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Chametz: What Would Your Psychologist Say?

Chametz: What Would Your Psychologist Say?

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Ready or not, here it comes... Once again it is time for the annual pre-Passover house-cleaning. It is time to move the furniture and scrub the chairs, line the counters and scour the dinette; perhaps, perhaps, we will unearth a stale cookie or come across a half-eaten piece of licorice which the baby stowed behind the couch.

Why the big fuss? Torah prohibits many items at various times, but--thankfully!--we are not obligated to embark on an all-out assault against every banned item. We don't have to destroy all food before Yom Kippur, and we don't have to get rid of our cars every Friday afternoon! Why so much ado over half of a moldy bagel?

So the studious amongst us open up the Kabbalistic texts and discover that chametz, which rises, represents the ego - something which must be eradicated at all costs. But this only raises new questions: Is a little ego really so terrible? Any psychologist will tell you that a healthy ego is a powerful motivator, giving people the courage to pursue their dreams and stand up for what is right. And if ego is such a paramount evil, why then is it permitted to consume chametz throughout the entire year? Is it possible that Dr. Atkins really was onto a profound mystical truth?

On Passover we celebrate the birth of our nation. At that historic moment, more than 3300 years ago, G‑d intervened on behalf of an enslaved tribe, an assimilated and corrupted clan which bore very little resemblance to its holy patriarchs, and liberated them, both physically and spiritually. Throughout their ensuing history, the Jews were enslaved time and again, but they never lost their spiritual liberty. On that fateful Passover day, the Israelites began their journey to Mount Sinai. They left behind Egypt and all the "Egyptness" which over the course of the years had attached itself to their characters, and they began their spiritual voyage to G‑d and His Torah.

Pride is important, when it is in a proper context. At the moment of their liberation, the Jews had nothing to be proud about their G‑dless lifestyle. To their everlasting credit, they understood this idea, and jumped at the G‑d given opportunity to enrich their lives by improving their character and devoting their lives to serving the Creator. As they distanced themselves from Egypt and its values, they earned the right to be proud of their accomplishments. Just as the proud and tall tree which yields such beautiful fruit started out as a seed which decomposed in the ground, so, too, true spiritual growth begins with total humility, recognizing that without G‑d all pride is simply misplaced arrogance.

May G‑d bless us all with a truly meaningful and liberating Passover. And as we purge our homes from all traces of chametz, let us strive to rid ourselves of destructive pride, and commit ourselves to a life of Torah-liberty, a life of true pride.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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Anonymous Benicia, CA/USA via jewishnapavalley.com April 21, 2011

Matzoh What does one do on Passover if I am gluten intolerant as a Celiac Reply

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