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Rabbi Levin's Blog

Parshat -Vayigash/Hei Tevet



We are in the middle of the beautiful holiday of Pesach.  The work of getting rid of Chametz is far behind us, we have enjoyed two meaningful sedarim, evenings of family, education and spiritual uplift, and we are under the influence of several days of eating Matzah.  I know, many people make jokes about the influence of Matzah on our intestinal system, but Matzah is much more than just flat bread.  Kabbalah teaches that Matzah impacts our soul.  Everything in the physical world is sourced in the spiritual worlds.  According to the teachings of Kabbalah and Chassidus, grain is evolved from “Chochma of Atzilut.”  Atzilut is the highest of the four spiritual world in the chain of creation, where Hashem’s light is revealed and there is no room for any evil.  Each of the worlds (and the human being who is created in the image of G-d) is made up of ten attributes, the highest being Chochma.  Chochma can be translated as wisdom, or vision, or inspiration.  When there is nothing, the first flash of inspiration begins the process of the creation.  Just as in a human, when we want to do something new, we begin by thinking up an idea.  That first flash of the idea is called Chochma.  Chochma is directly affected by the soul’s essence, and is therefore an expression of the soul.  Grain’s source being Chochma, when a person eats grain it affects his or her Chochma.  I know this may not yet be medically proven, or even on anyone’s radar for research, but our Sages taught that a child cannot form his or her words without tasting grain, because the formation of words is directed by Chochma.  As usual this is just the tip of the iceberg, but trying to give an idea of the depth of the Chassidic and Kabbalistic explanation of what Matzah is all about.


Now there are two ways to bake grain.  One is the usual way, to let it rise, and the other is Matzah, where the dough is not allowed to rise at all.  Chochma itself is connected to and reveals the soul, but when our own emotions, habits and ego get in the way, the pure Chochma gets derailed by all of that, and we tend to follow paths that are based on ulterior motives rather than on pure truth, even our own truth.  Eating Matzah, therefore, connects us with our essence, removes the self-aggrandizing ideas that cause us to stray from our goals and purpose, and elevate us to a higher level of faith.  In fact, in the Zohar matzah is called “food of faith.”  So by now, more than half way through the holiday, we have the spiritual capacity to reach higher, to strengthen our faith and to resolve to be true to our inner self, to our purpose on earth, making the world a home for Hashem.


As we prepare for the last two days of Pesach, this year on Friday and Shabbat, it is important to remember the “Eruv Tavshilin” ceremony.  We take a Matzah and a cooked food on Thursday and set them aside to be eaten on Shabbat.  The procedure, along with the blessing and statement to be said, can be found here.  The reason for this Mitzvah is because we are generally not permitted to cook or prepare on the Yomtov (the first and last two days of the Holiday) for anything that is not for use that same day, sunset to sunset.  So we could not generally cook dinner for the second night on the first day.  This is a Rabbinic prohibition, and since the second day of this Holiday is Friday and we are not allowed to cook on Shabbat, the Sages who issued the prohibition in the first place permitted preparing on Friday for Shabbat if we make an Eruv Tavshilin.  You can find more about how and why this works here.


One more thing.  The Haftorah (passage from the Prophets that is read after the Torah reading) of the last day of Pesach is Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming of Moshiach.  Our sages taught that this is because the last days of Pesach are days of celebration for the long awaited future redemption.  It is therefore customary among Chassidim to participate in a special meal in the late afternoon of the last day of Pesach, known as Moshiach’s Feast.  This custom is attributed to the Ba’al Shemtov, founder of Chassidism, who certainly was following the custom taught to him by his teachers, though in those daysit was a secret ritual.  We eat matzah and drink four cups of wine, sing songs and discuss what the world will look like when Moshiach comes, and what we can do to bring the redemption closer.  It is possible to raise ourselves above the bitterness of the exile by “seeing” and imagining the redemption, and this itself encourages us to strengthen our faith and hope, and live a positive, hopeful and elevated life.  This attitude inspires us to greater and higher pursuits, which in turn hastens the redemption.


I hope you will join us for the Holiday services and meals, and especially for the Moshiach Feast.  What a way to conclude this precious Holiday!

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