By Sivan Rahav-Meir
A Motto For Pesach Cleaning: We Are Rich!
The following thought from Dr. Miri Kahana helps me muster the strength needed for all the cleaning, shopping, and cooking that lie ahead:
“All of this arduous cleaning we must do is only because we are very rich. Not just me, but all of us. Each of us lives with our family in our own home. There is a separate room for the parents, a kitchen, a shower, and a bathroom. Our houses are full of furniture, clothing, appliances, and food. Our children have more than enough to eat to the point where they forget unopened bags of snacks in their desks and leave sandwiches that they did not even taste in their backpacks.
“How far we are from those halachic discussions regarding a public oven for several families, or the issue of a poor person’s cloak taken as collateral for a loan that must be returned each night since the poor person sleeps in the cloak, or the matter of a poor person washing his only shirt erev Shabbat, despite the general prohibition of laundering on this day.
“I am certain that all of us have at least one great-grandfather who would go out of his mind with surprise and joy if he would see the prodigious prosperity in which his great-grandchildren live. Therefore, every once in a while, I remind myself to stop complaining about how much we still have to clean or how much we still have to cook, and simply focus on how much we have.”
Do We Hear The Call?
Shalom from Italy! In the course of a lecture tour here, on Shabbat morning, I heard the chief rabbi of Milan, Rabbi Alfonso Pedahzur Arbib, deliver a dvar Torah. He spoke about sefer Vayikra (Leviticus), whose opening parashah was read in the synagogue on Shabbat.
With which words does this book begin? ‘He (Hashem) called to Moshe and spoke to him.’ Before giving instructions to Moshe regarding the mitzvot, G-d calls to Moshe. Moshe hears G-d calling him and listens.
Our commentators say that the word “Vayikra” conveys an important message to every human being: At each moment throughout our lives G-d also calls to us. He demands that we improve, advance, and fulfill our mission in the world. This call is not meant to frighten, but rather to encourage us. It’s a call that gives us strength. It reminds us not only to listen to calls from the outside, but to the voice within. The beginning of the Book of Leviticus is an appropriate time for each and every one of us to ask: Do I hear the call?
The Current Situation
“But what do you think about the current situation in Israel?” someone asked me last night after a lecture in a synagogue in Rome. “It wasn’t discussed.”
I answered that it was the only subject that was discussed. We began with the Arch of Titus, built to celebrate the conquest of ancient Israel by the Romans. The exiled Jews together with the vessels of the destroyed Holy Temple were depicted on the arch. Those living in Rome today have the arch close by, and for them it may be no big deal. But to come here from Jerusalem 2,000 years after the destruction and to see our exiled ancestors depicted on the arch was an extremely emotional experience for me.
We also spoke about our enemies throughout the generations who were glad to see us lacking in unity, for then they thought they could triumph over us. As Haman said of us when issuing his edict for our destruction: “There is a certain scattered people …” In a similar context, Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, expressed satisfaction about the protests in Israel. And yet, in the end, those who have sought to destroy us disappeared into the dustbin of history, while we are still here and thriving.
We also spoke a great deal about the approaching holiday of Pesach. About the Haggadah of Pesach, which tells the story of a kind of reform that everyone can embrace: the Exodus from Egypt, which delegitimized the concept of slavery for all time. It was a reform that began in Egypt with the leadership of Moses, led to Mount Sinai and the giving of the Torah, and ended in conquest and settlement of the Land of Israel.
We also spoke about the fact that nearly all Jews in Israel today (93%, according to one survey) celebrate Pesach. Seder night recalls the magnificent story that we all share, that we have a common destiny, and that we are united in a most profound way. Even when we appear divided with an uncertain future, our underlying unity is stronger than any disagreement among us.
After the presentation, I heard the latest news from Israel. But it seemed that in Italy tonight, we had somehow covered the current situation. n
Translated by Yehoshua Siskin
Sivan Rahav-Meir, married to Yedidia and a mother of five, lives in Jerusalem. She has been a journalist in the Israeli media from the age of six and has interviewed thousands of people on television, radio, and in print. Globes named her Israel’s most beloved journalist, Forbes listed her as one of the most influential women in Israel, and the Jerusalem Post ranked her among the 50 most influential Jewish people in the world.
Sivan lectures in Israel and abroad on Judaism, Israel, and new media. In recent years, she began writing The Daily Thought, a brief commentary on current events that is circulated in Jerusalem and translated into 17 languages for global distribution. This volunteer-run project provides spiritual uplift for Jews and non-Jews all over the world.
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