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Pesach And Eiruvin

By Yochanan Gordon

Now that we have charged forward into the second masechta of Shas according to the daf yomi program, I have come across numerous instances where the subject matter in the daf relates somewhat to the particular time during which we are learning it. Although this notion is not new to me, it seems to happen more often now that I subscribe to the daf on a daily basis.

This led me to probe into finding a relationship between the upcoming yom tov of Pesach and the masechta of Eiruvin that we are currently studying. As in every masechta, countless matters are discussed which seem to have little relevance to the overarching theme (in this case, Eiruvin). Still, we tend to define a masechta as a whole by the name that it was given which in a sense defines its essence. In fact—not that this should serve as a shortcut to actually sitting and delving into the minutiae of the masechta—there is a source in the Shelo HaKadosh which asserts that one who just mentions the name of a masechta gets credit for learning the entire masechta.

The purpose of an eiruv is to transform a public domain into a private domain. Taking this idea further, we have to wonder why the Torah prohibits transporting items from one domain to another on Shabbos. Obviously, since transportation was necessary during the construction of the Mishkan and constitutes laborious work, according to the Torah it is prohibited. But my question is pointing to the core of this prohibition. What is it about carrying from one domain to another that necessitates a sin offering if done accidentally or warrants a severe consequence of kareis if done rebelliously?

The Torah tells us that G‑d rested on the seventh day from the work that He did during the six days of creation. What was the work that was done, and what did He refrain from doing that constituted rest?

G‑d created the world through speech. The Mishnah in Avos teaches, “The world was created with ten utterances.” Seemingly, then, His rest was that He ceased speaking. This presents a philosophical quandary. We recite daily, “HaMechadesh b’tuvo b’chol yom tamid ma’aseh bereishis.” G‑d continues to renew creation constantly. We are taught that if He would cease reciting one of the ten utterances, that element of creation would be undone. The question then is how is the world sustained come Shabbos, when G‑d ceases to speak? Some explain that the mechanism of creation on Shabbos shifts from one of action to thought. The elevation of the universe on Shabbos that many chassidic and kabbalistic sages write extensively about is an elevation from the realm of action to thought.

What is the purpose of speech? Its purpose is solely to express one’s thoughts to someone outside of himself. If we were alone in the world there would be no purpose in our ability to speak. On Shabbos we are supposed to feel the oneness of creation where the only true existence is G‑d. In a world of oneness there is no other or independent space or entity. So when we carry from one domain to another, in essence we are denying the oneness of creation.

As an aside, we could follow this line of thought with many if not all the prohibited forms of labor on Shabbos. For instance, selection or borer indicates a lack of perfection when in fact we are taught that Shabbos is a peek into the World to Come, which is a time of perfection leaving no room for improvement. So if we select the bad from the good on Shabbos, we are indicating that it is not a perfect day, and that is not true.

Rav Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, zt’l, father of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson, writes regarding the objective of an eiruv that it is to transform the area which extends beyond the boundary to be seen as within the boundary. He writes that eiruv is represented by the sefirah of Tiferes. Just as Tiferes synthesizes Chessed and Gevurah, eiruv unites the area from within the boundary (Chessed) with the area that exists beyond the boundary (Gevurah). Furthermore, Chessed is represented by the Shem Havayah whose fullest expression is in its miluy, spelled out in its entirety, “yud-hei-vav-hei” which possesses the numerical value of 72 or ayin beis. Chessed too possesses a numerical value of 72. Gevurah in gematriah is 216, which is reish yud vav. The two words together comprise eiruv. If we take a closer look at the spelling, we see that the ayin beis which corresponds to Chessed encompasses the reish yud vav of Gevurah which indicates this objective of Chessed enveloping Gevurah, leaving no room for any negativity, judgment, or severity.

Pesach is the time of our freedom and redemption. While we recount the story of our ancestors’ Exodus from Egypt, which is a pivotal aspect of this yom tov, the freedom underscored as an inextricable part of Pesach applies to our current state as an exiled people today as well. Chazal say, “We were redeemed in Nissan and in Nissan we will be redeemed.” The question that the Maharal asks is, There are no two more opposite expressions than poverty and freedom. Why then are we commanded to eat matzah, lechem oni, precisely at a time when we are celebrating our freedom?

He answers that in reality the expression of redemption could only be used in regards to something which exists as an entity in and of itself, not tied down to or dependent on another entity. Matzah is made up of the most basic and necessary ingredients for it to exist, which are flour and water. Bread, which possesses sweeteners and yeast in order to give it growth, is tainted by the image that it is given by all the extraneous elements. Matzah, on the other hand, symbolizes a people that were given their identity as a people of G‑d not subordinate to anyone other than G‑d. So like the eiruv, Pesach too, in a sense, reminds us and enables us to reclaim our sense of independence and oneness in a dichotomous world.

The Maharal continues to explain this is the precise reason why G‑d chose Nissan as the month to redeem the Jewish people. Nissan, the first month, exists alone without any other pair. From the second month and on each is subordinate in a sense to the one that preceded it. In regard to the month of Nissan the Torah writes, “Ha’chodesh ha’zeh lachem rosh chadashim rishon hu lachem lechodshei ha’shanah.” This follows the rule laid down by the Maharal that redemption can only be given to something or a people that essentially exist alone.

You may point out that the comparison between Pesach and the objective of eiruv as it was explained is slightly incongruous, since eiruv transforms the public domain into a private one, whereas on Pesach we are commanded to destroy and rid ourselves of any chametz, without the ability to transform the chametz into matzah. However, it is interesting to note that the removal of chametz from our midst is only a temporary one. It is similar to a self-help program where we are instructed to remove ourselves from the thing we are attempting to gain control over before reintroducing it into our lives. This explains why even those who distance themselves from the intake of gebrokts purposely mix their matzah into liquids on acharon shel Pesach.

Furthermore, the korban which we bring seven weeks later on Shavuos, Shtei HaLechem, has to be chametz, indicating that our distance from chametz over Pesach, and the seven weeks of Sefirah which are a time to align our feelings and actions as we approach Matan Torah, serve as a continuation of acharon shel Pesach where we attempt to attain control over chametz, using it to bring us closer to G‑d. In the future, after the coming of Mashiach, this yom tov will incorporate Sefirah as the chol ha’moed connecting Pesach to Shavuos. This furthers the similarity drawn between eiruv, which unites two reshuyos, with Pesach, which ultimately enables the use of chametz to further the message of G‑d’s oneness in our lives. A Chag HaPesach Kasher V’Sameach to one and all! v

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Posted by on March 21, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.