This week we begin reading the third book of the Torah. It is called Vayikra, which means, “and He called.” G-d called to Moshe and instructed him regarding the laws of the various categories of sacrifices and offerings which were brought in the Temple. This Book is commonly known as Leviticus, since the Kohanim and Leviim who emerged from the Tribe of Levi, were the ones who served in the Temple.
As Pesach approaches and we are working towards having our homes Chometz free during Pesach, it’s interesting to point out that in the Temple sacrificial service, which included various flour based offerings, the Torah forbids any leavening or honey sweetener to be added to the offering.
After a portion of a flour based offering was offered on the Altar the remainder was given to the Kohanim to eat in a state of purity. They were still required to make sure that it remained Chometz free.
So what’s with Chometz that G-d places restrictions on it regarding bringing it as an offering on His Altar and forbidding each Jew to eat, own or derive benefit from Chometz over the course of the holiday of Pesach?
Our Sages explain that the leavening process of bread, which promotes the bread to rise, has an association with haughtiness. The depiction of someone haughty or stuck up is usually captured with their heads, particularly their noses raised upward.
The Talmud teaches us that G-d abhors one who exhibits Ga’avah – haughtiness. One reason for this is that G-d wishes for us to recognize that all our talents, personality and successes are a direct result of His kindness and directive. When one attributes their achievements to their own abilities, and excludes G-d’s involvement, it is as if he is serving a false god which is revolting to G-d.
Although Chometz – leavening – is never allowed in the Temple and Altar procedures because of the proximity to G-d presence in His Temple, G-d does allow us to eat Chometz during the year except for the days of Pesach.
Today, most conversations include some type of reference to the Covid vaccine. “Did you have your first shot yet? Or I already got my second shot.” A vaccine is to prevent one from contracting a disease, and every so often one requires a booster so that the effectiveness of the vaccine continues.
Bread is the basic and most universal sustenance for humanity. G-d permitted us to indulge in leavened products throughout the year. But we may wonder, how do we deal with the negative effects of the component of haughtiness incorporated in the yeast and the rising of the dough? G-d gives us the formula for His special ‘vaccination’ as follows: “During Pesach I forbid you from eating any trace of Chometz. Not only are you not allowed to eat chometz, you have to clean and search your properties for Chometz and get rid of it before the holiday.” G-d continues, “The actual ‘vaccine’ to prevent the negative effects of Chometz is by eating Matzah! This eight day regimen is the effective way to forge a close relationship with G-d!”
So why is the time of this ‘vaccine’ specifically during Peasch? Commentaries explain that the Egyptians were steeped in idolatry. G-d commanded the Jews to sacrifice, roast and eat the lamb – the deity of Egypt – in order to disavow any attachment to the Egyptian idolatry. Matzah, unleavened bread, with its component of humility is the antidote to the negativity of the arrogance and idolatry that resides in the Chometz that we eat during the rest of the year!
Best of all, we all get vaccinated at the same time, and guess what – at the Seders we all talk about it too!