Thursday, April 19, 2012

PARSHAS SHEMINI 5772

“RABBI’S MUSINGS (& AMUSINGS)

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shemini – Mevorchim Chodesh Iyar

28 Nissan 5772/April 20, 2012

A few months ago, my father – who is the Administrator of the Friedwald Center for Rehab and Nursing, located about a five minute drive from our home - called me to tell me about an interesting experience he had. Earlier that day while making his daily rounds, which includes greeting patients and residents, he introduced himself to a new patient who had just been admitted.

My father asked the patient where he was from, and he replied that he lived in Hillcrest. When my father asked him which street, he insisted that it was a small street and my father never heard of it. But at my father’s prodding he said that he lived at 5 Landau Lane. My father smiled, “I believe you live next door to my children.” The patient looked up, surprised, “You mean you’re Ronnie and Kani’s dad?” (At least he remembered that our names rhyme…)

When I heard that my neighbor was there I bought a tray of candy and went to visit him. He didn’t look well at all but he was very appreciative and touched by my visit.

The following Shabbos morning when we returned home from shul there was a small package at our door – a card with a bow taped to a bottle of Manischewitz wine, a sentiment of gratitude from our neighbors.

Although they forgot the matzah balls and the gefilte fish, when I saw the bottle of Manischewitz wine I felt very ‘Jewish. I told Chani that after Shabbos we should hold up the bottle and see if we can hear a distant hum of Hava Nageela.

I recently heard a fascinating statistic: Over 70 % of American Jews fast on Yom Kippur. Considering how assimilated American Jewry is that is pleasantly surprising. What was even more astounding is that 92% of American Jews state that they have some sort of Seder on the first night of Pesach. Perhaps many of those sedarim are replete with chometz and non-kosher food, but at least they are sitting at a Seder. Obviously the holiday of Pesach and the symbolism of the Seder tugs at the heartstrings of even distant Jews.

Pesach is not merely a week-long celebration, and the Seder is not merely for 1-2 nights. Rather they are experiences which help define a Jew’s observance and what being a Jew means to him/her.

To some Judaism is a culinary experience. The tantalizing aromas, the glimmer of the table, the amicable conversations and family time, the Maxwell House haggadah, and of course the symbolic foods – matzah, chasroses, (Manischewitz) wine, chicken soup, and matzah balls, all create a nostalgic emotional holiday experience.

But if that’s all the holiday is it’s a tragic loss of a much deeper, enriching experience. Pesach represents internal freedom, the liberty to serve G-d and uphold the banner of Torah. We don’t merely ingest the symbolic foods, we internalize them as well.

Going through the motions and experiencing Pesach superficially is like leaving a bottle of wine in its pretty wrapping at the door. What a tragedy not to bring the bottle into the house, open it, and enjoy its contents.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

Ronnie and Kani

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