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Passover (first day) 5769

Passover (first day) (Exodus 12:21-51 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! A sweet and healthy Pesach to each of you, my beloved readers!


On Pesach we are forbidden to own chametz (leavened bread - i.e. virtually any flour product not especially produced for Pesach) or have it in our possession. On the evening preceding Pesach there is a serious search of the home for chametz. It is also very important to purchase Shmurah Matzah - made to the highest standard to ensure no chametz. (I suggest buying round hand matzot for a unique and real treat at the Seder!)

Chametz represents arrogance ("puffing up"). Passover is the time of freedom - spiritual freedom (which is the essence of why the Almighty brought us out of Egypt). As I've mentioned before, the only thing that stands between you and God ... is you. To come close to the Almighty (which is the essence of life and the opportunity of every mitzvah and holiday), one must remove his arrogance. This is the lesson of removing the chametz from our possession.

Freedom means having the ability to use your free will to grow and develop. People think they are free when really they are "slaves" to the fads and fashions of their society. Slavery is non-thinking action, rote behavior, following the impulse desires of the body. Our job on Pesach is to come out of slavery into freedom.

One of the freedoms to work on during Pesach is "freedom of the mouth." The sages view the mouth as the most dangerous part of the body. It is the only organ that can cause problems in both directions - what comes in (food and drink) and what goes out (speech). It is so dangerous, it is the only part of the body that has two coverings - hard teeth and soft lips. Most of us are slaves to the mouth, both in what we eat and in what we speak.

On Seder night we fix this. We have the mitzvah to speak about the Jewish people leaving Egypt to elevate speech, and the matzah and Four Cups of wine to elevate eating and drinking.

The structure of the Hebrew language hints at the goal of "freedom of the mouth." Pesach can be divided into two words: Peh Sach, which means "the mouth speaks" - we are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus the whole night. The Hebrew word, Paroh, (Pharaoh, the persecutor of the Jewish people in the Pesach story) can be divided into two words: Peh Rah, a "bad mouth." Our affliction of the slavery in Egypt was characterized as Perach, (difficult work) which can be read as two words: Peh Rach, "a loose mouth."

May we all merit on this Pesach to free ourselves from the "bad mouth," and to overcome the "loose mouth" where too much of the wrong food and drink come in and too many inappropriate words slip out.


On the second day of Pesach, the Omer offering from the new barley crop was brought in the Temple in Jerusalem. It began a period of counting and preparation for Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the yearly celebration of re-accepting the Torah upon ourselves. This period is called Sephirat HaOmer, the counting of the Omer.

Forty-nine days are counted and on the fiftieth day is Shavuot, the Yom Tov celebrating the giving of the Torah. There is actually a mitzvah to count each specific day which is done at the completion of Ma'ariv, the evening service.

This is a period of national semi-mourning (no weddings or even haircuts). It was during this period that Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students died for not showing sufficient respect for each other. It is a time for us to reflect how we look upon and treat our fellow Jews as well as the tragedies that have befallen us because of unfounded (self-justified) hatred. It is a wonderful time to undertake an extra act of kindness; this will help to bring perfection to the world and unity amongst Jews.

There are two customs for observing the semi-mourning period. The first is to observe it from the end of Pesach until the 33rd day of the Omer, this year Wednesday, May 12th. Many people get married on the 33rd day of the Omer for this reason. The second custom is to observe it from Rosh Chodesh Iyar (the beginning of the month of the Hebrew month of Iyar, May 5th) until Shavuot. Unusual for our heritage, one can choose each year which custom to follow.

These 50 days also correspond to the seven weeks after the Exodus from Egypt when the Jewish people prepared themselves to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai. When we left Egypt we were on the 49th level of Tuma, spiritual degradation. Each day we climbed one step higher in spirituality and holiness. Many people study one of the "48 Ways to Wisdom" (Ethics of the Fathers, 6:6) each day as a means to personal and spiritual growth. One may listen to Rabbi Noah Weinberg's flagship series of lectures of the 48 Ways available on cassette, cd or mp3 download. You can even buy them on a specially pre-loaded mp3 player or Ipod - available by calling (800) 864-2373 or at I think of this series as the "Jewish Dale Carnegie Course" for getting the most out of life. It will be one of the great purchases in your life. For more on Sephirat HaOmer and the 48 Ways go to

For more on "Sephirat Ha-Omer" go to!

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Torah Portion of the Week
Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach
(Shabbat of the Intermediate Days
of Passover) Exodus 33:12 - 34:26

(We also read Shir HaShirim, King Solomon's Song of Songs)

Moses pleads with the Almighty not to send an angel in His place, but to accompany the Jewish people Himself through the trek in the wilderness even though they had sinned with the Golden Calf. Moses asks the Almighty to reveal how He interacts with the universe (it is a mystical interchange). Then the Almighty commands Moses to carve two stone tablets and to ascend Mt. Sinai so that He can engrave the replacement tablets for the set that Moses broke at the transgression with the Golden Calf.

The Almighty reveals his Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (Exodus 34:5) which we repeat on Yom Kippur and other times of seeking the Almighty's mercy. Moses asks the Almighty to forgive the Jewish people. The Almighty renews the Covenant with the Jewish people commanding us not to enter into a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, not make molten gods, to observe the Festival of Matzos, laws of first born issue, to keep the Shabbat, celebrate Shavuot and Sukkot and ends with assorted laws of offerings.

* * *

Dvar Torah:

In the story of the Exodus of Egypt, the Almighty commands Moshe to request a 3-day retreat to the desert for the Jewish people, though the intent was to leave Egypt permanently. The Almighty is not a trickster nor a liar. Why was it done in this manner?

The Vilna Gaon comments that there are two other times where the Almighty used deception - in Jacob's dealings with his father-in-law, Lavan and during the Purim story. Jacob used deception to have the flocks produce offspring that would have the coloring that, according to his agreement with Lavan, would belong to Jacob. In the Purim story, the Midrash tells us that the Almighty sent angels dressed as servants to malign Haman so that Achashverosh would not cool off from his anger at Haman for wanting to kill Ester and her people.

The Almighty is always sending us messages for us to recognize our mistakes and be able to correct them. With regards to Pharaoh, Lavan and Haman - each one used deception. Pharaoh enslaved the Jews by having a "National Work Day" where the Jews volunteered their labor - and then he kept them as slaves. Lavan substituted Leah for Rachel, thus deceiving Jacob. Haman deceived Achashverosh about the people he wished to exterminate. Thus, the Almighty returned measure for measure so that each could learn his lesson.

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Having something to say is more important
than wanting to say something.

With Deep Appreciation to

Steven & Kimya Kreinik

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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