When Erev Pesach falls out on Shabbos

A digest of the unique laws when Erev Pesach falls out on Shabbos: 

The fast of the firstborn takes place on Thursday, March 25th. In Ner Tamid, the siyum will take place at approximately 7:20 AM and will be streamed on Zoom. 

Bedikas Chameitz takes place on Thursday night after nightfall. 

Chameitz is destroyed Friday morning. This should take place no later than 12:10 PM.

The sale for Chameitz takes place Friday morning. Therefore, all chameitz that one intends to sale should be put away by 10:30 AM Friday morning. One should set aside some rolls to be used for the Shabbos meals in a safe place. Details on how to eat the Shabbos meals can be found below.

The passage known as Bittul (Kol chamira), which is normally said at the time of burning of the chameitz is said on Shabbos before 12:09 PM. 

Eating the Shabbos Meals: One should set their table with Pesach utensils and have Kosher for Pesach food. 

In order to fulfill one’s obligation of eating lechem mishna, Hamotzi on two rolls of bread, there are a number of approaches how to do so safely without getting chametz in one’s home. 

The simplest approach is to go outside to one’s porch and make Hamotzi there. Each person should eat a small amount of bread while outside. (The amount one must eat is approximately the size of a golf ball.) Any crumbs that fall to the floor can be ignored. 

The rest of the meal can be continued indoors.

One must finish eating all bread before 11:07 AM (Baltimore, MD). The meal can continue past this time.  

If one has any chametz left over that is large one could crumble it up and flush it down the toilet. This must be done before 12:09 PM. 

Seudah Shlishi – One is obligated to have three meals every Shabbos. There are are three ways to do so on Erev Pesach that falls out on Shabbos. 1. Start the first meal really early. Finish the meal and take a little break by reading a short book, or going on a short walk. Then return and eat the third meal with two rolls of bread. Of course this must be eaten before 11:07 AM. 

  1. There is an opinion that one can fulfill the obligation of eating the third meal with fruit, meat, or fish. One can then eat this meal at any point during the day. 
  2. There is an opinion recorded by the Magen Avraham that one can fulfill their obligation by learning Torah. This is not a conventional view. Nonetheless, one can rely on it if need be.

One cannot begin preparing for the Seder until nightfall on Saturday night, which is at 8:06 PM in Baltimore, MD. 

Stoudamire, Heschel, and Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei

A few weeks ago, the Yeshiva University newspaper, the Commentator reported an interview that took place in YU with former NBA all-star, Amare Stoudemire. They don’t typically interview NBA stars, but Stoudemire is anything but typical. A few months Amare changed his name to Yehoshafat and became a convert to our faith. You could see pictures of Yehoshafat studying Gemara, wearing a black hat, and videos of him sharing Divrei Torah. It’s really something.

I’ll share a couple of incredible quotes from the interview:

“I’m not a gefilte fish guy,” he quipped. “I love the concept… keeping you from borer, separating on Shabbos. But the taste… not my deal.” Chulent is a different story. “If it’s made properly with a little extra spice, then we’re good to go.”

Or, “The idea is always to stay strong… There [are] going to be times when the yetzer ha’ra [evil inclination] is gonna come after you; there [are] gonna be times that maybe you’ll be a little bit confused, but the ideal is to always keep your mind focused on Hashem. Never disconnect from Hashem and you’ll always find the correct derech — the correct path. So never get discouraged, stay with it, stay strong and keep pushing forward.”

But my absolute favorite was this one: “When you’re guarding Shaq, you just have to do your best. When you’re learning Gemara, you gotta do more than your best.”

Aside from the news of his conversion, what really made the Jewish news was the fact that shortly after converting the Brooklyn Nets hired him to join their coaching staff. One problem, “ain’t gonna work on Saturday.” But guess what? They hired him anyway. And so Amare Stoudamire joins the ranks of other high profile Shomer Shabbos individuals. From former Vice-Presidential Candidate, Senator Lieberman, through President Trump’s lead defense attorney, to Chani Neuberger, who was recently appointed as the Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology. You can be Shomer Shabbos and live in the world.  

It’s not to say there aren’t challenges, but it is certainly far easier than ever to keep the rules of Shabbos and hold down a good job.

Keeping the rules of Shabbos, as complex as they are, in one respect is now the easy part of Shabbos. Flexible work schedules, timers, and so many other social and technological advancements that make keeping Shabbos doable. The challenge is not being distracted by those rules and limitations. Too many people feel restricted and constrained by Shabbos, and that is a tragedy. 

The laws of Shabbos are cumbersome only if we don’t appreciate their function. The role of the many restrictions is to remind us that we are dealing with something sensitive that needs constant awareness. To quote Heschel, “One cannot… operate on a brain with a plowshare.” Shabbos, with all its minute and all-encompassing rules, ensures that we know we are dealing with something special. The laws, so to speak, clear a path, and in its place, we are able to experience something very special and unique.

I’d like to share with you today a summary of Heschel’s book, the Sabbath. It’s a short book, less than 100 pages, and well worth the read. He is one of the most eloquent Jewish writers. I certainly do not agree with many things he has written as some of his ideas seem to be out of line with our tradition. But the Sabbath is a most important and moving book which can transform our Shabbos experience.

He begins by describing what Shabbos is not. He quotes Seneca and other Roman thinkers who saw in Shabbos an expression of the Jewish People’s laziness. Everyone else in the ancient world worked every day and only the Jews slacked off. 

Philo, one of the great defenders of our faith, retorted that even athletes need to catch their breath. The goal of Shabbos, he wrote, is to help us be better workers. By resting, we will be strengthened and be able to work even harder.

But of course, this is mere apologetics and completely inconsistent with our worldview. Work is not the goal. We work so that we have Shabbos. Not the other way around. 

So what is the role of Shabbos?

And I quote: “Nothing is as hard to suppress as the will to be a slave to one’s own pettiness. Gallantly, ceaselessly, quietly, man must fight for inner liberty. Inner liberty depends upon being exempt from domination of things as well as from domination of people. There are many who have acquired a high degree of political and social liberty, but only very few are not enslaved to things. This is our constant problem – how to live with people and remain free, how to live with things and remain independent.” 

In other words, we are slaves to the world around us. Whether it is people whose opinion we live and die by. Whether it is things or experiences that we are drawn after and cannot seem to live without. Technology that was meant to help us but often traps us.

“The solution of man’s most vexing problem will not be found in renouncing technical civilization,” writes Heschel, “but in attaining some degree of independence of it.”

We Jews do not believe in abstinence, in escaping from the world, but in order to attain some level of harmony, we cannot be its slave. And so we once escape we flex our independent muscles. We are not bound by our profession, we sit equally as kings and queens (good ones, not like the British😊), and we create a small and healthy gap between us and the physical world.

This idea has become rather trendy; the notion of a Digital Sabbath. Many people, Jew and non-Jew alike, recognize that we have yet to figure out how to properly interact with technology and so at the very least, to ensure a sense of identity independent of its sway, once a week we shut it off. It’s healthy and can help ensure that we don’t get swallowed up in our devices.

That’s important, essential, but still superficial. Shabbos is that and so much more.   

Hechel’s main thesis is that Shabbos creates a sanctuary of time. In this week’s parsha we find a juxtaposition between the Mishkan and Shabbos, and that is so to convey this idea – the Mishkan is a structure, a beautiful, exquisite, detailed structure in space and Shabbos is a beautiful, exquisite, detailed structure in time. 

You and I, all humans, are mostly unfamiliar with time. We are only familiar with space. It’s too abstract. But it’s very real. The reason we describe Shabbos as a queen, the reason we bow to her at the end of L’cha Dodi, is to convey that Shabbos is not empty time, just a blank span of 24 hours, no! Shabbos is something we meet.

This is one of the novel ideas found in the Torah; that time can be sanctified, and it is space, i.e., the material world, which needs to receive its holiness from time. There is constant ambiguity regarding space in the Torah. Eretz Yisrael is not called the Holy Land in the Torah. Even the place of the Mikdash is referred to as, “the place which I will choose” implying that it is not intrinsic. We find far more mention of the “day of Hashem” than the “house of Hashem” in the prophets. idea that time is substantive Judaism taught the world about holiness in time. The very first Mitzvah the Jewish People were given in Egypt is the one we read of in the second Torah, “Hachodesh hazeh lachem.” The cycle of the month, time itself, is a gift to the Jewish People. A gift which the Jewish People were meant to teach the world.

Time is eternal, space decays.

Time cannot be shaped by us; it is both near and far. 

Space is exclusive; I stand here, and you stand there. Time is shared.

Time, explains Heschel, is the essence of the spirit. At the very least it is the greatest metaphor for what spirituality is; eternal, ethereal, universal, and even beautiful – but only if you learn to appreciate it.  

Writes Heschel, “Everyone will admit the Grand Canyon is more awe-inspiring than a trench. Everyone knows the difference between a worm and an eagle. But how many of us have a similar discretion for the diversity of time?” 

Our sensitivity to time is the sensitivity to spirituality. The goal of Shabbos is to sensitize us to time.

Shabbos, write the mystics, is not only mei’ein Olam Haba, similar to the World to Come, as the Talmud puts it. But rather, those words should be read, ma’ayan Olam Haba, it is the wellspring of the World to Come. If we do not learn to appreciate Shabbos, i.e. spirituality, we will not be able to appreciate the world to come. 

There is a story of a Rabbi who visited the world to come and saw rabbis learning. He was disappointed’ this is it?! This is what we do on earth. But as he was walking away, he was told, “You misunderstood. They are not in Olam Haba, Olam Haba is in them.” What that means is that we believe that one can taste eternity on earth. The more we listen to our soul, the more we become sensitive to the nuances of time, the more we think in spiritual terms, the more we live in Olam Haba. When we die, it is just a continuation. And so, Olam Haba is meaningful, but only if you start now.

One final quote to bring this together: “There is a world of things and a world of spirit… We usually think that the earth is our mother, that time is money, and profit is our mate. The seventh day is a reminder that G-d is our father, that time is life, and the spirit our mate.”  

Shabbos frees us; our identity is independent of our job, our self-worth is independent of likes; we are forced to come face to face with ourselves, with our soul; who we are, where are we going, where do we want to be going. The restrictions – yes, there are many, but they create a space, a space in time to remind us that our life is a sanctuary. That we are building something far greater than a resume and a shallow legacy.

For these reasons, we call Shabbos a gift. It is an otherworldly gift, allowing us to break through the space of this world, freeing us of the many things and people we are dependent on, giving us a glimpse into eternity. Good Shabbos!

Pesach Resources from OU/ Star-K/ CRC

Orthodox Union Pesach Guide: https://oukosher.org/content/uploads/2021/02/OUPassoverGuide21.pdf

Star-K Pesach Guide: https://www.star-k.org/images/passoverdirectory2021.pdf

CRC Pesach Guide: https://www.crcweb.org/Passover/5781/Pesach_Guide_%202021.pdf

The Charedi Response to Covid and the Sin of the Golden Calf

Yesterday was the last day of the semester for seniors at Beth Tfiloh. As I told them, what they lost this past year in academics they gained in lessons of perseverance – which is probably going to serve them better in life than any academics. It was a rough year for students and for teachers, so I figured I’d go easy on them for the final. Instead of an exam, I let them present a project on any contemporary Jewish topic. One group gave a presentation on exorcism and I am still trying to figure out how that is a contemporary topic, but hey, I am just happy they made it to the end of the year. 

 

One group delivered a thoroughly researched presentation on the topic of vaccines, mask-wearing, and health in general from a Jewish perspective. They quoted the Rambam, some of the most prominent scholars through the ages, all the way through Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe. At the end of the presentation, one of the students turned to me with the utmost sincerity and asked, “I just don’t understand. All these commentators take an extremely cautious approach when it comes to all matters of health. They unanimously agree that we should listen to the majority of doctors and that we should accept scientific findings, why then are so many Haredi or Ultra-Orthodox Jews disregarding the medical establishment?” What she didn’t ask me but could have, is “Why is it that in Haredi communities in Israel, 1 in 73 adults over 65 years old died from Covid? 1 in 73?! Why is that if you go to Lakewood, a city that is predominantly a Yeshiva community, no one is wearing a mask? I just don’t understand.” 

 

This is a question I have heard over and over and over again these past months, not just from my student but from so many. Now some of you are smiling to yourselves and saying, the reason they are not wearing masks is because they don’t help. The reason some are not getting vaccinated is because the vaccine is dangerous, or at least unproven. I could not disagree more strongly, but it’s really not the point. The truth is, the official leadership in these communities, Agudath Israel to name just one, was extremely vocal in their encouraging their followers to wear masks and abide by all state laws and CDC recommendations. This is not only about Covid, it is a general question up time and time again: We often look towards our co-religionists – I am not going to say ‘on the right’ because that implies that they are more religious when that is not always the case – but our co-religionists who are identified as Yeshivish, or Chassidic, or Haredi, and we just cannot understand what they’re thinking. Things that they say or do are just beyond our comprehension. And it’s that confusion/ dismay/ shock/ indignation that I’d like to address today through the prism of the sin of the Golden Calf with 3 points:

 

  1. Psychologists have noted that our religious orientation can be plotted on a continuum between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. On the one side of the continuum are people who connect to their faith for purely external factors; good company, it provides social support, they like the food, etc. On the other extreme, we have those who are connected to their faith for the faith itself; it is about G-d or the specific beliefs of their faith. Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic. 

 

But somewhere in the middle of the continuum you have people who connect to their faith, not for self-serving purposes, but they are connected through other people. It is a role model that inspires them that brought them into the faith. It is a teacher who has the most magnetic and uplifting personality, and an individual is drawn after them into a religious life. It’s a community of people whose way of life is so appealing. It is not self-serving or extrinsic but it’s also not intrinsic. This individual’s faith revolves around another person or a group of people. 

 

This semi-extrinsic connection is very common for Baalei Teshuva and converts. The path for many who are not born into the faith often involves meeting an individual or a group of individuals who are so inspiring that they say, I want a piece of that and so they follow those people into Observant Judaism.

In some ways, this is the story of the Jewish People leaving Egypt. There was no religious philosophy that they could connect to at the time and they knew very little of G-d. What they had was an incredibly humble and powerful man who they placed their complete faith in; Vaya’aminu baShem uv’Moshe avdo. And so when he went missing, when that individual who they placed all their trust in did not return after 40 days, they were lost; they had a crisis of faith. 

 

The Jewish People, explains the Ramban, did not look to make a replacement for G-d. The goal, or at least the initial goal, of the Golden Calf was to replace Moshe because without him they had nothing. Their religious orientation revolved around a person. So what happens when that person disappears? Or, what happens when that person is involved in a scandal? Or, what happens when that person makes decisions that seem ludicrous to you and completely lacking in judgment? 

 

What happens is you have a crisis of faith; you build a Golden Calf. 

 

The sin of the Jewish People at this juncture was not the building of the Golden Calf; it was the semi-extrinsic mindset that led them to do so. It was that the Jewish People did not progress past that first stage of being inspired by others and graduate to connecting to our faith through G-d alone. And that’s a flaw that many still struggle with. 

 

Lesson #1 of the Golden Calf is that we need to serve G-d and not serve people. We all start on this continuum in different places; some join or choose to engage in Judaism for the most self-serving reasons, others because they want to be like someone else. That’s very normal and okay. We cannot stay in that one place. But we need to grow to a point where our connection to our faith is independent of any individual or community. Judaism is a faith that revolves G-d. Not a community, and not any individual person. That type of Judaism is a small step away from a Golden Calf. To paraphrase Rabbi Berel Wein, “Don’t connect to Judaism through the Jews.” Our religious identity needs to revolve around G-d. 

 

Which brings me to a closely related second point. A question asked by all the commentators is what in the world was Aharon thinking? How could he assist the Jewish People in the building of an idol of sorts?

Some commentators suggest that it was damage control (Rav Hirsch), others creatively suggest that he led them on to weed out the true idolators in their midst (Rav Saadia Gaon). But the Abarbanel says, all these justifications notwithstanding, Aharon was dead wrong. Maybe there were rationalizations but nothing that could any way excuse his behavior.

This is such an important message, one that we do not hear enough, certainly not enough in Haredi circles; humans are fallible. People, even great people, make terrible mistakes.

Some people are disturbed by this idea; how could a person so steeped in Torah knowledge, so wise in so many areas, how could they make such a basic mistake? Personally, I am bothered by the question; how could we assume that a mortal, as great as they may be, is infallible? Great people could make great mistakes.

This past week I was on a video call with Rav Asher Weiss, one of the leading Halachic authorities of our generation. He has been outspoken and extremely forceful in promoting public safety. He has not only answered the most pressing questions of the Covid era in real time, but he has been advocating mask-wearing, vaccines, and a generally cautious approach in line with the medical establishment.

Now you have to appreciate that Rav Asher Weiss is not a shy person; he is outspoken and can be very fierce. So when one of my colleagues asked him the same question as my student, namely, how do we look at our co-religionists who are not taking Pikuach Nefesh seriously, I braced myself. I assumed he was going to rip into these people who were not following medical guidelines.

Instead he said as follows: (paraphrasing) “They are dead wrong for not abiding by these rules. But, great people can make great mistakes.” And then he said something that surprised me. “We need to stand up for what is right but we also need achdus now more than ever. We need to disagree but we need to do so with love and with respect.” 

And this is the third lesson we can take from the saga of the Golden Calf. Moshe comes down the mountain, he sees the Jewish People completely lost; dancing around an idol, according to our Medrashim, engaging in licentious behavior, with blood on their hands from having murdered someone who dared stand up against them. Moshe breaks the Luchos – they are undeserving. He kills those who are most guilty. And then – he turns around and goes up the mountain and he begs G-d to spare His children. He not only prays, he offers all of his merit in the world to come.

What’s going on here? They’re idolators?! They’re adulterers?! They’re murderers?!

Yes, but they are also G-d’s children. Our brothers. Our sisters. And we need achdus right now more than ever.

So yes, disagree and disagree loudly. But don’t hate. Don’t attack people, attack ideas. Don’t fan jumping flames. We need to extinguish these vicious fires. If you want to take this one step further and take a page from Moshe’s playbook – daven for them. Pray for their wellbeing. It may be hard to have a conversation right now, but we can always seek out their wellbeing.

We still struggle with failed leaders and failed communities and we will continue to do so. Let’s define our connection to our faith through Hashem, through His Torah, and not hang our Jewish identity on one human being or one community or the other. As human beings they are fallible. But that does not mean we need to throw out the baby with the bathwater; Aharon the priest can still become a High Priest and we can still respect people who make mistakes. And lastly, we are brothers, and we are sisters, and we share one Father. It’s hard, I struggle with this, but it’s necessary. The world and the Jewish People, need, now more than ever, more love, more understanding and more respect.

  לְמַעַן אַחַי וְרֵעָי אֲדַבְּרָה נָּא שָׁלוֹם בָּךְ.
לְמַעַן בֵּית ה׳ אֱלוֹהֵינוּ אֲבַקְשָׁה טוֹב לָךְ.
ה׳ עֹז לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן, ה׳ יְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּוֹ בַשָּׁלוֹם.