Monday, March 29, 2010


Got rid of the chamez, sifted and checked the quinoa, washed and checked and washed and checked the marror-lettuce. The kids are lunching on gefilte fish, and cutting the pineapple karpas is someone else’s responsibility.

My Yom Tov reading is all prepared, the news websites are still full of Everyone Hates Bibi, the blogs are full of Pesach – except for RWAC, whose blog seems to have disappeared in the past couple of weeks.

My Yom ha’Atzmaut “To Go” article (“Mother and Motherland”) is complete and submitted, my Shavuos “To Go” article (“Avraham’s Holiday”) needs a closer. My next medical halachah shiur (“Returning home from the hospital on Shabbos”) is in progress, as is my next Amos shiur. But nothing is happening on those fronts today.

There’s a moment here to breathe, to stop and think, before the likely-futile attempt to nap the kids.

A moment to think about a weird dream I had last night:
It was right before Yom Tov and I was returning home (Allentown) from somewhere, and I went straight to the hospital to visit a certain congregant because I had a premonition that something was wrong with him and he must be in the hospital. Sure enough, he was there in the hospital, and they were about to operate on him. I don’t remember the rest of the dream, but the eerie part is that this congregant passed away on the last day of Pesach last year. I don’t think that was on my mind, but who ever really knows what’s on his mind?

And a moment to hope for real cheirut [liberation] tonight, cheirut from the things that drag me down, cheirut that I can’t create on my own, but that can come to me from outside myself.

It sounds jarring, to say that cheirut must come from beyond ourselves, that we cannot liberate ourselves. This is not the zeitgeist, certainly. But I believe it is so.

It's like Talmud Torah [Torah study]. Much of Torah study isn’t from within, it’s Revelation from outside; we learn Torah in order to gain new information and insight. I can deduce and analyze and reason, but I need raw materials from beyond myself. מצוות שכליות [rational mitzvot] are all well and good, but תורה צוה לנו משה, HaShem had Moshe give us the Torah to provide us with מצוות שמעיות, the mitzvot of Revelation, because we need those to gain a full understanding.

And it's like the Yetzer HaRa, our set of challenges and temptations. The world says there is no test you cannot pass, but I disagree. There are tests and challenges and temptations I cannot survive on my own. There are temptations in life which are not about passing or failing, but about remembering to daven to HaShem for help, and then HaShem will help us pass. דום לה' והתחולל לו.

I believe Cheirut is designed with the same model. I can struggle and work and improve, but I also need building blocks from beyond. This is a liberation which comes from Divine aid, without which I remain a slave, but with which I can achieve greatness. And Gd is willing to provide that aid. Liberation did not come to the Jews in Egypt until ויזעקו, they cried out for it, and ויאמן העם, the nation believed.

We are מאמינים בני מאמינים, זועקים בני זועקים. Our ancestors cried out and we cry out. Our ancestors believed and we believe. And our ancestors achieved Yerushalayim, and we will as well.

חג כשר ושמח! May all of us experience our liberation tonight.


  1. You've been bit by R Kook.
    Great post. I think part of understanding cheirut is that it's connected to growth.
    I just got of the of the phone with a Rav in Merrick (you know him) and he commented to me that most Jews are asleep when it comes to wanting to grow.

    Some growth can be self-generated, but I also need that something from "outside". Like the matzah I hope to be eating soon, my it nourish me.

  2. Rav Kook - More than bit, Neil, more than bit.

    Sleeping - That sounds too cynical for my comfort level. I'd rather go with Shir haShirim 5.

    And thanks for your voicemail!

  3. Moadim L'simha!

    I thought RWAC was gone some time ago? Has he been back?

  4. Have you been looking only at the haggadah; or also at Rav Kook's essays for the public related to Pesah themes?

    My regular shiur in Orot HaT'shuvah chose to go through an essay on Pesah from Hashabbat, Yisrael, V'haz'manim. They really enjoyed it.

  5. R' Mordechai-

    1. Now his site is blocked.

    2. Only Olat Re'iyah for the Pesach shiurim (although I have been through Orot and some of Igrot separately). I would like to broaden my knowledge of his Pesach-related writings in the future; thanks for the suggestion.