21 Mar Another Angle to Pesach
Preparations bombard us as we head towards Pesach. Scouring the house to eradicate chometz, taking down the dishes, selling the chometz to the Rav, buying dresses and suits for the family; these all converge upon us at the same time. However, another aspect of Pesach preparation is also greatly important, yet we give it only fleeting attention at best. I refer to the mitzvah of Kimcha D’pischa, better known as Maos Chittin, providing matzah (and food) for the needy on Pesach.
The Sefer Hatodaah relates that on Motzei Shabbos Parshas HaChodesh (the Shabbos when we bentch Rosh Chodesh Nissin), the Rav and the City Council met to divide all of the inhabitants of the town into two categories: those who can give and those who need to receive. (Even Talmidei Chachomim were required to give to this mitzvah although the Gemora in Baba Basra teaches that sages are exempt from most taxes.) On the very next day, they themselves went out to collect from the first group. Anytime a well-to-do person would shirk his duty saying, for example, “I’m tight,” or, “I’m all given out currently,” they would sternly reply that if he wouldn’t give, he would be placed on the list to receive. From embarrassment, he would give.
The Sefer Hatodaah continues that this is not regular tzedaka, for tzedaka is a normal requirement throughout the year. Rather, he explains, we are ensuring that when we say to our families at the Seder table, “Kol dichfin yeisei v’yeichol – All who are hungry, let them come and eat,” the statement should not be a falsehood. Furthermore, Pesach is the holiday of freedom and redemption. When we celebrate that we are a kingdom of priestly people, we behave at the Seder with a royal air. However, we cannot feel completely royal and free if our neighbors suffer from need and want.
One might wonder why there is so much emphasis on Kimcha D’pischa, Flour for Pesach. Furthermore, why is it called Maos Chittin, Money for Wheat? Why don’t we say ‘Money for Pesach’? After all, there are many other needs during this time of year like wine, meat, and other elegant items for the Seder Table. I believe the name ‘Maos Chittin – Money for Wheat’ stems from an event dating back to the time the first matzah was baked. This was when the Angels came to visit Abraham’s house.
Remember! Avraham said to Sarah, “Lushi v’asi ugos – Knead and bake wafers.” The Sefer Tamei Minhogim queries why it was necessary to tell the ninety year-old, model balebustah, Sarah, to knead bread. Naturally, she was already well versed in this. But in this instance, Avraham was saying knead it consistently “L’sheim Matzas Mitzvahs!” so that it wouldn’t become chometz, for the Angels came on the first day of Pesach.
This is the source of using three matzos on the night of Pesach. The Tzadik of Zhititchov asks, “Why is it that everything is four,” i.e., four parshios in tefillin, four tzitzis, four species of lulav, four questions, four kosos (cups) of wine, but only three Matzas? His Rebbe cleverly answered that when the middle matzah is broken, there are four here also. But why do we start with three? The reason is because of the three soh, a Biblical dry measure, of flour that Sarah Imenu prepared for the Angels. And when we think about it in this light, we realize that the very first matzos were specially baked to be given to the needy!
The Medrash says that when Avraham was preparing the cattle to feed to the Angels, one separated from the herd and bolted. Miraculously, it sprinted all the way to the Moras HaMachpelah which, at this very moment, was revealed to Avraham as his final resting place. One must wonder why Hashem chose this very busy instant to show Avraham his burial plot. In the preceding hours he had broken off Hashem’s convalescence visit, and left the three hungry Angels waiting at his home to be served their meal. Is this the proper time to inspect a future-resting place? I believe that Hashem was connecting themes, teaching Avraham (and us) that what we serve to guests, and give to others, is exactly what we are able to take with us to our graves. Perhaps this is one of the allusions to why we wear the kittel, our future shroud, on Pesach night.
Many people do not realize that on Pesach, we are judged on our tevuah, our produce, which is directly related to our parnasa. Thus, sharing with others at this season is the best way to ensure that Hashem gives us a good judgment. Consistent with this theme is the fact that the word ‘matzos’ is occasionally written defectively in the Torah; missing the letter ‘vav.’ Plus, the Mem-Suf-TZadee is an abbreviation for TZedaka Tatzil Mimaves, charity saves us from death. In the same vein, if you take out the tzadi from MaTZoS, you’re left with the word MeiS, to teach us that without tzedaka, there is only death.
The word MaTZaH also stands for, “Mikol TZara Hatzileini – From every pain, You will save me.” Thus, we find that Avraham was healed from the pain of his circumcision when he arose and began serving the Angels. Likewise, Lot and some of his family was saved when he served matzos to the Angels in Sodom.
The Zohar calls matzah, Michlah d’asvasa, Food of healing. Indeed, the Tamei Minhogim relates that even gentiles once purchased matzos in order to cure themselves of headaches.
Thus, we see giving Kimcha D’pischa promises to help us in many beneficial ways: Toward a bountiful judgment upon our produce; to keep us healthy; to save us from danger; and to propel us to success in the world to come. Therefore, it behooves us to give more attention to helping others before Pesach. Let’s create a legacy by directing our families’ attention to this great mitzvah.
A good way to accomplish this is, when we go to the Rav or Rosh Yeshiva, we can ask him if there is a family that can be helped with matzah and wine, and perhaps even with pairs of shoes for the children. Perhaps, the Rav would want to give it to the family in your stead, so that embarrassment can be avoided. Nevertheless, you will see how much richer you’ll feel, and what a great lesson for the family this is!
In this merit, many we be zoche always to have the ability to give, and never need to take, and may we all merit the coming of the Moshiach speedily in our days.
Please learn and daven for the refuah sheleima of Miriam Liba bas Devorah, b’soch shaar cholei Yisroel.