The Midrash teaches us that the other nations were offered the Torah however each of them rejected it because they found some of the  commandment to difficult to comply with. [For Ishmael it was the prescription against stealing, for Eisav it was the commandment not to murder]… However when it was our turn we in unison proclaimed: “We will do and then we will hear” – “Naasey vi-nismah”.

Since it wouldn’t be fair for all the nations to have commandments that they found very challenging and we, the Jewish nation, also did not have at least one commandments that was very difficult to accept, therefore, let us ask which mitzvah was a great challenge for us to adhere to? The Cassidishers commentaries (Sefas Emes and Even …) address this provocative question with an insightful response that expresses the greatest praise of our holy nation. The mitzvah of restraint – hagbalah – during the days just proceeding the giving of the Torah (Matan Torah) was a commandment that was very hard for our nation to comply with. Why? Because every Jew had such a great desire to come as close as possible to the loftiest levels of holiness as quick as possible, our willingness to follow the commandment and hold ourselves back during the days of hagbalah showed that we had the ability and willingness to unswervingly accept all the Torah.

Therefore the days of hagbalah were not just days of separation and preparation but they were actually days of inner growth in strengthening our “walls” of faith and acceptance of Hashem’s Torah and its timeline.

 The Catam Sofer in Parsha’s Yisro (19-23) reveals to us a profound thought provoking remez from within the pasuk, referring to the days of hagbalah, which ends “…bound the mountain and sanctify it”, so that no one would come closer than they were permitted. The word mountain in Hebrew is Har (Hai – Raish) with the surrounding letters, in the alphabet, of the Hai being a Dalet and a Vov and the surrounding letters of the Raish being a Kuf and Shin. These surrounding letters combine to spell out the word holy (Kadosh) – Kuf – Dalet – Vov – Shin.

From here we can learn a beautiful thought that all of the – “boundaries” – enactments that our Sages have “put around” the Torah are not there to restrict and limit us but actually serve expand and increase the boundaries of our kiddusha.

Chag samach.


            As we approach the time of the giving of our Torah, let us reflect that each and every Jew is said to be connected to an os – a letter – in the Sefer Torah, with both our inner perception and the outer reality in which we live being spun from its spiritual fabric. Since this week we are reading about the giving of the Torah let us try to broaden our understanding what possible additional insight can be culled from the halacas that there must be an adequate space between each os; and yet, on the other hand, all the letters of each word must be close enough so that they are not perceived as separated and apart?

         These halachos can perhaps be seen as having the following profound implications: ]

     We should always strive to allow the next person the proper distance for maintaining respect and independence, yet without sacrificing the closeness and connectedness that makes us areivim – responsible for one another. This is perhaps alluded to in these halachos between the Torah’s letters and spaces. Just as the letters must be close enough so that meaningful ideas can be communicated, we also need to be close enough to help and interact with one another; yet, just as the letters must be separate enough so that the distinction between them is not blurred or obliterated, so should we always respect our neighbors and acquaintances so as not to diminish anyone’s unique personality and identity.

The Need for Attitudinal Distance

Perhaps the parchment between each letter is analogous to the “attitudinal distance” that exists between each person. Just as the white parchment has no perceivable value, yet is crucial, so also is the need to respect the cultural and individual “space”/differences between people. This “territory” between us and others is the space/ place of opportunity for learning mutual respect, thus allowing each person to maintain his independent integrity. Through this, we will avoid our personal feelings and agendas spilling over into someone else’s borders, thereby allowing us to emulate the halacha of mukafos gevul. (Every letter of a sefer Torah must be surrounded by an area of white parchment – (Menachos 29a) and certainly a Torah scroll that is not in conformity with this requirement cannot be used until it is rectified.)

    Moreover, through accomplishing this, we will also be blessed with a greater appreciation of our own unique role and place in this world.

Indeed, so essential is this “space” that the Gemara teaches that Hashem gave Moshe the Torah as white fire and black fire, with the black fire representing the written letters while the white fire represented the spaces in between (Yerushalmi Shekalim 6:1). We can further see this aspect of the importance of the surrounding area in the teaching that if one, chas veshalom, sees a sefer Torah burning, one must tear one’s garments twice – one time in mourning for the written words and a second time because of the parchment (Moeid Kattan 26a).

[[[In a different context, one commentator offered this profound thought: “Consciousness is always surrounded by a border of unconscious experience that itself gives shape to consciousness.” Perhaps this can be recast as follows: Thought as expressed through the black letters of the Torah is always surrounded by white borders of unconscious experience that helps to give shape to our consciousness.]]]

             May this year’s Kabbalas Ha-Torah merit us once again of the miracle of having enough “space” for everyone one of us to prostrate ourselves in the holy Bais HaMigdash – may it be built soon in our days.


As we are approaching the awesome day of Lag Bi-Omer, in which myriads of Jews from all around the world will sing and dance ecstatically, [[especially when feeling connected to the mystical supernal pulsation the specially of prepared bonfires]], there is to ask: What is the possible underlying unifying power of this 33rd day of the counting of the Omer which draws together such an all encompassing diversity of Jews from all different “walks of life”?

Besides some of the better known explanations, such as that on this day the great Tanna – Rebbi Shimon bar Yoci revealed the core esoteric teaching of the Torah know as the holy Zohar, that this 33rd day of the Omer is known as the attribute (seferiot) of hod within hod – which is best exemplified through Aahron HaCohen who loved and pursued making peace, and that the custom of having bows and arrows alludes to the rainbow which is a reminder of the Eternal covenant made after the Mabul, we will attempt to add an additional layer of the uniqueness of this special day by trying to “pull back any bow strings of indifference” and instead focus our “trajectory” on harmonizing and unifying our relationships with others.

Another possible deep symbolism of the bow and arrow could be understood by the following: Picture a loving father with his four year old son, whose has never seen or learned about how bows and arrow work. The father tells the son to look towards the east and in the distance there is a bulls eye target which he will hopefully hit with the arrow in his hand. Then the father places the arrow against the string on the bow and pulls it back very tightly. Before letting go of the arrow and string his puzzled son ask him: But father you said the arrow was going to go east toward the target, and it is instead west further away from the target. The father then explains that in order to reach the distant target it is first necessary to give the arrow the flying power which comes through tightening the string first and only then letting go.

This cute story is one of the profound facts of life that before we can reach our goals – ie the bulls eye target – we often are – what looks to us – sent in the wrong direction. For example some  people who want first have to become poor first even though this is not what they want. However the trials of poverty prepare such a person to be more generous when they finally attain wealth. And so it is in every area of life, often our loving Father in heaven, who knows what is truly best for us, if we are worthy, only gives us what we want after we become prepared to use these blessings in the right way.

Perhaps an additional allusion to the bonfires on this awesome day is to remind us that just as the powerful downward pull of gravity cannot diminish a rising flame, how much more so does the downward pull of “spiritual atrophy” remains powerless against us, as long as long as we stay ignited with the “transcendent fuel” of our holy Torah.

Last but not least, let us ask ourselves: Why Lag Bi Omer, the 33 day is seen as such a pivotal position in the counting of the Seferia? One possible reason is because each day of these 49 days can be seen as an opportunity to enhance and refine our medios thereby engendering a “good” heart (in Hebrew – Lev Tov is also exactly the numerical value of 49 (32 = Lev and 17 = tov).

May we all merit through this awesome transitional period of time spanning Pesach until Shavous to  focus on seeing and appreciating the good virtues (necuda tova) that can be found within every person, thereby hopefully bringing closer the final geula soon in our days.



The holy Torah, our guide book through life, gives us not only direction but the fuel/energy to strive towards our goals and aspirations, yet we find almost a complete parsha ( Behar 25: 1 – 55) dedicated to commanding us on each seventh (Shemita) and the fiftieth (Yovel) years to cease from many halachic forms of “effort”. These lengthy periods of cessation from certain halachically defined activities, for the uniformed would naturally appear to be the antithesis of productive effort. However, as contradictory as it may appear on the surface, these macrocosmic periods of “applied restraint” are the most valuable times for growth and development. This is because there is no higher goal and purpose in life than achieving a level of “pro-active submission” in following the will of   G-d. “Cessation of self-determination” during these times reveals the Divine radiance on earth, thereby crowning Hashem as King of the universe.

Even though we are not presently privy to the full revelation of the Torah as revealed through the Shemita and Yovel, we have been given the privilege weekly through the Shabbos and during the yearly period referred to as Sefiriot HaOmer to make the pro-active proclamation that we are willing to defer and or redirect our self interests.

What application today in our own lives can we derive from the awesome transformational power of  Shemita and especially Yovel? All Jews have holy souls that have been sent down into this world garmented in physical bodies and surrounded by an environment that is ideal for each one of us in order to help rectify and elevate the creation. During our lifetimes we are given various experiences of which some are pleasant and some are very challenging, however all of life’s events are perfectly crafted to serve a purpose for our benefit. If we could but for a moment have a glimpse at our lives from the Heavenly realm, from that prospective the allotment that has been given to us as our portion in life would be seen as tailored made and artfully fitted to help us reach and fulfill our potential. From that panoramic view, there would be no more questions or doubts. Each stage of life and each unique situation whether “traveling” through the “wilderness of experience” or “submitting” to each period of “encampment” would be seen as what it really is: a golden opportunity to achieve rectification and purification.

This ‘ladder’ of development and transition both in the microcosm as well as the macrocosm is a fifty level cycle that we experience yearly through the counting of the Sefiras HaOmer leading up to Matan Torah. Just as each day represents a different combination of attributes, whose interplay allows for refinement of our midos, so also on a macrocosmic level, when the majority of  the Jewish nation are living in Eretz Israel, there is a fifty year cycle culminating in the Yovel year, which is a special gift from G-d, that allows us to transcend the bonds of nature. Perhaps this then can be a deeper connection between the Yovel and Shavous. They can be seen as a (reflective) mirror image of each other, in that Yovel releases indentured bodies from physical bondage thereby allowing for a renewed bonding with the soul, whereas the time of Seferia releases us from our mental and emotional attitudinal bondage allowing for a renewed bonding with the Creator through His Torah.

Just as we draw closer with baited breath to this Yom Tov of Matan Torah so also may we merit soon to hear the long awaited shofar of the final geula.


Have you ever contemplated or wondered the deeper meaning of the very cryptic Torah portion, which extends for nearly two whole parshas, that describes in detail the spiritual cleansing and atonement process for the metzora? This mystical procedure involves taking some of the blood, from the korbon that is offered, and placing it on the right ear, the thumb of the right hand and the big toe on the right foot. Then the procedure is repeated applying (olive) oil at these very three same places?  (Metzora  14:13-30). Let us ask a few more questions. What could be the possible significance of these specific locations and is there any way to relate to this supernatural “therapy” that not only heals the physical tzaraas but most importantly “heals” the blemish on the soul?

Lastly, why does this holistic healing therapy literally need to extend from the “head to the toe” rather than focusing just on the actual place of the physical tzaraas? Perhaps the Torah is teaching us here that “healing” always needs to be holistic for true rebalancing. Here the Torah guides the sincere penitent through a non-invasive esoteric transformation that has the power to not only revitalize the life force of the body but to “heal” the underlying blemish at its root.

Rav Hirsch explains beautifully that the blood that is placed on these places of the body to symbolize that from now on the metzora must improve himself in mind – which is located opposite the ear, deed – the thumb representing action and effort – the big toe representing forward movement.

Perhaps from this we can add the following: The (olive) oil, which alludes to the illuminating wisdom of the Torah, was specifically put at the same place as the blood – which corresponds to the nefesh – to teach us that Divine healing and illumination comes through “applying” the Torah to all of our faculties and phases of life: as it is written “Nar mitzvah – Torah ohr”.

Therefore let us take this golden opportunity, of the reading of these two Parshas of Tazria and Metzora to help us to always “hear” our inner calling of what is the best thing to “do” at each “step” of our lives, thereby bringing closer the footsteps of the final redemption.



          Lashon Hakodesh is a holy tongue with profound meaning.  There is a deep connection between words that share the same letters even if, on the surface, the words may appear to be entirely dissimilar. For example, let us examine the words, oneg and negaOneg represents a form of spiritual perfection that is expressed as pleasure. Interestingly enough it is spelled with same three letters as the word nega – the ultimate antonym of onegNega refers to the symptom of the lowest form of spiritual corruption – tzara’as, which was a spiritual/physical affliction which required its sufferers to be banished from the camp of Israel.

Oneg and nega, joy and sorrow, undergo surprising transmutations within the diagnosis and treatment of tzara’as.  The difference between oneg and nega lies in the position of the letter ayin, whose migration from the front of the word to the back, spells the difference between joy and suffering.  It is no coincidence that the ayin is not only a letter but also is a word that describes our organ of sight – the eye.  The Torah admonishes us not to follow our eyes because they can mislead us.  In the diagnosis of tzara’as, as in our own introspective techniques, it is only true spiritually guided vision that is reliable.

The kohen, who is imbued with spiritual sight, is the only one who could look at a blemished area and determine whether it was pure or contaminated.  Thus, when the Torah speaks about a change in the colors of blemished garments, and dictates which change indicates that purification is taking place, the word “eino” is used to describe the color.  This word too is composed of the same root letters as is the word for eye.   Even the inexperienced will notice that it is this same ayin, whose position in the words oneg and nega makes the difference between joy and sorrow that now is the herald of a change of color – a change of spirit.

The Ramban taught us that the afflictions of tzara’as are miraculous in that they never occur naturally. When we lived in Eretz Israel and conducted ourselves according to Hashem’s wishes, there was always a radiant shine of holiness upon us. As individuals began to sin, this physical shine disappeared and the tzara’as began to show in their homes, their garments and on their persons.

The ayin of oneg and nega reflects the All Seeing Eye before Whom all conduct and all motivation is transparent and all spiritual blemishes, visible.  In this setting, only the acknowledgment of error in attitude and actions begins the cleansing process.

The diagnosis and treatment of tzara’as when it appears on a Jew is illustrative of this point.   When the tzara’as covered the entire portion of the sufferer’s skin – the affliction was declared to be pure and the person was not isolated. However, when it began healing and the healthy skin appeared on it, that was when the person was declared to be a metzora and the quarantine, the declaration of contamination and the entire process of purification would begin (Vayikra 13:14-15).

This seeming contradiction is explained by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.  He points out that the purpose of the quarantine is to shock the metzora into recognizing his sinfulness and doing teshuva.  However, teshuva is only possible when there is some “healthy” submissiveness to the will of Hashem.   When the moral corruption is so complete that submissiveness is totally lacking, then quarantine will not help the person move toward change and there is no point in isolating him.  He or she is beyond redemption.

Nonetheless, this individual is not completely abandoned but is chastised in a different but equally effective manner. Although actually afflicted with tzara’as, unlike his fellow sufferers, he is ignored.  He may thereby experience a terrible spiritual/emotional isolation and a sense of being cut off because there is no social structure in place to help him towards confession and teshuva.  However, if and when this silent admonition prompts him to do teshuva, some healthy skin will appear as evidence of this change of heart and then isolation will help him towards the complete teshuva process.

Tzara’as classically was a punishment for the sin of lashon hara which is the tool of the skeptic.  The skeptic moves from oneg to a self-imposed state of nega by casting a baleful eye upon those around him or her.   Consequently, to reverse that process, the individual must change his or her way of seeing the world which can be achieved by judging the person or situation in a favorable light.

The blessing of experiencing oneg is a gift that comes through living humbly and righteously realizing that life is an opportunity for proper service in avodas Hashem at all stages, levels and experiences. Every event in life has deep meaning and positive purpose even if we cannot immediately see its relevance or value. The lens of the Torah transforms negative perceptions into positive outlooks.  When we view life through this lens, we are able to see all of creation as emanating from the Divine will. From this perspective we can then merit the true bliss of oneg.



              It’s the night (lay’l) of Pesach with all the family and guests joined together around the Seder table. After Kiddush on wine the head of the household (Bal HaBais)divides the middle matzah, wraps up the larger piece for the end of the meal (Afikomin) and puts it snugly  behind his pillow.  Later in the evening (seder) someone points to the place of the afikoman and whispers to the child, “Take it now, quickly, while he’s not looking.” The child hesitates, feeling quite shy having been brought up with proper values of respect and honesty. This night everything at the house looks so different. The table is much longer than usual filled with relatives and guests — it’s white and beautiful with lots of shiny glasses, sparkling silver. But then with a little more prodding and a burst of courage he moves closer to the treasured hidden away afikomen, hesitating, until some one prompts him, “Quick, grab it and run.”

  For a second, he feels afraid, but as soon as it is in his hand, he feels an exhilarating surge of excitement and exuberance. Even after hiding it he continues to feel energized and successful. Much later, when the child is asked to return the afikoman, he doesn’t give it right back, being prodded by others to first ask for a nice prize.

    Doesn’t this conduct seem a quite odd?  Here we are seemingly allowing our small untainted children to take something that doesn’t belong to them and on top of that extort a reward for their efforts on one of the holiest nights of the year. How can we possibly understand this conduct?

  Perhaps we can explain this unusual behavior as follows. Usually the selfish inclination (yetzer hara) tries to lure a person into improper behavior through offering feelings of ephemeral thrills and excitement. Even though we want to avoid such conduct, the problem we face is that we simply cannot discard the yetzer hara.  As in the well known book of Medrashim, when the Sages davened to remove the yetzer hara and Hashem answered their tefillos, even the chickens stopped laying eggs. The yetzer hara is necessary but needs to be controlled. The challenge to us is to sur mei ra, avoid evil, yet preserve our enthusiasm and direct it to our ma’asim tovim.  But how do we do this? 

   Perhaps, this is precisely what we are achieving when we encourage our children to take the afikomen.  We are allowing our young pure children to experience the excitement that is usually motivated by the yetzer hara when engaged in risky, dangerous and thrill seeking conduct.  We do this by giving them a controlled dose of the “taste of desire.” As the child grows up, that spiritual inoculation that was administered l’shem Shamayim with love will then continue to act as an antidote against the infectious negative powers of the yetzer hara.  Indeed, that dose of controlled enthusiasm, experienced by the child on lay’l Pesach, will enable him to rekindle those exuberant feelings throughout the year directing them in a positive mode while learning Torah, performing mitzvos and ma’asim tovim.

But how can experiencing this “controlled taste of desire” both act as a vaccine shielding the child from learning mis-conduct, while at the same time inspiring the him with enthusiasm for all things that are Holy? It is because of the setting in which this “taste” is given. Let us remember, the seder night is referred to as – lay’l shemurim, the night of Divine protection – the perfect night for this process to take place as it is a time when negative forces are subdued. 

    You may be wondering, how can this spiritual “inoculation” continue to protect us into our adult years?   Possibly the answer is we use “booster shots”!  Oh, we are not suggesting that this Pesach we grab the afikoman, however we should watch the one who is taking it and allow that “small child” inside each of us to relive and rekindle our own feelings of inner joy and exuberance, thereby rekindling our youthful enthusiasm in the service of Hashem.

May we all merit soon to be able to fulfill the mitzvah of afikoman in Jerusalem at the final geula soon in our days.


   The attribute of exuberance and excitement was “stolen” (so to speak) by the negative powers (yetzer hora) through the errors of mankind. On the night of Pesach we are able to “re-capture” these sparks of holiness and use them to bring back Divine spirituality into this world Since the yetzer took it through “theft” we re-capture it, through an act that looks like theft, at this time of Pesach when the forces of darkness are vanquished. 


It’s just a just time before takeoff, friends have dropped off packages of gifts for their loved ones. We wondered how we were going to fit them all into our bulging suitcases. Before we knew it the car service driver was beeping. We quickly stuffed our cases closed and hoped the zippers would hold out. At the airport, bags in tow we followed an interminable line weaving towards the ticket counter. Upon reaching what was to be the first of many checkpoints the flight security attendant said with a polite, but serious smile:  “How are you today”? Passports and tickets please! Where are going? Is this your first trip there? Where will you be staying? Do you have any relatives there? Oh yes, who? Where do they live? ” He made light conversation but all the while his eyes were locked on ours without a flicker. They felt like x-rays and we got flustered. Somehow we even hesitated over the names of the places are relatives lived.

As the grilling continued all  that was needed was a strong white light focused in our eyes to turn  it  into a full blown interrogation. “Tell me, did any one pack your bags for you? Do you have any electronic equipment inside your bags? Where did you get it? Did you take it from a shelf of the store by yourself or did someone give it to you? Was the package torn? Did anyone give you anything?”

After the initial screening the security officer directed us over to yet another line to have our suitcases ex-rayed in what looked like a giant MRI machine. After our bags came out unscathed with a negative diagnosis, we proceeded to the check in counter. As we struggled to lift our suitcases onto the scales, they seemed to feel quite a bit heavier than they did at home – maybe it’s the gravity at the airport we chuckled. Miraculously the employee did not impose a fine for being overweight and with a sigh of relief we set off to scale our next hurdle.

Moving further along the assembly line we were required to place outer garments, hand bags and all metal possessions on a rolling conveyer belt which passed them through another x-ray machine. Now, hatless, shoeless, jacketless, feeling slightly vulnerable and somewhat intimidated, we walk through the metal archway, which will determine whether we will be “pat searched”. We fortunately passed with good marks but we couldn’t help but notice another frum passenger who was sent to the side for a full blown pat down. Admirably he never lost his pleasant smile as he chatted cordially with the officer, adding after he was exonerated his appreciation for the fine work that the security personal provided. This was a real Kiddush Hashem that both we and that guard will never forget.

Since everything that exists in the world is founded in the Torah, where can we find a Torah source for the interrogation and search of travelers? Yes. The first such search was conducted by Lavan – Jacob’s father-in-law.  When Lavan saw that (Ya’akov) Jacob has taken his family and left , he  chased after them,  bombarded them with a barrage of questions  and then, unsatisfied with the answers, made his own intrusive and thorough search of their possessions – (Parshas Vayeitzei). Some years later, the sons of Ya’akov are subjected to an interrogation and search at the hands of the second most powerful man in all of Egypt, not realizing at the time that that imposing personage was none other than  their brother (Yosef). (Parshas Mikeitz).

What lesson could we possibly learn from these two similar events?  Perhaps the key lies in the intentions of the searchers even more than the search itself. Lavan is the prototype of a clever swindler whose expertise lies in appearing to be superficially (lavan) pure even while his intentions were self-serving and even nefarious. We of course should do our best to steer clear of such people but when unavoidable we should always make the best out of the situation as our forefather Ya’akov did in the house of Lavan.

Of course when well intended loving relatives, true friends and dedicated people “question” our intentions and “search” into our motivations, like Yosef had done with his brothers, we should not resent but actually cherish their words and actions. Now also before Pesach, while we are checking very closely our homes and possessions, let us also check (bodek) every “nock and cranny” of our attitudes for any “leavened” behavior that has become “chumatz  or saor” soured and leavened. This vital search and removal mission is one of the hallmarks of the Pesach transformation that helps free us from the bondage of corporeal constraints and limitations thereby allowing us to travel vertically up the Pesach “ladder”.

May we all have a kosher wonderful (Pesach) Passover holiday season.



The rain  washed down the windshield in torrents undeterred by the wipers. The driver wiped his bleary eyes and the world swam. Only a few more miles, he thought and I will be able to deliver the medicine from the pharmacy and go home.  He glanced at the directions scribbled on a wrinkled paper.  Here’s the turn.  There’s the house.  He wearily unlatched the car door, hitched his jacket over his head and moved quickly through the spring storm to the front door.  As the door bell rang, he heard   the sound of small feet running in his direction.

The door opened and he blinked to adjust his eyes to the dim light inside.  He looked and nearly giggled, “It’s nighttime, he thought, “do you know where your children are?”  If you don’t , they are probably here tiptoeing one behind the other in a long uneven line, following a man carrying a candle near to the ground, squinting as he stoops down and peers into the back of a sofa cushion.   No one paid attention to the stranger at the door, except for one small boy who seemed to be motioning him to join in. The young delivery man stood there awkwardly staring at this odd sight, early memories stirring deep within him.

What could he be thinking – this stranger? What could he understand of this Jewish law and time honored custom of (bedikas chumetz) – the searching for any grain product, such as bread and cake that has leavened. Now, we know what it is all about, we are used to it, we understand it – or do we?

It is  (Erev Pesach) the evening before Passover.   We have just spent weeks cleaning our homes from top to bottom, making certain that not one crumb of (chumetz) leavened food remains anywhere in our realm.  We have scoured  every crevice, turned each pocket inside out and emptied our children’s secret treasure troves of cookies and pretzels.  And just  as we have begun to feel that unique once- a -year feeling, that sense that we really have managed to rid ourselves of every crumb — at that  moment – we assign someone to secretly hide (the custom being ten) pieces of chumetz throughout our homes and possessions. Then specifically in the darkness of  the night we make a candle light “search”– and as we find each piece, we carefully sweep it triumphantly away with the help of a feather and a wooden spoon into a guarded place.

Why are we doing this?  Is it merely symbolic?  What is going on?


What would this soggy stranger think, if we told him that we were regaining our freedom with those ten pieces of bread?

Yet, it is actually true.  The night of bedikas chumetz,  like every other meaningful event in life has three components, the person, that is ourselves,  place and time.  The Creator is referred to as (HaMakom) the Place, because there is no place devoid of His Presence.  However (Hashem) G-d has made room for us and allows us and our possessions to exist in His world. When we do bedikas chumetz, we are proclaiming that  it is His world and we are his invited guests.  When we accept this upon ourselves and fulfill the commandment that requires us to relinquish even a kosher, ordinarily permissible possession , that is when we begin to taste freedom.  This is because it is difficult to pull away from the lures of this world which can enslave us, and addict us and remove our freedom of choice. But when Hashem directs us to do so, and we comply, He provides us with the ability to let go.


The third component of this event is time which  plays the major role in our Pesach preparations.  It is only time that separates chumetz from matzah, for they both start with the same ingredients, flour and water.  Chumetz, leaven, is created through a process of fermentation that causes pockets of air to form in the flour and water mixture, expanding the dough and making it grow large.  Like dough, egos can also be inflated.  The leavening agents can be power, vanity or fame, together with the flattery that catalyzes them into a bubbling brew that pumps up our sense of self importance. One extra moment can mark the difference between leavened and unleavened –one moment can be enough to transform  the mixture of flour and water from permissible matzah into forbidden chumetz. And it only takes but a moment of time for us to feel achieved and

congratulate ourselves for our accomplishments, thus improperly taking personal credit for that which Hashem has given to us.


So as we make our bedikas chumetz or any other mitzvah, we should try to do so with the un-self conscious innocence, inspiration and joy of a child.

Now with a better understanding of the need for the bedika let us ask but why search in the darkness of night? We might think that it is not such a good idea as evening symbolizes the powers of the (sitra achra) powers of darkness, however, on this special night, we are given the assignment and ability to enter its realm on a “search and destroy mission”.  In those moments, that (ner) candle is a supernal spiritual beam that is able to penetrate deeply to expose any sign of ego inflation. In the esoteric tradition the Ner represents a vessel for the (shefa) the holy influence that channels the Divine Radiance thereby illuminating any dark or hidden places, allowing us find, identify and remove any impurities thereby preparing us to receive  the special (kiddusha) holiness that permeates  the night of Passover.

One final thought on the multifaceted value of the bedikas chumetz. The ideal way to perform this minhag is to allow some member of the house or close friend to hide some small portions of bread or mezzonos. Many have the custom of  placing ten pieces for esoteric reasons and also to insure the finding of some chumetz in an already thoroughly clean home.  But this practical reason is not necessarily the only explanation.

This hunt for chumetz is a joint mitzvah that gets everyone involved in an effort to accomplish this task. So in the years when my children were young, we would use this night to send a not-so-subtle message to them.  Chumetz  would be put in places where old battles were fought.  So, for the child who would leave his shoes in the middle of the room for others to trip over, chumetz would be put in those shoes.  For another

child, a messy closet was the battle ground and she would find a piece of chumetz there.  We would all end our bedikas chumetz laughing over things that frustrated us during the year. Pesach is a time of unity and what better way to nurture this idealistic state than making a bedika  from within and without.

This captivating ritual of bedikas chumetz,  one of the many heart warming mitzvoth of Pesach, transforms a mundane cleaning process  into a sacred and mystical rite. This creates the atmosphere in which Pesach is renewed each year – And as Pesach is renewed – so are we. As for the young delivery man who was standing at the entranceway, may that glimpse into the Pesach experience be just the right “prescription” for his transformation.

(La Shana Haba bi-Jerusalem) – May this coming year we all be reunited in Jerusalem.



Upon awakening from sleep, we resume our life’s journey. From the moment that the holy Jewish soul is returned to the body, a fresh opportunity is presented to actualize our lifelong process of growth. How do we achieve this lofty goal?

The Rabbis (Chazal) explain that sleep is the period of time when our soul (the neshama) ascends to the supernal realms. The vacuum left behind causes a temporary influx of what we call – tum’ah – spiritual impurity. Upon awakening this tum’ah recedes to our hands with our sages giving us the knowledge of how to remove it by re-sanctifying our hands.

But even before we do that, t he first thing we do in the morning is say “modeh ani”, proclaiming our humble gratitude to our Creator for showing His confidence in us by restoring our soul to our body, giving us another day of life in which to fulfill Torah and mitzvoth. We surely appreciate that the renewal of our life each day is a gift — a fresh opportunity to actualize our lifelong process of spiritual growth.  How do we achieve this lofty goal in a practical way? We will look a bit more deeply into the spiritual connection between our voices (in which we start the day with “mode ani…” and our hands(that we wash in a uniaque fashion).

The Malbim explains that the hands represent the earthly power and might that lie within the domain of Yaakov Avinu’s brother Eisav; but the voice, which emanates from the realm of the soul lies within the domain of Yaakov.

When Yaakov approached Yitzchok for his brachos, Yitzchok touched him and felt the “hands of Eisav” but heard the “voice of Yaakov”, and thus made the immortal declaration:  “…hakol  kol Yaakov —- ve hayadayim yedai  Eisav.” (Toldos 27:  22)

Looking more deeply into these words, we come to learn that, according to the Malbim, Hashem desired that Yaakov be given both spiritual and material gifts and blessings, however, material blessings would come to Yaakov not by means of natural cause and effect, but only through hashgacha, through his voice – Torah and supplication (tefillah). If however, G-d forbid, Torah learning and tefillah were to be diminished then the flow of material blessings would also decrease.

Interestingly, the nusach of netillas yadayim, the first blessing of the day, provides a profound insight:  “Blessed ( or: The Source of all) are You, Hashem, our G-d King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us on the washing –“netillas yadayim” – of the hands. Notably, the Sages did not choose for this blessing the word “rechitza” meaning “washing” but “netilla” meaning “taking”, as  in the bracha of  the lulov  where we say “al netillas lulav,” on the taking of the lulov, Perhaps a deeper reason for the selection of this – nusach  is  that just as the mitzvah of lulov is accomplished through the  act of “taking hold” of  the lulov, so also do we achieve spiritual success with the use of our hands – our ma’aseh yadayim –  by  “taking hold of “ , i.e., controlling and directing  our actions toward the fulfillment of the will of  Hashem.  May we soon merit to raise our voices and hands together in a unison greeting the Moshiach and the final redemption soon in our days.