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Taking positive action to create opportunities for nearness to God.

04/11/2024 11:42:02 AM


Rabbi Bryan Wexler

As Jews around the world prepare for Shabbat, we are also either in the midst of, or making arrangements to remove the hametz (leaven products) from our homes. Though the manual labor can be intense as we prepare our homes and our souls for Passover, it is also particularly important as I believe we are also readying our souls to experience freedom anew.  Yes, the physical cleaning is important (and daunting).  But of equal if not greater significance is the emotional, psychological, and spiritual “cleaning” that we engage with as well.

The removal of the hametz of our souls, the heavy things we carry emotionally and spiritually, is part of the way we can prepare for redemption. This cleansing cannot be accomplished by feather and candle alone. We need to realign ourselves with our values and ensure that the way we spend our time follows suit. Now is a time to ask: are we properly caring for our bodies, minds, and spirits?  In what ways do we need to re-set?  In what ways do we need start again?  And in what ways do we hope to change and grow?

In the midst of our Passover preparations, it is fascinating that we read Parashat Tazria this week. Parashat Tazria speaks to a particular affliction called tzara’at. Often translated as leprosy, the rabbis frequently connect tzara’at with lashon hara, evil speech.  In other words.  The affliction of tzara’at was a biblical indication that a person’s values and actions were not aligned, that there was something in need of tikkun (repair), or that some time for soul-searching was necessary.   

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (Rav Kook), the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of British Mandate Palestine taught that as we think about the spiritual dimension of both tzara’at and hametz there are two levels of purification that we must pursue.  The first stage of purification, Rav Kook taught, is to correct our faulty behavior or the personality traits that we seek to change.  In other words, this is a time for soul-searching and then ultimately, for action.   The second step according to Rav Kook, is to then restore or rehabilitate our relationship with God. In the Torah portion this is done through isolation, introspection, subsequent sacrifices. I would suggest that cleansing ourselves and our homes of hametz next week is a modern way that we can take positive action to create opportunities for nearness to God.

And so, may this Shabbat be one of rest, so that next week we can engage in the holy work of cleaning (who knew cleaning could be so sacred?!).   As we prepare for Passover, may we strive to remove all hametz, both physical and metaphysical, from our homes and from our hearts.  In so doing, may we take the time to be reflective, may we strive to become our best selves, and may we merit to be brought close to God and to one another.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784