Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayikra
4 Nissan 5773/March 15, 2013

In case you didn’t know, the United States celebrates National Potato Chip Day on March 14. Not that I think Americans need any added excuse to consume potato chips, which are the largest selling segment of the salty snacks market ($6.8 billion in sales in 2010).
But I think a lot of people wonder how much of that $6.8 billion was spent on chips, and how much on the air that fills half the bag. It seems that a lot more chips can easily be stuffed into the bags. Is it all a scam?
Potato chips companies argue that the air is necessary for the quality of the chip. If the bag would be completely filled, the chips inside would end up being very crummy. The air in the bag serves as a cushion to protect the chips from crumbling. In fact, the FDA allows some air as food protection. [The question becomes if they are adding more air than necessary.]
At this time of year, as we gear up for the annual chometz war, the concept of air in food is significant. Matzo and bread contain the same basic ingredients, are both baked in an oven, and are both very nourishing. The significant difference is that matzah remains flat, while bread is given time to rise and fill with air.
One of the greatest lessons to be derived from Pharaoh’s downfall is the power of arrogance. His country and people were on the brink of utter decimation, yet he would not back down.
A person who is so focused on himself that he cannot see beyond, is trapped in the symbolic arrogance of chometz.
The truth is that our ego plays a vital role. We need to appreciate ourselves and understand the incalculable value that we possess in order to utilize our capabilities properly. But before one can have a healthy sense of ego, he has to be able to be able to see beyond his ego.
Pesach is a training period where we symbolically remove all traces of “I” so we can fully focus on the salvation G-d granted us. Only after spending a week focusing on that point are we confident that we can maintain a healthy sense of ego, and introduce chometz back into our homes. Much like the air in the potato chip bag, which when used in moderation protects the freshness and quality of the chip, so does a healthy ego leads a person to be caring and sensitive to others. But when there is too much air and the bag becomes inflated with vapid nothingness, it becomes nothing more than wasted space which frustrates everyone.
One of the most humble people I knew was my Sabbah, Mr. Abe Staum a’h. He was a prince of a man, with a genial laugh, and a kind word for everyone. His yahrtzeit, 4 Nissan, is always during the season when we rid ourselves of chometz. [The fact that his yahrtzeit coincides with National Chip Day this year is just a coincidence, though Sabbah would have gotten a good laugh out of it…] Sabbah remains an example of true humility – a healthy sense of self which allowed him to live a life beyond himself, a life immersed in chesed. 
I conclude with the timeless wisdom of one of the great philosophers of yesteryear, Lou Costello, who once asked his erstwhile companion: “If hot air makes a balloon go up, tell me what’s holding you down?”

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
    R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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