YomTov, vol. 2 # 2
Searching for Chametz Within (II:2))
by Rabbi Yehudah Prero
Of all the commandments associated with Pesach, there is one that, due to the
severity of its transgression, stands out from all the others. On Pesach, one
is not permitted to have in one's possession any "Chametz," leaven substances.
One can not eat or own bread or any product that is leaven during Pesach. The
only "flour" product permitted is Matzo, a cracker-like bread made from a
dough consisting of only flour and water, which is not allowed to rise. In
order to assure that our homes are Chametz - free for Pesach, we go through
extensive cleaning and preparing, to assure that not even a crumb of Chametz
will be found or seen during Pesach.*
Our Sages have told us that Chametz and the preparations associated with it
are extremely symbolic. Chametz represents the evil within us, our Yetzer
HoRa - our Evil Inclination. It represents all of our character flaws such as
haughtiness, jealousy, unbridled passion and lust. Just as we need to remove
every speck of Chametz from our household, so too we need to remove every
speck of spiritual Chametz from our beings. Just as much time and effort is
expended on preparing ourselves physically for Pesach, by removing any hint
of Chametz, we must also exert much time and effort on preparing ourselves
spiritually for Pesach, by working on improving our character, which is
accomplished by removing all the evil traits we unfortunately carry with us.
One would think that these self improvement efforts would be more appropriate
in preparing for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, the holiest days of the year on
which we are judged for either life or death. Why is such extensive
introspection and spiritual improvement needed now, before Pesach?
The great sage Shammai taught (in Avos 1:15) "Say little and do much." In the
tractate of Berachos, we find the teaching of Rav Meir, said by Rav Huna: "A
man's words should always be few in addressing G-d." These directives by our
sages to "cut down" on speaking seem to be disregarded come Pesach. We find
that the Torah tells us "And you should tell to your children (about the
departure from Egypt)...." We find in the Hagada "All that increase their
telling about the departure from Egypt - this is praiseworthy!" In fact, we
even find that the name of the holiday itself relates to speech: Pesach is a
combination of the two words "peh sach," "the mouth speaks." Why, come
Pesach, are we all of the sudden ignoring the directives of our sages to
minimize our speech?
As we said above, Chametz represents the bad within us. As long as we carry
this "Chametz" within us, we might value ourselves for more than we are truly
worth. Our haughtiness blinds us into thinking that we are better people than
we really are. We do not want to recognize our faults. We act like we are
righteous, although deep in our hearts we know that we are not. We act like
we are sincere, although we know that we really are not. This is always a
problem. However, it is a huge problem come Pesach. We tell our children at
the Seder about the miracles of G-d and how we are to appreciate them. Do
we really appreciate them? We relate to our children all of the lessons we
are to learn from the slavery and the redemption. Have we learned anything
from these lessons? Are our children going to believe us when we try and
impart these messages, or will they shrug it off and brand us as hypocrites?
Furthermore, we spend a large part of the Seder thanking G-d for saving us
and singing His praises. Do we really appreciate what G-d has done for us? Is
our thanks and praise sincere? While we might appear devout to others, G-d
knows the truth. He is not interested in people singing empty praises to Him.
He is not interested in lip service. He is not interested in hearing thanks
from fools, those who think they can pass themselves off as that which they
How do we make sure that we are not confronted with these serious problems on
Pesach? We must be sure that we spend a proper amount of time before Pesach
preparing ourselves spiritually for the holiday. We must remove the Chametz
from within us, the Chametz that causes us to appear as righteous when we are
not. We have to be sincere in our relationship with both G-d and our fellow
man. If we do not rectify the flaws in our character before Pesach, if we do
not remove the Chametz before Pesach comes, we will meet with disaster.
Neither G-d nor our children will listen to what we have to say. However, if
we improve our character, we overcome our jealousy, we control our passions,
we humble our egos, we will be properly prepared to speak meaningful words
from the heart on Pesach. G-d will appreciate our praises and our children
will learn from us. It is for this reason that self-improvement before Pesach
is of the utmost importance. Once we have prepared ourselves for this
occasion, we can speak freely, as our Sages tell us "All who increase their
telling about the departure from Egypt, they are praiseworthy!"
(From Sefer HaToda'ah)
*( AN IMPORTANT NOTE...There are many laws dealing with all aspects of
Chametz: what is "ownership," what is to de done with Chametz, what products
are Chametz, etc.. Because these laws are large in number, fact dependent
for proper application, and some are rather complex, if one has questions
concerning Chametz, they should speak to their local rabbi to clarify any
issue. Review and application of the laws can not be properly conducted in
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.
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