Friday, March 31, 2017

Acharon shel Pesach / Last Day of Pesach

From “Breslov Eikh she-Hu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present”

Like other Chassidim, Breslover Chassidim traditionally do not eat gebrokhts (matzah cooked or soaked in liquids containing water) on Pesach. However, in chutz la'aretz, gebrokhts are prepared and eaten on Acharon Shel Pesach, even in the vessels and dishes used for non-gebrokhts. Although this does not apply to Eretz Yisrael, where Shevi’i shel Pesach is the last day, something similar is observed during a leap year when Shabbos falls on Motza’ei Yom Tov. Then gebrokhts are eaten in the regular Pesach vessels and dishes, even by those who live in Eretz Yisrael.


The Rebbe used to go to his daughter Udel for the se’udah on Acharon shel Pesach, during which the family ate soup with kneidlakh. Once Udel served her father two kneidlakh, and he blessed her that in their merit she should have two children. This berakhah came to pass—and Udel regretted that she had not served her father more kneidlakh.
(Avanehah Barzel, sec. 43, p. 33)


The last meal of Acharon Shel Pesach is called the "Baal Shem Tov Se'udah," during which it is customary for a member of the group to retell the story of the Baal Shem Tov's attempted journey to the Holy Land. There is a special Breslover mesorah concerning the details of this story, preserved by oral tradition.
(Most Chassidim used to call this meal the “Baal Shem Tov Se’udah.” In the communities of Skver-Chernobyl, Skolye, and others, they still do. The Breslov nusach of the story of the Baal Shem Tov’s journey may be found in Eretz ha-Kodesh / Masa’ ha-Kodesh, Jerusalem: Toras ha-Netzach, 5758/1998; and in Yiddish in Der Otzar Fun Yiras Shomayim, Hotza’as Ben Adam, Aharon Weinstock, ed. 1992, pp. 71-87. The story was also published many years ago in Mabu’ey HaNachal. Other nus’chos of the story preserved by various Chassidic communities are presented and discussed by Rabbi Shlomo Abish, “Koros Chayav haMekoriyyim shel Rabban Shel Yisrael haBaal Shem Tov ha-Kadosh, zy ‘a,” #4, Kuntres Heichal haBaal Shem Tov, Nisan 5764 / 2004, pp. 145-152.)


On the Shabbos after Pesach, some are accustomed to bake a challah with the form of a key on the loaf. Some engrave this shape by pressing a key into the dough; some attach a piece of dough in this shape; and some bake an actual key in the challah. (Reb Elazar Kenig’s family attaches a piece of dough shaped like a key.)
(Erkhei Yehoshua, Perach Shoshanim 156, mentions that the Manistritcher minhag was to engrave this shape. A reason for the minhag of baking a “shlissel challoh” is offered by the Apter Rov in Ohev Yisrael, “Le-Shabbos Achar Pesach,” pp. 282-283, 330-331.)


Someone once complained to the Tcheriner Rov, “Purim is over, Pesach is over…” The Tcheriner Rov corrected him, replying, “Mer hobben areingenumen a Purim un a Pesach . . . We have internalized Purim and Pesach!”
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)


In this spirit, Reb Avraham Sternhartz would learn Likutey Moharan I, 135 (“Ki Ekakh Mo’ed”), saying, “I am taking the Yom Tov into myself!” He also used to mention that the number of this lesson (135) is be-gematria “matzah.”
(Mabu’i ha-Nachal, Kovetz 53, Nisan 5782, p. 37)

Shabbos HaGadol Thoughts

From Sichot HaRan 88 
Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom (Breslov Research Institute), pp. 205-206
It is customary to turn the tables over on Shabbos HaGadol, the Great Sabbath just before Pesach.

Speech remains in exile until Pesach.

Pesach is Pe Sach — “ a mouth speaking” (Rabbi Chaim Vital, Shaar HaKavannos, Inyan Pesach #6).

On Pesach speech emerges from Exile. This is the main idea of the Exodus.

It is written (Ezekiel 41:22), “ And He spoke to me, this is the Table that is before G-d.”

The table is speech.

“And He spoke to me— regarding my food and sustenance. This is the Table that is derived from the category of Speech.

Thus it is written (Deuteronomy 8:3), “On all that emanates from G-d’s mouth will man live.”

When Speech is not in exile, then the Table is turned toward us in an aspect of Face. “And He spoke to me, this is the Table that is before G-d.”

“Before” is lifney — literally “ to the face of.”

When “He spoke,” then the Table is in an aspect of Face.

Speech remains in exile until Pesach.

It is in Egypt until the Exodus.

The Tables are therefore turned over, showing that Speech is not yet in an aspect of Face.

Speech emerges from exile only on Pesach —Pe Sach — “The mouth speaking.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rabbi Shmuel Moshe Kramer, shlit"a, following the Megillah reading with two grandsons.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Purim Mysteries

Rabbi Dovid Sears
Based on a discussion from

Q. While I was reviewing books on the subject of Purim, I ran across this teaching from Likutey Moharan II, 74: “Purim is a preparation for Pesach. Through the mitzvah of Purim we are protected from chometz on Pesach.”

In my own slow-paced learning of Likutey Moharan, I have not yet reached this lesson. I can’t say that I fully comprehend what Rebbe Nachman of Breslov is trying to teach us. I know that joy is the main aspect of Purim and that chometz symbolizes the character trait of arrogance. I don’t yet understand how the joy we experience on Purim helps protect us from arrogance.

A. Like most of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings, this lesson is full of mysteries. This reflects Reb Noson’s words in his Introduction to Likutey Moharan, citing the Gemara (Chagigah 13a) that in mystical matters, one must simultaneously reveal and conceal. This is particularly true of Rebbe Nachman’s teaching style. So whatever we say must be understood as speculation only.

1) On a basic level, the Rebbe is expounding on the “coincidence” that in the Jewish calendar, Purim is followed by parshas Parah and then by Pesach, and he finds profound meaning in these connections. Even though the miracle of Purim took place more than one thousand years after the Exodus, the paradigm it represents “paves the way” for Pesach.

Rebbe Nachman states: “Through Purim, we are protected from chometz on Pesach.” Purim represents hidden miracles; Pesach represents open miracles. Purim shows us that what appears to be natural is truly supernatural. It elevates us above nature, above ego, and destroys Amalek, which represents sexual immorality (symbolized by the fact that the Amalekites sexually mutilated their victims) and disbelief (the word “Amalek” = gematria “sofek,” or doubt). Thus, Purim protects us from chometz, which variously represents ego, lust, and the illusion of nature as autonomous—the antithesis of Pesach.

2) Rabbi Borukh Ephraim of Homel, a student of the Tcheriner Rov and author of Be’ibey haNachal on Likutey Moharan, looks at this teaching from another angle. First let’s recap the original lesson in Likutey Moharan:

After Purim, we read parshas Parah, which is a preparation for Pesach. This is customary because when the Beis haMikdash still stood, we were required to eat the Korban Pesach in a state of taharah, purity from tumas mes (ritual defilement that comes from contact with the dead). This is attained through the ashes of the Parah Adumah, the Red Heifer. Today, lacking the Beis haMikdash and the ashes of the Parah Adumah, we cannot do so. However, in a spiritual sense we reenact this process every year beginning on Purim, when we commemorate the “pur” (pey-vav-reish), the lot that was cast concerning the fate of the Jews, after which Purim is named. Then a little later we read parshas Parah. Thus, the “pur” of Purim turns into the aspect of “Parah” (pey-reish, the root letters of “pur,” plus the letter “heh”), the Red Heifer. (Rebbe Nachman takes this connection of “pur” and “parah” from a teaching of the ARI zal in Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Purim 6, which is too complex for us to discuss here.)

The Rebbe finds an allusion to this idea in Shir haShirim: “Sifsosav shoshanim notfos mor ‘oveir … His lips are roses overflowing with myrrh.” “His lips” refer to Pesach, which the ARI interprets as “peh-sach,” a mouth that speaks (Sha’ar haKavannos, Inyan Pesach, Drush 3; Pri Etz Chaim, Sha’ar Chag haMatzos, Chap. 7. In other words, on Pesach we can now speak HaShem’s praises openly, as free men.) “Shoshanah” has the same gematria as “Esther,” thus it hints to the Purim story. And “mor” hints to Mordechai, whom the Gemara homiletically connects with the biblical phrase “mor d’ror,” flowing myrrh (Chullin 139b). The word “d’ror,” which literally means “free,” also alludes to Pesach, the Festival of Freedom.

This Purim-Pesach connection is further borne out by the verse: “Shivas yamim tokhal matzos ka’asher tzivisikha le-mo’ed chodesh ha-aviv ki vo yatzasa mimitzrayim ve-lo yeira’u fana’i reikam . . . Seven days you shall eat matzos as I have commanded you at the season of the month of Aviv [“springtime,” the biblical name for Nisan], for then you came out of Egypt; and you shall not appear before Me empty-handed” (Exodus 23:15). The initials of the five words “mi-mitzrayim velo yeira’u fana’i reikam” spell the word “Purim.” For Purim is the way to Pesach. Through it, one can be protected from chometz on Pesach…

Reb Noson, the editor of Likutey Moharan, mentions that at this point, the Rebbe paused and did not finish explaining this idea. Then the Rebbe added another cryptic remark: “At first, all beginnings were from Pesach; thus, all mitzvos are zekher le-yetziyas Mitzrayim, in commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. Ve-’achshav, and now…”

He stopped again, and did not finish.

The author of Be’ibey haNachal detects in the Rebbe’s words some amazing hints as to how the derekh of Breslov works today, after the Rebbe’s histalkus (ascent from the body). To sum up the gist of his remarks:

Nachman” is numerically equivalent to “Pesach” (148) – “ve-’achshav,” and now, we can all make a new beginning by going to the Rebbe’s holy burial place on Rosh Hashanah, which is so called because it is the “head” (rosh) and beginning of the year. Pesach is also a new beginning. Thus the lesson states that Purim is named after the “pur,” and subsequently turns into “parah,” which is spelled pey-reish-heh. These letters are the initials of Pesach (pey) and Rosh Hashanah (reish-heh), which together include all spiritual rectifications (tikkunim) (see Likutey Moharan I, 49). This is the aspect of the Parah Adumah, which “purified the impure, and contaminated the pure” (Rashi, Numbers 19:22, end). That is, when one comes to the cemetery, where the dead are buried, one contracts tumah. However, by reciting Tehillim and praying to Hashem from the depths of one’s heart – especially by reciting the ten psalms of the Rebbe’s awesome Tikkun haKlalli – one “purifies the impure.” This is accomplished by teshuvah, and by rectifying the spiritual damage one has caused, through the merit and power of the tzaddik who is buried there. Thus, one may make a new start in serving G-d, which is the aspect of Pesach and the Exodus, leaving one’s state of impurity and receiving the Torah anew. All this is accomplished through the holy grave of the Rebbe, whose name has the same gematria as “Pesach.”

This leads to our personal ge’ulah, our inner exodus from spiritual alienation, which is true slavery, to freedom from the ego and self-serving desires. This freedom is gained through the Torah.

3) Breslov tradition includes still another interpretation of this lesson from a different vantage point. According to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender (Si’ach Sarfey Kodesh VI, 233), the Breslover Chassidim of old used to say that the Rebbe gave us a precious piece of spiritual advice by concluding “ve-’achshav / and now…” That is, one can only serve Hashem in the present moment -- for the past is gone, and the future has not yet come, as the Rebbe states (Sichos haRan 288). Therefore, the present moment is all that truly exists.