Just a few words, to give me and you an opportunity to take a break during the Pesach preps.
You might recall from Purim, that the word Megillah isn’t the name of the Book of Esther. It means “migalleh” which means “reveals”. Each one of the 5 megillos reveals something that you wouldn’t know unless you have a heart that is so sensitive that things that are below the surface are part of your inner world. The Book of Ruth tells you about change and discovery. Eichah tells you about finding deep truths in the midst of mourning. Esther tells you how to find Hashem when He is hidden. Kohelet tells you how to find true wisdom.
Shir HaShirim (the Song of Songs), tells you how to find love in its deepest and most powerful version. It runs 8 paragraphs according to the now generally used version. The paragraphs were the “gift” of the non-Jewish scholars who had a monopoly on the printing presses in earlier times. The classical arrangement has the text arranged in five paragraphs. Each one describes another era in which Hashem’s un-ending and yet evolving love for us is revealed. The style is a parable. There was a king (aren’t you surprised?) who wanted to take a wife of the people, one who was pure of heart, and not as “sophisticated” as the royals. He finds her and brings her to the palace. In the course of time, she finds living in the palace to be excruciatingly difficult. You always had to be “on”, look good, have good manners, be worthy of being the Kings wife. Ultimately, she escaped the palace and returned to her village. After having been in the palace, she suddenly saw that the villagers were vulgar, boorish, and coarse. Nothing about them changed from when she knew them earlier on. She changed. She did nothing to suggest her true feelings towards them, but they knew the truth. They were relentless; they spat at her, ripped her clothes off her, degraded her as much as a human can degrade another human. She felt trapped. She couldn’t return to the palace she had burned her bridges by running away. She couldn’t bear living in the village. The King searched for her and eventually found her. He knocked at her door, and she couldn’t bear the shame of facing him, so she kept it closed. He knocked again, and said, “Open the door! Don’t you know that the ketubah (marriage contract) I wrote for you is different than any other ketubah? He showed her what it said. “No matter how many times you betray me, I will never betray you”.
The second chapter begins with the words, “I am the chavatzelet of the Sharon, the rose of the valley”. Many English translation would have Chavatzelet mean “Lily”. The Gra, however says that both words describe different species of roses. The Chavatzelet is the rose that grows in the Sharon, Israel’s arid central plain. It’s sturdy, tall and has yellow petals. The rose of the valley grows where the land is moist, and it is far more beautiful, but it is delicate unlike the sturdy chavatzelet. The Gra tells us that each of us can describe themselves as having the beauty of the princess, symbolized here by the roses in the verse. The tzadikim grow among the thorns, but become people of awesome spiritual beauty.
There are two kinds of tzadikim. Some are those who become who they are by facing the heat. They have to deal with opposition, rejection, financial struggles and with each challenge they become more beautiful. The classical kind of this brand of tzadik was Avraham who stood against the entire world. There are other tzadikim who are brought up from their earliest childhood to seek good. They are the ones that seem to come from another planet, one in which people live up to their ideals. Many of you have heard of Rabbitzen Kanievsky. If you haven’t, look her up. But then, read about her mother, and her grandmother. Things that you never would have dreamed possible in LA, Jo’berg or Brooklyn.
Both kind of tzadikim are roses. Both are beloved. Both have the sacred promise of Hashem to never abandon us.
Pesach is the time of love, of kept promises and deep deep humility in the face of the kind of love we have experienced.
In every generation they try to destroy us, and Hashem rescues us even when the tzadik part of us is well hidden. We all have a little bit of each kind of tzadik in us at various times in our lives.
Next letter, I’ll write a few anecdotes. Hopefully by then, the kitchen will be gluten free….