis – with lifelessness, low-spiritedness, sadness and heaviness. It is absolutely impossible to receive Pesach with tumas meis. A good and pure thought revives the soul with a spirit of purity and happiness, and conversely a negative thought envelopes the soul with a spirit of tumah (impurity), sadness and despair.

For tumas meis there is only one solution – the ashes of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer). But where can this be found?

This necessity can be found on one day only – Purim. The Rebbe explicitly teaches (Likutey Tinyana 74): “For originally all beginnings were from Pesach and this is why all the Mitzvos are in commemoration of the exodus from Mitzrayim, but now…. (The Rebbe did not finish his statement).” The intention is, as is evident from the lesson, that now all beginnings are from Purim. Why? Because from ‘Purim’ is created the ‘Parah’ (The root of both the word Parah and Purim is the two letters Pey Reish). The tremendous light of Purim reveals that even in the greatest darkness and concealment Hashem can be found. Purim paves the way for Pesach, for if not for it, we would have no connection to the celebrations of Pesach. For how can it be demanded of us to see ourselves as if we left Mitzrayim – we cannot even imagine such a thing? We can, however, be spoken to in the language of Purim, one that penetrates into nature and shows that everything is truly a miracle.

Once the beginning was from Pesach – when did this change? In the days of Mordechai.

When Mordechai saw the frightening troubles, he knew that Pesach would not help as everyone was already sunk in utter despair. There was no option – it was necessary to reveal to them an entirely new illumination, to show them that absolutely everything is guided by Hashem, not that which is above nature but nature itself too.

If Mordechai had not written the Megillah, the story could have slipped by as a completely natural sequence of events, nothing more than politics. The king killed the queen, took another in her place, got frustrated with his minister, had him hanged and a wise man like Mordechai was just the natural choice to fill the position. Yet when we read the Megillah, we see that everything was perfectly orchestrated to the finest detail, everything perfectly timed. This is how the miracle of Purim took place, completely within the course of nature. Mordechai reveals and illuminates the world with the knowledge that there is no nature and miracles, but only miracles; miracles outside of nature and miracles within nature.

Baruch Hashem we merited to Purim and now as we approach the holy days of Pesach, let us not forget that in order to ascend to where this chag is supposed to take us, we must purify ourselves of tumas meis. The ashes of the Parah we take from Purim, from the knowledge that the Tzaddikim reveal that there is no nature at all and that everything in only Hashgacha (divine providence) and miracles. This knowledge envelopes the soul with a spirit of purity, cleanses the mind and the heart of the stubborn and sticky Chametz, and implants the elated feeling of living on miracles.

It is pleasant to think about the story of Chatzkel the wagon driver, but we are more like Reb Chaim – we specifically need the story of Purim. Our simple everyday lives are filled with miracles, the influx of bounty doesn’t have to come on a mysterious wagon on the eve of Pesach. Even if it arrives through completely natural means, it is no less of a miracle.

And if we thought that we covered the expenses from our own pockets, let us be careful not to cover the miracles with nature.

 You can download the entire parasha sheet here.

 

 

 

 

 

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