April 13, 2020 (19 Nissan 2020)
The Intermediate days (Chol HaMoed) of Pesach occur within the of the yom tov (festival days; literally, “good days”) of Passover. The first two and last two days of Passover (outside of Israel) are like bookends for Chol HaMoed. These intermediate days have less holiness; yet, they are still part of the overall holiday of Passover.
I think that this is less known by many who do not celebrate Passover. Outside of Israel, there are eight days of Passover. Even of those amongst us, who celebrate Passover, there are some who may be less aware of maintaining a certain level of respect towards the Intermediate days. Honoring Pesach goes beyond having a seder, or two for the more observant. And, we all continue to eat matzoh for a full eight days.
The Biblical consequence for not doing so is strict: kares. This Hebrew word means to be cut off, as in to be cut off from one’s people. Yet, the exact implication is not necessarily to be somehow cut off from one’s people in this world (Olam HaZeh); rather, according the chazal (the sages), kares means to be cut off in the next world (Olam HaBa). In other words, the consequence is eternal separation.
Many of us who receive the modern day understanding of Judaism as a religion that focuses primarily on this world will miss the point. There are eternal consequences for our actions. What we do in this world will influence our place in Olam HaBa (the World to Come). Therefore, abstaining from chometz (leavened foods) on Pesach is crucial.
Additionally, there must be some understanding beyond the surface of this commandment. According to various rabbinical commentaries, chometz represents sin, pride, and the yetzer hara (evil inclination). Removing these from our lives is integral to our souls. We may abstain from aveiros (transgressions) by being aware of what constitutes sin. We may humble ourselves, to lessen our sense of self importance. And, we may diminish the influence of our yetzer hara by focusing on H’Shem and mitzvot (good deeds).
In like manner that we search for and remove all remaining chometz from our homes, before Passover starts, so should we look for the hidden faults in our character and way of life, not only during Passover, rather, also throughout the entire year. Finding out our own deficiencies is necessary in order to make a change for the better. May our resultant level of kedusha (holiness) prepare us to receive Moshiach (Messiah). Next Year in Jerusalem.