Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Whose Chometz?

March 25, 2013 9:34 am 0 comments

Wine and Matzoh. Photo: author.

It’s into the final stretch now. Soon we’ll be conducting the search for chometz (leavened bread) and then it will be Erev Pesach (the day preceding Passover) and the beautiful festival of freedom will be upon us.

The very first Mishna in Talmud Pesachim states that we must search for chometz in all places where we may have brought chometz in during the course of the year. Any room where we never brought chometz into does not need to be searched.

There is the well-known interpretation that chometz symbolizes arrogance which, like a rising dough, is all about the inflated ego. Now, let us understand the Mishna in light of this definition of chometz. Where should one search for chometz? Anywhere we may have brought chometz into. This would then mean, where should one seek to uproot arrogance? Anywhere we may have brought arrogance into. Now, do we bring arrogance into someone else’s personality? Not usually. We are responsible for our own egos not someone else’s. So, according to a Chassidic twist on the Mishna, we have no business searching for arrogance in other people. The place we need to be searching is inside our very own personalities and psyches.

It is sad that all too often we tend to find fault with others. We might consider someone else to be bigheaded or egotistical. But, actually, the unhealthy ego which we need to ‘search and destroy’ is not the one in others but the ego within ourselves. After all, did we bring arrogance into anyone else’s personality? Are we ever the cause for someone else’s ego? Not really. Why then are we searching in a place where we never brought any “chometz” into? We should search in our own backyards.

Why do we look for “chometz” in other people at all? Why look for some juicy piece of gossip or a little misfortune to gloat over? Why not look for good news, happy things or positive information?

There is an interesting question raised concerning the traditional custom of searching for chometz. This was done – and still is – with a candle, a feather and a wooden spoon – the candle to search for any crumbs in every nook and cranny and the feather to sweep the crumbs into the spoon. Then it is all put into a paper bag which is thrown in the fire when we burn the chometz the next morning. So the question is this: it makes perfect sense to burn the objects which came into direct contact with the forbidden chometz, i.e. the wooden spoon, the feather, the bag, but why must we burn the remainder of the candle? The candle never touched the chometz at all?

And the answer is that it was the candle that went searching to find the chometz. This candle is an evil-seeker, searching every corner to find the negative. Such a critical, judgmental, disapproving object deserves to be thrown in the fire!

Recently we also marked the birthday of my saintly mentor and teacher, the Rebbe, on the 11th Nissan. The Rebbe, too, was a candle. But he was a candle that only sought to illuminate the good – to find the spark of G-dliness in every Jewish soul, no matter how far away, no matter how dark its surroundings. The Rebbe saw only the good in everyone and encouraged us to see it too. He sent his students to every corner of the globe to be candles, lamplighters and lighthouses to illuminate the world and to warm it with the light of Torah and Mitzvos (good deeds). May his memory be a blessing for all of us.

Please G-d, we will find and remove our own personal chometz, our own shortcomings and only highlight the good in others. Thereby we will help bring our generation to the ultimate exodus and the final redemption.

Excerpted from the book From Where I Stand by Rabbi Yossy Goldman. Available at leading Jewish booksellers.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →