Pesach draws near. Last Shabbat we learned that the penultimate Shabbat before Pesach didn’t carry a special title like the other four preceding parshiot (Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Parah, Shabbat HaChodesh and this Shabbat coming up, Shabbat HaGadol). But in fact a few Chassidic masters designated the Shabbat before Shabbat haGadol, a very special Shabbat indeed – and named it Shabbat Penuyah, after, variously, a young girl, opening, or turning. This last Shabbat is (symbolically) the Shabbat where the people of Israel become ‘engaged’ to God, in preparation for the betrothal ceremony on Pesach and the actual marriage ceremony on Shavuot! Shabbat Penuyah is the Shabbat where the people of Israel turn away from their former life and open up towards a life of Covenant.
Tzav, our parashah this week, continues to teach about the korbanot, the sacrifices brought to the Kohanim, the priests. Kli Yikar comments on the holiest of these offerings, the sin offering – or in Jacob Milgrom’s translation, the purification offering. Tzav is often the reading for Shabbat HaGadol – a reminder perhaps of the careful preparations we are making for Passover.
But we want to use a little caution. The K’li Yikar (1550-1619, Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Lundschitz) teaches that a perfectly righteous person – a tsaddik – never achieves the degree of holiness that someone does who has sinned and then done teshuvah. But who can this perfect person be? Surely we all need to do teshuvah at some point? King Solomon teaches us something very important to remember – especially as we hover those days so near Pesach.
“I have seen a tzaddik destroyed by his tzidkut.” He is saying – don’t be a perfectionist or a compulsive tzaddik! Rabbi Twersky cites this example: A woman was so concerned that she would not rid her house of every bit of chometz (bread crumbs) before Passover that she refused to allow any chometz in the house for one month prior to Passover. Each year she increased the restrictions, ultimately reaching the point where no chometz was permitted into the house all year round! In her attempts to achieve perfection, to be a tzadik, she was destroyed by her tzidkut!
So everyone, do the best you can. But as you attempt to turn towards Pesach and that extraordinary time of betrothal, as you sacrifice your time to clean and purify, remember to not be too compulsive! Remember to take time to call your family members, arrange those Zoom visits, come and please, join us Shabbat morning on the 27th, and sing together. The chometz will always be there. Chag kasher sameach!
Love to all,