This week’s lesson is dedicated by Rabbi Gedalya & Bassie Shemtov in loving memory of Rabbi Binyomin Wolff Shliach of the Rebbe to Hanover, Germany. Yartzeit 1 Iyar 5780.
Before Passover, we scrub our houses clean of all leavened bread. Yet, just a few weeks later, chametz becomes a most important element of the Holy Temple service. Why the transformation? What does it represent in the journey of the soul?
Between Passover and Shavuot, we count the Omer. In other words, there are three time-periods: Passover, the Omer period, and Shavuot.
The distinctions between them: On Passover, chametz is forbidden. During the Omer period, it is permitted. On Shavuot, it’s consumption is a commandment—the two loaves were specifically made of chametz.
This raises the question: If chametz is forbidden on Passover, how does it suddenly become an article of a mitzvah (with two loaves specifically of chametz)?
The explanation: Chametz represents ego, arrogance, and rationalization, the opposite of matzah which is called ‘bread of the pauper,’ which does not rise or have any flavor.
Therefore, on Passover, when the People of Israel left Egypt, chametz was prohibited. They had simplistic faith — they were humble and faithful, but they were internally empty, and therefore, their intellect (their chametz) was not yet in a desirable state.
In our day, we do not physically offer the sacrifice of the two loaves, but it is still relevant to our spiritual journey during those three periods. Our sages said, “In every generation, a person must view himself as if he left Egypt today.” We must always strive to escape the constraints of our body and animal soul, leaving Egypt in a spiritual sense.
We do so in the following order: At the outset (corresponding to the actual exodus from Egypt on Passover) chametz should not be consumed, meaning, we should not scrutinize everything from an intellectual viewpoint. Our personal perspective might be skewed. Instead, focus on humility and accepting the yoke of G-d. That is something that transcends intellect.
[This idea is applicable not only at the outset of our general journey to Judaism, but in every situation that can be considered a “beginning.” For, our sages said, “In every generation” — meaning, in every situation — “a person must view himself as if he left Egypt today.” Therefore, this approach applies to every situation: focus less on your own perspective; as we said earlier, even righteous people need to strive to escape their limitations].
However, once you leave your Egypt – your constraints and limitations – chametz is no longer prohibited, even if you cannot fully transform it to holiness. At that point, it is time to focus on your internal character and intellect — your personal chametz — and align it with your spiritual journey.
The final goal is when you reach a state in which you could (and therefore must) bring your chametz, your intellect, to become a part of your spiritual journey and a vessel for G-dliness, transforming it entirely.
This is the advantage of Chabad Chasidic thought: Instead of focusing on external inspiration, it gives the individual his own path to G-d, making his mind and heart a receptacle for G-dliness.
Shabbat Parshat Kedoshim 5714-1954
(Toras Menachem 5714 vol. II pg. 249)