15 Iyar 5761
From the Desk of: Rav Lipman Podolsky
Parshas Shmini 5761
Don’t Pass Over!
After a whole week devoting themselves to their self-consecration in the Mishkan, one would have thought that Aharon and his sons had had enough! Of what significance, then, is the eighth day – the title of our Parsha? Is seven not sufficient?
After a whole week of celebrating Pesach, is it not enough? Must I truly bind the festival, as it were, to the corners of the altar? What exactly is the point of “Isru-Chag”, which seems to be a virtual extension of the holiday?
You know, it’s not easy being a kid. You ask questions, but the grownups don’t seem to hear. The wise son posed a very wise question: “What are the testimonies and the statutes and the laws that Hashem our G-d has commanded you?” Does the father answer his question? All he does reply is: “One may not eat desert after the Korban Pesach.” How does the response fit the query?
Once upon a time, I had the great fortune of learning with a very strong-willed chavrusa (study partner). He never missed a learning session. He never came late, never left early, and took no breaks. He pushed himself till he could push no more. His stated goal was to uncover the Truth concealed within the Gemara. We would typically spend several days plumbing the depths of a sugya (topic).
Finally, when I felt I had a decent understanding of the material and was more than ready to move on, he would plead, and sometimes even demand to spend just one more day on this particular sugya. “You’ll see,” he would say, “the real truth will show itself if we just give it a chance!” Invariably, he was right. As much as I thought I understood the Gemara, after that extra day angels would descend and shine upon us the light of Heaven. Had we concluded prematurely, we would have remained in the dark; but, I am ashamed to admit, we would have thought that we truly understood.
The problem with time is, it passes. After a while, all we have are memories. How can we keep the experience alive? How can we prevent Pesach from passing over? How can we transcend time, plugging into the eternal?
This is Isru-Chag. We don’t just pass through a holiday, we live it, and try to take it with us. No, seven is not sufficient. Just one more day, one more moment of basking in the divine presence, will solidify the glue. Pesach will become part of us, part and parcel of our psycho/spiritual DNA.
This is the answer to the wise son. All these mitzvos that we do on Pesach are not a one-time deal. The goal is to keep them alive long after we performed them. Thus we eat no desert after the Korban Pesach. We want the taste of Pesach to linger in our mouths, to linger in our lives.
As we grow, as we build on yesterday, we keep yesterday alive, today. Sefiras HaOmer symbolizes this process. Shavuos stands on Pesach’s shoulders. As such, Pesach still lives.
This is the eighth day. Seven is ephemeral; eight is forever. The Divine presence for which they so yearned appeared only on the eighth day. Aharon and his sons thus became forever bound to the Divine. And so can we.
The Yetzer HaRa would love to see us drown in the quagmire of time, to behold us bogged down in the morass of materialism. But we can outsmart him if we so desire. Bind ourselves! The more secure, the better! Don’t throw away the past; build on it!
The heights we attain will more than recompense us for our struggle.
Rav Lipman Podolsky
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(Reprinted with permission of Rav Podolsky)
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