Parshas Acharei Mos & Pesach
One of the most wondrous features that surfaces during our pre Pesach
preparations is the manner in which we assume responsibility for one
another, ensuring that everybody's needs are met before the Pesach festival.
The first Mishna in Pesachim instructs us not to lean at the Seder table
until everybody has been provided with their Seder necessities.
Earlier this week, a scene unfolded here in Monsey at the Tomche Shabbos
headquarters, replicated in Jewish communities across the globe, that put
the magnificent solidarity of the Jewish people on display in faithful
adherence to this teaching.
Scores of volunteers assembled to pack the Pesach food that was donated to
hundreds of families in our community. Over ten trucks lined up in front of
the Tomche Shabbos warehouse and eager volunteers from every religious
stream gathered in unity, sorting, loading and delivering what seemed like
an endless stream of boxes onto the waiting trucks. Grape juice, potatoes,
chickens, groceries, staples and the like were piled high in the warehouse.
It was truly an inspirational and heart warming scene to see Jews so
joyously fulfilling the mitzvah of providing Kimcha d'Pischa to those in need.
Why do we emphasize this particular mitzvah before Pesach? Why do we feel
such an urgent sense of responsibility to one another leading up to this
particular festival? True, the needs associated with Pesach are greater than
at any other time of the year. The festival provisions tally up to an
enormous expense and for many, securing the bare necessities for the family
is daunting. Yet the awesome sense of responsibility we see displayed for
fellow Jews in our midst goes above and beyond what one would expect. What
brings to the surface at this particular time the tremendous compassion and
desire to reach out to our brothers and sisters?
Perhaps the answer is that over three thousand years ago, when we accepted
the Torah, we Jews accepted upon ourselves the bond and covenant of areivus,
responsibility to one another. We recognize that all six hundred thousand of
us are one unit, one organic entity; we are inseparably intertwined. This
remarkable unity, undeterred by barriers of time and geography, is unique to
the Jewish people.
Consider the human body's amazing capacity to address its needs. If a germ
invades a particular area of the body, the entire human organism springs
into action. Nutrients and blood cells stream to the affected area from all
over the body to repel any substance that endangers its health. The hand,
the toe, the head, any organ-it makes no difference. Every cell is
interconnected and stands ready at any given moment to assist the body and
restore it to health. This the unique trait characteristic of the Jewish
It is well known that during the Mendel Beilis trial that was held in Moscow
at the turn of the century, the prosecutor accused Jews of harboring
contempt for non-Jews. He quoted a piece from the Talmud to demonstrate how
superior Jews feel to Gentiles and how they loathe those who are not of
their faith. "Atem keruim Adam, you [the Jewish people] are called a man,
which is not true of the Gentiles," says the Talmud. The legal defense team
of Mendel Bailis was in a quandary as to how to respond to this devastating
attack on the Jewish faith. They consulted with the Rav of Moscow who sent a
telegram to Rabbi Meir Shapiro for advice. He instructed them to tell the
judge that this segment of the Talmud reflects the essential character trait
of the Jewish people and is not intended as an insult to the other peoples
of the world.
"This essential Jewish characteristic is on display during this very trial
in a courtroom in Moscow," he said. "The entire Jewish world is up in arms.
Jews across the globe are using all the resources at their disposal to
intercede on the behalf of the accused, Mendel Beilis. We are one Adam, one
man, one organic whole. We feel the pain of one another and are willing to
sacrifice for each other in a way that no other people has ever demonstrated."
This profound trait surfaced at the moment of our formation as a people and
is the force that renders us distinct and unique. On Pesach, at the moment
of our annual rebirth, we sit at the Seder to celebrate our exodus from
Egypt and our creation as a nation. Our joy at this momentous occasion and
our cohesion as a nation is expressed in a heartfelt reaching out to our
Jewish brothers and sisters: "Let all who are hungry come and partake, let
all who need come and join us!"
Next Year In Jerusalem!
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos and a Kosher and Happy Pesach!
Rabbi Naftali Reich
Text Copyright © 2014 by Rabbi Naftali Reich and Torah.org.
Rabbi Reich is on the faculty of the Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum Education Center.