Mitzvah of the Week:
Why is this night different from all other nights?
Pesach (Passover) begins this Friday night, and continues until sundown next Friday, on the Reform and Israeli calendar. (Orthodox and Conservative denominations outside Israel celebrate the holiday of freedom for eight days; Reform and Israeli Jews celebrate for seven days.)
This holiday has four names (when reading the names, note that the “ch” is the guttural “ch”, pronounced like the “ch” in l’chayim):
– Z’man Cherutaynu – Time of our Freedom
– Chag HaPesach – Festival of the Paschal Sacrifice
– Chag Aviv – Festival of Spring
– Chag HaMatzot – Festival of the Unleavened Bread
The mitzvah of this week is to observe the festival of the unleavened bread, in a upgraded fashion from your usual practice. If you usually eat only matzah (no bread) but you eat other forms of chametz (pasta, for example), your mitzvah of the week is to reduce your consumption of other forms of chametz, with the ultimate goal being to eat no chametz not only at the seder but the entire week of Passover.
But the mitzvah is not only about increasing your observance. It is also about increasing your consciousness of the personal chametz (unleavened grains) in your life. “Where applied to the human being, the Sages teach that the ‘puffed up’ nature of chametz (bread that has risen, for example) symbolizes the character trait of arrogance and conceit. The flat, unleavened matzah represents total humility. Humility is the beginning of liberation and the foundation of spiritual growth. Only a person who can acknowledge one’s shortcomings and submit to a higher wisdom can free oneself from one’s own limitations. When we eat matzah, we internalize the quality of humility as the essence of faith. By not eating chametz, we rid ourselves of arrogance and self-centeredness.” (Rabbi Pinchas Stolper, http://www.aish.com/h/pes/t/g/
May you have a liberating and joyful Passover festival!
Rabbi Debbie Israel