Rabbi Sarit Horwitz

Getting rid of hametz is a complicated task. Of course, there are the stovetops to clean, the cabinets to clear out, and the bread to discard. The leavened items in our homes are replaced with matzah, the bread of affliction. That bread reminds us of the haste in which the Israelites had to leave Mitzrayim, and its flatness alludes to the spiritual work that we try to do around this time of year. In our tradition which teaches that teshuvah, repentance, is always a possibility, we are reminded exactly six months away from the Yamim Noraim, that the hametz of our souls and the leavening of our ego is also worth examining. This Pesah season, we not only think about the physical hametz in our homes to clean out, but also of the spiritual hametz, the spiritual schmutz that’s getting in the way of who we really are. Today, as we observed Shabbat haHodesh, we ushered in the month of Nisan and we kick ourPesah preparations into high gear. These 14 days are a spiritual cleanse to help us prepare for what it really means to be free. It’s the time to think about the spiritual schmutz we are carrying around and what we can get rid of. What are the layers we need to peel away in order to be a more liberated version of ourselves? What is excessive? What’s the hametz, the leavened, puffed-up stuff that’s holding us back?

For the next 13 days, until erev Pesah, you’ll receive a daily kavannah written by a member of our community. We’ve asked these members to think about what getting rid of spiritual schmutz means to them. Our haggadah asks us, in each and every generation, to see ourselves as if we, too, had been liberated from Mitzrayim. This is a charge that urges us to think about liberation in multiple ways: who in our world is oppressed, how do I oppress myself, and what are the ways that I can make the world, and myself, more free? In that spirit, we offer three ways for you to incorporate this charge into your Pesah preparations and celebrations.

• Before Pesah, help the hungry and get rid of your hametz by donating non-perishable food items to our WSCAH drive. Donation bins are in our 89th Street Community House and in the entrance to our 88th Street sanctuary before Kabbalat Shabbat.

• Continue the BJ tradition of adding a red onion to your seder plate as a reminder that many of the farm-workers who grow and harvest our food do not have the right to basic labor protections such as a weekly day of rest and overtime pay. Get Pesahresources and learn more about BJ’s Economic Justice Hevra.

• As we celebrate the Jewish people’s biblical exodus from Egypt, we remember that there are 60 million displaced people around the world, people fleeing violence and persecution in search of a safe place to call home. As part of BJ’s effort to respond to the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, we are partnering with HIAS, a leading organization in refugee advocacy and resettlement work. Bring HIAS’s Passover resources to your seder, learn more about this issue, and find ways to act.

Rabbi Sarit Horwitz
Senior Rabbinic Fellow