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Posted on April 12, 2022 (5782) By Rabbi Pinchas Winston | Series: | Level:

Friday Night

THIS YEAR EVERYONE will be keeping eight days of Pesach whether they  live in the Diaspora or Eretz Yisroel. Since Shevi’i shel Pesach is on a Friday this year, there will be no time to change back to chometz for Shabbos, so for all intents and purposes, Shabbos will be the eighth day of Pesach for all of us. That’s the way the matzah crumbles.

Personally, I enjoy it. I wouldn’t want to celebrate an eighth day of Yom Tov each year because that would take away an important difference between Eretz Yisroel and Chutz L’Aretz. But since it will be Shabbos anyhow, why not? We spend so much time and expense preparing for the chag, so why not get even more mileage out of it? It’s a good excuse to eat more charoses on matzah.

What’s the big rush anyhow? Do we rush our birthdays? Do we hurry our anniversaries? What’s the rush back to chometz?

I know what it is, because I feel it too. It’s a rush to return to normalcy. I usually can’t wait to rip off the plastic lining on our kitchen counters to get rid of the water trapped under it which has collected the entire holiday. I can’t wait to be able to be less careful about what I touch and where I go. And, of course, there is the fresh pizza and all the other forms of chometz we had to go a week without. I love matzah, but fresh and doughy challah…THAT’S oneg Shabbos.

It reminds me of an episode in the Torah that God wasn’t too happy about.

As known, Parashas Beha’alosecha is divided into three sections, separated by two upside down Nuns. The Gemora says this to indicate that the middle section, Vayehi binosa, doesn’t belong there, but was placed where it is to separate between two sins.

Which two sins? The second one we know because it is recorded right there in the third section of the parsha. They complained about the mann…mentioning how they missed “normal” food from Egypt. They clearly did not appreciate what the mann was, and more importantly, what it meant. It was not just bread of convenience. It was bread of connection, which is why it is associated with Shabbos so deeply. Our lechem mishneh doesn’t just recall the double portion of mann collected on Erev Shabbos in the desert. It replaces it.

Which brings us to the first sin. The Torah may not mention it, but we know what it was anyhow. It was the speed at which the Jewish people wanted to leave Har Sinai. They hadn’t asked to go, but once they got their marching orders from God, they were only too eager to follow them, too eager to leave the place they had encountered God face-to-face, so-to-speak, too eager to leave the place they had received the life-altering Torah…too eager to leave God.

The problem was not their excitement to get on with life. It was not their yearning to get to Eretz Yisroel, if they had that. All of that would have been praiseworthy. What God took issue with was how their excitement came from leaving Sinai, and that indicated that not all was right in the heart of the nation.

How should the people have responded instead? The way all of us do when we’re enjoying the place we are at, like a good hotel or a wonderful simchah, even if we know we must leave it.

“Ahhhh, do we have to go just now?”

“Can’t we just stay 10 minutes longer?”

“Can we leave tomorrow instead?” 

The answer might have been yes, or perhaps it would have remained no. But either way, it would have shown God that, despite what we missed from the world beyond Sinai, or in our case, Pesach, we would miss the opportunity of being so connected to God more. It would have shown God that, as much as we love chometz, we understand and appreciate the holiness imbued in matzah, and cherish it more. Then we would have had our cake and eaten it too, but with God’s blessing.

Shabbos Day

THINK ABOUT IT for a second. According to Kabbalah, the entire tikun to make Creation came down to the simple act of transforming the Ches of chometz into the Heh of matzah. As ludicrous as that sounds, it is extremely deep with profound implications. Turns out that it is more about eating matzah on Pesach than not eating chometz. Matzah is not simply a replacement for chometz, it supersedes it.

This is why Avraham Avinu ate matzah long before the Jewish people were even in Egyptian exile. This is why you can have chometz in your home on Pesach Sheini if you couldn’t offer your Korban Pesach during the first Pesach. This is why, as I have mentioned so many times before ( that we had plenty of time to bake bread when leaving Egypt had God not insisted that we make matzos instead. Matzah is called the “Food of Faith.” Chometz is not. Chometz is associated with the yetzer hara, matzah is not.

The Maharal explains why. In his amazing commentary on the Haggadah, he says that matzah, being only flour and water is pashtus—simplicity. Like the letter Yud, the only in the Aleph-Bais that is not a composite of other letters, matzah represents the sublime simplicity Olam HaBa—the World-to-Come (Menachos 29b). Therefore matzah is not about what we had to leave behind for a week. It is about what we always trying to go to forever.

It’s a much longer kabbalistic explanation, but the Heh of matzah only represents what the world can be once divine seder—order, is brought to the reality of primordial chaos, as God did over the six days of Creation. Our celebration of the Seder and our eating of matzah actualizes our role in the continuation of that divine process which should be all year round.

So where are we really rushing to? We may have only been given seven days of Pesach, but we should leave it wanting more. If we understood what it truly means to us, we would.

There is another element that is also part of this discussion. Obviously the four sons are a central part of the Seder, but it helps to better understand who they really are, and why.

In truth, there are really only two sons, the Chacham and the Rasha. As Chazal point out, there is a similarity between the Wise Son and the Simple Son, and the Evil Son and the one who can’t ask a question yet. There is always only two types of sons, Kayin and Hevel, and Eisav and Ya’akov. Everyone else is just a variation of one or the other.

What makes the Evil Son evil is that he doesn’t know how to ask a question. His question is not a question. It is a statement phrased as a question, which means he has already made up his mind. You can’t work with someone like that, because their mind is set on being part of the rest of the world, not the Torah one. The fourth son is just what the Evil Son looks like when he is still young and naive. If we don’t take note of that early and teach him how to ask a good question, he’ll eventually develop into an Evil Son who won’t want to.

Likewise, the Wise Son is just what the Simple Son looks like once he has grown up and learned Torah. Ya’akov Avinu was also called Tam, even after already becoming a great talmid chacham. In Parashas Lech Lecha, Avraham is told by God to be tamim, and he was already a genius. Before learning, Ya’akov was only a tam. But once he became a chacham, he was still tam, but that was secondary to his Torah greatness, so he is called a chacham instead.

Seudas Shlishis

SO WHAT THEN does it mean to be a tam? It means to be emotionally oblivious to the secular world around you, even though you are intellectually aware of it. It may start off as a result of not having gone out into the world to see what it is like. But even after Ya’akov Avinu was shlepped from the tents of Torah to face that cold, harsh, and very secular world, he remained tam. When God told Avraham to be tamim before Him, He was telling him not to become attached to the world in which he had to do outreach.

When Ya’akov and Eisav confronted each other one last time in Parashas Vayishlach, it was the Chacham versus the Rasha, matzah versus chometz. This is why their entire confrontation came down to their approaches towards the material world. Eisav bragged that he had “much” (rav), and Ya’akov said that he had “all” (kol) meaning all that he needs. Eisav was obsessed with the material world and could never have enough of it. It only interested Ya’akov if it could somehow be used to fulfill God’s purpose for Creation.

That was the driving force behind Nadav and Avihu who, despite their tragic deaths, were great people. They had tried to use the moment of spiritual ecstasy to rise above everything with a complete desire to attach themselves to God in the highest way possible. It would have been quite heroic had it been in Ya’akov Avinu’s time, or even just pre-golden calf.

What was the difference? Before the golden calf, the Jewish people had already risen above the everyday mundane reality of the rest of the world. There were far less restrictions on abandoning yourself to the will of God because there was no yetzer hara in the picture to confuse matters. But, once the golden calf occurred, then everything changed, and that’s where Nadav and Avihu made their fatal mistake.

The golden calf incident put the yetzer hara back into the Jewish people, and made them mortal once again. We lost our temimus, and once again became part of the chometz reality. We need specific guidelines to channel our service of God or else, as has become apparent over history, a person can mistakenly end up on the opposite path. To stop that possibility dead in its tracks, God stopped Nadav and Avihu dead in their tracks. As great as they were they still had to work within the post-golden calf guidelines

Most others suffer from the reverse problem. We’re too emotionally connected to the world outside of Torah. Some of it is the “natural” result of being in it for so long, some of it is because it excites our yetzer haras. It is easier today to become a chacham than a tam, and both are somewhat rare in this generation.

On a personal note, I discovered how much the media played a role in reducing temimus when I stopped paying attention to it years ago. I just couldn’t handle the false news any longer, and the way the media manipulated facts to mislead the public. I was never addicted to the news, but I certainly used to check it everyday. I stopped doing that, believing that anything important I should know about, others around would tell me.

Within a short while, I noticed how much less irritated I was by the world, especially when around people who stayed on top of the news and remained aggravated by it. In short, a certain temimus returned to my life because I felt less emotionally vulnerable to unscrupulous news sources. If only becoming a chacham was so easy.

Melave Malkah

UNTIL NOW YOU may have thought that the focus was only on extending Pesach, and not on Yom Kippur at all, with which this week’s parsha begins and details. Quite the contrary. The first three divrei Torah were just the lead-in to the main topic of conversation.

Chazal teach that the holiday of Yom Kippur is rooted in a light that belongs to the eight millennium, the second 1,000 years of Olam HaBa, the World-to-Come. Like the letter Yud and matzah, it is the sublime reality of divine pashtus—simplicity. It is, for all intents-and-purposes, the endgame for which Pesach was the pre-game. It is the reality of the Chacham who has maintained his temimus.

This is why we abstain from the pleasures we do on that day, first and foremost physical food. As Chazal explain, unlike on other fast days, we don’t eat on Yom Kippur to cause suffering. We fast because we are like angels on that day, and angels do not eat food. Like Moshe Rabbeinu on Mt. Sinai,, they get their food directly from God without any physical encasing to deliver it. And whether we believe it or not, we can as well on Yom Kippur if we truly play the part of an angel.

The last time angels became attached to the material world, they fell from Heaven and lost their angel status. They are called the “Fallen Ones,” and never amounted to anything positive down in this world. If anything, they became more abusive than the humans they had originally envied.

How do we become like angels on Yom Kippur? Does God simply do a miracle to transform those willing to be transformed? Do we simply fool ourselves into believing that we have been elevated to angel status when in truth nothing has really changed?

As the Leshem explains, we have special days of the year with different spiritual themes and opportunities. This is because the light to which they provide access belongs to a future time period. We can’t access this light the rest of the year for now, but we can on their designated days because a portal opens to that future time. If we’re open to receive the light, then we can become temporarily elevated by it to the level of reality from which it originates.

The light of Yom Kippur is not a taste of the World-to-Come, it is the World-to-Come. If a person makes a point of using it on Yom Kippur, they will be spiritually transported to that level of existence for the day. For one day, they can rise above the everyday reality like no other day, and be free of chometz in their heart. They can ascend to the ultimate level of matzah.

This is the teshuvah a person does on Yom Kippur. Saying viduy (the confessional prayer) on Yom Kippur helps if you are sincere. But the real teshuvah is rising to the level of recognition that the material world, as pleasant and enjoyable as it is, is not worth being addicted to. It is realizing, as Ya’akov Avinu did, that freedom lies in spiritual temimus, because you are free of any emotional vulnerability.

That’s what we’re atoning for on Yom Kippur, after all. Any sin we committed in the past came from being overly involved and attached to the world of the yetzer hara. We got pulled into a bad situation and fell prey to it.

Even accidental sins happen for a reason. God rarely allows a person to sin if they had no way of knowing how to avoid it. If He allowed us to sin accidentally, somehow and at some time we did something we shouldn’t have, or didn’t do something we should have, making us somewhat vulnerable to sin. That’s why in Temple times we had to bring a sin offering for accidental transgressions. They weren’t so accidental.

We’re not done yet, but this has already been a mouthful, and something worth contemplating when you eat matzah this Shabbos instead of challah. This is true even if you are living in the Diaspora and, rabbinically, have to celebrate an eighth day of Pesach.