1 Iyar 5765
Post Pesach Blues
By Rabbi Yisrael Cohn
Last night was a late night; it is one of the busiest of the year. It was a night of cardboard boxes and wrapping paper as we put away the Pesach dishes and restored all of our Chametz utensils to their correct places. The bagel shop was open across the road and the smell of freshly baked bread wafted into our home. As I looked out of the window I saw a queue of people waiting to take their first bite of bread after Pesach. I thought of all the scrubbing and cleaning that we have been doing over the past month. I thought of all the schlepping and shopping. All that work for just one week of Pesach and now it is all over.
As the first breadcrumbs fall behind the couch, some of them destined to remain undetected until our next mammoth cleaning operation next year IYH, we need something that can help us deal with Post Pesach blues. Let’s talk about Shabbat, at least the wait is shorter.
Imagine that you are stranded in a desert. You are cut off from communication with the outside world and worst of all; the battery on your watch has just died. There are probably a thousand problems that one would face in this situation; I would like to look at one. You don’t know the date, nor do you know what day of the week it is. It might be Monday or Wednesday or Friday, you have no way of knowing. Now here is the catch. Perhaps it is Shabbat. If it is Shabbat, you’ll need to make Kiddush, avoid 39 Melachot you’ll need to keep Shabbat. The problem compounds, because tomorrow is equally likely to be Shabbat, and the next day too. Should you avoid Melacha every day, perhaps that day is Shabbat.
I hope that none of us will need to deal with this scenario, but for those nervous readers, you will be happy to hear that there is a discussion in the Gemara on this topic- Shabbat (69b) Rav Huna teaches that the lost traveller should count six days and then observe the seventh day as Shabbat. Rav Hisda answered this question differently. If you lose track of time in the desert, observe Shabbat on the very next day and only then should you count six days. This is not a trivial argument; their argument concerns the very essence of Shabbat. They are debating the most basic question- what is Shabbat?
Rav Shmuel Bornstein, author of Shem Mishmuel elaborates. He explains that there are two aspects of Shabbat, both mentioned in the Torah and reflected in the Kiddush we say on Friday night. Firstly, Shabbat reminds us that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Shabbat is the final stage of the week, just as it was the final stage of creation. We achieve Shabbat after completing a week of work. Shabbat is a reward at the end of the week. Rav Huna said count towards Shabbat; it represents the culmination of the week.
Rav Hisda looked at the other aspect of Shabbat. We remind ourselves of Yetziyat Mitzraim each time we say Kiddush on Friday night. Shabbat reminds us of how Hashem took slaves, suffering unbearable hardship and led them out of slavery to begin a new journey. Their journey lead to Matan Torah and then Eretz Yisrael. It is the journey that we continue today. Yetziyat Mitzraim marks the start of a process; likewise Shabbat marks the start of the week. Just as Yetziyat Mitzraim was Gods gift to Am Yisrael. It was the foundation upon which Am Yisrael built and developed into a nation. In the same way, Shabbat is Gods gift to us it is the foundation upon which we build ourselves, our relationship with others and our relationship with Hashem. Rav Hisda told the lost traveller to start his week with Shabbat.
According to Shem Mishmuel, Shabbat contains both aspects. It is both the reward at the end of the process; coming after six days of work, it is also a gift, a head start to help us start the process.
Perhaps we can take this theme and think about it as we enter Iyar. Shem Mishmuel offers the perfect cure for Post Pesach Blues. Pesach is the festival of Yetziyat Mitzraim. It is the festival of the beginning. Our homes may be full of chametz again, the smell of freshly baked bread may be wafting through the air, the crumbs may begin to accumulate in those hidden spots in the kitchen, but Pesach is far from over, the process of Pesach has only just begun. We have received the gift, the foundations are in place.
Now it is time for us to start building.