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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Special Pesach Edition

Parshat Special Pesach Edition

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Special Pesach Edition                                                         Print Version
15 Nissan, 5782 | April 16, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Jonathan Rietti
No Options

In Hebrew, the word “To decide” is “le’hachlit, which means “To cut off.” In truth then, since all Hebrew root words point to the essential meaning of a concept, this teaches us that true decision making comes down to cutting off all options, making obsolete all choices, and thus leaving us with one path and one path only: that of our decision.

There is another word, more associated with legal terminology and decision making, and that is “p’sak halacha,” which refers to a clear-cut decision in halacha. There is not room for other options once the final decision has been rendered.
When you stay with something and don’t visit any other option, you are living through with a true goal. This is the mechanism towards great decision making and achieving a goal, and ultimately, the greatest method in successful avodat Hashem, service of G-d.

To this end, serving Hashem entails one very simple principle: you decide that nothing else is negotiable.

In Biblical Hebrew, how do you say, “I will”? You place the letter aleph before the verb at hand. In example, “Eilech,” I will go. Naomi used this language when she said she would follow Ruth, no matter what. There was no room for negotiation or reneging. But how can a person ever say, “I will”? There are so many barriers and hiccups that come in between the person and accomplishing that goal, arriving at the destination or whatever other attempt is being set towards. Delays, traffic, cancellations, unexpected news.

But that is where the aleph comes into focus. The underlying meaning of the letter aleph is two-fold. Besides turning a word into a first-person verb, it refers to the “Alufo shel Olam,” Master of the world, a reference to G-d. Aleph is the first letter of G-d’s name. It refers to G-d in His name of Elokim, referring to G-d in charge of all powers in the world, and in His Ineffable name too.

What we are really saying then is that we are able to do nothing without Hashem. It is with the aleph, with Hashem, and only Hashem that we are able to succeed. In reality then, when it comes to our own focus and where we put our efforts when setting out on a goal (given than so many things can potentially get in the way) it is that we will continue to try, again and again, until we get to where we desire. “I will” means that we will keep trying until we succeed.

Who better to teach this to us than Dovid Hamelech, who for the first twenty-eight years of his life, lived as a simple shepherd. Dovid wrote 150 love songs to Hashem, which have gained world renown. Dovid Hamelech writes, “Azamra l’Elokai b’odi,” I will sing to G-d, the ruler of all powers, with myself, with whatever I have. Dovid Hamelech sang this throughout his life, no matter what the circumstances were.

How was Dovid Hamelech able to sing this, irrespective of the situation he found himself in?

Because he made a decision, early on in his life, that no matter what life throws him, he will not sever his relationship with Hashem. No matter what he goes through, he committed to always continue singing to G-d.

There are people walking among us who live this way and understand these above mechanics. They know the seriousness of “I will.” They know that there is no arrogance in saying “I will,” because what it truly means is that left to our own devices, we cannot do anything. It is only with G-d that we can do anything and everything – and we will.

There’s another important point to this, as I heard from R’ Schlesinger shlita.

There are three degrees to bechira, free choice. One is “I want.” It reflects a minimal degree of self-control and exertion of effort. I want to not eat this-and-that if I’m not tempted to do so. I want to be more loving and patient, if I’m not disturbed and annoyed. All these are put up with little resistance. The wants are dependent upon circumstances not sabotaging us and getting in our way.
The next level is “I need.” With these words, a great desire is reflected, and a higher degree of commitment and depth is conveyed. “I need to become kinder,” “I need to complete this project.” It conveys a seriousness and fortitude of dedication to the task and goal at hand.

Yet, there is an even greater degree of self-expression, and that is conveyed and encompassed within the word ratzon, will. It comes from the two-letter root word, ratz, run. When you walk somewhere, you want to get there. However, when you are running, and jump over, bend under or go around an obstacle, it means that you don’t simply want to get there or need to get there – you must get there. You have to. You made a decision, and no matter what the obstacles in your way throw at you, you will continue trying. Another way, another way, over and around.
Real decision making is when you cut off all other options. Nothing else exists and it no longer is something you want to do, or need to do, but you must do. You have to do. There is no option. You will.

On Pesach, when we consider the personal transformation we want to undergo and freedom we need to obtain, we come to a stark realization – we must divest ourselves of all options. The true definition of a commitment is having no options. We are free when we are restricted to a course, unable to move outside the path we have set on. The freedom we have as Jews is that we are bound and contained by Jewish law and practice. Our servitude to G-d is what liberates us, because it leaves us no choice. It removes any subtle deliberation to diverge from the road towards successful living.

When we have that guiding our lives, we have true freedom. We have the best life we possibly could have. That is what Pesach affords us. The opportunity to commit to a road of freedom, of deciding that there are no other choices for us but service of G-d and commitment to His Torah principles. And with that, we leave our personal bondage, our stifling Egypt, and march onward as free people.

Rabbi Joey Haber
The True Achievement

We’ve all heard of Pepsi. Its soda has gained international acclaim, aside of which its other products have found a stable place in the global consumer market. But this is not about Pepsi or its $18.8 billion value. This is about Indra Nooyi, Pepsi’s CEO of 12 years. She has been inducted into the National Woman’s Hall of Fame and consistently ranked as one of the world’s 100 most powerful women.

But all these honorary accolades and all these monumental titles didn’t mean much when her mother ran out of milk.
It was the night when she found out. Nooyi had just been informed that she’d been named the CEO of PepsiCo, a billion dollar industry, after having been the President and Chief Financial Officer for the company. It was 9:30 at night and she was thrilled. Beyond thrilled. Anyone would feel that way, you’d imagine.

She wanted to share the news, and who better with than her own mother. Her mother who loved her so dearly and wanted the best for her. So she headed over to do exactly that.

Except her mother had something else in mind.


Nooyi entered her mother’s home, when her mother, before any real conversation ensued, asked Indra if she could do her a favor. “I’m out of milk; would you be so kind to do me a small favor and run over to the store and pick some up for me?” Indra was dying to tell her mother. “Mom, I have something I really want to tell you.” “Let’s talk soon, sweetie. As soon as you come back from the store, let’s sit down.”

So Indra went, just minutes after finding out that she’d been promoted to the highest rank as the CEO of Pepsi, to the store to pick up milk for her mother. Imagine the scene and what was going through Indra’s mind.

When Indra returned, milk carton in hand, she placed it before her mother. And then she asked, “Can I tell you now the news?” “Yes, dear, go ahead.” “I just was announced the CEO of Pepsi.” Her mother took in her words and smiled, congratulating her. But she had her own words of wisdom that Indra has never since forgotten.

“Keep your crown in the garage.”

Indra went on to explain what her mother told her. “In this house, you are a daughter, you are a wife, you are a mother. You are the woman who cares about her children. I don’t care about the crown. Keep all of your ego, all of your honor, outside and in your office. When you step into this home, you are a mother of your children. Don’t bring the world and your ego into this home.”
In our lives, we can be tempted to bring our egos into our homes. We can be inclined to wear our crowns proudly on our heads as we sit around our table, exacting that our requests are carried out and our expectations are met. And when they’re not, we feel crossed and disrespected.

Remember the advice of Indra’s mother: “Keep your crown in the garage.” Your ego that makes you feel number one doesn’t care about the health of your relationships, or the care and compassion that your spouse and children deserve. All it cares about is about winning and becoming superior and honored. But keep that at bay and sideline that for the right time. Relegate and channel that ambition to healthfully drive you to succeed at work and in the office, but when at home, turn it off.

At home, be like matzah. Carry yourself with humility, with the realization that you are not a businessman, you are not a real estate agent, you are not an administrator. You are a father, you are a mother, you are a brother, a sister, a friend.

You are the person who would bring their mother a carton of milk when you just found out you are the CEO of Pepsi.

And you are the son or daughter who would smile as you place the carton down on the table, awaiting the pleasure on your mother’s face as she relaxes and enjoys the simple pleasure of some cold milk.

There’s no greater honor you can achieve in life than that.

Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
The Worst Seder in the World

You've just finished putting the last touches to the Seder table. The house has been scrubbed from top to toe and no mercy has been shown to the smallest piece of chometz. In this war, there are no prisoners. Your husband has spent the last month reviewing all the halachos, the laws of Pesach, and he's bought one of those new series of Haggadot that appear at this time of year. He’s been looking for inspiring words of Torah to be devoured along with the matzah on the night of the Seder. You gather around the table and begin.

Jews have done this for nearly three and a half thousand years. You remember your grandparents. They, no doubt, remember their own grandparents too. Your children are sitting, shining in their Yom Tov best and gaze up at the memories being made. Chains of love stretching across millennia. Here it is… the moment we've all waited for.

And yet, what is it? Something's lacking. The children don't want to listen to the Haggadah. They want to eat the matzah now. They have absolutely no interest whatsoever in why R’ Elazar ben Azaria said he was like a man of 70 years old. You'd love to listen to the Haggadah, but at this crucial moment, the light has gone out under the chicken soup and panic stations have been declared. Why is it that every Pesach seems somehow, I don't know, disappointing?

You start off with such high hopes. This year, it's going to be different; this year, we're really going to experience what it means to come out of Egypt. It can't be this year in Jerusalem, but least it could be this year with the real Pesach feeling. Couldn’t it?

The great tzaddik, Rabbi Shmuel Koriver, a student of the Chozeh of Lublin, was a poor man. He lived constantly on the breadline and was always in need of help. Pesach was rapidly approaching and in Reb Shmuel’s house there was nothing. No matzah, no wine, no charoses, no food, no money, no nothing. And in spite of these dire circumstances, Reb Shmuel was convinced that Hashem wouldn't desert him, and everything would be fine. The Chozeh of Lublin heard of Reb Shmuel’s plight, and he was worried about him. He dispatched one of his wealthy Chassidim, Reb Shlomo, to quietly provide for Rabbi Shmuel and his needs.

Erev Pesach, a wagon laden with food and crockery, wine and matzos, arrived at Reb Shmuel’s door. He was overjoyed. Here in the twinkling of an eye, it was Hashem’s deliverance. That night, Reb Shmuel sat down and conducted his seder with a joy and a feeling of the coming out of Egypt, which was unparalleled in all his holy life. He imagined himself ascending the upper worlds, borne on the tremendous joy that Hashem had provided for him without having to ask for charity. His unbridled happiness made him feel that no one had ever experienced such a savior as this and that this was it. It couldn't go any higher, couldn’t get any better.

Now, on the second night of the Seder, Reb Shmuel was tired from all the elevation of the previous night, and he decided to rest a little before beginning the second seder. He laid down on his bed for a couple of minutes, and he was thinking that he really ought to get up, when he drifted off to sleep.

Several hours later, he awoke with a startle. What’s the time? He glanced at the clock and was horrified to see that it was nearly midnight. In just a short while, the last time to eat the Afikoman would pass. Reb Shmuel was broken. In tears, he rushed to fulfill the mitzvos of the Seder, reciting the Haggadah, the four cups, eating the matzah, the bitter herbs, the charoses, the festive meal and finally, seconds before midnight, eating the Afikoman.
Reb Shmuel fell into a deep depression. It seemed to him that never in the entire history of the Jewish people had there been such a miserable seder. It had been a shambles.

After Pesach, Reb Shmuel traveled to visit his teacher, the Chozeh of Lublin, and immediately after he had arrived, the Chozeh said, “Come, let us examine the two sedarim of Reb Shmuel. The first seder was below par, considering who Reb Shmuel was. He imagined himself to be hovering in the worlds above. You thought there had never been a seder like this before. Well, that wasn't a great seder.

But the second seder? Now there was seder. Few have flown to the heights that Rabbi Shmuel reached on his second seder, broken and spirited and humble, wanting no more than to fulfill the will of the Master of the World, as it says, “The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit” (Tehillim 51:19).

So when you're sitting down at your seder table, and the kids are screaming, you have to get up from the table for the nth time, and you just manage to finish the last of the matzah right before the soup boils over and you start to feel frustrated and saddened and a long way from Pesach... Remember Reb Shmuel.

Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein
Order in Life

We’re all familiar with the word – Seder. The Pesach Seder holds a captivating place in our hearts, a unique niche in the memories of our grandparents, parents and ourselves, and it comes around every year. But why, in fact, is the word Seder utilized to capture the spirit of the evening’s mitzvos? Why does this word of Seder, which means order and conveys a sense of structure and format, encompass what we do on the night of Pesach?

The question is compounded when we consider the highlight of this night – freedom. Our transition from enslavement to freedom is captured by a word which puts us right back into rigidity, into narrowness of choices or no choices. The Jews into Egypt had order to their day, ordained by the Egyptian officials and not up to negotiation by any Jew. How then can we experience freedom amidst structure, amidst the order of the Seder?

The answer lies in recognizing that freedom and order are one and the same.

Freedom can be perceived as the ability to do what we want, when we want. We are unrestrained and without demands or dictates how to live our lives. But, in truth, such unfettered ways of living do not lead to attainment of our goals and success. To the contrary, when living in accordance with our whims and wills and listening to the tempting whispers of the yetzer hara, the voice within which promises that pleasure and enjoyment are on the other side of our vices, we lose control. We spiral downwards. We are not free any longer. We are rather being controlled and spin out of control. Our desires run in every direction and pull us wherever the moment’s greatest pleasure can be immediately experienced. And yet, with it all, freedom is lost.

What the world calls freedom is, in truth, slavery. If we do whatever we want, when we want and how we want, it isn’t because that is truly, deep-down what we want to do; it’s because we cannot help but do it. We are in the clutches of our yetzer hara, which convinces us that we should forfeit doing the right thing for the instantly pleasurable and gratifying thing. But that’s not freedom. That’s the ultimate slavery.

Imagine you eat all sorts of food, not considering the effects of what you’re putting into your body. You’ll say that it’s restricting to stick to certain foods; it’s enslavement to not have that enticing piece of cake. But consider it differently. A slave says yes to everything; a free individual can say no. if you can’t say no, if you can’t exhibit self-control and do what is best for you and healthiest for your well-being because you are so in need of that food, you are enslaved to that pleasure. You are enslaved to that cake. And that’s far from freedom.

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (4:1) teaches us that true strength lies in conquering our yetzer hara. The Torah’s guidelines, with its restrictions and laws, are intended to make us free. Its negative commandments mold us into people who live with self-control and a mindset of carefulness in our conduct. And its positive commandments condition us to upright and moral behavior that is G-dly and holy in nature.

The night of Pesach drives this home. The night is developed and sequenced through structure, built on order, and that’s because it’s true freedom when we live our lives that way. When we live with discipline, with structure, with a schedule, we live with freedom. We are able to achieve what we truly want to, and the satisfaction and pleasure that comes on the other side of such a disciplined and orderly life … that’s true pleasure. That’s true freedom.

The holiday of freedom teaches us how to be free. It’s right there, woven into the very fabric of what we do on this auspicious and special night.

And truthfully, it’s a template for life.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Chametz and Matzah

The makeup of chametz and matzah, and particularly the way they come into being, are very revealing. Chametz is leaven bread, is dough that has risen and now looks puffed up and larger than when you began mixing its ingredients. Matzah, on the other hand, remains flat and without excess volume. But there is something even more telling about how each of these processes unfold.

To make chametz, you would think that it should require a lot of work. After all, there is more of the bread. It’s larger, denser and much more significant than something slender and flat. But it’s quite the opposite. Chametz is relatively easy to make. You place the initial ingredients of water and flour together, and then simply sit back and let it do the work. You let it rise by not doing anything to it, but rather allowing it to grow on its own accord.
Matzah, in contrast, is exactly the opposite. You’d think that it’s flat and meager, and doesn’t require much work and effort to produce, especially in contrast to real bread. But it’s not so. It, in fact, demands from the very minute when the water and flour make contact that the baker work assiduously and without respite and ensuring no leavening takes place.

The lack of work generates a chametz status, and the continuous application of effort is what keeps it matzah.
In life, true success and spiritual growth occur when there is never a lack of stagnation, not a point of resting on one’s laurels and thinking that now is time for a vacation, now is time to sit back and rest. The continual effort is what is required, at its very basic and elemental level, to retain the matzah in our life, to obtain the goals of spiritual ascent and mastery. It’s human to desire a break, pine for a respite and look forward to time off. But not a break from acting as a committed Jew and focusing on our Torah values and principles. A vacation from those, an unguarded attitude in those realms, leads to a life of chametz, of inflation and self-aggrandizement where Hashem finds little room to enter.

The holiday of Pesach reinforces the principles of hard work, of spiritual labor. Our freedom comes when we remain committed, always and always, to the Torah. Instead of being enslaved to our passions and desires, we are devoted and dedicated to Hashem. And nothing, not even for a moment, will stir our attention away from our desired result: matzah. A life of purity and subordination to the will of G-d.

There is no greater life, neither rich nor rewarding, than that.

Rabbi Paysach Krohn
A Jewish Mother

Chazaq, a New York based organization run by brothers Rabbi Ilan and Rabbi Yaniv Meirov and, amongst a plethora of projects, aimed at developing and deepening public school children’s exposure and commitment to a Torah life, has helped and inspired hundreds of thousands of Jews. I remember hearing from Rabbi Ilan Meirov about his mother, Shoshana, and the type of indelible impact she made on her children.

She had grown up in Uzbekistan and, after many years, moved to Israel, where she eventually went on to marry her husband, Moshe. They were traditional, but not very fluent in Judaism. They later moved to America, where they raised three sons – Shlomo, Ilan and Yaniv. Mrs. Meirov wanted to enroll her children in Jewish schools, so she began looking into one school which she thought might be a good fit. But after vising the school, she just didn’t have the feeling that it would suit her boys. She didn’t feel the warmth of Torah and Yiddishkeit that she was looking to imbue her children with. The truth was, she was right.

She began then looking around her own close neighborhood for another school, and was told about Ohr Yisrael. When she walked into the school, she was mesmerized by the sound and sight of authentic Yiddishkeit. She then entered the main office and began speaking with the principal, Rabbi Sheya Geltzhaler. Rabbi Geltzhaler knew that her children didn’t have a strong Torah background up to this point, and in fact, in the younger grades, the classes were in Yiddish, which certainly would be difficult for the boys to catch on at this point.

Rabbi Geltzhaler, knowing this, began explaining that it would likely not be the best fit for her children. Realizing this, her heart began breaking and tears streamed down her cheeks. She didn’t know what would happen with her kids. How would they make it as Jewish children? Who would guide them?

Rabbi Geltzhaler then looked Mrs. Meirov and said, without hesitation, “Your boys are accepted.” And he di
d … because she was trying and wanted authentic Yiddishkeit for her children.

The boys flourished, and Ilan and Yaniv have developed into the marbitzei Torah, those who spread the beauty and breadth of Torah, near and far. With hundreds of Torah classes and thousands of Jewish children being given a Torah education, they have achieved so much.

And where did it all begin? With Rabbi Geltzhaler, and with Mrs. Meirov crying for her children to be given a Torah education.
In the Haggadah, we say, in reference the last child, the child who doesn’t know, “At p’tach lo” – You (in feminine form following the guidelines of Hebrew grammar) initiate the conversation for him.” The Jewish mothers are those who help their children find their way through Jewish life and Torah commitment.

The Jewish mothers are the ones who, true to their name of “Em,” whose letters of aleph and mem refer to the span of time from Adam to Moshiach, will help their children grow from their youth into paragons of Jewish integrity and Torah commitment, and with that, herald the final redemption.

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