The Shoresh of Chometz

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I personally find it fascinating that regarding all of the holidays, we wish people a chag sameach, but when it comes to Pesach, it’s a chag kasher v’sameach. Even within the greeting, we acknowledge that when it comes to Pesach, we pull out all the stops and everyone takes on a stronger level of kashrus, going mehadrin lemehadrin. No matter the walk someone has, in this area everyone observes a deeper level. 

Why is that? 

Pesach isn’t a kashrus holiday, but it has its own challenge of removing all the chometz. Despite that, one could keep a chometz-free Pesach without taking it to the next level. Despite that, I’m sure most would agree that something would feel missing, or less than. Yet, these traits don’t make it into daily observance. 

In this regard, I find the words of the Bobover Ruv z”l to be particularly enlightening. 

It is well known that the force of Holiness and the Yetzer Tov are represented by Matzo and the forces of darkness and the Yetzer Hara are represented by Chometz. The difference between the letters of חמץ and מצה is the tiny space between the leg of the ה and its roof. If you close that tiny gap the letter ה becomes a ח. The message is that the Yetzer Hara rarely attempts to entice a person to commit a major transgression outright. Rather, Evil conspires to get a person to violate a small infraction. In this way, he takes the opportunity to build negative momentum to entice the person to commit more serious sins. 

Bobover Ruv, 5772

From here we see that there is a deeper lesson regarding chometz and matzo; they offset each other. I always learned that chometz represents pride, gaiva, and that we are to be like the matzo, humble and ready to serve. The Ruv’s words, however, give a deeper meaning. We can take the potential of matzo, and by adding even a mashehu of moisture or heat, be at risk of creating chometz. 

This goes back to the idea of a hin being a wet measure, one that is passion-based. The Ropshitzer Ruv wrote that the hin, being moisture, is related to zerizus, and when the yetzer hara sneaks in with an aveira, it uses this middah to disable us.

We see that the smallest amount of moisture, applied incorrectly, can ruin an entire operation.

So, too, when making matzo, we have to be scrupulous to not leave it unattended for even a second, lest it leaven and close the opening of the ה that gives us the potential of teshuvah. We apply zerizus in guarding the mitzvah of matzo and atzlus when applying any moisture or heat. 

We engage in a time-consuming process of physically removing all the chometz from our lives. As we know, our physical actions of mitzvos transform into spiritual results. Just as our tefillos can cause great spiritual benefit, and our lashon hara can cause great spiritual damage, so too our actions on mitzvos have a significant impact.

As we toil to remove the chometz from our physical lives, HaShem enables this work to be reflected in our ruchniyus, clearing the path for great spiritual growth. This is also a key component to the concept of keeping such strict standards during Pesach – it results in tremendous potential for growth during the holy days of Pesach, and after, as we count the Omer on the path to Kabbalas HaTorah. 

It’s not sufficient to avoid chometz, however.

We must remove what chometz there already is, as it cannot be found among us. Thus, we engage in the act of bedikas chometz. There is a widespread tradition brought by the Ariza”l to place ten pieces of bread out for bedikas chometz. What’s the purpose of this? 

The Zohar, in Parshas Teruma, explains the purpose of the Yetzer Hara. The Yetzer Hara is a servant of HaShem placed into the world to test us and tempt us to do wrong. When we prevail against it, it gives HaShem nachas and the Yetzer Hara testifies to our success. It’s an amazing chiddush to realize, that the Yetzer Hara wants to lose to us and always gives us a way out. 

As we look for chometz to destroy erev Pesach, we hide these ten pieces with the intention of finding them, revealing them to the world, and destroying them. It’s a mashal. The Bobover Ruv (5770) brings that these pieces represent the small temptations hidden throughout life. They are strategically placed by HaShem for us to encounter, overcome, and give Him nachas. 

So, in a symbolic act, we hide ten pieces, representing the ten sefiros that compose mankind, that we need to rectify within ourselves.

In other words, based on everything we have learned thus far, we are taking a physical action to fix imperfections of chometz in these ten areas, in which HaShem will in turn provide corresponding action in the spiritual realm. 

To add to it, the Rama paskened that one must place the pieces of chometz where the searcher can find them.

From this we see that HaShem does not issue a test that we cannot plainly see and overcome. As the Bobover Ruv points out, this is a great source of encouragement for us, as we “are granted the energy and the ability to overcome every test and temptation.” 

Nonetheless, I am still fascinated by the work that everyone puts in for a chag kasher v’sameach.

We need to grab onto this energy, from hiding ten crumbs in easy sight, to all the hiddurim we take on to inspire us, and keep a momentum to not just enhance the kashrus and ruchniyus of Pesach, but all year round. After all, this beginning of the year is only the prepwork for what is to come later that year, just as Shabbos is the foundation for the coming week. 

As we seek to eradicate every mashehu of chometz in preparation for Pesach, we must use this lesson when facing the Yetzer Hara and destroy the chometz of temptation at every level.

In the merit of fulfilling this d’oraysa mitzvah to the fullest extent, may HaShem bless us with the koach to grow ever higher and be davuk to Him, so that we can serve Him on the highest level and merit the coming of Moshiach, speedily and in our days.