Special Pesach Edition


APRIL 6, 2012

NISAN 14, 5772

Candle-lighting Time: 7:11 PM


Jewish X Games

By Rabbi Raphael Leban

I’m very fond of the recent trend towards extreme sports, generally written without the ‘e’ as in X-treme. (I suppose that’s an extreme grammatical trick.) Extreme sports generally involve near-death experiences such as falls from great heights, multiple flips in mid-air while attached to heavy machinery and intense speeds generally followed by sudden impact. The appeal of these sports is either totally obvious or completely bewildering, depending on your age.

Some of my growing favorites include the trick snow mobile jumping and the air surfing, in which athletes jump out of airplanes or off the edge of cliffs with parachutes and snowboards attached to their feet. It is remarkable that it took so many centuries and millennia to see the invention of such an obvious human activity. Can you imagine the nachas that a bubby would get from having a famous air-surfer for a grandson?

Jews have always loved X-treme activities. Crossing the Sea was pretty crazy after all, as was the 40 year desert-schlep. I don’t know if you could get a camel to do even one back flip, but there must have been some who tried.

However, the Jewish X-treme sports that have lasted the test of time are maror chomping, eating matzah for 8 days straight and drinking 4 cups of red wine while leaning over the carpet.

There are some pretty intense, risky things that we traditionally do on Passover. I am sure that some Jews do them simply for the excitement, the adrenalin rush and the near-death experience. (Please let the fresh, ground horseradish air-out before eating!) However, if that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other reasons to do them, as I shall explain.

Our Sages taught us that each and every day has its own spiritual mazal, a Divine energy which is present every year on that day. For example, Yom Kippur is an annual opportunity to achieve forgiveness, as was granted to the Jewish people in the desert after they built the Golden Calf.

Tisha b’Av carries great inherent spiritual risks, which twice culminated in the destruction of the Holy Temple. And on Passover, the ‘soul’ of the day is freedom. Thus our forefathers left Egypt on that day, since that day is the pinnacle of the energies of freedom of the year.

To tap into these spiritual energies, our spiritual coaches, our Sages of Blessed Memory, gave us special activities designed to help us plug into the opportunities that the day offers. If we want to get an injection of freedom in our lives—freedom from the oppression of the ego, freedom from the oppression of bad habits and attitudes and ultimately, freedom from the enemies of the Jewish People in our own day and age—the way to do it is to follow the Torah’s guidelines as precisely as possible. Eat the maror and connect with the slavery, drink the wine and imbibe the freedom, relive the exodus through the words of the Haggadah. These are the spiritual tools that garner as much of the spiritual underpinnings of Passover as we can get—as much true freedom as we can get.

And if your life has no ‘soul’ in it, and you’re absolutely uninterested in freedom, just do it for the sheer intensity of it. Because doin’ Passover is pretty extreme.

Have a joyous and a kosher Passover.


Remembering Pesach

By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum

We are commanded to remember the day that we left Egypt. The Torah emphasizes that the theme of our departure is that Hashem took us out of Egypt with His ‘strong hand.’ What is meant when the verse states this and why is this the predominant concept to remember?

Netziv understands that the ‘strong hand’ of Hashem means that He will never allow us to lose sight of our mission. For all generations our duty is to elevate our spiritual dimension by performing acts which strengthen that aspect of our existence. The mitzvah in particular which empowers us is that we are commanded not to eat chometz on Pesach. Netziv points out that it would seem that eating matzoh would have been the special mitzvah to promote our spiritual growth. Why is abstinence from chometz the special mitzvah which engenders spiritual growth on Pesach?

He explains that there is a distinction between the nature of dough that is made into matzoh and dough which will become chometz. When flour and water combine, even without human intervention, the ingredients will interact and the mixture will begin to rise. However, with the introduction of yeast or sourdough, man interacts with the natural process of fermentation of the dough. Therefore, one is led to believe that we control this process and it is essentially under our supervision. This is akin to the common fallacy that negates Hashem’s sovereignty over the world and proposes that we control everything.

Consequently, purging chometz from our midst entirely, not only non-consumption, underscores the central theme of Pesach. We are definitely not the supreme owners of our destiny. On the contrary, the Divine plan will prevail and succeed against all odds and counter to all predictions.

This is reflected in the Hagaddah when we recite that Hashem always shields us from our adversaries. In every generation, we confront new challenges and encounter novel situations that our forebears did not envision. Nonetheless, our faith and trust in Hashem has consistently weathered all types of perils and dangers. We, the beneficiaries of that legacy of constant hope and optimism, are present to convey this message to our children and grandchildren.

Perhaps this is the intent of the Hagaddah when it states that in each and every generation we must view ourselves as though we are now departing from Egypt. This means that we should never despair and think that our predicament is beyond salvation and deliverance. Certainly in Egypt after generations of slavery they could have also become depressed and despondent. Yet, they did not fall prey to the gloom and darkness that engulfed them. Rather they remained steadfast in their belief that when the time would come, Hashem would rescue them from their terrible circumstances.

Although our liberation from Egypt was clearly and obviously orchestrated by Hashem, this is not always the case. Purim is a prime example of Hashem’s intervention in a discreet fashion. Inconspicuously, we were saved from harm’s way and often this is the approach that we merit. Miraculous intercession isn’t common and we must recognize in the ‘ordinary’ scheme of events Hashem’s constant surveillance and care that He provides for us. We fervently pray that this will be our last Seder in exile and we will witness miracles as they occurred so many years ago when we left Egypt.


Byte for Pesach

In the Hagaddah there is a dispute as to the number of punishments that the Egyptians suffered. The point of this argument is to emphasize G-d’s kindness to us. The Torah guarantees us that the vengeance unleashed against them will never occur to us. Thus the greater and more severe their affliction was, the greater the promise to us that we will never endure such distress.

Vilna Gaon


Your Jewish Week

In this countdown week to Passover, we are all busy getting rid of leavened bread, grinding horseradish and making matzah balls.

Since both this Shabbos and next Shabbos are Yom Tov days of Passover, we take a break from our regular cycle of reading through the parshas of the Torah and instead read sections relevant to Passover.

This year’s Passover calendar is as follows:

Fri. night, April 6th, First Seder
Sat., April 5th, Yom Tov & 2nd Seder
Sun, April 6th, Yom Tov
Mon-Thu, April 12th, Chol Hamoed
Fri, April 13th, Yom Tov
Sat, April 14th, Yom Tov

For engaging classes on Pesach and the parsha, check out our Digital Media Library.


Joke of the Week

New Jewish Words:

  1. Jewbilation (n.) Pride in finding out that one’s favorite celebrity is Jewish
  2. Mamatzah Balls (n.) Matzo balls that are as good as your mother used to make
  3. Impasta (n.) A Jew who starts eating leavened foods before the end of Passover



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