Friday, April 25, 2008

Lechaim Moshiach!

Everyone knows we Chabadniks are Moshiach-crazy. We talk about Moshiach all day, sing Moshiach songs, produce Moshiach newspaper ads, bumper stickers, posters, songs and even t-shirts.

On Pesach, we take it just one step further. For the last 250 or so years, we’ve hosted a welcome party for Moshiach at the end of every Pesach.

Our guest of honour hasn’t yet arrived at one of them, but that won’t deter us. It’s sort of like waiting at the airport’s arrivals gate for a relative. Just about every other passenger seems to walk through those doors before your family member emerges. You might get anxious over the delay, but you’ll keep standing there until the right person shows up.

Our Moshiach meal is something along those lines. And more.

A young boy once wanted an apple, but his father wouldn’t give it to him. The clever little guy hatched a perfect plan- he loudly said the full brocha over the fruit. Taken aback, his dad had no option but to give it to him.

We’d like to “force” our Father-in-Heaven’s hand the same way. We’ll set up the meal, invite the guests and drink the Lechaim- then He’ll “have to” send us the Main Attraction.

So, this Sunday afternoon, come say Lechaim for Moshiach. We’re really hoping he’ll be there to reply in kind.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Why Matzah?

Matzah? Delicious!

Well, not quite. I know some of you enjoy eating Matzah, but when it’s eight days straight (and especially if you don’t put anything on the Matzah, like us), it can get a bit much.

Why do we have to eat this tasteless, flour/water flat-bread?

Go ahead; consult your trusty Haggadah (which should be out by now) for an explanation. There it is, towards the end of the story of the Exodus. What does it say? Ah, yes, that we eat matzah because the dough of our forefathers didn’t manage to rise in the mad rush out of Egypt.

That’s what you’ve always thought, right?

One question: Before the Jews left Egypt, they had a special meal that Hashem had commanded.
On the menu was roast lamb (the Paschal sacrifice), maror and… that’s right, matzah!

That was before they rushed out of Egypt. They ate matzah then, well before midnight and the slaying of the firstborn. Jews in Egypt ate matzah because they were told to, not because they couldn’t manage to bake bread!

Like anything in Judaism, if you want to really understand what’s going on, you need to look a little deeper.

Matzah is made of dough that doesn’t rise. Puffed up chometz symbolizes ego. Flat and simple matzah represents humility.

There are two types of humility: You could work hard at being humble, train yourself to limit your ego; or you could be suddenly overwhelmed with a powerful realization of Hashem’s greatness that makes it patently obvious that there’s no room for your own ego.

When the Jews ate Matzah at their pre-Exodus meal, that was their own ego-deflation process. At the stroke of midnight, Hashem revealed Himself and their dough/ ego could not rise. As you stand before Hashem’s presence, you don’t feel yourself.

Which matzah do we eat on Pesach?

Glance into the Haggadah again. It says we eat matzah because the dough could not rise. Every Pesach, Hashem reenacts the Exodus in every spiritual detail. He reveals Himself and deflates our ego for us- opening the possibility for real spiritual growth- in leaps and bounds.

We just have to notice that He’s there.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Moon People

Giggling children run excitedly from one bright stall to the next enticing ride. Lively music mixes with the whooping of thrilled little ones and the screech of metal. Candy-floss and popcorn aroma fills the festive air here at the funfair.

I’m not a big fan of roller-coasters, but gladly take my kids on the Big Wheel. They’re impatient, and fret when we sit at the bottom of the wheel for a minute too long as new passengers alight.
Moments later, when the Wheel stops again and we’re at the top, they shout with glee- sure this top-of-the-world experience will never end. Slowly, the Wheel moves downward; they groan.

We’re moments away from the month of Nissan. Over 3300 years ago, on the first Nissan ever, G-d gave our nation our very first Mitzvah.

No, it wasn’t “I am the L-rd, your G-d”. Actually, it wasn’t any of the apparently fundamental faith-builders. His first instruction to us seems almost trivial: “This is how the Jewish calendar works”.

Wouldn’t you have expected Him to first lay the ground-rules? You know- let us know He is in charge that we are obliged to believe in Him, serve Him and pray to Him.

Why start with the calendar?

He wanted us to know that Jews are moon people. On the 1st day of Nissan 2448, G-d showed Moses the sliver of a new moon and said: “This is what your people will look for every 30 or so days, to define the new month.”

G-d wanted us to know what Jewish life is like. Jews don’t live the static, stable life of the sun; we fluctuate like the moon. We have our ups and downs.

Some days we’re on top of the world, confident that we’ll never fall. Other days, we hit rock-bottom and don’t know how we’ll ever come right.

G-d wanted to show us, from day one, that these swings are normal. He also wanted us to know, that when your moon looks like it’s faded away completely- look out for a new moon. When things look bleak, He assures us there lies the seed for new growth.

You only need to believe it. And look for it.

As the Rebbe Rashab once said: “Both those at the top of the ferris-wheel and those at the bottom are mistaken- neither will keep their position for long”.