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Fearing Holiness as Pesach Approaches

Making matza by hand in Jerusalem

Making matza by hand in Jerusalem
Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90

But alas, in 2012, it seems that we have been doing just the opposite in so many ways. Let’s start with your kosher wine bottle. Usually, under it’s Kosher stamp, you have a long “description” of the level of kashrut of this wine, reading something like this: “Lelo chashash Tevel, Oral VeSheviit” (“Without any suspicion of [containing grapes that are] untithed, within the first three years of the Tree’s existence and not from the 7th year’s crop”). While the first two are clearly prohibitions that we should stay away from, is the 7th year’s fruit a prohibition? Is it a “forbidden fruit” that we should stay away from?

Seems like quite the contrary: “And [the produce of] the Sabbath of the land shall be yours to eat for you, for your male and female slaves, and for your hired worker and resident who live with you” (Vayikra 25:6). Not only can we eat the 7th year fruits, but the Ramban (additions to the Book of the Mitzvot of the Rambam, no. 3) suggests innovatively that this is not just an allowance but rather, a positive commandment. Any way you cut it, there is a clear indication that the fruits of the 7th holy sabbatical year are not forbidden!

And yet, on your wine bottle, it’s no less then presented as wine without a “chashah” of containing these fruit?

Wouldn’t it be an honor, or privilege, to eat them?

True, you have to treat them properly and can’t discard them as you would other foods. But equating them to untithed fruit and vegetables?

Indeed, we recall the last 7th year in which the most “Mehadrin” kosher method to continue eating fruit and vegetable salad was considered by many to be avoiding the holy fruit entirely and eating fruit from fields of gentiles. Assuming that they don’t contain holiness, is this how we should educate our children – “when you see holiness stay away from it” ?!

I would rather see a bottle of wine that says that it is kosher, and if it contains wine from the holy grapes of the 7th year, then state: “Yayin Kadosh Meshnat Hashmita” (Holy wine from the 7th year). I would embrace, rather than fear and avoid, the opportunity to have some of this holy wine in the four cups (though, without dipping your finger into it from the 10 plagues) and add holiness to my Seder table.

Pesach is a 7-8 day opportunity to immerse oneself in holiness, far beyond the mundane Wednesday or Thursday of a given week. Holiness is indeed accompanied by restrictions, and thus the prohibition of Chametz, together with the mitzva to eat Matza (see Tractate Pesachim 91b, Baal-Hamaor ibid 26b, and Masse-Rav to the Gr”a, Laws of Pesach 185/208-209; though after the Seder it’s just an option- Ibid 120a), creates days of Holiness (Tosfot Moed Katan 19a regarding why some don’t wear Tefillin on Chol-Hamoed) with endless opportunities in the realms of family, spirituality, and more. And yet, in a world in which holy Shemita fruit becomes something we tend to avoid, is it any wonder why uttering the word “Pesach” in front of a anxious Mother or Father would put a frown, rather then a smile, on someone’s face?

I believe we need to get back to the basics. Holiness is something we should embrace rather than stray from, and thus we should “look” for more opportunities to become holy rather then stay “safely” away from it. True, with every act of holiness comes restrictions and I can already feel the backache of cleaning the pantry from Chametz. But shall this hardship turn Pesach into the Holiday of misfortune rather than happiness?

Do hope and pray that once again, we can say -and mean- what we chant thrice each day: “You are Holy, your name is Holy, and the Holy ones each day will praise you”! Let’s fulfill the plan that God has for us with motivation rather then deprivation. “The Lord will establish you as His holy people as He swore to you, if you observe the commandments of the Lord, your God, and walk in His ways” (Devarim 28:9).

 

 

About the Author: Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein is Director of training and placement at The Straus-Amiel Institute at Ohr Torah Stone.


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