Torah for Today: What does the Torah say about.. Preparing for Pesach?

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Torah for Today: What does the Torah say about.. Preparing for Pesach?

Torah-For-Today-300x206By Rabbi Anthony Knopf

According to many psychologists, human beings are motivated by the desire for pleasure. We want to gratify our needs, wants and urges and we behave accordingly.

This is often described as the quest for ‘instant gratification’, an orientation that has been compounded in these times of social media, with an instant ability to upload videos, photos and status updates and we can receive instant feedback from our social followers.

The hard work of Pesach cleaning is at odds with the obsessive desire for gratification. Why, then, do so many of us work so hard in preparation for this festival?

In fact, if one lists all the Jewish holidays and ask what proportion of Jews observe each one, the likely conclusion would be that the holidays most adhered to are the two most difficult: Pesach and Yom Kippur.

The very fact that people work so hard in preparation for Pesach (and fast on Yom Kippur and do other things which require self-sacrifice) is itself testimony to the potential for human beings to strive for something greater than instant gratification.

As beings created in the image of Hashem, we have the capacity to recognise the superiority of moral principles and spiritual values above the comfort of material pleasures.

And it is this greater vision which lies at the heart of the teachings and practices of Pesach. When Moses gave his great speech to the Children of Israel before the exodus, he returned three times to the theme of transmitting the story of the people to the next generation.

Our children and theirs must identify with something greater than their own short-term pleasures and concerns and must establish a connection with greater principles and develop a deep existential bond with both their ancestors and descendants. And is it not this very process that we enact on Pesach?

As we sit at the seder table, our children ask the four questions as they seek to understand what it is to be part of the Jewish people. And we answer them by telling them the story of that people and allow them to experience a connection to the chain of Jewish history and to learn the values that we represent.

So we learn from the hundreds of generations of Jews who have worked hard to prepare their homes for Pesach that humans know intuitively that there is more to life than taking an easy ride and experiencing cheap pleasures. And there is no more fitting introduction to the festival itself in which we nurture our appreciation of a majestic tradition.

• Anthony Knopf is rabbi of Camps Bay Synagogue, Cape Town

Help perform the greatest mitzvah: save a life

While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.

That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.

We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.

Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”

read more: