I am a very optimistic guy and always look for a way at making sure the glass is half full… even if
it is almost empty! The problem, however, is that in many cases I just can’t figure out a way to
make things seems right, no matter how hard I try. I realize that Hashem is testing us – and I
accept these tests – but somehow I don’t see the tests ending. Lately, it seems that everywhere
I turn, there is another challenge and another hurdle to overcome. Since “quitting” is not an
option, I just keep pushing and trusting in full faith that Hashem will not let us down. It is not
easy but where in the Torah does it say that being Jewish is “easy”??? If it’s there, I must have
Recently, one of my biggest concerns has been with our Jewish youth. I don’t see the excitement
anymore. I don’t see the enthusiasm or the happiness for being Jewish. I see many of them
keeping Mitzvot, but out of habit not passion, and this tends to end over time…
What has become of us – the proud and chosen people? Why do we feel the burden of being
Jewish but not the privilege? As we approach the days before Pesach, how many of us will
literally curse the work we do as opposed to thanking Hashem for a chance to rid the physical
and spiritual chometz from our homes and lives? What an opportunity we have to cleanse
ourselves – and not only our ovens and closets! Yet, we kvetch and have sour faces for weeks
before this amazing holiday. We complain about Pesach prices, about the back-breaking
cleaning and about how jealous we are of our neighbors who go each year to one of those fancy
shmancy hotels. And worst of all, we pass this sad, bitter pill to our children and are then
amazed why so many of them look elsewhere.
I am not a Rabbi nor am I as knowledgeable as I should be in Halacha but I have the feeling that
it is better to relax some of our “chumras” in order to make Pesach enjoyable and educational.
Of course I am not saying to violate Halacha but lately, so much of what we do is not even close
to Halacha. It is a chumra on top of a chumra on top of a chumra. Every year there’s new
kitniyot rules! Every year the amount of Matza we must eat becomes larger and larger in less
and less time. Every year we have to clean more than the previous year and every year there are
more rules such as not eating “gebrokts”, even though you ate it the last 50 years! I remember
growing up, there was one family in the neighborhood who didn’t eat gebrokts. Fine – that was
their custom and we all respected it… but today? I tell people that I like matzo balls in my soup
and they look at me like I just ate a cheeseburger!
I am not afraid to say that this craziness has to stop! Adding on all these chumras to an already
challenging holiday does nothing but add pressure and stress. Actually, that is incorrect. It does
a lot more than that – it takes away the fun of Pesach that we all had growing up. It turns this
week, and the month prior, to a time we all can’t wait to end. Sad, but true.
I have noticed this trend for a long time but never said anything until now because after
assessing the situation, I came to the conclusion that it is negatively effecting the young
generation. Our children are mirrors and tape-recorders and not only when they are 2-5 years
old! Our teenagers look to us for guidance, direction, emotional support and – yes – also in how
to be good and proud Jews. We must teach them that Judaism has much more than just a brain.
Judaism has a heart and a soul as well! A Torah way of life is not restricting – on the contrary! A
Torah Jew is one who is truly free, happy all the time and full of life and vigor. Yes, we follow
rules but just like a young driver follows rules in order to reach new destinations, a Jew follows
rules to touch the Heavens! These rules are not boring or dry – they are life itself and just as our
young driver follows them to stay alive so does the young Jew follow them to reach places most
people on this world will never get to!
Dearest readers – please put down some of the chumras and turn the clock back to when you
were a child. Remember those days when you ate Streits matzoh and not just shmura the whole
week? Remember the days when you actually made a “mezonnos” bracha during Chol
Ha’moed? Let your kids have those memories as well. Give them the freedom of Pesach and not
just the slavery. I promise you that they will cling to Yiddishkeit more than ever and will love
every minute of the holiday! Make them some matza brei and throw some “kneidels” in the
soup on Seder night. Invest some time putting a little neshama into this – and every day of the
year – and this investment will pay you dividends beyond your wildest dreams. Happy Chodesh
Nissan to one and all!