Batya Hefter

This Passover – Don’t be Passed Over: Seize the moment

At the crux of the Passover story is ‘haste’, as the Children of Israel flee Egypt in a whirlwind of hurried activity.  Strikingly, we find that Lot and his family flee the doomed city of Sodom in similar haste. Moreover, the two events share the general theme of Divine extraction of the protagonists from impending destruction. The fact that the story of Lot includes the intriguing detail that ‘he [Lot] baked them [the angels] unleavened bread’ (Bereshit19:3), leads Rashi to comment that this took place on Passover.  A more subtle literary parallel is the use of the word ‘lehitma’hamah’ [ to tarry, linger] in both narratives.   Lot “tarries” despite the angels hastening him (19:15-16), and in the Exodus story, the Israelite’s eat unleavened bread because they could not ‘tarry’ (Shemot 12:39).

Rav Tzaddok haCohen, in the very first lines of Tzidkat Hatzadik, writes, “the initial point of entry to avodat Hashem, the service of God, must be in ‘chipazon’, in haste”.  When one is awakened by a fleeting instance of Divine inspiration, one must seize the moment and immediately detach oneself from old habits and patterns.   Just as the children of Israel left Egypt in a great hurry, we too much act with haste and embrace such a moment unreservedly.   When faced with these rare opportunities, we may, like Lot, sense an inner desire to procrastinate; after all, change is threatening and, like the Jews leaving Egypt, we often prefer what is familiar, no matter how negative and self-destructive it may be.

In spite of Lot’s tarrying, however, he is moved by the significance of the moment, something in his soul is stirred by the need to act, and he is able to detach and leave his entire world behind.   In contrast, Lot’s wife seems too firmly attached to Sodom to recognize what is at stake, and, unable to extricate herself, she looks back. Her end then is fitting; she becomes a pillar– a static, and inseparable part of Sodom forever.

Photo Lot Flees Sedom

Chametz—unleavened bread—is associated with our regular habits of thought, speech, and behavior.  Most of the year, bread is a ubiquitous part of our diet, “the staff of life.” Far from being evil, bread is something we depend on, like the routines and habits we require in order to function in our daily lives.  The danger of these habitual structures is that we become dulled and lethargic, at risk of becoming static, unable to move, change, and grow.  Disrupting, even eradicating, the basic patterns of our lives every so often primes us to sense the moments of divine impulse so necessary for effecting change.

May the disruption of our Passover activities serve to heighten our awareness of the heavenly voice stirring within each of us and help us to seize these opportunities for spiritual growth.


About the Author
Batya Hefter is founder and Rosh Beit Midrash of The Women’s Beit Midrash of Efrat and Gush Etzion and the founder of the Women’s Beit Midrash of Cleveland. She holds a Masters in Rabbinic Thought from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After being the Executive Director of the Women’s Beit Midrash for 21 years, she is now the director of the newly emerging Transformative Torah Project whose focus is to transmit the teachings and spiritual path of the hasidic masters for the seeking modern Jew.