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The Crumbs in our Soul  #621

04/03/2020 05:25:00 PM


Rabbi Irwin Huberman

The Crumbs in our Soul

This will be a Passover like no other.

In a world so consumed by the coronavirus, how can we find within Passover the meaning and comfort we so desperately need?

Like everything these days, our world has been turned upside down.

We are concerned about our health, and the health of others.

Rather than planning who will be sitting next to each other — or not — at the Seder table — we are organizing virtual Seders and sending out Zoom or Facebook links.

Ask anyone what Passover is actually about, they often reply: "The Jewish people did not have enough time to let their bread rise when they were freed from Egypt, so we eat Matzah for eight days."

But shouldn't there be more? Where is the spirituality?

The great Sage, Rabbi Alexandri, is quoted in the Talmud, as saying, that we are on this earth "to perform God's will." And what prevents us from accomplishing this? Rabbi Alexandri concluded, "It's the yeast in the dough."

What is he referring to?

Scholar Rabbi Yehudah Prero noted that, "yeast in the dough" refers to our character flaws such as impatience, haughtiness, jealousy and unbridled passion.

He noted that "just as we need to remove every speck of chametz from our household, so too we need to remove every speck of spiritual chametz from our beings."

And this idea of "chametz of the soul" has never been more important than now.

Every day, as we turn on the news, we are exposed to a worsening health situation in our country. We are fearful and apprehensive. We are enslaved.

But as many commentators have noted, while we can't personally impact the big picture, we can affect the health outcomes of family, friends and strangers.

What I do affects you. What you do affects me.

Is God obsessed about the fine details of our Seder? I'm not completely sure. But I believe this year more than ever, God is concerned about how we are treating each other.

Are we taking care of the most vulnerable among us? Are we letting go of that which enslaves us? Are we addressing that inner bloat which has accumulated during these uncertain times?

Many have noted, during this time of social distancing, that every day feels like the previous one. Some mornings we wake up and can't remember what day it is. 

But Pesach, and its message of universal freedom, inspires us to rise above the mundane. It reminds us to perform sacred acts at sacred times.

Passover inspires us to take a higher view, and most importantly, as it has for thousands of years, to teach Judaism's inherent values of freedom and compassion to our children and grandchildren.

During this time of plague, Passover must be more than the MaNishtana, the Afikoman and good food. We are called to lift our souls like a piece of matzah, and ask "what in my heart do I need to flatten?"

That friend or relative who has political views different than mine. Flatten it! Let's wish good health to everyone.

That friend who we believe "owes us an apology." Flatten it! Let's find common ground and move forward.

Our insistence what we be declared the winner in all disputes. Flatten it! Winning is not everything.

This Sabbath is known as Shabbat HaGadol – the Great Shabbat. In ancient times, rabbis only addressed the congregation twice a year: Once between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and other, the Shabbat before Passover.

Perhaps the rabbis were concerned that people would get so lost in the crumbs of the holiday, that they would forget the holiday's more spiritual side.

During Pesach, we are instructed to restrict ourselves from consuming bread, pizza, bagels, and the like. But we should also be encouraged let go of anger, inflexibility, indifference, and those other spiritual crumbs which litter our soul.

Perhaps, we do not possess the power to cure this devastating plague with one single act, but we can take action to protect each other. And every life we save is, as the Talmud teaches, a universe.

Each of us possesses the power to bring this to an end sooner.  

In the beginning, God created the world and everything within. That included Zoom, Skype, Facebook and other platforms. We are supported and strengthened by these virtual miracles.

How we relate to each other will never be the same — perhaps even for the better.

On this Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Shabbat, let us undertake to embrace the true heart of Passover.

What is needlessly taking up space in our souls? How can we sustain life? How can we individually and communally overcome this 11th plague?

The answer to that question can guide us to a Passover more meaningful than ever — one which our children and grandchildren will remember for a lifetime

Perhaps that appreciation of freedom and life itself will help carry us through this difficult time.

Flattening our souls. Embracing love. Getting rid of the yeast which in enslaves us.

That is Passover. Now more than ever.

Shabbat Shalom, v'kol tuv.

Rabbi Irwin Huberman


Please feel free to join us on Zoom or Facebook, Friday, 6:45 pm ET for candle lighting, followed by live Kabbalat Shabbat services.


Tue, June 2 2020 10 Sivan 5780