Linda Pardes Friedburg
Linda Pardes Friedburg
Russian-speaking American Israeli Community-building Mom

Parshat Vayikra — Drawing Closer

New FSU Olim bake matzot together in Tel Aviv (Photo credit: Shishi Shabbat Yisraeli)

The word Korban — sacrifice — is from the root “karev” — to become close.

The purpose of the service in the Tabernacle, described in the book of VaYikra, was to draw us closer to God and to our spiritual essences. So too, our physical and spiritual efforts today, including our last week of preparations for Pesach!

In the desert and during Temple times, a person could atone for mistakes, give thanks, and in general be purified through personal and communal sacrifices. The presence of God was tangible. We would awake to see smoke rising in the center of our Camp, and likely feel the need to lead a life of connection and refinement.

After the Destruction of the Temple, the world of prayer replaced the daily sacrifices, requiring consistent, evolving spiritual effort on the part of every individual.

Prayer is a centering, essential moment of my morning and something on my lips all day, as I know that our physical world has a spiritual motor and that God’s presence and blessing in my life rest on my investment in our relationship.

Now that the month of Nissan has arrived — the first month of the Hebrew year and the month that the Tabernacle was erected and the Temple service began – the reawakening physical world outside my window beckons me towards this inner renewal.

The simple physical act of cleaning my kitchen cabinets and sweeping the crumbs from my silverware drawers opens my heart to a year of new beginnings. (Aviv, Spring, my son reminded me this week, is אב יב – the head of all 12 months.)

It is absolutely possible to prepare for Pesach gradually, and without tension, particularly if the focus is on Chametz and not on home improvement! And preferably with tremendous gratitude for space and bounty in our generation that makes this cleanup a privileged necessity.

We prepare physically and rid our houses of Chametz before Pesach, just as our physical redemption from Egypt was a precursor to a remarkably new spiritual identity, and the birth of the first monotheistic nation in history.

Not just once, but every year, this holiday is a paradigm for ridding ourselves of excesses — the things/behaviors that enslave us and distance us from our authentic selves. This is the essence of matzah — that most basic, no-frill food made of flour and water.

There is a story about a very poor man who sought advice from the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov instructed him several times over to throw out all the “shmattes” (rags, clutter) in his house. When he finally finished getting rid of everything, the man experienced great salvation. The Baal Shem Tov’s message: Great abundance is ready and available to every person. The minute they clear a new space for it, it enters their lives.

When we choose to adhere to the 3,000-year-old customs of our people — to cleanse our homes and hearts, and for one week, forego fresh pitot for kosher for Pesach products — we make room for new bounty, authenticity, and true freedom on Pesach. May this be our experience this year and every year!

Joyful preparations and Shabbat Shalom!

About the Author
Linda Pardes Friedburg made Aliyah from New Jersey in 1990. She is Founding Director of Shishi Shabbat Yisraeli National Jewish Leadership Initiative for Young Russian-Speaking Israelis, is grateful for her six kids and one Belarussian husband, and still feels the need to pinch herself every time she drives up the hill to Neve Daniel, Gush Etzion, their home since 1994.
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