Monday, April 7, 2008

Medicine for the Soul

The Ramchal zt”l teaches that every element of the seder is meant to revive the energy of the historical redemption, and in doing so enable us to prepare for the ultimate redemption. The marror is the bitterness of exile that purified us so that we became fit to attain closeness to Hashem. The pesach involved abandoning the idolatrous worship of the sheep in Egypt, and transforming that impulse into an offering to Hashem. Matzah is, even now, the means through which we refine our bodies and souls by eliminating the leaven, the yetzer harah element. By eating only matzah for the seven days of the festival, we receive an “inoculation” of pure yetzer tov that uplifts us and makes us fit to receive a spirit of kedushah the whole year long. It is a spiritual vaccine with long-term effects.

It was the custom of Rav Nachman of Kossov zt”l never to drink the especially strong wine made in honor of Pesach during the actual festival itself. Once, he had occasion to visit with another great Rebbe during Pesach, and his host offered him a drink from his precious stock.

Rav Nachman declined, “Thank you so much, but I really can’t.”

His host was puzzled. “Is there something wrong with the wine?”

The Kossover smiled serenely and said, “Not at all! But the Zohar HaKadosh says that matzah is a repository of good health—it is a medicine.”

His host was now doubly confused. “What does that have to do with drinking my wine?”

Rav Nachman went on, “Don’t you know—it is forbidden for a person taking medication to drink strong wine!”

6 comments:

Spiritual Dan said...

Brilliant.

Might we say that also, the removal of chametz is the removal of the yezer hara before the coming of mashiach? I thought Rabbeinu links these two, but my Rabbi suggested that chametz really isn't all bad, we use it all the time during the year, etc.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Thank you so much, your comment is appreciated as always!
The fact that chametz represents the yetzer hara is in Chazal. The Radbaz even explains that this is why Chazal prohibited if even the slightest amount of chametz fell was mixed with non chametz.
It is definitely true that Chometz is not all bad but the yetzer hara is also not all bad since without a yetzer hara one's good is worth much less. As Rabeinu said: One time overcoming the yetzer is more precious than a thousand years service of an angel who has no yetzer hara to overcome.
Furthermore, the Zohar states that without a yetzer hara we could not do anything with zeal. We need to subjugate our inclination to use our natural drive for wrong and use it for good in a balanced way.
I am not sure what you are referring to by your quote from Rabeinu though.
He does say that the yetzer Hara will not be totally abolished when Moshiach comes. This also comes out of the Rambam.
Ashrechah v'tov lach!

Spiritual Dan said...

I may have misunderstood re: moschiach, or misspoke - i.e. it's not necessary "removal" of the yetzer hara but "control", which I suppose in a sense is removal of the 'effects'... i.e. it's still there, it's just under control.

Okay so this leads me to ask - tangentially - how does the Challah feel during Pesach? We revere it all year long, then one week we treat her as if the Torah despises her, Heaven forbid? Maybe this is why we cover the Challah all year long - to prepare her for the insults of Pesach!

yehudis said...

If I might stick my two cents in here...
The matza *is* the challah of Pesach. We have no problem with the challah, just with the extra ingredient that deviates from plain flour and plain water (both of which represent Da'as). Whether yeast or sourdough starter is used, or just enough time for nascent microorganisms to settle on the dough and start natural fermentation makes no difference. For Pesach, we need the purest of challahs--no insult to the challah of Shabbos all year long. We just are spiritually in the NICU and so our minds require an infusion of the purest Da'as without any additional element.
The rest of the year, we can tolerate the additions.
A Rav once explained to me that chometz/matza is a manifestation of the two sides of the five letters MaNTZaFaCH. We have five letters that have a double image, five species of grain that have a side to them that leans to the "left" and a side that leans to the "right." When the five grains manifest as chometz they can be used, but they have to be used with care. During a time of great spiritual vulnerability (or perhaps elevation, which might mean the same thing), ie Pesach, we take care only to use the "right side" of the five grains--matza.
"On all other nights we eat chometz and matza, but this night is only matza."

Spiritual Dan said...

thanks Yehudis... very helpful and much appreciated. I guess I have to back up a bit and ask a basic question... why is flour prohibited on Pesach? It's not leavened. Is it Rabbinical - because a renegade spore might land on the flour and then the entire thing becomes chametz? I hope this is the case, it would bridge the gap between Challah and Matzah....

Also can you explain the double image of mem, nun, tzadi, peh, chet? I looked at these letters but I don't see what you mean by double - surely not symettrical?

yehudis said...

As far as I know, the problem with flour is exactly this--it is too easy for it to become chometz because all it needs is the barest hint of moisture and enough time. Because of the microorganisms, yes. Even so, I don't think that irradiated and then vacuum sealed flour is allowed! We make no distinctions. Maybe Micha has something to add here.
We often talk about the "twsenty-two letters with which the universe was formed." Although there are in essence only twenty-two, there are twenty-seven in actuality because five have a secondary form. The letters mem, nun, tzaddik, pei, chof are doubled because they are the five that have "final" versions. A separate image that makes the same sound. Chazal spoke about them in Maseches Shabbos 104a. Right afterward they discuss the allusions to deep lessons hidden within the form and order of the letters, including the doubled letters.