Keeping the fire burning

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Keeping the fire burning

By Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

Early memories, cherished and interestingly still vibrant, are the stuff that lives on, even decades later. When I was young, one of the most wondrous moments of excitement was going to the Polisher matzah bakery before Pesach. The place seemed from another world, located in a dilapidated building off a main street. Sweet Yidden could be found there totally animated with the mitzvah of baking hand matzos. The Sadinover Rav ztl was the focal point of the proceedings. A Polisher Rav, scion of a noble Chassidic dynasty, he never compromised for the sake of the new golus of America. He was alive with the mitzvah at hand and his fire was contagious. The air shimmered with excitement, screams of “Matzahs in oven arien” pierced the walls and rose to the heavens. The Rav, his peyos long and wild, would scamper about, urging the workers to work faster. Calling out, “Leshem Matzos Mitzvah!”All were caught up in this eternal bren to create matzahs truly worthy of bringing us all closer to our geulah.


These snapshots of remembrance go back over half a century ago, yet I still recall the aroma of the heated oven, and sense the love that those firedika Yidden put into the baking. The Rav would take time out to encourage youngsters; he would look you in the eye and in his impeccably broken English urge you into joining the vortex of holy excitement. Everything seemed to running on overdrive, the clambering for a shtickel (piece) of dough, the switching for fresh rolling pins, faster, faster. Time was of the essence, every moment ignited with kedushah.


Golus is like a seed in the ground. We feel alone and removed from everything we thought was true and wholesome”


Pesach is built with a sense of urgency, and in that holy running about lay great secrets of Torah. The holy tzaddik, the Ishbitzer Rebbe ztl has left us a treasure trove of Torah that can ignite the coldest of souls, and when the subject is Pesach his words rush forth with even more energy.  He explains that the reason we eat matzah on Pesach quickly is because we had to leave Mitzrayim in a rush. In fact, the Rebbe points out that everything about this pivotal Yom Tov has to be done with a certain sense of quickness. Everything is in a hurry; the eating of the Korban Pesach had a time limit. Its meat was roasted, not cooked. Why? Because cooking in a pot is a process, something that takes a lot of time, whereas roasting over an open fire is quicker with no added ingredients. Cooking takes what is called yishuv vedaas, considered thoughtfulness and contemplation, whereas over a spit cooking takes on the feeling of immediacy.


At the first Seder Yidden were dressed to leave. There was no time for the dough to rise; we had to hurry. Baking matzahs must be done in a rush. The Gemoro stresses that it is not permitted to interrupt the process. Even at the Seder, we are mindful to eat the matzah within a short time; again the hint of quickness enters what is a stately meal.


So, what is all this rushing about? Sometimes Hashem makes His will so clear, His involvement so apparent, that things happen with a feeling of rushed energy. It’s like water coming from a tap. When the water flows from the mountains it cascades with unhindered power, with purity teeming with life, but then it slows down through pipes and faucets until it reaches us with much less power.


When Hashem’s shefa-influence- starts at its origin, it flows hot and with power, without any distractions. We don’t even have time to comprehend what is happening; its flow is alive and vibrant.


As a Zeidy I can share an example all will understand. The first kiss you give a baby grandchild you haven’t seen in a long while is on fire, without thought or reckoning. Only later do you start to think about your reactions. Grasping the primordial immediacy of Hashem’s mitzvos, without any interceding human involvement is what Pesach is about. It is the origin of all that flows into our lives; nothing can interrupt the current of Hashem’s love that flows from His wellsprings in untarnished purity.


The Rebbe tells us that the sense of Hashem’s giving becomes compromised with each human intervention. The closer one is to the reservoir of kedusha, the more heated it is, the more real and alive. The fire losses its bren when we allow in human sophistry.


When baking matzah, as long as you are working the dough it doesn’t become chometz, but once you relent then the ability to become chometz becomes a danger; the stillness can rise to swollen emptiness. The original energy continues as long as you are feeling the warmth of doing the mitzvah, therefore you remain connected with Hashem. Once the energy dissipates and lays dormant, then the connection is severed.


This then is the secret of matzahs: don’t let them become the product of yishuv, of man’s understanding; just roll them out and throw them into the fire; make them with a bren.


The Rebbe tells us that this golus is like a seed in the ground. We feel alone and removed from everything we thought was true and wholesome.


A seed belongs to a great tree; then he finds himself in the dark cold earth all alone. There is nothing more lost than that seed. He wonders what happened. I was with that great tree and now all is lost, but in truth he is the start of a new tree.


This is a metaphor for the Yid in golus. He sometimes feels so alone, wondering why he is here without the protection of the previous tree branches.  Hashem knows this; it is the secret of our eternity, for within us is that original birth, the clarity of Hashem’s warmth, and if we but hold on, we will thrive, soon becoming the next tree. Keeping the old bren alive will nurture this growth.


May we all see a leibedige Pesach with true fire and love for all Hashem has granted us.



In memory of the Balei Tosfos

who were killed al kiddush Hashem on

ח’ ניסן תתק”ו

in Clifford’s Tower, York

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