Smoothing over the cracks

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Smoothing over the cracks

By Harav Y. R. Rubin Shlita

Pesach is built on memories, both individual and communal. We are meant to remember so we can direct our future, but sometimes it seems we get caught in life’s headlights and are blinded by the oncoming traffic.

Many wonderful Yidden have shared with me a sense of despair whilst preparing for this special Yom Tov. There is so much to learn, so many ideas to absorb. Haggados fly off the shelves, all speaking wonderful truths. That’s before the children come home with their thick handwritten volumes of Pesach notes that must all be read out loud, and rightfully complemented.

All this can cause a severe case of brain freeze; too much information can make for zero absorption. I have eaten a fair share of Afikomen in my time and have picked up a few pointers. My advice is usually the same to all, and that includes myself!

Each Pesach we should focus on one aspect of this wondrous time, and just work on that which speaks about that concept. We mere mortals can’t always multitask spiritually; our minds aren’t able to traverse too many concepts at once. If we find one main theme that resonates with our neshoma at a particular time and place, then we should take advantage of this message and internalise a new aspect in our avodas Hashem.

“Permit me to share some personal remembrances that are my own present focus for this year’s Pesach.”

“Gluzpapier.” Now that’s a word to conjure with. Let it slide around in your mouth, get it to trip off your tongue. Gluzpapier is a word that has its own rasping dignity. What on earth is it? In its definition lies a story. Many years ago, it must have been in the early sixties, I was learning in the Bobover Yeshiva which was then located in Crown Heights. Two days after Purim the Rav zt’l called in a few of us for an important mission. Out of the Rav’s drawer came a list; it was the famous Pesach list. I say “famous” because on it was enumerated all the tasks that had to be completed before Yom Tov, and just such a list had been made for generations. Given that in Bobov most of the Bochurim stayed with the Rav for the Sedorim, and that all the cleaning, cooking and matzo baking took place under the yeshiva’s auspices, you can begin to understand how long, yet vital, this list was. I was in charge of procuring necessary supplies. This was basically because I was the only native English speaker at the time. So in his usual detailed manner the Rav started reading off the shopping list. Rubin would note down everything in English and so we would soon have a bilingual set of orders. The Rav then came to the very important item that was almost at the top of his paper, “Gluzpapier”. Right, thought I, but what in the world is gluzpapier? I cleared my voice “Uh Rebbe, vos is dus Gluzpapier? ” “Rebbe, what is this Gluzpapier?” This was said with great timidity, I wasn’t all that keen on letting everyone find out that I wasn’t the all-knowing Yankee prodigy everyone thought I was. The Rav looked up at me with his kind smile. “Gluzpapier” he then went into a sort of demonstration of what the said item was.

My mind was now frozen. I couldn’t even tell you my name. Gluzpapier you know? Sure I do, but I didn’t. Others were called into the room.  Gluzpapier… Gluzpapier… On it went, everyone looking at me as if I had descended from Mars. Who doesn’t know what gluzpapier is? Rubin for one! All this time the Rav looked embarrassed for me. His poor Americana Talmid (student) was catching it from all sides. Finally, one youngster came onto the scene, he listened for but a moment and then took a deep self-important breath and announced: “Gluzpapier is sandpaper!” Silence hung in the room, Rubin bowed his head in defeat. It was obvious; gluzpapier was sandpaper. How simple.

Now you may ask why sandpaper was so vital for the Pesachdika experience. Its main role was to smoothen out the rolling pins used during the baking of the matzos. For those who are even poorer D.I.Y experts than me, the sandpaper rubs away any trace of embedded dough during the process, and so the rolling pins become as smooth as new after every such cleaning. Why am I going on so much about sandpaper? Well it got me to thinking about the entire Pesach and its preparations.

We are experiencing a time where some of our young are being lost, getting caught up in the creeping lure of darkness that is served up through the ether of the technological explosion that is all around us.

Approaching these youngsters must be done with deftness and love. Our generation just doesn’t respond to abrasiveness. There was a time when people were living in a different environment, and slapping a child was part of growing up. We are a weakened generation, and our children need a different approach.

When I went to the shop to buy that sandpaper way back then, I was asked for what purpose it was going to be used. I was shown a whole array of samples, some coarse and others fine. When hearing what my purpose was, I was told to buy a fine grade paper, one that would be gentle. The rolling pins we were using weren’t rough; they just needed a gentle cleansing.

A Yiddishe neshoma is a very precious creation; abrasiveness just tears it, instead of softly cleansing it. So many of us are encrusted with crumbs of insecurity and self-doubt. Our young are caught in a vortex of negativity. Pesach is the time when we each can redefine our goals, retrace where we come from. Shared family moments are brought to new heights when we create an ambience of inclusiveness and love.

Don’t make this moment of opportunity into a harsh reminder of past mistakes. Let the story of the Haggadah flow, let the food and drink bring back the warmth that abides in every soul, and in time the small crevices that need smoothing will find the correct Gluzpapier that will offer a healing balm.

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