Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Slave To The Details - Pesach Stringencies

Around this time each year people discuss the issues surrounding stringencies on Pesach. All of a sudden they start dealing with things at an atomic level, dissecting each and every molecule of food to make sure that an invisible speck of chometz never came into contact with it. It is possible for a person with this narrow focus to get so caught up in the myriad of details that he forgets that Hashem took his ancestors out of Mitzrayim, and that this is what we are celebrating on Pesach.

We rarely find a person being so exacting when it comes to correcting the deficiencies of his own neshoma. All of a sudden the person stops being a nuclear scientist and contents himself on being an average "C" science student. He loses all his attention to detail. The reason this happens is because when it comes to halachic stringencies many times there is also an aspect of "show". Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Rosen once asked, "Why is it that people always choose to be stringent in those areas where others can find out about it? Wouldn't it be far better to be strict with oneself in such matters as slander, additional Torah study, greater concentration in prayer…"

The words below from Sichos HaRan #235 speak for themselves. It is surprising that this guidance is not printed or referenced in the introduction of every sefer that deals with the halachos of Pesach. These words are a reminder to always keep the big picture in mind:

"The Rebbe was also very much against all the special stringencies that are observed on Pesach. Many people went so far in observing many fine points of custom that they were literally depressed by the holiday. He spoke about this at length. One of his followers once asked the Rebbe exactly how to act with regard to an ultra-stringent observance. The Rebbe made a joke of it.

The Rebbe spoke about this quite often. He said that these ultra-strict practices are nothing more than confused foolishness. He told us that he had also been caught up in this and would waste much time thinking up all sorts of unnecessary restrictions. Once he worried about the drinking water used during Pesach. He was afraid that a small amount of leaven might have fallen into the well from which they drew water. The only alternative would be to prepare water in advance for the entire Pesach week, as some people do. But this was also not good enough, for the water had to be carefully safeguarded from leaven from the day before Pesach, and this was very difficult.

The Rebbe finally came to the conclusion that the only satisfactory water would be that drawn from a flowing spring just as it emerges from the ground. He could then obtain perfectly fresh water without any possibility of its being contaminated. The problem was that the only such spring in the area was very far from his home. He thought about traveling to a place near a spring and spending Pesach there.

This is an example of how deeply the Rebbe had become involved in such unnecessary strictness. But now he ridiculed this and taught that such ultra-strictness is unnecessary, even on Pesach.

When the Rebbe spoke about this, he continued, 'True devotion consists mainly of simplicity and sincerity. Pray much, study much Torah, do many good deeds, do not worry yourself with unnecessary restrictions. Just follow the way of our forefathers. 'The Torah was not given to the ministering angels.'"


At April 29, 2005 at 10:02:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Brilliant, very insightful. Everyone is guilty on some level of the 'pick and choose' Judaism. If only we would take this to heart.

What was that about Parnossah?
Maybe it only works that way for Rabbis, it aint working for me, but at least we have a nice weekend ahead.


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