by Rabbi Yoel Lax
Teacher, Camp Yavneh
The very mention of the name of the festival elicits different reactions from the entire family; from the displeasure of having to do all that Pesach cleaning to the joy of vacation from school and all those fun activities. However, this very name of the festival teaches us the fundamentals essence of these days. We call the festival Pesach – which literally means “Passed Over” to offer our gratitude to G-d for doing just that – passing over the Jewish homes during the plague of the firstborn and only affecting the Egyptian homes. However, the Torah uses a different name for Pesach – Chag HaMatzot – the festival of the Matzot (unleavened bread). What is the reason for this?
When we left Egypt, we became united as a people – the children of Israel. It was this unity that enabled us to stand at Mount Sinai and receive the Torah “like one person with one heart.” Chag HaMatzot is G-d’s way of expressing his love to the Jewish people, as alluded to in the Song of Songs (“Shir hashirim” – which we read on Pesach) by the way of comparing our relationship with G-d to the relationship between husband and wife. It is a way of thanking us for the faith we had in G-d to hurry up and bake these Matzotand enter the desert without any provisions and place our trust solely in G-d.
These two names of the festival – Pesach and Chag HaMatzot show us the importance of appreciating and valuing others for who they are.
R’ Yisrael of Salant, a leading 19th century Lithuanian Rabbi, was known for his exceptional observance of the Mitzvot and as such used to personally supervise the baking of his Matzot every year. One year, he was in poor health and couldn’t do this himself. His students, who were to do this on his behalf, asked him if there were any stringencies they should take upon themselves during the baking of the Matzot to make them Kosher for Pesach. Rabbi Yisrael responded in the affirmative, “the woman who kneads the dough is a widow. Please treat her especially well and be very careful not to hurt her feelings”.
From the very names of the festival which shows the value of fully appreciating what others do for us; to the episode of the four sons all coming together for the Seder night; we learn a very important message. On this night, when we attained freedom and as a nation became one; we must do our best to retain this unity; to welcome others and appreciate the different components of the Jewish nation that comes together as one unit. When we truly internalize this and learn to value and appreciate others who may be very different to us, can we truly merit to see the fulfillment of the epitome of theHaggadah we read on Seder night – Leshana Haba’ah BiYerushalayim Habenuyah – Next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem.
Chag Pesach Kasher VeSameach!