Wednesday, May 04, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

My rebbe Rav Mendel Kaplan was a gaon in Torah and Mussar, but he is most often remembered for his gaonus in examining the human condition and explaining it in a pithy comment.

One of his cherished reflections was presented to me when I was just a young teenager, but it sticks in my mind with an impact that has helped me form a perspective on many of life’s most eventful moments. “The world is like chewing gum; there is a little bit of sugar, and the rest is chew, chew, chew.”

This comment came to mind once again as we return to everyday life following eight days of Yom Tov.

Yesterday was Pesach and today we are back at work, back at doing whatever it is we do six days a week. One week ago we sat at the Seder dressed in our kittels and Yom Tov finest, drinking from silver cups and reclining like kings. Now we are back at the grind wondering if there is any way we can keep some of that “sugar” taste of Yom Tov alive in our hearts, minds and palettes.

Yom Tov flew by so quickly; unless we do something about making sure that something remains, soon it will be but a distant memory; a blip on the screen of life.

Pesach is referred to as z’man cheiruseinu, our holiday of freedom as it marks the day we received our freedom upon leaving Mitzrayim.

As we count the days since we sat derech cheirus, like free men, we recognize that the day when we first learned the profound truth of ein licha ben chorin elah mi she’oseik b’Torah—freedom exists only for those who devote themselves to Torah—is right around the corner.

Sukkos is followed immediately by Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, but the Atzeres of Pesach comes 49 days later with Shavuos, with a significant count down in between.

Sefirah enables us to hold on to the gains we achieved on Yom Tov and grow them. It helps us maintain the goals of the Yom Tov and its spirit in our system long after the final drops of Havdalah are sipped. The dishes are packed, the macaroons are gone and chometz is back with a vengeance as if it never left. But every night when we count those days of sefira it ought to help us keep the flame of Yom Tov flickering in our hearts.

There are no shortcuts to cheirus. In order to achieve true freedom and to hold on to the flavor of Yom Tov in our lives we have to go through the degrees each of the 49 days of Sefirah represent, and climb the 48 steps with which Torah is attained.

It is true that in life there is only a small amount of sugar, the test is to dip into that sugar and make it last as long as possible. If we are looking for shortcuts, if we devour the whole serving in one sitting, nothing will remain, but if we savor the flavor and study it, we can find the recipe and discover which components are necessary for achieving sweetness, we can attain that which we all seek.

Get rich schemes are destined to fail; success takes a lot of hard work so does happiness and freedom. If we wish to sustain the levels we attained on Yom Tov we have to work at it.

Chazal understood that in order to hold on to the Yom Tov flavor we must toil. Sefiras HaOmer, Pirkei Avos and a period of serious reflection serve that purpose. For true freedom comes with a price in the spiritual world as well as the physical.

On Yom Tov we enjoy festive holiday meals with our families, unrushed and without the pressure of having to run off to somewhere to fulfill an obligation less important than quality time with the family, but pressing nevertheless. Throughout the days of the chag we are surrounded by family and friends, eating, talking, visiting and doing the things we enjoy.

We spend more time in the learning and davening and doing what is important than we do during the course of the year. We ignore work and outside pressures and concentrate on what is truly important for a week of Yom Tov enveloped in Kedusha.

Even as Pesach has ended and we return to the mundane we should try to concentrate on doing what is truly important and in that way maintain our status of bnei chorin.

The sugar of life is during those special Yom Tov moments and to the extent that we are able to transfer them to the days when we have to chew, chew, chew, our lives will have greater meaning and lasting flavor.


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