Monday, 16 April 2012

The Difference Between Chametz and Matzah

Understanding the Core of the 12-Steps

The 3rd step states: "We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him".

In the past we tried to explain how this works: Instead of retaining the lust and trying to give up our will to Hashem, we surrender the lust itself to Hashem!

Someone wrote us an e-mail trying to understand this better:

"The reason I find it hard to stop lusting is because I've abandoned the behavior but not the lust itself. But I read the explanation and practical application of Step 3 in the Chizuk e-mails in the past and I can't seem to make it work. I just repeat the words of "working the step" in my mind, but my heart still lusts.

I find that I can avoid acting out by reminding myself of quite a variety of things, including, lately, that I'm not an animal and have the ability to choose. However I find it very difficult to banish the pleasurable feelings I get when seeing things in the street and the inevitable lust that follows."

The reason it is so hard to comprehend exactly how this step works reminds me of the difference between Chametz and Matzah. It takes only one second to make all the difference between the dough becoming Chametz or creating Kosher Matzah. Indeed, the words Chametz and Matzah have the same letters besides for the Ches and Hei. The difference between a Ches and Hei is only a dot. The whole difference between Chametz and Matzah is this Nekudah - this tiny point.

The Beis Ahron of Karlin writes that while we clean out the Chametz from our homes before Pesach, the true preparation for the Yom Tov is: "To remove that bad Nekudah from our hearts and throw it deep into the sea, and to come closer to the good Nekudah. For automatically when one removes the bad point he is crowned with good, as we have said, and then Chametz turns to Matzah in the blink of an eye".

In the third step, the distinction between failure and success is indeed subtle, but it makes all the difference between Chametz and Matzah:

When we give up acting out while retaining the lust inside us, we are leaving the leaven inside the dough and it becomes Chametz.

However, when we give up the desire itself - the bad Nekudah - to Hashem, then we succeed in removing the leaven from the dough and it turns to Matzah - the bread of faith.

But How do we do this?

We turned to our 12-Step expert Boruch for guidance:

"Banishing a thought that you do not want is quite possible and very doable. However, banishing a thought that you do want is impossible. It is a contradiction in terms. It means focusing on the thought that you want to continue to think about, trying to stop thinking about it, and at the same time doing your very best to hold on to it.

The 3rd Step requires much more than a technique or strategy. It demands a decision that we should have already made when we took the First Step.

I would like to elaborate a little on what Boruch means.

The first of the 12-Steps states: "We admitted we were powerless over lust - and that our lives had become unmanageable". At that point, a person makes a very strong decision. Not a decision to stop lusting - because he's tried that countless times and it didn't work - but simply a decision that he does not want to lust anymore. HE SIMPLY CANNOT CONTINUE.

Once a person admits powerlessness and has a very clear recognition that he cannot continue and does not want to continue, he will find it much easier (in step 3) to give up - not just his "acting out" - but the very lust itself to Hashem, along with his right to lust and all expectations of ever receiving his lust.

But if a person never experienced Step-One fully and he continues to hold on to his desire to lust, he will find Step-Three almost impossible.

The difference is indeed subtle, like the difference between Chametz and Matzah. But we must let go of this bad Nekudah first if we want to be able to leave Mitzrayim. Perhaps that is the lesson of why Hashem commanded us to get rid of the leaven and eat Matzah on Pesach. For this is indeed a prerequisite to breaking free of the bondage of Egypt.

Now that we've read this Chizuk e-mail, let's get back to work and continue scrubbing those Nekudos of Chametz out of our homes and hearts!