Wednesday, April 12, 2006

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A Passover Stringency!

Pesach is almost here, the season of our freedom. Yet, it perhaps should be called the season of chumrot, our stringencies. All year round you can argue whether a chumra (stringency) provides value or conflicts with a mitzvah (such as Shalom Bayis), but on Pesach, chumrot rule. Because all year round we have a leniency, an allowance for human error, the 1/60th rule. But on Pesach, there is no leniency for chamatz, none at all. So, as strict or stringent as you want to be, go for it.

I read a quote from a big rav in Yerushalayim recently, I think it was in Mishpacha magazine, and he said this: "Every year I hear of 50 new chumrot, new stringencies in religious practice, bain odom l'makom, between man and G-d, but in 50 years I've never heard of a single new stringency bain odom l'chavero, between man and his friend". We find it easy to be strict in our personal interactions with the Ribonon Shel Olam, the Master of the Universe. But it's not only easy, it feels like an accomplishment to be stricter.

Yet there are some mitzvoth that are already so difficult that we don’t add on to them. For example, generally speaking, fasting, praying. Among these are mitzvot between man and man, ahavat yisroel, love of our fellow? Why is this so hard that there are no stringencies added?

The great Rabbi Akiva, no no, not me, the other one, said "v'ahavta l'rayecha k'mocha", love your fellow as yourself, "ze klal gadol b'Torah", this is the main thing in the Torah. The main thing, yet out of 613 mitzvot, commandments, we have only 1, according to the Sefer HaChinuk #243, To Love Every Jewish Person, and as I noted above, we don't even have any chumrot about it! How then is this the main point of Torah?

The Tzemach Tzedek, the 3rd Lubavitcher Rebbe, wrote in sefer Derech Mitzvotecha, quoting Sefer HaGilGulim, "Mystically, all of Israel comprises one complete entity, one body of souls, the soul of Adom HaRishon...This is the basis of mutual responsibility and why one Jew is accountable to another." To such an extent that the Ari Zal used to confess to all the enumerated aveyrot, sins, even though he was of such a level that he couldn’t even conceive of violating them. Why? Because all of Israel is one entity.

Now, Derek Mitzvotech explains, one body means distinct limbs and organs and so forth. Yet, just as the hand is not separate from the heart, we are not separate from each other. The foot carries us somewhere, the hand takes an action, the heart pumps out life giving blood to the whole body, the lungs bring in life giving air. Each plays a part, yet only together are they one and only together to they share a purpose.

Further, the life and health of the body are also interrelated. My arm is not ok when my foot is injured. The reverse is also true, health and vitality flow through the body.

Therefore, the separation between us exists in body only. Your pain is literally my pain, and my simcha is literally all of ours to share.

Do you ignore your toe when it hurts? Or your ear when it itches?

If I may, I’ll tell you a brief story. Normally I like to tell stories of tzaddikim, but these happened to me personally. Years ago I met a fellow with some questions that was being ignored. He had a questionable background, it made other people uncomfortable and they shied away. I answered his questions, and briefly thereafter he needed a favor.

On that, let me sidebar for a moment. In English, if you need something, you might ask for a favor. Yet even there we've actually built in to the language itself the problem. In Hebrew we say when asking for a helping hand, asiti tova, do me a goodness, while in English we say your help for me is something special and unusual, in Hebrew it's just part of being good.

Now, this favor was not a big deal for me, maybe a medium inconvenience, a little bit of personal monetary risk mixed in. B”H, I did the favor and helped out my fellow. But for him, he told me I saved his and his family’s life. Nice I thought, but it was no big deal.

A few years later he was sitting at my Shabbos table. As we were making Kiddush, my beautiful young son picked up and plopped a marble in his mouth. Then it happened, he inhaled it. He gasped a little, coughed, then went silent. Stuck. Turning blue. Now I’ve had some first aid training, did a hymlic, didn’t help. My son was dying in front of me, 2 minutes to live, no time to be saved by an ambulance.

But this fellow for who I did a favor, he picked him up, flipped him over, cleared his mouth, struck him on the back flat and firm, the marble popped out. Unknown to me, he is a trained EMT. He saved my son’s life right in front of me.

An inconvenience, some minor monetarily personal risk. He says I saved his family’s life. And he saved mine.

We may choose to ignore a pain of our own for a moment, but we are forbidden to ignore the pain of another!

For this Pesach, let’s take on one special chumra, a special stringency, a stringency of Ahavat Yisroel. Let us remember to consider our brother’s or sister’s pain, and look upon all with an Ayin Tov, a good eye, considering they’re need, their position, they’re concern, in a good light! And may the merit of this bring us this Pesach where we will literally have lamb with our matza and moror, where we will, together, b’yachad, in unity, b’achdus, bring the Korban Pesach, the Pesach Sacrifice, together with the Rebbe and Moshiach Tzidkaynu, in the Beis HaMikdash, mamash!

Chag Kasher v'Samayach to all Mystical Paths readers, a Kosher and Happy Passover! Blogging will be light over the next week and a half as I spend the holiday with my family, perhaps a couple of audio posts only (you may see them without a title), and certainly none on except for Sunday - Tuesday and next Friday (the other days are holy days). Be well, may we meet in Jerusalem for the korban pesach!

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