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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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The Art of Ignoring – So Safe, So Repulsive, So Dangerous

Homeless person sleeping on a bench in Beer Sheva

Homeless person sleeping on a bench in Beer Sheva
Photo Credit: Dudu Grunshpan/Flash 90

And thankfully, when we don’t ignore God, God hopefully doesn’t ignore us; in the words of the Prophet Malachi [3:7]: “return to me and I will return to you”!

And because Moshe didn’t ignore God, we will all read around our Seder tables the extraordinary description of God not exactly ignoring us [Hagadah of Pesach, based on Devarim 26:7-8]:

“So we cried out to the Lord, God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. And the Lord brought us out from Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, with great awe, and with signs and wonders.”

Therefore, it is no wonder that the Torah commands us not to “ignore” a lost-item on the ground [Devarim 22:3]. If an inanimate blue-pen can’t be ignored, and must be returned to it’s rightful owner, dare we ignore each other, live human beings that pass us on the street. We even have a special sin-offering brought for someone who witnessed an event and refuses to testify, ignoring the need to help a fellow Jew [Vayikra 5:1-13]!

But beyond the sources above, we all know that being a Mensch/Derech Eretz came long before the Torah, and basic human edicts should precede the additional obligations the Torah placed upon us [Yalkut Shimoni 247:34, d"h hein haadam]. In reality, ignoring someone you pass on the street, or an email, or a phone message is the epitome of being repulsively low [and perhaps even outright disgusting]. As I heard from my revered Rebbe, Rav Yehuda Amital z”l, Jews each morning say the words: “לעולם יהא אדם ירא שמיים” – one shall always be a man that fear God. My Rebbe explained that back in Europe, the sentence was punctuated thusly, ” one shall always be a man, [and only then a ] God fearing Jew,” and in that order!

As one that has trained and followed Rabbis throughout their careers, I can generally say that Rabbis gain detractors not so much because of their sermons, vision, lectures or the like, but rather when they fail to return phone calls, when they avoid bikur cholim, and when they fail to respond to emails. One can deal with refusal, disagreements, debates and the answer ‘no’, but how should one deal with being totally and utterly ignored?!

And so, in just days, we will be celebrating the 7-8 day Holiday of no Chametz. What is it called?

Well, that depends on who you ask.

In the words of the Torah, the holiday is always called “the Holiday of Matzot” [Shemot 23:15, 34:18, Vayikra 23:6, Devarim 16:16,], while the more famous “Holiday of Pesach” refers to the sacrifice of the “Korban-Pesach” (The Pesach sacrifice on the eve of that Holiday) [Shemot 12:43, 48, 34:25; Vayikra 23:5; Bamidbar 9:2 and 5, 28:16; Devarim 16:1.] And yet, I have not yet met a Jew that says: “Have you begun to clean for the Holiday of Matzot yet”! It seems like we’ve taken the name of the eve of the 7-8 Holidays and expanded it to refer to the entire 7-8 days.

Not to worry- we’re not the “reformers” to blame; the Tractate dealing with the laws of this Holidays is called “Pesachim” and indeed throughout rabbinic literature the name utilized to define this Holiday is “Pesach” [Shevi'it 2:1, Maaser Sheni 5:6, Challa 1:1-2 and many more].

How did it happen?

Explains the famous R’ Levi-Yitzchak from Barditchiv [Kedushat-Levi on the Torah, pp. 79-80 on the verse (Shemot 12:27) " you shall say, It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord"]:

“I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me”-which means we are emphasizing the praise of God, and God is telling the praise of Israel…as “the Holiday of Matzot” speaks of the praise of Israel…that baked their bread as Matzot [i.e.- we were willing to leave fast, as commanded, and not even wait till out bread has risen,]…and we call the Holiday the name “Pesach” to praise God [i.e.- for passing over the homes of the first-born Jews"]“

In other words, we didn’t ignore God (and thus left Egypt in a haste, with just Matzot in place of bread), and God didn’t ignore us (i.e.- he passed over our homes). As we celebrate this beautiful holiday, eating the very antithesis of disregard/apathy, let’s make a secret vow to stop ignoring the other. With this in mind, it is my hope and prayer that just like we don’t ignore God’s dictates, and God’s creatures on earth, we will not be ignored by God; as in those days down in Egypt. And thus, we will be able to bless, at the tip-end of “Magid”: “Blessed be you G-d…who has redeemed us and our forefathers…”!

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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