Pesach and Getting Real
Peti ya’amim l’khal davar / A fool believes anything
Mishley (Proverbs) 14:15
Ra’iti gamal poreach ba’avir / I saw a camel flying in the air! (The Talmud on exaggerated Claims)
Talmud Yerushalmi Mesechet Shavuot
My eyes can see inside tomorrow
My eyes can get next to you
Time flies on wings that just get stronger
My eyes are true
“My Eyes” by Ronnie James Dio, Rowan Robertson and Jens Johansson from the Dio album Lock Up The Wolves
My rebbe, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, used to regularly offer various very sweet little pieces of Torah wisdom for the specific occasion. He would call these little snippets of illumination a “Toireleh” (a small bit of Torah). I would like to share with you one he often said around the time of Pesach and regularly during the Seder and that contained two main points. Shlomo would say that eating matzah instead of chametz (leavened bread) represents “getting real.” Bread, he would say, starts out with only flour and water. However, when you add the yeast, the bread expands, “blows up.” The bread becomes more than what it really is. Matzah is simple, just flour and water. Matzah is real. It’s not blown up. Matzah is not exaggerated.
Shlomo would go on to say how people are afraid to be real. They are afraid that if they don’t inflate themselves before others, then they won’t be liked. This leads to dishonesty with others in exaggerating what one believes others want to hear about oneself and actually decreases a true sense of real self-esteem. People also take very simple disagreements and disputes and personalize them, exaggerate the issues, and inflate them until what was originally a simple matter to resolve becomes much more divisive and irresolvable than the problem actually was to begin with.
Matzah is about getting real, allowing others to see you as you really are without putting on airs or inflating oneself with artificial air. First, you have to find your own good points and recognize your uniqueness and what you add to the world. When you can recognize your own good points and confidently be yourself, then others will surely also recognize and honor those good points and surely like you.
If a dispute occurs, it doesn’t have to be personalized and blown up. Remember to keep it real and about the issues. Disagreeing doesn’t make enemies if the issue can be discussed in an objective non-personalized manner. It is through this process that the truth may come out. Or at least even if you can’t find agreement, you can love your friend even more because he or she has given you the gift of offering you a way of seeing things that lets you challenge your own dogmas and orthodoxies.
I would like to offer a third Toireleh, or lesson, on being real. We constantly hear people try to convince us to buy things, do things, or vote a certain way. The arguments made to sway us are often filled with exaggerations, pandering, flattery, scare tactics, and outright dissembling. We need to listen critically and deflate the chametz from the pitch and find the true essence or matzah of the argument made. We should strive to avoid too many labels or unearned political loyalties. We need to think. It’s time to get real and be a “Matzah Head.”
Wishing us all a Chag Pesach Kasher V’samayach, a joyous and real Pesach experience.
A Special Thank You From Rabbi Bovit
On the Shabbat of March 26, I was completely bowled over by the first surprise birthday party I have ever had. I experienced this simcha right here in our own BJC Social Hall. First and most importantly, I would like to thank my precious “Dolinks,” the world’s best rebbetzin, my wife Rivka, for surprising me with such a wonderful and unexpected, lavish “Florence Style” kiddush birthday party. It was truly top secret; I really didn’t know it was coming. Rivka should apply to work for the NSA! I would like to thank Florence Barber for being such a gracious and great simcha coach in helping Rivka to put it together and Rita Krenin for being the influential personality she always is getting on the phone to ensure that people would be there. To the congregation and to those who gave me birthday gifts, it was unnecessary but greatly appreciated and I am very moved by the gesture. Thanks to our good friend and former cantor Shmully Bleskovsky for coming and joining in with our wonderful new cantor, David Krasner, for some fine and festive singing. Also, thanks to Annie, Johnny, and Dina for helping with all the necessities of putting on such a special kiddush. I especially want to thank all of you for being such a wonderful congregation and giving me the opportunity to be your rabbi. That alone is a tremendous gift.
Column originally appeared in the May 1, 2011, issue of the Bellerose Jewish Center newsletter, The Messenger.