* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
More than 100 ambassadors had gathered at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv to learn about Pesach in an event sponsored by the World Jewish Congress. I had prepared explanations for why before Pesach the people in Israel scrupulously clean their homes and why during the Seder we eat unusual foods.
But then suddenly the ambassador from El Salvador as well as the ambassador from Tanzania who sat next to him asked me: "Is this real?" They wanted to know if we really remove every crumb of chometz from our residences, if we really do not eat bread for an entire week, and if eating matzah is really more than a ceremony of symbolic significance.
I stopped for a moment and understood that perhaps this is the powerful secret of Pesach and, in fact, of all of Judaism: It's possible to speak at great length about values, but to eat your values for an entire week is something entirely different. *It's one thing to speak about freedom and something else completely to connect freedom to removal of bits of bread from the nooks and crannies of your kitchen.*
I learned much from these ambassadors' questions. Pesach is not a lecture about the Exodus from Egypt; it is a workshop on transforming spiritual commitment into physical acts. For thousands of years, we have been ambassadors of this mission, connecting great ideas to the smallest pieces of leaven left behind.
Wishing everyone a pleasant time in preparing for Pesach.