Change your toothbrush for Passover

If you enter my office there is something you will immediately notice. Lots of books.

I have passion and love for books and I still prefer physical books over electronic versions of the same text, especially on Shabbat. I bought a big part of my book collection when I was a student in a Yeshiva in Israel more than 20 years ago and those books hold a special place in my heart.

The yeshivot (house of study) are usually closed during the month of Nissan and students go back to their homes, visit their parents and take that beautiful time of the year to attend to personal business. I used the days before Pesach to earn some money and buy some books. I spent the days leading up to Pesach by cleaning several homes in Jerusalem. These are among the days I remember most fondly. I made some handmade signs advertising my “pop up business,” provided my phone number, and hung the signs on electric poles in Jerusalem. Before long, I was receiving calls hiring me for the job of preparing homes in advance of Pesach. I worked very hard and used my earnings to take advantage of the book sales that always take place after Pesach.

What I remember the most were the signs that were hanging on the same poles where my sign was posted: “Deep tooth cleaning for Pesach- Remove all the chametz from your mouth.”

It was the first time I felt we may have gone too far…

Would Moshe Rabeinu, our greatest leader, have accepted such extremism?

Would Moshe Rabeinu, our greatest leader, have felt comfortable with McDonalds in Israel offering “bread for Passover,” or the supermarkets selling toilet detergent kosher for Pesach?

I still remember very clearly what the rabbis in the yeshiva suggested to all those who went to their homes for Pesach after studying intensely for months: “Be nice, your home is always your home. Don’t expect that the transformation you went through should happen to your family as well. Remember the story of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai”.

The Talmud (Shabbat 33b) tells us the following story:

When the Romans outlawed the study of Torah, Rabbi Shimon spoke out against them. The Romans thus pronounced a death sentence against Rabbi Shimon, who was forced to go into hiding.

Rabbi Shimon and his son remained in the cave for 12 years. During that time, they were involved in nothing but the study of Torah. One day, Elijah the prophet came to the cave and announced that the Caesar had died, and the decree against Rabbi Shimon was lifted.

Rabbi Shimon and his son ventured out of the cave. They saw some farmers working in the field. Rabbi Shimon was shocked that his fellow Jews were not continuously occupied in Torah study. “How could anyone forsake eternal life by indulging in mundane, worldly pursuits?” he asked. Rabbi Shimon then cast his gaze upon the farmers – and they were immediately vaporized, due to the power of Rabbi Shimon’s spiritual stature.

At that point, a voice from heaven proclaimed: “My world is not to be destroyed! Return to your cave!”

Pesach is a time for family. The Seder table should be a place for agreements and not for arguments. For Torah not for cell phones. For love not for religious extremism.

And related to the opening question: Should you change your toothbrush for Passover? Only if you want to…

Pesach Kasher V’sameach




Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin

1 comment

Martin Sieff

Thank you again, Rabbi
Funny and wise.

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