Rabbi's Weekly Message

A Message from Rabbi Wexler ~ Thursday, April 18

The week before the holiday of Passover is always exhausting as there is much to do in preparation for the upcoming holiday. Of course, there is the cleaning as we meticulously empty our pantries, scour our counters, and investigate every nook and cranny in the hopes of fulfilling one of the foundational commandments of Passover — the removal of leavening, hametz, from our homes.

Even more, there is a spiritual dimension to our removal of hametz, as well. The Talmud tells us of the personal meditation recited by Rabbi Alexandri after his private prayers. Rabbi Alexandri would turn his heart and mind towards heaven and say the following: “Master of the Universe, You know full well that it is our desire to act according to Your will; but what prevents us from doing so? The leavening in the dough (Babylonian Talmud Berachot 17a).” Rashi explains that this leavening is the evil inclination that inflates our heart. This is the spiritual hametz that requires purging from our souls prior to Pesach. In his beautiful work, Preparing Your Heart for Passover, Rabbi Kerry Olitzky explains our task as follows:

Just as one removes the leaven by the light of the candle, one should eliminate the evil that dwells within, searching the heart by the light of the soul, which is the “candle of God.” Only with Divine light are we even able to see the hametz that is buried in our soul. And only through that same light are we able to incinerate it. Furthermore, who knows what else might be revealed in the light? We might even see the ones we love just a little differently in the special radiance of this phenomenal light!

The pre-Passover spring-cleaning we undertake must be more than just an attempt to purge our homes of leftovers and crumbs. The physical act is meant to trigger an internal process as well — the purifying of our souls.

Pesah begins tomorrow (Friday) night which means it is just about time to remove the final remnants of hametz from our homes. Tonight, we will take our candles, feathers, and wooden spoons in our hands and fulfill the mitzvah of bedikat hametz, the search for hametz. Then, tomorrow morning, we will take that last remaining hametz and perform biyur hametz, the burning of hametz.

And so, as we make our final preparation for Passover, as we scrub and soak and vacuum and wash and search, may we also grab hold of the opportunity to look more deeply into our own lives. What internal scrubbing and searching do we require to allow us to be more free? Where have our souls become “inflated” with self-importance? How have we personally become “enslaved” by our urges and temptations over the past year? What must we do prior to Passover to remove the fluff around our hearts that impedes our deepest values and truest selves from shining through?

A few more questions to ask as part of our holiday that celebrates the gift of the ability to ask questions.

Wishing everyone a hag sameah — a Passover filled with love of family and friends, meaning, soul-searching, and growth.

Hag Sameah and Shabbat Shalom!