The Search for Hametz
This Shabbat is called Shabbat haHodesh. It marks the new month of Nisan. We will be able, weather permitting, to see the thin silvery sliver of the new moon this Saturday night. As you know this new moon marks the two week countdown to Passover, the ultimate home Jewish holiday and my favorite.
The Torah commands us to eat only the 'bread of affliction' the matza for the eight days of the festival and to remove everything from our homes which is hametz. What is hametz? Why is it removed? Hametz is any product derived from wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats that has not been carefully prevented from being in contact with liquid and not made in matza. In other words, any grain that has become fermented, as with beer, bread, cereal, and virtually all refined food products. Again why? The Torah specifically says to remind us of the rigors and bitterness of slavery. In modern terms I think we could safely say to build empathy for the suffering of others.
The Talmud adds an additional explanation. It suggests that the process of fermentation in which the dough rises is similar to the ego process we human beings tend to allow ourselves to fall into. We add a little affluence, a little power, a little entitlement and viola- we puff up like a brioche!
The tradition calls upon us to search out the hametz in our houses the night before the first Seder. The Mishnah describes the search done at night, with a candle, even though it would be more obvious to do the search by day. Why in the dark, why the candle? It seems clear to me that the Mishnah is telling us not only to rid our homes of hametz, but more essentially to cleanse our hearts prior to the Festival of Freedom of the grains of selfishness and callousness which lurk in the dark recesses of our personalities.
So the countdown to the first Seder April 22nd begins. I urge you to search the hametz wherever it may remain.
A Joyous Pesach to all,
Steven L Silver, Rabbi