Thursday, Jul 11, 2024

Months of Making Pesach, Minutes of Restoring Chometz

Being a Yated writer has special advantages, especially on Motzoei Pesach on a year like this one. Let me explain.

Pesach is a well-deserved break and battery recharge for those who must constantly produce new, fresh writing. It allows a writer to just “turn off” from the constant “deadline” mentality and relentless necessity to produce new insights.

Before Pesach, it seems that there is a large chunk of time awaiting us, when we will be able to focus on the Yom Tov and on spending real time with family, and then, suddenly, poof! The Yom Tov is gone, over, practically before it started.

During a year such as this one, when Pesach ended on a Sunday night, it allows for barely a day between starting to work on the paper until it goes to print on Tuesday.

So, almost immediately after Havdalah and a heartfelt brocha for a gezuntin zummer, while the rest of the family was doing the hard labor of putting away Pesach, yours truly was firmly ensconced in his office, furiously typing, trying to hit this week’s difficult deadline schedule.

After about 2-3 hours, I felt the urge to exit hibernation for a drink. The sight that met my eyes was mind-boggling. I had left the kitchen and dining room completely Pesachdig, bedecked with distinct Pesach countertops, Pesach silverware and Pesach utensils, as they had been for the past week and a half. Now, mere hours later, a complete transformation had taken place. The old, familiar countertops were back, the tablecloth-less table was visible, and even the dishes were gone. Rubbing my eyes, I exclaimed, “Already?” to which my daughter rejoined, “Isn’t it crazy?! It took us so long to prepare the house for Pesach but just a couple of hours to put the whole thing away!”

Indeed, isn’t it crazy? Every baalebusta worth her salt is busy with Pesach from Chodesh Teves or Shevat (okay, some people don’t start until Adar…), going through the painstaking process of cleaning and then turning over, with the poor men-folk relegated to eating on the porch for up to a week before Pesach even starts.

And then, undoing all that work just takes a few hours. Why? It almost doesn’t seem fair.

Well, after that small musing, I got my drink and a little (Pesachdige) snack (no, not chometz; in our family, we still haven’t figured out what is so special about eating half raw pizza as close to 72 minutes after the zeman as possible. We are a bit slow on the pickup) and returned to my office/cave.

Biden and Putting Away Pesach: Is There a Common Denominator?

A few minutes later, when catching up on all of the “wonderful” news that I missed over Pesach, news of the “progress” being made by the Biden administration, it hit me. I am seeing the same thing, lehavdil, in the news.

In a matter of days and weeks, the Biden administration is busily taking apart countless achievements that were painstakingly achieved with great difficulty. Sometimes busting things apart can be done very easily, very quickly and very dangerously, and that is apparently what Biden has been doing.

In the few minutes of reviewing the news that I missed over Pesach, I saw that:

  1. The administration is doing everything it can to curry favor with the ruthless and dangerous Iranian mullahs. Whereas the Trump administration realized that Iran was the problem, not the solution; that Iran was the most dangerous, destabilizing force in the Middle East and perhaps in the world; good old Joe wants to rehabilitate the Iranians and in effect enable their nuclear aspirations and their regional hegemony over the old US allies, the Gulf States and Israel. It took the Trump administration some four years to help destroy the Iranian economy and finally see the fault lines of the unraveling of the Islamic Republic, and it took Biden just a few weeks to rehabilitate the mad mullahs. Biden is all but begging the mullahs on his hands and knees to return to the Obama-era nuclear agreement.
  2. The southern border: It took the Trump administration a couple of years until they were able to make a bit of order at the border. They discouraged Central American countries and Mexico from enabling mass illegal immigration. They had a system in place to finally control the border. Then, in a matter of days, the surge on the border caused by the open invitation given by the uber-progressive Biden administration to illegal migrants and the ruthless smuggling rings and gangs that enable them to come unraveled everything.
  3. The economy: Did anyone even notice that since Biden became president, gas prices have sky-rocketed by nearly a dollar per gallon? Under Trump, the economy was booming until Covid hit and the markers for a post-Covid thriving economy were already in place. The Biden agenda that values progressive virtue signaling over economic growth and thrives on class warfare has sent the economy into a tailspin that even the indiscriminate printing of trillions of dollars of monopoly money will not remedy.

Gilded Vessels and Vessels of Fine Gold

It isn’t only Pesach that requires months of preparation and mere hours for dismantling. There are many wonderful things that we acquire with great difficulty that can be destroyed with remarkable ease. In fact, the Gemara (Chagigah 15) tells us, “Words of Torah that are as difficult to acquire as gilded vessels and vessels of fine gold are as easy to lose as glass vessels.”

The Gerer Rebbe, the Bais Yisroel, would speak to bochurim before bein hazemanim and warn them, “It is possible to lose all of the great aliyah, all the progress that you made during the zeman, with one look where you were not supposed to look in the Tachaneh Hamerkazit (the central bus station) on your way home from yeshiva.”

From here we see this concept that progress is slow and painstaking, but destruction of that progress can be very quick. At first glance, this seems very depressing. One works so hard to acquire divrei Torah or a good middah, and then poof! In a matter of a few minutes, all that work can be neutralized. It doesn’t seem fair.

I think that there are two pieces of chizuk that we can take from this. First, the Gemara in Chagigah that states that divrei Torah are difficult to acquire but easy to lose was said by Acher, the Tanna who abandoned Yiddishkeit. He was the one who told Rabi Meir that Torah was so difficult to acquire but so easy to lose. Yes, it was based on a posuk, and it is true, but it was being used by Acher as a justification for giving up on Yiddishkeit. It wasn’t his yeitzer tov talking. Rather, it was his yeitzer hara. In fact, Rabi Meir answered him accordingly, saying, “Rabi Akiva, your teacher, did not say so, but taught as follows: Just as golden vessels and glass vessels have a remedy even when they have broken, as they can be melted down and made into new vessels, so too, a Torah scholar, though he has transgressed, has a remedy.”

Yes, it is easier to destroy than to build, but there are still remedies that the Torah puts in place and it is no reason to get discouraged.

Of Jumping Levels and Seeing Our Capabilities

The second thing is that any effort expended to draw closer to Hashem never goes for naught. It remains with the person and even enables the person who has fallen to get back on track.

Look at the days of Sefirah. When Hashem took the Yidden out of Mitzrayim, He raised them in one night from the 49th level of tumah to the ultimate kedusha. A mere seven days later, a simple maidservant had greater ruach hakodesh than Yechezkel Hanovi.

However, that was a one-time revelation just to show the Bnei Yisrael how high they could go. The 49 days of Sefirah were actually designed to empower them to achieve those levels of greatness and closeness to Hashem through their own hard work.

That is what these days are about. They are the inverse of Pesach cleaning and taking apart Pesach.

What Hashem did was enable the Yidden, in a very short time, to reach the greatest, highest levels just to show them what they were capable of. After that, He took those levels away from them and required that for every day of Sefirah until Shavuos, they work on themselves and slowly, level by level, achieve such exalted heights that they would be worthy of hearing the words “Anochi Hashem Elokecha” from Hashem Himself.

The bottom line is that although there are no shortcuts, Hashem still periodically shines light upon us to show us what we are capable of achieving.

Yes, it is difficult to acquire ruchniyus and bring in Pesach, and yes, it is easier to destroy progress than to make progress, but at the same time, every step forward that we make is beloved by Hashem, and even if we fall, Rabi Akiva teaches us that we can bounce back much more easily when we decide to try once again. Because every level that we reach through hard work remains in our essence, we just have to tap into it again. That is what the days of Sefirah are all about.

Now, don’t you wish Mr. Biden and his cronies would learn that lesson?

Don’t bet on it.




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