Rabbi Shlomo Freundlich
As the holiday of Passover approaches, we become ever so careful to halachically (according to Jewish law) sanitize our homes and rid them of every trace and vestige of chametz (leaven, that food which which we are forbidden to own or derive benefit from on Passover).
As the holiday of Passover approaches, we become ever so careful to halachically (according to Jewish law) sanitize our homes and rid them of every trace and vestige of chametz (leaven, that food which which we are forbidden to own or derive benefit from on Passover). This is the season when normally docile housewives (and husbands) assume a more aggressive posture with their families in laying down tough rules about which foods can be eaten in which rooms. We all get caught up on some level with Passover fever. After all, the Torah proscribes a Jew's relationship to chametz on three different levels: (1) eating (2) owning and (3) deriving benefit and pleasure from it. It stands to reason that some of the Passover "madness" in preparing one's home is to be expected and perhaps even justified.
The Zohar, the basic work of Kabbalah, teaches that the yetzer harah (evil inclination) within us is compared to chametz, and just as we assiduously seek out and destroy all of our physical chametz, we must similarly eliminate from within ourselves all attitudes and characteristics that distance us from Torah.
Do we probe our thoughts and actions with the same scrutiny we employ when checking for a cookie or a pretzel under the sofa? Do we carefully measure the words we utter to our friends and loved ones with the same care and attention that we give to the scouring of our ovens? Do we allow the illuminating lessons of Torah to direct our lives in the same way that we direct our lit candles towards the dark cracks and crevices in our homes during the candlelight search for chametz on the eve of Passover?
The Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish law, points out that the search for chametz must extend even to our pockets. Do we check our pockets to determine that the dollars that fill them have been earned with honesty and full adherence to Jewish law? The evil inclination is a tough adversary. To be equal to his challenge one must be constantly vigilant. This can be accomplished through diligent and regular Torah study.
The halacha (Jewish law) tells us that dough can be kneaded for hours without chametz setting in. As long as the dough is being worked, the chametz process is impeded. But the moment our efforts with the dough are relaxed, the chametz process begins. Likewise, the Jew attempting to purge the chametz from within himself knows that there is no accommodation with the evil inclination. The moment that we relax our efforts in the service of Hashem, we have lost a strategic battle with the yetzer harah. Let us hope that as we celebrate Passover this year, we, as well as our food, will be kosher for Passover.
Rabbi Shlomo Freundlich has been a teacher at the Yeshiva High School of Atlanta for more than a decade.
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