Thursday, April 17, 2008

“Tonight, We Eat Only Matzah…”


The Likutei Halachos brings down that avoiding chometz and eating only matzah during Pesach represents the cleansing of the mind and heart from all forms of philosophical doubts and hesitations that block our avodas Hashem. Just as chometz becomes leaven through the act of waiting, so too does the mind get filled with negative thoughts through brooding and hesitating over negative ideas. This is why it is important not to let one’s mind “become chometz”—instead, it should be kept in the clear, pristine, and pure state symbolized by the simplicity of matzah. This is especially relevant to the avodah of prayer, because wherever our minds are, that is where we are.

One day in the beis medrash, as the prayers were drawing to a close, Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev zt”l seemed to be observing a group of his Hasidim. While everyone was busy wrapping up their talleisim and tefillin, he made his way over to them. To their surprise, he approached them with a hearty greeting. “Shalom aleichem!” he thundered.

They looked somewhat puzzled to hear their Rebbe offer the greeting traditionally given only after returning from a journey of at least three day’s duration. “But Rebbe,” they protested, “we haven’t been anywhere! We’ve been here in Berditchev all along!”

Rav Levi Yitzchak continued to make the rounds, shaking their hands vigorously, as if they were newly-arrived travelers, all smiles.

Suddenly, he turned serious and said, “From the way you were praying, it was clear that your minds were elsewhere! So, welcome back from Odessa, welcome home from the market in Lodz! Since none of you were actually here while you davenned, I was glad to welcome you back once you returned!”

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