Flatten the Curve of Chametz (Shabbos 27)

We currently find ourselves boarded up in our homes, while we all work to ‘flatten the curve’ and minimize the devastating results of the Angel of Death that is wreaking havoc upon the face of the Earth. May we see the curve flattened from chametz to matzah very soon.

When God first created the sun and the moon, they were equally bright. Then, the moon said before the Holy One, blessed be He, ‘Master of the universe, is it possible for two kings to serve with one crown? One of us must be subservient to the other.’

God therefore said to the moon, ‘If so, go and diminish yourself.’

She said before Him, ‘Master of the universe, since I said a correct observation before You, why must I diminish myself?’

God said to her, ‘As compensation, go and rule both during the day along with the sun and during the night.’

She said to Him, ‘What is the greatness of shining alongside the sun? What use is a candle in the middle of the day?’

God said to her, ‘Go and let the Jewish people count the days and years with you, and this will be your greatness.’ (Chullin 60b)

Nevertheless, at the End of Days, the moon will be restored to its original glory, as it says (Isa. 30:26), “And the light of the moon shall become like the light of the sun.”

וְהָיָ֣ה לָכֶם֮ לְצִיצִת֒ וּרְאִיתֶ֣ם אֹת֗וֹ וּזְכַרְתֶּם֙ אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֺ֣ת יְהוָ֔ה וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָ֑ם
“And it shall be unto you as tzitzis, that you may look upon it and remember all the mitzvos of Hashem and do them” (Num. 15:39).
תַנְיָא: ״וּרְאִיתֶם אוֹתוֹ״ — פְּרָט לִכְסוּת לַיְלָה
It was taught: “And you shall look upon it.” This comes to exclude a night garment (which is worn at a time when one cannot see).

Each month, during the first or second week of the month, we have a special service, called Kiddush Levanah, the Sanctification of the Moon. Some have the custom to examine their tzitzis at the end of the prayer. Why would we check our tzitzis at night-time, when the Gemara teaches that tzitzis need only be worn during the day, when you can “look upon it”?

Rabbi A. Miller (L”A) explains that in the prayer, we daven for the speedy coming of the day when the moon will be restored to its original size. When that day comes, the moon will shine as brightly as the sun, and tzitzis will also be worn at night, because we will be able to “look upon it”. We examine the tzitzis now to demonstrate our faith that Isaiah’s prophecy will come to pass speedily in our days.

But of course, examining our tzitzis is only half the task. The verse instructs us to “look upon it and remember all the mitzvos of Hashem and do them.” Which mitzvos in particular should we be remembering at the time of Kiddush Levanah? The key lies in the fantastical exchange between Hashem and the moon. The moon is upset about having to share the kavod (honour) with the sun. In order to resolve the situation, Hashem deflates the moon’s arrogance and diminishes its size.

All sin flows from the attribute of arrogance. Hashem fills the entire universe. Any behaviour contrary to His will is an implicit suggestion that there is a space that God does not occupy and that the individual has that space to himself to make his own personal decisions, independent of God. That’s haughtiness. When the moon suggested that it deserved to be enlarged, it was questioning Hashem’s ordering of things in His universe. The moment one feels their own self-worth, that pride needs to be deflated, because it leads to sin. Sin only occurs when one believes one has an existence of one’s own, outside of God’s Omnipresence.

We are approaching the festival of Passover. The kabbalists explain the avodah (spiritual service) of Pesach as follows: The difference between chametz and matzah is that bread rises. Matzah, by contrast, is not allowed to rise, and remains completely flat. Chametz represents arrogance, the belief that you are ‘risen up’. That belief, as mentioned, is the source for all behaviour contrary to the will of God.

Prior to Pesach, we search our homes – our minds and hearts – for any hint of chametz, or haughtiness. And for the week of Pesach, we focus on the trait of humility, recognizing that we are only truly free when we humble ourselves completely before the Master of the universe. Removing all barriers between us and God means appreciating that He alone is in control and there is no reason to fear or become upset at anything that happens in our lives.

We currently find ourselves boarded up in our homes, while we all work to ‘flatten the curve’ and minimize the devastating results of the Angel of Death that is wreaking havoc upon the face of the Earth. May we see the curve flattened from chametz to matzah very soon, so that we can celebrate our Festival of Redemption the way it was meant to be!

About the Author
Rabbi of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, London, UK.
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