April 19, 2024
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April 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A number of years ago—on Erev Pesach—as I was getting into our car, I noticed that one of the back tires was low. I headed over to the local mechanic, who removed the tire and found a small hole. He patched it up and, in a few minutes, we were ready to go.

I was thinking about the irony of the fact that we were just hours away from the onset of a holiday in which “air” inside food—i.e., leaven and leavening agents become our implacable nemesis, and here I was looking for a way to keep vital air in my tires. I heard—and subsequently verified—that at the conclusion of Pesach, Rav Aharon Shechter, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin, would wish everyone a “good chametz.”

One of the most obvious questions regarding chametz is that if it’s such an evil commodity, and represents our base desires, why do we consume it freely all year round? The answer is that chametz is not inherently evil. Our Sages explain that chametz symbolizes our evil inclination. The dough rises and expands simply because we allow air to fill it.

Chametz symbolizes ego and one’s sense of self. Too much ego can be extremely detrimental. No one likes being around arrogant and conceited people. On the other hand, every person must have a healthy sense of identity and must be able to stand up for his beliefs. On Pesach, the anniversary of our birth as a nation, we remove all traces of chametz so we can commence with an extreme level of humility. In celebrating the exodus from Egyptian servitude—we completely nullify ourselves before God—symbolizing that the purpose of the exodus was so that we could become God’s people.

After we have spent a week reflecting on that truism, we reintroduce chametz to our diet. Now that we have reflected on faith, God’s love and our values as Jews, we are prepared to serve God with healthy self-esteem. The air in the dough symbolizes our ability to serve God even with the negative impulses, passions and penchants within us.

It is not air itself that is evil, but rather unbridled and uncontrolled “air.” The right amount of air inside a tire is integral for the car to drive properly. But, if one isn’t careful and adds too much air to the tire … pop goes the weasel! Indeed, a “good chametz” to all!


Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a popular speaker and author. He is a rebbe in Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, NJ, and an experienced therapist, recently returning to seeing clients in private practice, as part of the Rockland CBT group. For appointments, Rabbi Staum can be reached at 914-295-0115. Looking for an inspirational and motivating speaker or scholar-in-residence? Contact Rabbi Staum for a unique speaking experience. Rabbi Staum can be reached at [email protected]. Archives of his writings can be found at www.stamtorah.info.

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