The days are getting longer…that means spring is approaching! That first Shabbat each year when candle lighting is after 5pm always feels great! This week, Shabbat starts at 5:29pm in my neighborhood, so there is a little more time to focus on getting the Shabbat prep just right.
As the winter slowly ebbs away, each morning the question of “what is the weather supposed to be like today?” has a greater probability of a pleasurable outcome—I may even be able to get on my bike in the coming days! The birds are set to return to the Northeast, the bears are awakening from their long winter slumbers, the flower buds are pushing through the topsoil and the beautiful site of Kosher for Passover items are filling the supermarket shelves!
What?! Is it Passover season already? But it’s so early!!
Indeed, Passover is less than a month away. My community Rabbi from my youth, Rabbi Jeremiah Wohlberg, once said in regards to the Jewish calendar: “Every year people approach me and say ‘Rosh Hashana is so early this year!,’ when the holiday falls out around Labor Day weekend. When it would fall out at the end of September, people would comment how late Rosh Hashana was that year.” But, as Rabbi Wohlberg would say, “to me, it has once again fallen out on the first day of the month of Tishrei, exactly where it belongs!”
This year Passover falls out in March and only peeks into April, and contrary to Rabbi Wohlberg’s dictum, it does seem strange to me. My birthday is in early April and my brother’s birthday is at the end of April. Every year one of the Marchuck boys would have a Manischewitz Kosher for Passover birthday cake presented to him. Umm, nothing like getting that potato starch cake in the little tin, decorated with walnuts (instead of sprinkles) spelling out “Happy Birthday”… Fortunately, there will be no Passover birthday cake for the Marchucks this year!
As we get closer and closer to Passover, the holiday of our nation’s redemption from Egypt and the one that brought us to our homeland, I find it very exciting to reflect on the opportunities for the coming season. When I was in synagogue this morning, and the head of the tzedakah (charity box) collection was making his rounds through the sanctuary. As he approached my row, the fellow next to me pulled out his wallet and some of his money fell to the ground. As I helped him collect it, I picked up a 20 NIS (New Israel Shekel) bill that had fallen out of his wallet. After, the tefilla (prayer services) ended, I approached him and thanked him for putting me into the Passover mindset. He was puzzled, and asked if I could please clarify what I meant, so I explained my thought process to him. There is a mitzvah of tzipita liyeshu’ah (eagerly awaiting the arrival of Mashiach [Messiah]). There are many examples of righteous, as well as simple, Jews who would eagerly wait for the arrival of Mashiach. Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, often referred to as the Chofetz Chaim (1838-1933) had a very small wardrobe, yet he had one suit set aside and designated for the day he would welcome Mashiach. I explained to this fellow in synagogue that I was sure he kept the Israeli money in his wallet in order to act in a way of fulfilling the mitzvah of tzipita liyeshu’ah. If Mashiach would arrive today, he would need to have a few Israeli shekalim with him to buy his first falafel upon his arrival in Israel. I didn’t wait for a response and I wished him a great day.
The coming of Mashiach is often hard for us to visualize in our day-to-day lives. As we approach Passover, this is our opportunity to think in a more “tzipita liyeshu’ah” type of way. We are taught that when Mashiach arrives we will emmigrate to Israel on the wings of eagles. Perhaps that is hard for us to imagine. However, keep in mind that our ancestors had the same mitzvah and they were able to eagerly await his arrival. If it is still hard for you to visualize that image of us flying to our homeland on the wings of giant eagles, stick an El Al logo on the back of the eagle and fasten your seatbelt for a trip to Ben Gurion airport!
I wish you a happy, healthy and kosher Passover!
If you or anyone you know is looking to participate in a Passover seder or meal, please contact me at marchuck@NCSY.org .
Have a great month,
Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck