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"What are you mixing in that bowl, Imma?"
"A cake batter, Leah."
"What's in the batter, Imma?"
"Flour, water, eggs, sugar, oil, and some baking powder to make it rise."
"It doesn't look like very much batter, Imma. It must be a small cake." "It is going to be a big cake, Leah dear. Just wait and see."
Leah's mother finishes mixing the batter and pours it into a baking pan. It fills up less than half of the pan. She slides it into the oven and switches on the heat. Soon, a delicious aroma spreads through the kitchen.
"Mmmm. That smells so good Imma. Is it done yet?"
"It will be ready in about ten minutes, Leah."
Finally, Leah's mother opens the oven door.
"Wow, the cake is so huge! It even rose over the sides of the pan! How did that happen, Imma?"
"The secret ingredient is the baking powder. It makes the cake rise. Our Sages refer to it as the se'or she'bi'eesa, the leaven in the batter."
"Really? What do they say about it"
"It tries to stop us from serving Hashem."
"I don't understand, Imma. What does baking powder have to do with serving Hashem?"
"I will explain the whole subject, Leah. You noticed that a small amount of cake batter rose to make a big cake. There is actually very little flour in that big cake. The se'or she'bi'eesa pumps it up to a much bigger size. Our Sages (Gemora Berachos 17a) compare it to the Yetzer Hora.
"Rebbe Alexandre would say after every prayer, 'Master of the Universe! You know that we want to do Your Will. What holds us back? The se'or she'bi'eesa.' Rashi comments that this is the Yetzer Hora. The Maharsha explains how it works. For a person to serve Hashem properly, he is supposed to take the middle path, using his middos (character traits) and his desires in moderation. Along comes the Yetzer Hora and convinces him to 'pump them up' and go to the extreme. 'Overindulge your desires,' he says. In this way, he pulls a person away from Hashem, and sends him drowning in the pool of his desires. 'Be overly picky about unimportant things,' he whispers. He inflates them and exaggerates their importance. Just the same as leaven blows up a cake, making the main ingredient - the flour - look like much more than it really is."
"There is actually a reference to this subject in this week's parasha, Leah. The Torah teaches the Kohanim how to offer up the mincha (grain) offerings. It commands them, 'Do not bake (the grain into) chometz' (Vayikra 6:10). The Chasam Sofer explains that it is not fitting for the holy Kohanim to eat this food, which represents bad middos."
"I never realized the true nature of chometz, Imma. What can we do about it?"
"We must destroy the Yetzer Hora. That is what Pesach cleaning is all about. Pesach is called z'man cheiruseinu, the time of our freedom. Hashem gives us special Siyata Di'Shmaya (Heavenly Assistance) to free ourselves from the Yetzer Hora on Pesach. However, we must do our part. We must destroy the chometz. This physical destruction of leaven symbolizes the spiritual annihilation of the Yetzer Hora."
"I'm ready, Imma. Let's get on with the cleaning for Pesach and wipe out the Yetzer Hora!"
Kinderlach . . .
There are two sides to Pesach cleaning. Did you find cookie crumbs under the sofa? Do they remind you of the time when you overindulged, ate too many cookies, and got a tummy ache? Did you find some pretzels in your coat pocket? Do they remind you of the time when you twisted the truth, just as those pretzels are twisted? Did you find breadcrumbs under the bookshelves? Do they remind you of the time when you rushed through the Bircas Ha'mazone to run outside to play? Do teshuva! Destroy those aveyros and the Yetzer Hora that caused them! Clean up your houses and souls for Pesach!
Disaster was impending. In our days, l'tsaareinu (distressingly), we have become accustomed to tragic news. However, this was an unparalleled catastrophe. Each and every single Jew - man, woman, and child was to die, in one single day (Megillas Esther 3:13). Was this gezayra (decree) final? Was there no recourse? The Medrash (Esther Rabba 7:13) relates that Eliyahu HaNovi told Moshe Rabbeinu that the decree was written Above. Moshe said, if it was sealed in mortar, then our tefillos (prayers) will still be heard. However, if it is sealed in blood, it will stand as it is. Eliyahu said that it was sealed in mortar. Immediately Eliyahu informed Mordechai.
What should Mordechai do? All of Klal Yisrael was in mortal danger. Rav Shimshon Pincus zt"l explains that there was only one solution. Mordechai had to appeal to Hashem's mercy in the most basic way. "You are children to Hashem your G-d" (Devarim 14:1). A father has mercy on his children. We had to show The Almighty that we still cherished our relationship with Him like a son to a father. And so, Mordechai gathered 22,000 children who donned sackcloth, fasted, learned Torah, and cried out to Hashem. These children showed Hashem that we are still His children. Their cries rose to the very Heavens and disturbed Hashem's sleep (so to speak). At that moment, He rose from His throne of din (strict judgment) and sat on His throne of rachamim (mercy) [Esther Rabba 9:3].
"What is the uniqueness of Purim?" asks Rav Pincus. This is the day that we renewed our father/child relationship with our Creator. We still love and revere Him like a child to a Father. How do we demonstrate this? By eating and drinking. What is the connection? Food and drink are what keep us alive. That is how Hashem bestows the gift of life upon His creations. On Purim, we celebrate life itself, the special life that we were granted as Hashem's children. We eat a seudas mitzvah (festive meal) and drink wine because eating and drinking is our most basic connection to our Source of Life - the Holy One. In doing so, we realize that Hashem is close to us at all times. We need only to mention His Name, "Blessed are You Hashem, our G-d, King of the World, Who created the fruit of the vine." Our seudas mitzvah on Purim becomes a unique way achieving closeness to Hashem that is unmatched on any other day of the year. May we all merit enjoying our Purim seudah this year as never before.
Kinderlach . . .
Hashem is "Avinu Malkeinu" (Our Father Our King). To get a personal audience with the King, one must normally wait several months or even years. However, the King's son gets in right away. We are the King's children. We can speak with Him whenever we want. How? The whole world recognizes Hashem in His Glorious, Majestic role as the King of Kings. We know Him as our Father - giving out treats at the table. That is Purim. We eat and drink because we know that this treat, which gives us life, comes from Hashem. Enjoy the Purim seudah kinderlach, as well as every other treat from Our Father in Heaven.
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