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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Haggadah

The Yellow Light

Preparations for Passover include a thorough search for every crumb of leaven in the house. But is this what instills in us a sense of freedom? Is this in tune with the spirit of spring, in which we free ourselves soak in the fresh spring fragrance?
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Preparations for Passover include a thorough search for every crumb of "Hametz" (leaven) in the house. This practice is endorsed by the words of the sages who say that, on Passover, even the smallest amount of Hametz is forbidden. The Passover Festival carries with it many stringencies, customs, and safety precautions connected to the consumption of Hametz which various Jewish communities have taken upon themselves.

Is this what instills in us a sense of freedom? Is this in tune with the spirit of spring, in which we remove our cumbersome winter coverings, step outside, and free ourselves in a manner that allows us to soak in the fresh spring fragrance? Does it not seem that the abundance of restrictions and the exceedingly scrupulous attitude toward Hametz restrain and crush our desire to "flow," and to live freely?

Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair authored an important Baraitha in which he establishes for us the necessary stations on the way to getting closer to God and perfecting one’s character traits. He opens this Baraitha with the attribute of "Zehiruth," which means "caution." "Torah leads to caution." Following this, there is a continuous list of stations through which one must pass before reaching the level of "Ruach HaKodesh," which means Divine Inspiration. "Caution" binds us to the Passover Festival in which we are so careful about every step we take and about even the smallest amount of Hametz. Apparently, Passover is our spiritual station.

And what is meant by the attribute of Caution? Caution is that attribute which allows a person to take note of the dangers in life. The world that we live in is not entirely friendly, and it contains potential dangers. Hametz is the yellow light informing us: "Caution, danger ahead!"
And what exactly is the danger? Hametz represents the physical side of our world, which, when man becomes involved, takes on a face different than that which God originally granted it. It does not remain low and small; rather, it grows, and becomes large. It lifts up its head and has the nerve to demand honorable mention.

We have been through the horrors of Egypt. We are not unlike a prisoner who has been released from the prison cell. The transition to a life of freedom must be made in stages. With every freed prisoner there exists a danger that after years of being denied the taste of freedom, this new luxury might well intoxicate and overwhelm him. Such a scenario might be compared to a poor person suddenly wins the lottery. Studies have shown that such people do not generally become happier.

The same is true of the "exodus" from the winter into the spring. It must be accompanied by a yellow caution sign, with an inner strength which refuses to allow the nature and the external material world to confuse us, which does not allow the scents of spring to intoxicate us. We will not let external beauty to take control of us. We will be stronger than it and know how to make fitting use of it. This, though, is only possible if, when we enter the world of nature, we keep on constant guard of the "yellow light" - caution: Hametz.

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