Thoughts on Pesach 2020

One of the most fascinating aspects in the world of Jewish observance is the portion of mitzvot related to the festival of Passover. Every year, all of our homes which are considered kosher to the highest of standards, suddenly and essentially become “non-kosher”. It becomes necessary for us to “re-kosherize” them before the arrival of the holiday.

Furthermore, bread, that staff of life, which most people depend on for daily nutrition, becomes temporarily “Strengt verboten” and is replaced by the “bread of affliction” or matzo. The implication is that matzo seems to be more kosher than bread. Why then should we not be restricted from eating bread all year round? The Sages suggest that the leavening added to flour and water, which causes the dough to rise, is akin to our evil inclinations which fills us with hubris, and rebelliousness against G-d. But if that is true, then why should bread ever be permissible?

An interesting approach to resolve this question can be found in the holy book of the Zohar. The Zohar suggests that life, as we all know it, is always in flux and is ever-changing as the waves upon the shore of the sea. The vicissitudes of life constantly challenge us. Throughout our lives, there are times when we experience spiritual highs and spiritual lows. When our Avodat Hashem (Zeal for G-d) becomes weakened, we need a strong spiritual medicine to get us back on track. In addition, the spiritual medicine which works for us one day, may not be of sufficient dosage for the next. That’s why G-d blessed us with so many mitzvot, so that we will be able to  maintain a great arsenal of spiritual weapons which will protect us from the many toxic challenges of a secular world. Nevertheless, there are times when we need the maximum dosage of level and care.

In anticipation of a normal flu season, doctors always recommend a booster shot to protect us from the onslaught of potential viruses and bacteria of the winter season. The holiday of Sukkot and the many mitzvot associated with it were given to the Jewish people, to protect our spiritual immune systems throughout the long months of winter. It acts as a “booster shot” to protect us, and to take us through to the spring. Pesach and the full complement of her mitzvot (the laws of preparation for the festival) helps us overcome the particular, spiritual challenges of the spring and summer months (The holiday of Shavuot acts as an additional booster). During the festival of Passover, the physical chores of cleaning the kitchen and koshering the ovens, sinks, etc. in fulfilment of G-d’s command, fortifies and enhances the strength of our spiritual muscles. The consumption of matzo during the festival is particularly efficacious in giving us that extra spiritual immunization as well as priming our souls to be more receptive to greater spiritual influences. Once the festival has passed however, the matzo no longer needs to endow us with these unique qualities. We have taken our complement of “antibiotics” and we can resume our normal lives, which includes the consumption of bread.

Today, we find ourselves in the throes of the dreaded Corona onslaught. We patiently and nervously await a vaccine or ant-viral which will save us. Perhaps this year, we should have a special Kavanah (intention) when fulfilling the mitzvah of eating the Matzo: just as the Matzo endows us with spiritual protection and fortification, so too, may G-d look kindly upon us and endow us and especially our doctors, with the wisdom to cure this dastardly disease. This year, as we observe Passover in quarantine, with families scattered to the four corners of the earth, May G-d take pity upon us and usher in the Messianic age, in which we will all – young and old, rich and poor – converge upon the holy city of Jerusalem in good health and unbridled joy! Leshana Haba’ah Bi’Yerushalayim, Next year in Jerusalem, Amen, V’Amen!!