RIDDING OUR HOMES OF CHAMETZ IS A PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION OF OUR SPIRITUAL NEED TO ELIMINATE UNHEALTHY ARROGANCE AND PRIDE, BEFORE PESACH.
By Rabbi Naftali Silberberg
Decades of forced labor and vicious oppression had all but broken the proud spirit of the Israelite soul. But now the tables were turning; the slave masters were paying dearly for their crimes, while the now-out-of-work Israelites awaited the moment of their impending redemption.
But this wasn’t just about settling scores, rescuing the oppressed and exacting vengeance from the oppressors. A loftier objective was now waiting to be put into motion: “Let My people go so that they will serve Me.” The Israelites were now destined to receive the Torah and the mitzvot, through which they would connect with G-d.
No more solar-based calendar; henceforth we must follow a lunar-based calendar
Though the majority of the mitzvot were transmitted to the Israelites at Sinai, a select few were chosen to be given beforehand. In fact, they were still in Egypt when they received their very first mitzvah. Some fifteen days before the Exodus, Moses relayed to them G-d’s command: “It’s time to establish a new calendar. No more solar-based calendar; henceforth we must follow a lunar-based calendar.”
Odd, isn’t it? What is so special about this mitzvah, the first mitzvah no less, that it absolutely couldn’t wait?
This mitzvah is always read from the Torah shortly before Passover, in a special reading called Parshat Hachodesh. Perhaps the timing of this reading—when Jews worldwide are preoccupied with methodically ridding their homes from any trace of chametz—will answer this question.
The mystical texts explain that all that transpires on this physical realm is a reflection of a deeper spiritual reality. Thus, the endeavor to rid our property of any chametz—dough that has leavened or “inflated”—is a physical manifestation of our spiritual effort to rid ourselves of unhealthy arrogance and pride.
On a similar note, G-d’s intervention on behalf of an enslaved and helpless nation was the physical reflection of our spiritual emancipation. We were helplessly enslaved to our desires and unholy lifestyles. We had neither the tools nor the fortitude to free ourselves. Then, on that fateful Passover night more than 3,300 years ago years ago—and reoccurring annually every Passover ever since—G-d redeemed us. Despite our pathetic state, He yanked us out and set us on the path leading to Sinai, meaning and holiness.
But are these two ideas an oxymoron? If the point of Passover is that G-d redeems us despite ourselves, then why is there a need to rid ourselves of chametz, both the physical and spiritual varieties? Passover is considered our “national birthday”. Does a fetus prepare for its own birth?
There is one precondition to successfully embarking on a new path . . .
It would seem that there is one precondition to successfully embarking on a new path, and that is a complete disavowal of all previous ones. We must rid ourselves of any pride we may have in our current situation and accomplishments in order to allow G-d to bring us to a better place.
This is also the message G-d was giving the Jews with His first commandment. We all want to be like the new reborn moon, which steadily grows until it reaches full luminescence. But when does the new moon appear? It appears only after it is momentarily, but completely, hidden from sight. Rebirth can only occur after a complete rejection of all that preceded that moment.
Passover is coming. G-d wants to redeem us. Let’s not let our pride stand in the way.