12 Apr AS WE APPROACH PESACH
With Pesach incredibly just days away, and as we begin once again to say farewell to pizza and pasta, we need to ask ourselves what spiritual lessons we want to receive from Pesach. Here are some ideas.
When we left Egypt, the dogs did not bark. In reward for this, they were granted, for all time, first-shot at treifa meat, and that with their excrement we treat the parchment of our Sifrei Torah. On the other hand, during the plague of frogs, some of the frogs entered into the Egyptian ovens. (It is from this act of courage that Chananya, Mishael and Azaryah derived that they too should enter into the fire of Nevuchadnezar’s furnace in response to his command to bow down to an idol.) Yet these brave frogs were never given a reward for their act of heroism (Besides that they survived). From this, Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, Zt”l, Zy”a, extrapolates the great lesson that it is a much greater feat to keep one’s mouth shut (like the dogs) than to leap into an oven (like the frogs). Thus, we need to realize what a great accomplishment it is when we refrain from harmful gossip or speaking in shul during davening.
Included in this opportunity of greatness is cultivating the talent to keep one’s mouth closed, and not answer back, even when your spouse has a momentary lapse in judgment and says something tinged with sarcasm or talks to you mockingly or just plain nastily. The ability to keep quiet and let the moment pass instead of creating a louder conflagration promises great reward in this world and the Next. Let’s remember the sage words of Rebbi Shimon in Pirkei Avos, “Kol yomei G-dalti bein hachachamim, v’lo matzasi l’guf tov m’shtikah – All my days I grew up amongst the Sages (Who practiced the full spectrum of fine character traits) and yet I did not find anything greater than the ability to know when to keep quiet.”
Here’s another thought. In Masechtas Sukkah, the Gemora related the curious ritual of the water-drawing ceremony. The Gemora informs us that such sages as Rav Yochanan and Abaya used to juggle; some juggled eight cups filled with wine yet they didn’t spill, they weren’t dropped, and they didn’t touch one another. Obviously, if these great Sages whose every thought and movement were invested with holiness and spiritualty did these rituals, the ceremony was obviously not some simple circus act.
I’ve always felt that they were teaching us the fundamental lesson of the importance of properly juggling our priorities. A person must be able to hold many balls in the air without dropping any of them. One has to give the proper attention to one’s responsibility to Hashem, to one’s spouse, to one’s children, to one’s parents, to one’s friends, to one’s employer or employees, to one’s shul and community and to oneself. The woman who is the chairperson of the tzedaka Chinese auction but is not home to cook for her family or to do homework with her children is dropping some very important balls. The man who is the hero in shul but is never there for his wife is not doing a good act of juggling the priorities of life.
Let me share with you a Pesach example from the beloved Gadol HaDor, Rav Chaim Kanievski, Zt”l, Zy”a. In his home, the bedikas chometz was a very serious business, taking about three hours and he enlisted the assistance of his grandchildren. When checking closets, he would have them remove utensils, look behind, and then put them back in. But, he would caution them to put back the utensils as they found them. Otherwise, the Rebbetzin would be distressed and their effort would be counterproductive since the bedikas chometz is only rabbinical while causing the Rebbetzin aggravation would be a Biblical infraction. This is a true example of getting our priorities straight. Rabbi Frand, Shlit”a, would say that it is never worth it to risk our shalom bayis over a chumrah, a stringency. This is the same idea. We always have to have our priorities straight.
May it be the will of Hashem that we contemplate the many lessons we will discuss over Pesach and try to put them to good use in our daily lives and in that merit may we be blessed with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.