The astonished expressions on the faces of my family reminded me of the astonished reactions at ringside when Ali’s rope-a-dope tactics and crushing right hand sent the mighty George Foreman crashing to the canvas. My wife, children, in-laws, and guests all stood up from the Seder table and stared down at the floor where I lay in a daze. "Are you all right, Abba?" my twelve-year old son asked, rushing over to help me.
Unlike George Foreman on that miraculous night in Africa, I got up off the canvas, and the Seder continued.
Let’s rewind to the beginning of the Seder. Before starting, I apologized to everyone in advance that I would be using the Hagaddah of the Torah giant and Kabbalist, Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, and I would be reciting the lengthy Kabbalistic intentions before performing the evening’s mitzvot. Since the hour was late, and people were hungry and anxious to get to the great mitzvah of eating the matzah, not everyone was pleased to hear that my strivings for added saintliness would be delaying the whole affair. But since I was the Baal Habayit in charge of the show, there was nothing they could do. Finally, finally, I finished all of the preliminary prayers and their esoteric kavanot. Ready to recite the "borei p’re hagufen" over the first cup of wine, I leaned to the left to recline in the manner of free men, and the leg of the plastic lawn chair I was sitting in collapsed under me. I went down like a startled George Foreman to the floor. Fortunately, G-d, in His never-ending kindness, had already provided me with a pillow, so my fall was considerably softened. I saw the whole thing as if in slow motion, like the TV replays at sporting events – the astonished expressions of my family, the Haggadah flying into the air, my wife’s frightened look, then everyone standing above me, looking down at the fallen champion, the would-be master of Kabbalistic intentions. I lay stuck in the toppled chair on the floor, like Humpty Dumpty - all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty’s ego together again. I remembered the verse concerning the exodus, "From your lowliness, G-d remembered you." My sons lifted me to my feet. Apart from my wounded ego, I was absolutely OK. Sitting in a different chair, I recited the blessing over the wine. Unlike George Foreman on that miraculous night in Africa, I got up off the canvas, and the Seder continued. As our Sages teach, "The righteous man falls seven times and rises." I suppose that next year, come Erev Pesach, I will have to work harder to get rid of my pride.
CHAMETZ IN THE COMPUTER
Not only the pride. The anger as well. Listen to this. At the Seder, I related two miracles that I had recently witnessed. One occurred Saturday night, after we finished saying Tehillim at the Kotel with the holy Kabbalist, Rabbi Leon Levi. As usual, we said the prayers inside the arched hall to the left of the Kotel plaza. When we left, clouds blackened the sky, completely hiding the moon. This was the last opportunity of the month to recite the Sanctification of the New Moon, which must be said when the moon is clearly visible. Rabbi Levi gazed up to the dark heavens and asked G-d to move the clouds aside for a few minutes so that we could praise Him. Sure enough, the clouds parted, just like the Red Sea parted for Moshe and the Jews on their way to Eretz Yisrael. Joyously, we joined in with the Tzaddik as he recited G-d’s praises and cried out for the downfall of Israel’s enemies, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the terrorist rabble in Aza, to name just a few. Then, as if on cue, the moment he finished, clouds came together, blanketing the moon’s glow as before.
That was the first miracle. The second occurred the following night. Here is what happened. As Pesach approaches, we have the custom of putting our chametz into a cardboard box and placing it outside the front door to get it out of the house. For years, this has never caused a problem to anyone in the apartment building where we live, but this year, the yetzer hara (evil inclination) got his hands on one of our neighbors, and come Erev Shabbat, he knocked on our door, demanding that we remove the box from the hall. When my dear wife refused, he started panting and screaming, ranting and raving, and kicked the box angrily into our apartment. I wasn’t home at the time, and my poor wife was left trembling from his bestial behavior. The bad feelings that the incident created spoiled the Sabbath. The following night, I sat down at the computer with my wife to write a letter to all of the tenants in the building, saying that at this time of the burning of chametz, when we are called upon to do away with the anger, pride, judging others in a derogatory light, grudges, and other bad traits in our hearts, that I apologize if I offended anyone this year with my anger. I made the letter general, without referring to our hot-tempered neighbor, hoping that he would read between the lines and learn a lesson for himself. To emphasize the seriousness of the matter, I included some quotes from our Sages underscoring the evil consequences of anger, how it poisons the soul with a terrible pollution. Lo and behold, when I tried to print the letter, something inside the computer exploded, and the hard disc went dead. I checked the plugs and pushed all the buttons, but the machine refused to respond. My wife looked at me in amazement. What do you say? Was this just coincidence or the finger of G-d? For one thing, I learned what my own anger and feelings of revenge can do to a computer. For the time being, I am using my laptop.
Along with the cloud story, I related this incident to everyone at the Seder to show that G-d is still very much with us today. At the end of the evening, my wife shut the bedroom door in my face, saying I had been totally insensitive to her feelings by telling that story and rekindling its still burning embers, spoiling the Seder night joy. That’s how I ended up spending the night on the living room couch. Things could be worse. After all, it’s higher up than the floor. At least my direction is upward. With 49 more days to go before Shavuot, I still have a chance to clean up my act in order to receive the Torah, cleansed of all of my chametz.
This brings us to the 49 days of Sefirat HaOmer and a layman’s guide to a spiritual rehab, coming up, G-d willing, in our very next blog.