During one of our classes in the weeks prior to Pesach, we were discussing the shiur or the amount of matzah one is required to eat at each of three points in the Seder. The first is our initial taste of matzah for the holiday meal, the second is for the Maror/ charoset sandwich we eat in remembrance of Hillel who was the true inventor of the sandwich and finally, the last is when we conclude our meal in eating the afikoman.
Although the calculation of the minimum amount varies from as little as a sixth of a large round matzah (or less) to as high as a whole round matzah for each of the three times with some doubling the first or last portion, many hold that we should eat half the big round matzah each time. Now half a big round matzah is plenty of matzah. Someone asked how does someone get that down?
I suggested as I had seen in one of the books that with each bite one contemplate that the matzah was an amazing heavenly medicine designed to cure our physical and spiritual maladies. As I quoted, imagine being given a cure all elixir, an elixir which could fix anything? Would one not cherish every sip? This is how we should think of the matzah.
I think everyone at the class enjoyed and internalized that answer and committed to holding on to this thought during their own upcoming Seders. I know I did.
But I tried it on Friday night and again Saturday night and it didn't work. Or maybe???
Last Wednesday night after a cancelled flight to Fort Lauderdale, replaced with a delayed flight and a day of non stop holiday shopping, I was sure I was coming down with something. I called my local Florida internist/cardiologist who, determined to keep the Rabbi healthy for the holiday prescribed lots of drugs. But like the matzah, the drugs didn't help. And if my stomach had anything to say, well let's leave it at that.
I made it through Friday, burning the bread and continuing with more chores until minutes before mincha. Then at the Seder it hit me. As the family ate the festive meal so well prepared by my wife and daughters, I was forced to complete the Seder on my own and sneak away to bed. I thought a good nights sleep will help. No sunrise minyan for me.
But things got gradually worse on Shabbat. I could barely eat or drink a thing. When it came time to return for Mincha, although I was scheduled to teach, I asked my sons and sons in law to apologize, prayed and fell asleep. In what felt to be a minute later, they returned and I struggled to pull myself from bed.
Part of me pressed me to go back to sleep in need of preserving my health, but the other part of me pondered the possible Refuah affects of the matzah as the medicine wasn't helping much and more so recounted all the spiritual connections we make at the Seder. How could I give this up? My mom and my kids would be so disappointed. And even a mini Seder is better than no Seder. So with that I got ready, prayed, and watched the kids lead the Seder. It was a pleasure hearing from a table full of very wise men and women that night.
When the egg was eaten in memory of the korban hagigah, I apologized. I ate the afikoman, the remaining matzah, although I now used the smallest allowable portion. I drank the last two cups (grape juice), and completed the hagadah. Satisfied that I did the best I could, I rose to recite the blessing on the Omer beginning the 49 day count down to receiving the Torah. I bid everyone an enjoyable Seder and good night and ran off to bed where I have pretty much remained for the past forty eight hours and counting.
Laying here and reading, I wondered, what happened? The matzah didn't seem to work nor did the medicine.
And I accepted that evidently whatever I've got has to run its course. But did I really need to come all the way to Miami to get sick?
Then a friend pointed out that had I stayed home and had we organized a Seder for 100 and had I become sick in New York, we really would have had a problem. In New York this year there was no plan B or they would have used plan B in making a Seder without me. So it was very fortunate that I wasn't in New York.
I was supposed to fly home tomorrow morning - Tuesday - for 48 hours to check in on things in the office, but I guess Hashem didn't want that either. But couldn't he have found an easier way?
And I realized that in life we often rush things. We are afraid to let things take their course. Especially in these days, milliseconds are often excruciatingly long.
The thought of rushing often relates to the Exodus from Egypt. Hashem rushed us our, lest we fall into the lowest level of tumah or defilement of Egypt and never get out. But Rabbi Abittan taught that when we are rushed into something, we often rush right out.
Something like easy come, easy go. The way of growth is gradual and in stages. Perhaps that's why as soon as the Seder ends we begin counting the Omer. It's 49 steps of daily spiritual growth towards coming to Sinai and receiving the Torah. The Seder is a blast of energy, but for almost all of us, that blast is too much to take all at once and we need to divide it into 49 separate parts to be taken daily and to build one level onto the next. We need to take those steps through the desert to contemplate and acclimate each step.
G-D willing, by the time we cross the sea on Thursday morning - shevii shel Pesach - the seventh of Passover when we celebrate the splitting of the sea and the real emancipation from Egypt- I'll be up and at em. And I'll have had some time to contemplate. And each of these forty nine days I will have a special kavana or focus on the daily growth.
Yes, each bite of matzah is a cure. I just needed to let it take its course.
Rabbi David Bibi