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Geshmack Dvar Torah of the Week: False start

Sunday, 21 March 2010

False start

Looking at the 15 steps of the Seder, ורחץ- “and we wash our hands” – is out of step with the rest. It is seemingly linked to the previous step of Kadesh. But this results in a further problem – the order is wrong! Shouldn’t we cleanse ourselves of the negative, symbolised by washing our hands, before sanctifying ourselves with positive, through kiddush?

We can ask the same question about Matza and Maror, shouldn’t we get the negative (slavery) out of the way before commemorating the positive?

R’ Moshe Feinstein answers that sometimes we are in so deep that we can’t cleanse ourselves of the negativity. We have to jumpstart the process of growth by diving in and doing positive acts despite the fact we still have negative baggage. Then we build up the spiritual strength to be able to cleanse ourselves of and be rid of that baggage – which is exactly what happened in Egypt.

There is a Chassidic analogy of a man with dirty boots in a muddy field. He must walk to the end of the field before he can clean his boots.

This is an exceptionally deep משל, but on a basic level, what it means is that when we have a problem that we can’t avoid (dirty boots), we must change the situation we are in (leaving the field). Once we have changed and grown, when we find ourselves with “muddy boots” we will no longer be in the “muddy field”. We can even take this analogy further – people can look around at the world (muddy field) and wonder how they can have faith when there is so much evil (mud) in the world. The answer is that the muddy field isn’t the problem – your boots are!

The reason we start the Seder in this way is to show us that we just need to take the initiative – Kaddish - and then ורחץ – we will be cleansed!

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