The Afikoman

Afikoman is called ‘Tzafun’ because it grants us the power to illuminate the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) which is also called ‘Tzafon’ (Yoel 2:20).

The Afikoman has no taste. This teaches us that we should not attempt to reason with the Yetzer Hara, to ‘taste’ its arguments in order to refute them. The best approach is to be unrelenting and uncompromising: ‘I will do the right thing! There is simply no other option.’

The Gutnik Haggadah

Two halves of matzah – two radically different identities.

When we do ‘Yachatz’ and break the middle matzah in ‘half’, we are left with two radically different Matzah ‘identities.’

1. One half, the smaller piece becomes ‘poor man’s bread.’ The larger piece (Afikoman) on the other hand is symbolic of the Paschal lamb which was eaten in a manner of majesty and royalty.

2. The smaller piece remains on the table; but the larger piece must be hidden away.

3. The smaller piece is an “exile” Matzah over which we bemoan the slavery of our ancestors in Egypt; the larger piece is a “redemption” Matzah with which we look forward expectantly to the day when we will eat the Paschal lamb once again.

4. The smaller piece reminds us of the Egyptian exodus whose effects were eventually reversed with further exiles following; the larger piece alludes to the future redemption whose effects will be permanent and everlasting.

From the Gutnik Haggadah

The search for chametz in our minds

Our Sages taught that Chametz is symbolic of evil in general and the evil inclination in particular: “We want to do your will, but the yeast in the dough is holding us back.” The search for Chametz thus represents seeking out evil that has been misplaced and ‘scattered.’ On a personal level this corresponds to a soul reckoning for hidden sins that are to be found in the ‘crevices’ of our conscious minds, such as inappropriate thoughts etc..

The Gutnik Haggadah

Can we say the Haggadah in English?

The main purpose of the Haggadah is to acquaint our children with the story of the Exodus and to publicize the miracles that occurred. The leader of the Seder should therefore communicate the Haggadah in a language the children understand. The Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 473) says: “It should be recited in any language that women and children understand….R.Yitzchak of London (one of the ba’alei hatosafot) would recite the entire Haggadah in English so that the women and children would understand.”

Freedom

The question we often ask at this time of year is, are we really free? Are we not slaves to our job, our lifestyle, our children, our computers or whatever it is? What is real freedom. The Tanya sheds some light on the question: “We connect to Hashem with the Torah and we are free because we are then infinite and unbounded.” It is a beautiful concept but how do we put it into practice. The Rebbe brings it down into a practical suggestion:

Make a part of your life an act that takes you beyond your bounds, helping people that are not part of your family or circle of friends, doing something that does not fit within your own self-definition. Invite someone to your seder who you’re not so comfortable with.

Based on an article in http://www.chabad.org

‘Do not despair of retribution’ (even if a sharp sword rests upon your neck) (Pirkei Avot Mishna 7)

In the Warsaw Ghetto there was a slogan painted on the wall, “There is no despair in the world at all.” This conviction has accompanied the Jewish people throughout the generations, the people who have never surrendered from the time they entered the arena of history to this very day. (Rav Lau on Pirkei Avot).

‘Do not despair of retribution’ even if a sharp sword rests upon your neck.

When the king of Assyria reached the gates of Jerusalem with an army of hundreds of thousands of men, many Jews wanted to surrender. King Hezekiah refused, “trusted in Hashem, the G-d of Israel” and prayed to Him. That night an angel struck the camp of Assyria and killed 185,000 men. The king of Assyria fled to his idolatrous temple where his two sons slew him

‘Do not despair of retribution’ (Pirkei Avot Mishna 7)

Rav Lau writes: ‘Do not despair of retribution”:Do not in your anguish seek refuge amid the weak. Gird yourself with faith and cast your burden upon Hashem and he will deliver you from sorrow.

5 Rules for Life – No 5. Work Hard

5. Work hard. The way an athlete or concert pianist or cutting-edge scientist works hard. The American psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, calls this the principle of “flow.” By this he means the peak experience you have when you are working so hard at a task that you are unaware of the passing of time. No great achiever – even those who made it seem easy – ever succeeded without hard work. The Jewish word for serving God, avodah, also means hard work.

From the Chief Rabbi in The Times resourced by Steve Rosenbaum

5 Rules for Life – No 4. Make space in your life for the things that matter

4. Make space in your life for the things that matter. For family and friends, love and generosity, fun and joy. Without this, you will burn out in mid-career and wonder where your life went. In Judaism we have the Sabbath, a dedicated day of stillness each week, where we make space for all the things that are important but not urgent. Not every culture has a Sabbath, but life without dedicated time for renewal, like a life without exercise or music or a sense of humour, is a lesser life.

From the Chief Rabbi in The Times