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Recent studies show that despite feminism and equal rights, women are still doing the major part of the housework. These statistics can and should be different when it comes to getting ready for Passover; teamwork is essential to do the job right. If you consider the task of removing all traces of chametz
(leaven) from your possession as an adventure, it makes it more fun and rewarding. And when you're having fun, everyone wants to join in.
Start early enough--traditionally we start preparing for a holiday 30 days before the festival--and consider cleaning according to the ABC's.
Attack the attic. Go through all of those storage spaces that accumulate chometz during the year.
Beware of bedrooms, books and even briefcases. Even if your policy is no food in bedrooms, crumbs wind up there. Chometz also wedges itself in books if you eat while you read.
Clear the cabinets, chairs, car and closets of chometz. This is a perfect time to have the carpets cleaned, too.
Deal with the drawers and desks.
Eliminate your ego. What does ego have to do with Passover and chametz? To make a long Chasidic discourse short, chametz contains leaven and rises. Matza doesn't have any leaven and therefore remains flat. As we rid our physical surroundings of leaven, we should try to eradicate our pompous, haughty and self-righteous aspects, those parts of our personality which grow and rise.
Face the freezer and all furniture. And, if you've contemplated cleaning your upholstery, now is the time.
Go for the garage, garbage cans and wastebaskets.
Hide the high chair. Unless you still need to use it. If so, thoroughly scrub it, and cover the trays.
Ignore the idea to quit. You're nearly half-way through!
Joyously de-chametz the jig-saw puzzles and all other toys. It's easy not to be happy when you have 300 pieces of Lego to clean--all with Cheerios mushed in. But think of all the quiet playtime these toys encourage. And think of all the joy that the children give you when you're playing with them--the kids, that is, not the Lego.
Keep at the kitchen and kitchen appliances. The kitchen is "not within the scope of this article." Ask a rabbi or rebbetzin how to do it!
Lather the luggage. Go through your suitcases and carry-on bags.
Make-over the medicine cabinet. Many non-prescription medicines contain chametz and should be dealt with properly. If you must take medicine during Passover, consult your rabbi (probably a nice guy who would love to hear from you).
Nurture you needs. Take a break. Sit down with a drink and relax for a few minutes. While you're relaxing, peruse one of the many interesting Hagadahs available today and you'll be preparing yourself mentally for the holiday, as well.
Overtake your office. Unless you're taking the whole week off, you have to clean your office for Passover.
Peruse your pockets, purse, and porch for chometz.
Quarantine your quarterback. Or, for that matter, anyone who goes running through your ready-for-Passover rooms with chometz.
Ready the refrigerator. Use up all those open jars and then clean it well.
Scrub the stroller. If you don't have one help someone who does.
Tackle the telephone. It's probably sticky if you talk while you're eating.
Unclutter the utility room.
Validate the vacuum cleaner by throwing out or emptying the bag after you vacuumed the last chametz.
Wash the wall where all the cake batter splatters when you bake.
Xerox your favorite recipes which can be used for Passover since your cookbooks are probably so full of chametz that they are unsalvageable.
Yield chometz from your yacht. Although, if you have a yacht you're probably not doing most of the cleaning, anyway.
Zee, it wasn't zo bad after all!
- (Back to text) Any foods made of wheat, rye, barley, corn and spelt, or their derivatives. The exception is Passover matza and products made under strict rabbinical supervision.
The Torah portion of Shemini opens with a description of the eighth and final day of the consecration of the Sanctuary, the day when the Divine Presence first rested therein. The name of the portion--Shemini--means "eighth" and alludes to the special significance held by the number eight. Eight symbolizes that which is above the laws of nature and the boundaries of our physical world. It stands for that aspect of G-dliness which exists even beyond the realm of our human powers of description.
One would think that the contents of so lofty a section of the Torah would deal with correspondingly lofty subject matter--philosophy, belief in G-d, metaphysics--but we find that Shemini delineates the laws between kosher and non-kosher animals. Why such a mundane a subject for a Torah portion which is supposed to express so high a level of holiness?
In many instances, a fine line exists between that which is kosher and that which is forbidden. A kosher animal whose windpipe and esophagus are only partially severed when slaughtered is not fit for consumption. A difference of only a fraction of a centimeter can determine whether or not the flesh of the animal is kosher or not, as Jewish law prescribes that both windpipe and trachea be more than half severed with one movement of the knife.
In our own lives, we also occasionally must make decisions which are as fine as a hair's breadth. Choosing between good and evil when the choices are obvious and blatant is much easier than making a decision between two extremely fine points. For such decision making, extra help from Above is necessary.
The Evil Inclination sometimes disguises itself in a "robe of holiness." It discourages a person from performing a mitzva through guile and doubt, presenting all sorts of seemingly plausible and erudite excuses. A person may become confused when the two paths of action before him both seem to have merit. The Evil Inclination can even make a sin appear to be an actual mitzva.
How are we to overcome the wiles and cunning of the Evil Inclination? How can we be sure that the decisions we make are the right ones? By learning the lesson which is taught in Shemini.
Man alone, bound as he is by the laws of nature and the limitations of the human intellect, cannot always overcome his Evil Inclination. But when a person gives himself over to G-d, Who is not bound by any natural law and is infinite, and asks His help to "distinguish between the unclean and the clean," one can indeed conquer the Evil Inclination and avoid falling into its net.
A Jew's connection to G-d is so strong that it cannot be split asunder by any power on earth. When a Jew does a mitzva--mitzva comes from the Hebrew word for binding together and connecting--he ties himself to G-d with a supernatural strength. Armed with this power, we can see through the mask of the Evil Inclination when we are presented with even the finest points of contention.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
THE REAL AGENDA
by Susan Rosenbluth
For Arkady Reitblat, the founder and chairman of the Maccabi Confederation of the former U.S.S.R., involving Eastern European Jewish children and adults in sports is just a means to an end. His real goal is to interest them in Jewish education with the hope that, eventually, they will choose to emigrate.
To equip himself for that task, Mr. Reitblat, 39, has come to the Lubavitch-sponsored Rabbinical College of America in New Jersey to learn more about Judaism so that when he returns to Lithuania, he can infuse Yiddishkeit into the daily lives of those Jews who still remain. He is here with his wife Rivkah and their two sons.
The task may sound mammoth but Mr. Reitblat is used to doing things in a big way. Between 1988 and 1991, he organized the Maccabi Confederation, the largest Jewish movement in the former Soviet Union.
Prior to last year many Soviet-Jewish athletes declined to join Maccabi, even though membership is free and there are no dues. They were concerned that membership in the Jewish organization would prejudice their standing in regular sports clubs. But that was before Soviet Maccabi club members began winning international competitions. In the past two years, the Soviet Maccabi teams have won 19 gold and silver medals.
"But sports are just our platform. Our real agenda is Yiddishkeit," says Mr. Reitblat. To that end, he has organized numerous programs throughout the former U.S.S.R., including Hebrew language classes, Jewish art festivals, lectures on Jewish and Israeli history, and educational programs featuring films and videos. Under the auspices of Maccabi, he has sent Jewish children to religious camps and on programs to visit Jewish families in Russia, Poland, London and the United States.
"Our children must understand and feel a true Jewish atmosphere," he says. "The impression made by the Shabbat will remain in their memories forever and will inspire them to come to Jewish traditions. It has become popular among our sportsmen to come to the synagogue before competitions and to celebrate Jewish holidays.
"We use everything we can to encourage our people to return to their Jewish roots," says Mr. Reitblat.
"One of our problems in the former U.S.S.R. is we have too many Jewish organizations and not enough Jewishly educated leaders. Our leaders need Jewish educations in order to take care of the community properly," he says.
Mr. Reitblat acknowledges that it is not customary for athletes to spend a year immersed in Jewish studies, "But if I do it, it will show Jewish youth the importance of religious studies," he explains. After a year or more of study, the family plans to return to Lithuania and to the task of rebuilding the Jewish community there.
Upon his return, Mr. Reitblat hopes to face the situation with new strength. He knows that most Jews who become interested in Judaism through Maccabi start out with little or no knowledge; many are not even halachically Jewish, a problem that concerns Mr. Reitblat. But he does understand the process that brings Jews back to their roots. Raised in a secular home in Avruch, Ukraine, he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Riga Technical University. When he first began working as an engineer in 1974, he became interested in Jewish culture, especially Jewish folk dancing. One thing led to another, and soon he found himself reading books on Jewish history. But it was through another interest--running--that he met Jewish athletes.
Despite the challenges to traditional Judaism in Eastern Europe, he firmly believes that only Orthodoxy, and specifically Lubavitch, will answer the people's needs. "The others are not Eastern movements. Chabad's ideology is closer to the Russian-Jewish mentality and so easier for Russian Jews to accept," he says.
The Reitblats learned upon their arrival in Morristown that the town of Arkady's birth, Avruch, was for long a center of the Chabad Lubavitch movement. The previous Rebbe's grandfather was rabbi in Avruch for many decades.
Not to be out done, Rivkah Reitblat smiled and disclosed her secret, "My grandmother was born and raised in Lubavitch."
FURLOUGH FOR JEWISH INMATES
The Aleph Institute, headquartered in Miami, works with Jewish inmates in Federal and State Correctional Institutions. Aleph is sponsoring a two-week retreat for a dozen inmates in the West Coast area. The participants will be attending lectures and classes to educate them in their Jewish roots. A similar retreat is taking place in Upstate New York for inmates on the East Coast. Aleph will be helping thousands of inmates and their families this Passover by sending them matzahs, grape juice and hagadahs with which to celebrate the Holiday of Freedom. If you know someone who can benefit from Aleph's services call 305-864-5553.
Model Matza Bakeries have become synonymous with Chabad-Lubavitch pre-Passover educational activities. There are over 150 model matza bakeries in the United States alone. The Lubavitch Youth Organization is sponsoring two model matza bakeries, one at Pathmark on 13th Ave. and 61st St. in Brooklyn and the second at Pathmark in the East Meadow Mall in Long Island. For information about either, call (718) 778-6000. For the location nearest you, call 1-800-Lubavitch. To arrange for a tour of a real matza bakery in Brooklyn, call Tzivos Hashem at (718) 467-6630.
WHY TAKE MOSHIACH SERIOUSLY?
Rabbi Manis Friedman will be the guest lecturer at a special weekend in Manhattan delving into the topic of Moshiach. The Shabbaton will take place this weekend, Friday, March 27 and Shabbat, March 28. Saturday evening there will be a special lecture for those who cannot attend the entire weekend entitled "Demystifying Moshiach." For reservations and more information, call Chabad-Lubavitch of the Upper West Side at (212) 864-5010.
JUDAISM 24 HOURS A DAY
Freely adapted excerpts from a question and answer session between the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Hillel directors and college students.
How would you define Judaism in a nutshell?
The essence of Judaism is that Judaism is not abstract and detached from life or limited to a certain aspect of human exis-tence. Judaism must permeate the Jew's whole being 24 hours a day, and extend to all of his activities.
A Jew must believe in G-d Alm-ghty as an absolute unity, excluding all possibility of something outside of Him. A Jew must accept G-d as the Creator of the Universe not only at the moment the world was created, but every moment onward as well. To think that the world was created by G-d only at the time of the original creation, but that it now exists through its own power alone, and that all occurs by coincidence--this would infer the opposite of Unity.
If you accept this first postulate of Unity, that the world is constantly maintained by Him, then that thought must extend to every person, since we all fit into the general scheme of the Universe. There is a divine pattern for each of us, and each act brings us a step farther in the right direction--toward fulfilling our mission in life.
What about the atheist, or one who cannot accept this belief in the Divine Unity?
Every Jew has the potential to believe in G-d and His Unity. Since G-d has given us this precept it follows that He would also give us possibility of fulfilling it. He created you and me and commanded us to believe in His unity; if we did not have the ability to accept this belief His perfection would be impaired.
If so, why is it that no one is perfect?
When a person is perfect and has achieved everything, he has nothing else to live for. There must remain some lack or imperfection so that he will have something to strive for tomorrow.
Doesn't G-d's omniscience preclude free will?
This seeming contradiction has confused many people. But there is no real contradiction between G-d's omniscience and our free will. We may use as an illustration a fortune-teller who can foresee future events (whether or not he has the power to do so is not relevant here). The fortune-teller is only seeing what will be done by a person through his own volition. The fortune-teller's foreknowledge does not influence the person's freedom of choice.
Incidentally, this is another interpretation of the verse in Genesis that states that man was created in G-d's image--every human being has free will. Without freedom of choice there would be no basis for reward and punishment.
Does G-d reveal His will to us now as He did at Sinai?
Yes, but in a different manner. The Revelation at Sinai was the "connection" made by G-d between the Creator and His creatures. It was necessary for the Revelation at Sinai to be made in that particular manner so as to leave no room for doubt. This is the fundamental difference between the Jewish religion and all other religions. Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Christianity and all other religions must rely on a story or testimony told by one person or a small number of people. Christianity relies on the stories of its founder which he transmitted to twelve disciples. Mohammedanism began with an event which one man witnessed and then told to his tribe. And so it was with Buddhism and other religions. They all leave room for doubt. To avoid these doubts, the Torah was revealed to millions of men, women and children. This event was not transmitted by disciples but by parents to their children over scores of generations. This strong foundation assured that the Torah will have validity for even the "trouble-makers" (agnostics).
After Sinai, no revelation is necessary since parents reveal these facts to their children. And since it is not necessary to repeat the Sinai Revelation, G-d does not reveal Himself again in this manner, as His world-pattern does not include unnecessary actions--but it could certainly be repeated if He so desired. From time to time, whether it be on a Saturday, Sunday or Wednesday--each one of us feels that he has accomplished more than his own natural capabilities would allow; this extra "power" is a form of G-d's revelation within us.
What are some customs following a brit?
Most of the many customs of the brit mila are rooted in the mystical teachings of the Kabala. When the actual brit is completed the guests all bless the child, saying "Just as he entered into the covenant, so may he be introduced to the study of the Torah, to the chupah and to good deeds." Also, it is customary to make an advance payment on the tuition fees for the child's Jewish education.
In this weeks Sedra we learn of the death of two of Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu, after they brought a "strange" fire before G-d.
According to some commentators, the brothers brought an offering in accordance with the sacrificial laws as they had been practiced by our ancestors before the Torah was given by G-d to Moses. This, then, is what was strange about it.
Chasidic philosophy offers a unique explanation as to what was strange about the fire. A Jew's soul is likened to a flame, or, at times, a candle. Though placed in a body, it strives to reunite with its source, the G-dly flame. Nadav and Avihu's longing to be united with G-d was so great that they allowed their souls to leave their bodies, "consumed" by the G-dly fire.
However, the true purpose of the soul's descent into this world is not to leave the body and be reunited with its source. That union is meant to take place only when the soul has completed its mission. Rather, it descends to this world in order to transform and elevate its surroundings. If the soul leaves the body it cannot accomplish this.
Many stories have been told about great and holy people whose souls transcended this world and traversed other spiritual planes. They revel in the experience of enjoying the spiritual light and revealed G-dliness of these other worlds. But when the time comes for their souls to return to their bodies, they accede, knowing that this was the true purpose of their life to begin with.
Nadav and Avihu allowed their longing for G-d to supersede their mission in life--to bring G-dliness and holiness into this world.
Rabbi Shmuel Butman
A number of chasidim were gathered with Rabbi Yitzhak Meir of Ger, partaking of the festive meal after a brit mila, when the rebbe asked a certain chasid to relate a story about Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev.
The chasid began: "One of the followers of the Berdichever Rebbe was a cattle dealer. And it happened that once when he had many heads of cattle to sell the market price dropped drastically. The chasid was worried about the heavy loss he would have to sustain, so he travelled to Berdichev to consult his Rebbe for advice in the matter and a blessing.
"When he arrived in the rebbe's presence, Levi Yitzhak asked him, 'Is there any particular mitzva with which you occupy yourself?'
" 'Yes, replied the man, 'I am a mohel.' [one who performs ritual circumcisions].
" 'And what do you do in the case that an infant bleeds heavily after the circumcision?' asked the Rebbe.
"The man described at length the medications and salves he applied, and then the Rebbe responded: 'I will give you a certain medicinal herb to use if you are ever, G-d forbid, in such a situation. If you apply this to the wound, it will stop bleeding immediately.' And the Rebbe handed him some herbs.
" 'But Rebbe,' beseeched the chasid, 'what shall I do about the cattle?'
"But the Rebbe only replied, 'I have already explained that if you encounter an infant who bleeds excessively, just apply the herbs and the bleeding will stop immediately.'
"The chasid didn't repeat his question. He took his belongings and returned to his home."
At this juncture in the story Rabbi Yitzhak Meir interrupted the story with a comment: "From the behavior of this man we can tell that he was a true chasid, since he didn't persist in his questioning of the Rebbe, but simply assumed that the Rebbe's words contained the advice he sought, although he didn't as yet perceive the meaning in them."
The storyteller continued: "The chasid stopped at an inn on his way home, and in casual conversation found out that the innkeeper's infant son had not been circumcised. He was surprised and asked the reason for this. The innkeeper told him that his two previous sons had died as a result of excessive bleeding after circumcision. The chasid, remembering his Rebbe's words, asked the innkeeper, 'If I were to tell you that there existed a cure for this problem of bleeding, would you allow a brit to be performed on your son?'
"'If my son could be circumcised without the possibility of danger, I would be prepared to pay the mohel a sum of four hundred silver rubles.'
"'I have a very potent medication which will stop any bleeding. Allow me to perform the brit, and I will assume all responsibility. I will even give you four hundred silver rubles of my own, forfeit in the case of any problem, G-d forbid.'
"The innkeeper agreed, on the stipulation that the mohel remain with them for a full month to watch the child, should any complications develop. The circumcision was performed, and in fact the child did bleed a great deal. But the mohel applied the herbs he had received and all went well; the bleeding stopped at once. A few days after the brit, news reached the inn that the price of cattle had risen considerably. The chasid-merchant was anxious to return home and sell his livestock, but the innkeeper was adamant about their agreement, and refused to allow him to leave. Several more days passed and word arrived that the price of cattle had gone even higher, and the chasid pleaded with his host to allow him to leave, as the baby was doing quite well. But the innkeeper was unmoved by his argument, and answered that a deal was a deal, and he must remain the full four weeks.
"After the entire month had passed the chasid left the inn. The grateful innkeeper paid him the four hundred silver rubles he had promised and also returned the other four hundred he had held on bond. The cattle dealer was able to sell his cattle for a price far greater than he had ever imagined, making an enormous profit.
"When the time came for his customary visit to Berdichev he happily presented his Rebbe with four hundred silver rubles to be used charity, saying: 'Rebbe, this money rightfully belongs to you!'"
And Moses said: "This is the thing that G-d has commanded that you do--and the glory of G-d will appear to you." (Lev. 9:6)
Every mitzva in the Torah has a myriad of inner, esoteric meanings, which each Jew understands according to his or her intelligence and level of Torah learning. Even the most learned scholar cannot fully grasp these secrets, for human comprehension and understanding of the infinite is limited and finite. This is why Moses commanded the Jews--"This is the thing that G-d has commanded"--no matter how much one has studied and no matter how many inner meanings a person has learned, the real reason to do a mitzva is because G-d has so commanded. When your intent in performing a mitzva is solely because G-d wants that particular act to be performed, then "the glory of G-d will appear to you."
And Moses said to Aaron, "Draw near to the altar" (Lev. 9:7)
For his part, however passive, in the sin of the Golden Calf, Aaron was judged by G-d to be deserving of the punishment of feeling shame and embarrassment. When Moses saw that Aaron was hesitant to approach the altar, he said to him, "Why do you hesitate? For this you were chosen to be the high priest." Aaron's guilt and shame were atonement for his sin.
(Maharim of Gastinin)
And Aaron lifted up his hands (Lev. 9:22)
In this verse, the Hebrew word for "hands" actually spells out the word "hand" (singular)--yud, dalet, vav, and is missing the other yud which would indicate the plural. Our Sages learned from this that when the kohanim (priests) raise their hands to pronounce the Priestly Blessing, the right hand is to be slightly higher than the left.
Yet these you may eat (Lev. 11:21)
The Torah does not content itself with giving us signs of purity to look for when it tells us which animals are kosher, it actually lists each and every one which is permissible. In the thousands of years which have elapsed since the Torah was given, not one animal, bird or creature has been discovered by man to possess those signs, which was not specifically mentioned in the Torah.
One of the most important traditions regarding the Messianic Age concerns the ingathering of the Diaspora and the resettlement of the Land of Israel.There are numerous traditions that Jews will begin to return to the Land of Israel as a prelude to the Messiah.
(From The Real Messiah, by Aryeh Kaplan)