Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Pesach 5770- Four new Pesach questions

As we approach Pesach, we all go into frenzies of cleaning up. We clear our houses, erase any trace of chametz at work, in our cars or in any place we commonly eat or store anything. Physically we spend a lot of time cleaning up- but how much time do we spend on the spiritual spring cleaning?

Our sages liken chametz to representing pride, of self importance “inflating” ourselves to appear greater to others. “Geivah” is a negative charater trait we need to clean up and eradicate from our lives, and the eradication of chamtz from our lives is symbolic of this. So it seems strange that Pesach is the time that we are commanded to rid ourselves of chametz. Why do I say it is strange? At the time, we could hardly have been feeling too self important or prideful; we were slaves, escaping from bondage; slaves that for 210 years had been oppressed, had their children killed, forced to work to build cities even while still needing to do work to cater for our own needs.

However, maybe the picture is not quite complete; not all Jews were slaves. The tribe of Levi continued to study Torah and at no time did they go work as slaves, though they were caught up in the genocidal decrees of Pharoah. There also appears to hae been a large group of Bnei Yisrael that assimilated into Egyptian culture, a group larger than the core that stuck to the beliefs of their fathers. A midrash stats that during the plague of darkness many of these asismilated Jews died, their deaths being hidden from the Eyptians in the darkness in order not to lessen the effect of the plague on them. These assimalted Jews were the ones that did not make the Korban Pesach, that would have seen their firstborn children die; and the midrash states that these Jews, 4/5ths of the jewish nation, never left Egypt- rather their assimilation took the ultimate course and they dissapeared from the world in time.

What was the mistake of these people? What led them to this putting of physical comfort and identification with a hostile group over their own people? Here we see the relevance of the symbology of chametz to Pesach. These were the peopel that had built themselves up, whose self image and self importance made them elevate that above spirituality and an identification with their own people. These were the “Richard Goldstones” of the ancient world, people more concerned with their acceptance and appearance to the non-Jewish world than wanting to be a member of their community. These were the “messianic Jews” of the ancient world- more concerned with trying to adapt their ways to fit into an outside culture rather than maintaining the integrity of their own- and like the “messianic jews” of toady, these members of Bnei Yisrael sanctified themselves accoding to the rites and rituals of the surrounding culture, ignoring what Jews actually believe and were oing. If they had been watching their brothers, if they had identified with Bnei Yisrael and not the outside culture- they, too, would have had a lamb to sacrifice and its blood to smear on the doorposts.

This year, let the spiritual cleaning of Pesach include four new Pesach questions:
Who do I identify with, my fellow Jews or the outside world?
Who do I stand with, my own people or those who seek to bring Jews down?
Where do my loyalties lie- with the Torah or with acceptance by a modern culture increasingly hostile towards displays of religion?
What stand will I take- to keep Judaism Jewish- ot to let it be diluted and fade into the mists of time like all the other religions which felt they had to change wih times and adopt the ways of the outside world?

March 24, 2010 Posted by | Chagim, Torah | , , , , | 1 Comment