Wednesday, March 28, 2018

All Your Life, You Were Only Waiting For This Moment To Be Free (John Lennon & Paul McCartney- "Blackbird")

We have schlepped boxes from the basement to the kitchen. We have emptied our pantry of all the Chametz (all the “non-kosher for Pesach” foods and platters. We have filled the pantry with our Kosher for Pesach dishes, and cooking utensils. We set up a shelving unit to hold the kosher for Pesach food. We have closed up cabinets and drawers that hold our regular year-round kitchen stuff.  We have carried out our Chametz and “disowned” it.  Our children have finally cleaned up their rooms (some of the things they found was truly incredible). We made numerous trips to the supermarket, so much so, that I have my own reserved parking spot. We have cleaned the kitchen over and over and over again. My poor mother-in-law thought she was coming to just visit her daughter and grandchildren had been put to work by my wife. Of course, there is the yearly discussion of the menu: the Chef wants to make different dishes as she has grown bored making the same foods year in and year out. However, those of us who work as the sous chefs and actually eat the food yearn for the comfort of the same seasonal holiday foods that gets served every year.  The kitchen is about 15 degrees warmer than the rest of the house because it seems that the oven has been on all week. Yes, the Pesach preparations seem never-ending. Discussions and arguments about what is and is not Kosher for Passover and which Rabbi supports a lenient or a strict interpretation occurs constantly.   Indeed it seems very easy to get bogged down in the minutiae and the detail that we forget the purpose of this slave-like labor and preparation. 
This Shabbat marks the first day of Pesach, Zman Cheiruteinu – the Time of our Freedom, as well as being Shabbat, Yom Menucha, and a Day of Rest.  Because Pesach comes once a year and Shabbat occurs fifty-two time a year, on this particular Shabbat, Pesach tends to be our focus. We didn’t just partake of a Shabbat dinner; we participated in a Seder.  We don’t read from the weekly Torah reading, we read a special Torah reading that focuses upon the narrative of the first Passover celebration in Egypt as B’nai Yisroel was about to become a free people and leave Egypt. U’Lekachetem Agudat Eizov Utvaltem BaDam Asher BaSaf V’HiGaTem El HaMaSHKoF V’El SHTei HaMZuZoT MiN HaDaM Asher BaSaF V’ATeM Lo TeiTZu ISh MiPeTaCH BeiTo Ad  BoKeR -  You Shall take a bundle of hyssop and dip it into the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with some of the blood that is in the basin and as for you, you shall not leave the entrance of the house until morning (Ex. 12:22). At some point during that tension-filled night, B’nei Yisroel would be freed. What was the exact moment of their freedom? What minute, what hour in the night were these slaves finally freed? The text does not tell us. The text only tells us that by morning the slaves would be freed from slavery but obligated to retell the story to each generation.
                So we are obligated to tell this story to each generation. What is more, we are commanded to see ourselves as if we were actually slaves in Egypt and freed that night. Yet all we can say is that we were freed at some point during the night. At what exact time who can say? Yet each week we know exactly what time we stop. We know exactly what time we light Shabbat or Yom Tov (Festival) candles in order to usher in the Sabbath and the Chag (Festival). We know exactly when these moments begin and when these moments conclude.  Needless to say, when my son and I are sitting in Shul on Friday night, ushering in both the Sabbath and the Festival of Pesach, we will emit a large cleansing breath, knowing that our preparations are finished, and our work leading up to Zman Cheiruteinu, the Time of Our Freedom, is complete ( or as complete as it can be). I know that when my son and I walk into our home, and the Seder Table is set, the candles are glowing and my wife, daughters, and mother in law are sitting quietly for just a moment catching their collective breaths, that they are aware of this powerful moment, a moment where Shabbat and Pesach has conflated into the deepest possible understanding of what freedom is. Tt this moment, the final boxes have been put away, the preparation finished, the meal is cooked and we can now partake of freedom. Yes, we are free to sit, free to eat, drink. We are free to ask questions. We are free to offer answers. We are free to discuss and we are free to tell the story. Because we are free to do these seemingly trivial things: eat, drink, ask questions, answer, discuss, and tell stories; we understand and appreciate not only Pesach- Zman Cheiruteinu (Time of Our Freedom), but Shabbat- Yom Menucha (a Day of Rest) as well.

Peace and Chag Kasher V’Sameach,
Rav Yitz  

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