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One of the rituals of the Passover seder is to eat the unique "Hillel" sandwich comprised of two pieces of matza with maror (bitter herbs) inside.
Why did Hillel insist the Passover lamb, matza and maror be eaten all in one bite, while the rest of the Sages felt it sufficient for the three foods to be eaten at the same meal?
Jewish mysticism teaches that the Passover lamb, the matza, and the maror, symbolize three Jewish profiles: the inspired Jew, the "regular" Jew and the bitter Jew. The delicious taste and aroma of the lamb symbolize the passionate person, whose heart burns with a G-dly fire. The bland taste of matza represents the average Jew who is neither turned off nor very turned on. The maror is the Jew who is bitter toward tradition and religion, perhaps toward life, too.
On a more subtle level, the three foods represent the wholesome person, the struggling individual and the weak one:
The Passover lamb was sacrificed in the Holy Temple. This symbolizes the tzadik, whose entire life is saturated with holiness, spiritual delight and inspiration.
The matza represents the intermediate Jew, who lives a moral life, yet confronts many bland moments. He struggles at times with apathy.
The maror reflects the weak person who fails to live up to his true human and spiritual identity. During life's pressures, and in the presence of powerful challenges, he falls prey to immorality or addiction. A bitter taste pervades this person's days and nights.
Each of these three profiles is included in the Passover experience. Each one must aspire to liberation; on Passover each one is given the opportunity to free himself and his environment from the shackles that keep him from reaching his potential and bringing the world closer to redemption.
According to the Sages, each of the three types of people has his place on the seder table. Yet, the three categories remain distinct. They are worlds apart; each viewing reality and interpreting the meaning of life in very different ways.
Yet Hillel insisted that if the lamb, matza and maror weren't sandwiched together, the seder was invalid. If these three types of people did not learn to experience Passover as a holistic entity, none of them could internalize the freedom of Passover. To truly experience liberation we must unite lamb, matza and maror into a single wrap.
But how can the impossible occur? How can the lamb-Jew truly unite with the maror-Jew without compromising his ideals? How can the inspired and the bitter Jew get along? How can people from such diverse backgrounds and ideologies come together?
One of Hillel's most famous sayings is: "Be among the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and drawing them close to Torah." This line captures Hillel's philosophy. If you wish to draw people close to Torah, you must first love them, relate to them and identify with their individual journey.
Hillel also taught: "What you dislike, do not do to your fellow." His life was a commentary on this instruction. It was therefore Hillel who wrapped up the Passover lamb, matza and maror and ate them together. Hillel believed that the three profiles symbolized by these three foods can and must be brought together. He once said, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I care only for myself, what am I?" The lamb-Jew must always remember that his or her freedom can only be achieved if he or she can join with the matza-Jew and the maror-Jew to embark on the path toward liberation.
Four days before Passover, the 11th of Nissan, marks the birthday of the Rebbe, a modern-day Hillel. The Rebbe has taught a myriad how to make the Hillel wrap, how to bring together Jews from very distinct backgrounds and walks of life. He has taught how to truly respect and embrace people who are very different. Most importantly, the Rebbe never stopped teaching that the lamb-Jew can never enjoy full liberation as long as his matza counterpart was left behind and showed how even the most maror-Jew is innately connected to G-d and to Torah. May each of us merit to continue the work of the Rebbe and never cease to "wrap" Jews together, the world over.
Based on an article by Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson on algemeiner.com. Visit Rabbi Jacobson's website theyeshiva.net.
The Haftora for the Torah portion of Tzav is from Jeremiah. It begins with the prophet's rebuking the Jewish people for not offering their sacrifices with sincerity, especially the Olah (burnt) sacrifice. As well, they are rebuked for not listening to G-d, or doing what He wants, as if they lost their faith in Him. It ends, telling us not to be self centered, rather, to be focused on understanding G-d and doing what He wants.
The connection to our portion is that Tzav begins with the laws of the Olah, and continues with the laws of other sacrifices. It ends with the seven days that the Priests trained and prepared themselves, before the inauguration of the Sanctuary. During this process, the Torah repeats over and over again, that they did it the way G-d commanded. In other words, the focus was on G-d and what He wanted.
The Haftora says, "So says G-d, 'The wise one shouldn't praise his wisdom, and the strong one shouldn't praise his strength, the wealthy one shouldn't praise his wealth. Rather, with this he should praise himself, through understanding and knowing Me, that I Am G-d...' "
The verse comes after earlier verses that talk about being self-centered, and not focusing on G-d. When someone is self- centered and everything is about him, he is in denial of the fact that everything he has is truly from G-d. It is akin to denying G-d's existence, because he doesn't leave room for anyone else, not even G-d.
However, "through understanding and knowing" G-d, meaning, when you recognize that what you have is from G-d, then you can be proud, if you have used your gifts well, and the way He wants you to. This is the meaning of the words, "with this he should praise himself," when he recognizes that it is all from G-d, and he is using his gifts the way G-d wants him to, then he should be proud of his accomplishments. Whether it be wisdom, strength, wealth, or any other gifts bestowed upon him by G-d.
When your children or students are gifted with talents or a status such as beauty, charm, smarts, strength, wealth, etc., it is so important to fill them with love and fear of G-d. They should recognize that these precious gifts are from Him, and that they should use these gifts for what He wants. I have found that the best way to instill this value, is not so much by saying it, but rather by acting that way, by being a living example.
Through being G-d centered, we will definitely make G-d proud, and we will have what to be proud of. It will affect everything we do, bringing positive change to our surroundings, thereby, preparing the world for the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
Matza from the Rebbe
by Shai Gefen
Rabbi Yossi Freiman is an emissary of the Rebbe in Zichron Yaakov, Israel. In 2001 he was asked by the Ashuach Family to come to the brit of their baby.
When Rabbi Freiman arrived at the brit he found the crowd waiting expectantly. The baby's father, Menachem Ashuach, a former Air Force pilot, greeted him excitedly. "You are here! We are honoring you to be sandak for our dear son." Rabbi Freiman hadn't dreamed of receiving this honor.
Rabbi Freiman soon learned that the brit was the final event in a series of blessings from the Rebbe that had come to fruition and that brought the Ashuach family closer to their Jewish roots.
In explaining how this came to be, Rabbi Freiman went back to the 90s:
The Ashuach family had lived on one of the very secular northern kibbutzim until they moved to Zichron Yaakov. They are a very educated and intelligent family who became more involved in Jewish life with a great awareness of every step they were taking.
When they moved to Zichron Yaakov, they began attending the classes at the Chabad House. Both the husband and wife were regular participants.
It was shortly before Passover 1999 and Rabbi Freiman was busy giving out Shmura Matza - special hand-baked matza that the Rebbe encouraged all Jews to eat at least at the Passover Seder. Rabbi Freiman prepared dozens of packages of Shmura Matza for people in the Zichron Yaakov community.
One evening in the days before Passover, Rabbi Freiman made the rounds, distributing the Shmura Matza. Until now, the Ashuach family only knew of the square, machine-made matzas. Rabbi Freiman gave them three matzas along with an explanation about the importance of eating Shmura Matza in particular. (When Shmura Matza is made, each person who is involved in any part of the process has in mind that a mitzva will be fulfilled with the matza. Only a person can have these conscious thoughts whereas a machine cannot, which is one of the reasons that Shmura Matza is superior to machine-matza.) Rabbi Freiman reminded the Ashuachs to sell their chametz, said a warm goodbye, and went on his way.
The phone rang early the next morning in the Freiman home. It was an emotional Mrs. Ashuach who asked, nay pleaded, for more Shmura Matza so that each family member could have a piece.
"I could not understand what had prompted this urgent call," recalls Rabbi Freiman. "I asked her, 'I was at your home yesterday and you were satisfied with what I gave you. What changed overnight, and why the urgency?'
"The woman said, 'The Lubavitcher Rebbe appeared to me in a dream last night and said that Rabbi Freiman had come to give us matzas not only because he knew us, but because he is an emissary of the Rebbe. Another thing that happened in the dream is that the Rebbe gave me a pen and said: Today you will find the apartment you want to buy in Jerusalem.'
"I understood the reference to an apartment as I knew that they had been looking for a long time to move to Jerusalem but hadn't found anything suitable. Earlier that year, at a gathering at our Chabad House in January, Mr. Ashuach had written a letter to the Rebbe asking for a blessing to find an apartment in Jerusalem. We had put the letter in a volume of the Rebbe's letters (Igrot Kodesh) and had opened it at random to a page with three short letters about the special quality of matza. The Rebbe explained that matza is referred to as the 'food of faith.' (It is also referred to as the 'food of healing.') At that time, I couldn't explain what the Rebbe's answer had to do with Mr. Ashuach's request for a blessing to find an apartment. But now, Mrs. Ashuach had made the connection on her own.
" 'So that is why I immediately called you to ask for Shmura Matza for everyone,' concluded Mrs. Ashuach excitedly.
"I said I would be happy to provide them with more Shmura Matza. I suggested she stop at the Chabad House that evening. She showed up that night and was even more excited than she was in the morning, for her dream had come true that very day!
" 'This afternoon,' said Mrs. Ashuach, 'a real estate agent called my husband to suggest an apartment in Jerusalem. After inquiring about the details and the price, it sounded like this was the apartment we had been looking for all these months. My husband called to discuss it and I told him this is definitely our apartment after the Rebbe said so in my dream.' The contract was signed the same day.
"They bought the apartment in Jerusalem. The Rebbe's answer together with the dream was a significant factor in the family's getting more involved in Judaism and Chabad.
On the eve of Passover in 2000, I heard a knock at the door. To my surprise, it was the Ashuach couple who said, 'We came to get Shmura Matza again this year.' I couldn't help but ask them, 'Last year you lived in Zichron Yaakov, but this year you live in Jerusalem! Is there no Shmura Matza in Jerusalem?!'
"They said, 'The Rebbe told us in the dream last that you are his emissary and so we came to get matza from you. Although we don't live in Zichron Yaakov anymore, you are still the Rebbe's emissary.'"
At the end of December, 2000, the Ashuachs called Rabbi Freiman to tell him about the recent birth of their son and the brit that was to take place in a few days. Their baby was born nine months after Passover, when they had eaten the Shmura Matza that they had traveled to Zichron Yaakov to receive from the Rebbe's emissary Rabbi Freiman.
At the brit, Mr. Ashuach told his guests: "For many years we wanted more children. Before Passover of last year we decided to get Shmura Matza - the "food of faith" - from Rabbi Freiman, because we believed that in the merit of the matza that the Rebbe's emissary gives, we would have a son. And nine months have passed since Passover and now we are celebrating the brit."
Adapted from Beis Moshiach Magazine
Make sure your celebration of the Passover Seders has an authentic feel with the traditional, round, hand-baked Shmura Matza. Available at your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
Typically in this space each year before Passover, we publish information about Chabad Public Passover Seders as well information about thousands of Chabad yeshiva students who fan out across the globe to arrange Passover Seders in far-flung nooks and crannies where there is no established Jewish community. The L'Chaim publication is printed weeks in advance. As the coronavirus situation world-wide is constantly changing we can publish little with absolutely certainty about where and if there will be any public Chabad Passover Seders. What we can tell our readers with certainty is that your local Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries are ready to be of assistance! Reach out to them for everything Passover related. You can also visit chabad.org for a treasure-trove of information about Passover.
The date for this letter was unavailable
The festival of Passover calls for early and elaborate preparations to make the Jewish home fitting for the great festival. It is not physical preparedness alone that is required of us, but also spiritual preparedness - for in the life of the Jew the physical and spiritual are closely linked together, especially in the celebration of our Sabbath and festivals.
On Passover we celebrate the liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery and, together with it, the liberation from, and negation of the ancient Egyptian system and way of life, the "abominations of Egypt." Thus we celebrate our physical liberation together with our spiritual freedom. Indeed, there cannot be one without the other; there can be no real freedom without accepting the precepts of our Torah guiding our daily life; pure and holy life eventually leads to real freedom.
It is said: "In every generation each Jew should see himself as though he personally had been liberated from Egypt." This is to say, that the lesson of Passover has always a timely message for the individual Jew. The story of Passover is the story of the special Divine Providence which alone determines the fate of our people. What is happening in the outside world need not affect us; we might be singled out for suffering, G-d forbid, amid general prosperity, and likewise singled out for safety amid a general plague or catastrophe. The story of our enslavement and liberation of which Passover tells us, give ample illustration of this. For the fate of our people is determined by its adherence to G-d and His Prophets.
This lesson is emphasized by the three principal symbols of the Seder, concerning which our Sages said that unless the Jew explains their significance he has not observed the Seder fittingly: Pesach [the Paschal Offering], Matzoh and Moror [bitter herbs]. Using these symbols in their chronological order and in accordance with the Haggadah explanation, we may say: the Jews avoid Moror (bitterness of life) only through Pesach (G-d's special care 'passing over' and saving the Jewish homes even in the midst of the greatest plague), and Matzoh - then the very catastrophe and the enemies of the Jews will work for the benefit of the Jews, driving them in great haste out of "Mitzraim" [Egypt], the place of perversion and darkness, and placing them under the beam of light and holiness.
We celebrate our physical liberation together with our spiritual freedom. Indeed, there cannot be one without the other ...
One other important thing we must remember. The celebration of the festival of freedom must be connected with the commandment "You shall relate it to your son." The formation and existence of the Jewish home, as of the Jewish people as a whole, is dependent upon the upbringing of the young generation, both boys and girls: the wise and the wicked (temporarily), the simple and the one who knows not what to ask. Just as we cannot shirk our responsibility towards our child by the excuse that "my child is a wise one; he will find his own way in life therefore no education is necessary for him"; so we must not despair by thinking "the child is a wicked one; no education will help him." For, all Jewish children, boys and girls, are "G-d's children" and it is our sacred duty to see to it that they all live up to their above mentioned title; and this we can achieve only through a kosher Jewish education, in full adherence to G-d's Torah. Then we all will merit the realization of our ardent hopes: "In the next year may we be free; in the next year may we be in Jerusalem!"
The great prophet Eliyahu (Elijah) lived approximately in the Jewish year 3,000 (760 b.c.e.) and lived at a time when the Jews were greatly tempted by idol worship. He pitted himself against 450 priests of the Baal cult on Mount Carmel when he successfully demonstrated the veracity of G-d. When the prophet Jonah died as a young boy, Eliyahu was able to bring him back to life. Taken by a fiery chariot, he was one of the seven saints who went into the next world alive. Tradition names Eliyahu as the one who will announce the advent of Moshiach.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
It is a Jewish custom to say daily the chapter of Psalms associated with the number of one's years. Chasidim and followers of the Rebbe also recite daily the Rebbe's chapter. The 11th of Nissan (this year Sunday, April 5) marks the Rebbe's 118th birthday, and so, we begin reciting chapter 119.
King David composed this Psalm in alphabetical order with eight verses for each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alef-bet. While seven symbolizes the natural order of the world, eight symbolizes above-nature.
The Psalm, a total of 176 verses, begins, "Ashrei - Happy are those whose ways are simple, who walk in the path of the Torah of the L-rd." The word "ashrei" is also the first word of the entire book of Psalms. It begins with the letter "alef." Alef symbolizes the head, the human intellect. King David is teachings that the way to come close to G-d is through our mind, through study of the Torah, G-d's wisdom.
Verse 18 reads, "Unveil my eyes, that I may perceive[the hidden] wonders of Your Torah" Chasidic teachings explain that this refers to the esoteric parts of the Torah, which is generally concealed, but will be revealed completely at the future time of redemption.
In verse 45 we read, "I will walk in broad pathways." While we are enjoined to be humble, and the beginning of wisdom and observance of Torah and mitzvot must always be with humility, we must also take pride in what we are doing.
"Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me," reads verse 98. Chasidut explains that each person has a unique task to fulfill. How is one to know what particular task applies to him? In answer to this, the verse says "make me wiser than my enemies," meaning that person should examine himself and see what he finds most difficult to achieve spiritually, i.e. his spiritual enemies, and he should work to overcome them.
"I have longed for Your salvation G-d" reads one of the last verses. May our personal and communal longing for the redemption be turned into an active welcoming of Moshiach now!
A perpetual fire (Lev. 6:6)
There were two types of fire in the Sanctuary and Holy Temple: one that burned on the outer altar, and one that burned in the menora inside. The priest whose job it was to light the menora did so with a flame taken from the outer altar. This teaches an important lesson: The outer altar is symbolic of our Divine service with other people; the kindling of the menora alludes to Torah study, as it states in Proverbs, "The Torah is light." Thus in order to merit the Torah's light it isn't enough to concern oneself with one's own spiritual progress; the concern should be extended to others as well.
This is the law of the burnt-offering...that the L-rd commanded Moses.... on the day that He commanded the Children of Israel to offer their sacrifices (Lev 7:37-8)
From this verse Maimonides concludes that the proper time for bringing sacrifices is during the day and not at night. Nonetheless, he continues, it is permissible to burn any portions of the animal that were not consumed during the daytime throughout the night. Similarly, the Jew's mission in life is to "sacrifice" his animal soul, his desire for physical pleasures, and transform it into holiness. Optimally, this type of service is to be done "in the daytime" when the Jew's connection to G-d is fully revealed, sustaining him body and soul. Nonetheless, if our sins have caused us to enter a state of spiritual "night," our service of G-d must continue, for this in itself will dispel the darkness and transform it into light. (Sefer HaSichot, Bechukotai, 5749)
This is the law...and of the sacrifice of the peace offerings
The Rebbe of Lublin said: It is far better to have an imperfect peace than a perfect controversy. It is preferable to live in peace with one's neighbor, even if the peace is superficial and not with a full heart, than to engage in controversy, however well intended. Why is the chapter "Where were the places of sacrifice in the Holy Temple" included in our daily liturgy? One of the most important things we pray for is peace, and this is the only chapter in the Mishna where there is no controversy between the Sages.
This story of Menashe Janashvilli was taken from Here's My Story and is presented with permission from JEM's My Encounter with the Rebbe oral history project, which is dedicated to recording first-person testimonies documenting the life and guidance of the Rebbe.
For two years, from 1973 to 1975, I was privileged to study - along with a group of young Georgian Jews who had immigrated to Israel - at Tomchei Temimim yeshiva in Brooklyn, not far from the Chabad Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway.
I was just 14 at the time and being so far away from my family was very hard on me, but I must say that we were well taken care of. We felt that the Rebbe was personally interested in us; this was evident in the special attention he showed to our group. He saw in us the future of the Georgian community, and we felt his love and care.
Every Shabbat we would come to the Rebbe at 770, as well as for every farbrengen (Chasidic gathering). And it was during the farbrengen at the end of Passover 1974 that something most unusual took place.
As was customary, the Rebbe made Havdala to demarcate the end of the holiday and gave out wine from his cup - the kos shel bracha - to every person present. This usually took a very long time, considering the size of the crowd, but I stood close to the Rebbe, and so I was among the first ones in line. When I approached him, the Rebbe raised his eyes and looked at me, saying with a smile, "Send this wine to your father."
I was baffled because I would always do that - I would save a bit of wine from my cup, mix it with a bottle of wine that I bought and send it to my father in Israel with someone going there. I didn't understand why I suddenly needed to be reminded.
But the Rebbe said again, "Send this wine to your father."
Now, I started to worry. What was going on? Was something wrong with my father?
The Rebbe saw the confused look on my face, and he said for the third time, "Send this wine to your father."
I started to shake. I left the room and ran to the telephone to call home. My parents didn't have a phone in their house, but their neighbor did, and that's whom I called.
"Tell me - is everything all right with my father?" I demanded.
"Your father isn't home," the neighbor responded.
Later I tried again and got another evasive answer. I became very frightened, and I started reciting Psalms with the hope of hearing good news. But the neighbor would tell me nothing until I threatened to keep calling at all hours, and only then did he agree to have my father come over at an appointed time to speak with me.
Meanwhile, I met a Georgian Jew who had come from Israel to visit the Rebbe, and I asked him if he had seen my father. "Yes," he replied. "I saw him..." Then he added, "His head and hand were bandaged."
"Oh no! But was he walking on his two feet?" I asked.
"Yes, he was walking, and he even waved to me."
When I finally spoke with my father, he told me what happened:
My father worked as a taxi driver. He would often drive Rabbi Rafael Alashvili, the leader of the Georgian community in Israel when he went around the country visiting Georgian immigrants. The morning after Passover, as he was driving Rabbi Rafael and his wife on the road ascending to Jerusalem, my father noticed that a bus was sliding down the hill towards them, unable to stop. He reacted quickly, shoving his passengers out of the taxi and out of harm's way, but he could not get out in time. He was still inside the car when the bus hit it, rolling on top of it and crushing it completely.
The paramedics who arrived at the scene found that my father was not breathing, nor exhibiting any signs of life. So they covered him with a sheet and took care of Rabbi Rafael and his wife. Only later did they turn back to the deceased man. But he had disappeared!
They saw someone standing nearby and asked him, "Have you seen the driver?"
"I am the driver," he answered.
They were shocked. "That's impossible! You were dead! We covered you with a sheet!"
My father told me that the accident happened at 9:30 a.m., Israel time. (This time was documented in the police report and the medical file.) This was 2:30 a.m. New York time, exactly when I approached the Rebbe to receive wine from his kos shel bracha, and the Rebbe said to me, "Send this wine to your father." It was as if the Rebbe knew that at that exact moment my father was in trouble and needed salvation.
Of course, after I heard what had happened, I hurried to find someone who was traveling to Israel, and I sent with him the bottle containing wine from the Rebbe's cup.
Two months later, when I came back to Israel, I heard about the accident in greater detail. My father told me, "I woke up to find myself covered with a sheet, and then sat up and saw a big commotion around me. Nobody could believe I survived - even the doctors couldn't explain how someone could be in such a terrible accident and live."
My father took me to the garage where the remains of his taxi were stored. I couldn't believe my eyes - the car was completely crushed. I couldn't imagine how a person could emerge alive from such a wreck.
Thank G-d, my father is alive and healthy to this day, enjoying his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I do believe that it is only due to the miracles and wonders of G-d, and the Rebbe's intercession. It was the Rebbe who felt at that moment that a Jew was in trouble and awakened in me the will to recite psalms for my father. And G-d answered our prayers.
The wicked child says: What is this service to you? ...You may tell him: If he had been there [in Egypt], he would not have been redeemed (The Hagada) What purpose does it serve to tell the wicked child that had he lived in those days he would not have been worthy of Redemption? The answer: Although it is true that the wicked child would not have been redeemed from Egypt, he will be redeemed with Moshiach in the Final Redemption! Unlike all other historical redemptions, every single Jew will go out of our present exile. This is the implicit message of the Hagada on the seder night.