April 17, 2024
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April 17, 2024
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The great gaon and kabbalist Rav Nosson haKohen Adler, zy”a, was renowned as the Nesher haGadol, “the Great Eagle.” Deeply immersed in esoteric studies, as well as serving as a rosh yeshivah, he trained a generation of great rabbanim, among them Reb Moshe Sofer—the Chasam Sofer.

Each year, Rav Nosson would bake matzos with incredible kavanah and spiritual intensity. When the tzadik had completed this avodah he would carry the freshly baked matzos himself, resisting any help, even refusing to rest them on the wagon seat for the ride home. “It is my mitzvah! My privilege and obligation… Why should the horses get the zechus?”

This Shabbos marks Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the first day of the biblical “First of the Months.” Additionally, it is the Rosh Hashanah laMelachim, the inaugural day for the reigns of the kings of Israel. Am Yisrael are in the midst of preparing and planning for the great holiday of Pesach: cleaning our homes, procuring all the necessary provisions—and the learning and intentionality—for the upcoming Yom Tov. Ironically, this great day in the “month of freedom,” a day that elevates our spiritual status and nobility, can trigger feelings of overwhelm with the “burden” of the laws, customs and details of our physical Pesach preparations.

Instead of feeling uplifted by the majesty of this day and its promise of renewal, many feel oppressed, straining against the pressure and challenge of this time of year.

וַיִּשָּׂא הָעָם אֶת־בְּצֵקוֹ טֶרֶם יֶחְמָץ מִשְׁאֲרֹתָם צְרֻרֹת בְּשִׂמְלֹתָם עַל־שִׁכְמָם:

“The people picked up their dough when it was not yet leavened, their leftovers bound in their garments on their shoulders.” (Shemos 12:34)

Although they were forced out of Mitzrayim in haste and unable to properly ready themselves for the journey, they did not lose sight of the special opportunity and mitzvah that was before them. Swept up in gratitude for their salvation and enthusiasm for the precious mitzvah at hand, “their leftovers wrapped in their cloaks, carried upon their shoulders,” the Jews were unwilling to put the dough down. And this is the precedent Rav Nosson Adler cited when asked why he felt compelled to “hold on” to every aspect of the preparation and mitzvah of these days before Pesach.

***

Many machzorim use the abbreviation קשר’’ק / KShR”K to represent the order of shofar blowing: tekiyah, shevarim, teruah, tekiyah. A short, enigmatic prayer is also added after the shofar service: “May the angels that emerge from the blowing of קשר’’ק awaken merit for us and go before the Throne of Glory as advocates for klal Yisrael.” Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, the Kedushas Levi, drew a connection between the mystical formula of KShR”K and the angels formed by the shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah, and the holy avodah of readying ourselves and our homes for Pesach.

Always revealing the merit of the Jewish people, and acknowledging their hard work in preparing for Pesach, the Berditchiver declared that the advocating angels created by the shofar blasts, the KShR”K, parallel preparations of the Jewish home. In Yiddish, as the Berditchiver pointed out, KShR”K can also stand for kratzen (scouring), shorren (scraping), reiben (rubbing), and kasheren (kashering).

With this as our kavanah, we can reveal our scrubbing and scouring as prayerful acts of awakening Divine mercy. Thus they are not essentially “burdens” at all; in fact, by carrying them we are elevated.

***

This Nisan, let us enjoy the zechus of preparing for the Yom Tov of our freedom instead of becoming mired more deeply into an experience of slavery. While we shlep our matzah and Yom Tov provisions, and krechtz our way through the holy preparations, may we do so joyfully and in royal fashion. May angels emerge from our scouring, scraping, rubbing and kashering, and go before the awesome Throne of Glory to awaken mercy for klal Yisrael and coronate Hashem. As sons and daughters of the King, may we delight in His service, and may we feel that we ourselves are leaving Mitzrayim, carried on eagles’ wings.


Rav Judah Mischel is executive director of Camp HASC, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children. He is the mashpia of OU-NCSY, founder of Tzama Nafshi and the author of “Baderech: Along the Path of Teshuva.” Rav Judah lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife Ora and their family.

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