Sunday, 15 January 2012

Only Shavuos: A Chametz Offering

Is fanatical separation of men and women ideal for us?

by GYE (See all authors)

Q. "I wanted to ask you what you thought about the fanatical separation of men and women in Arab countries. Is this the ideal for Jews as well in terms of separation of the sexes?"

A. The approach in Judaism is not one of extreme separation from the temptations of this world. We don't advocate locking the women up so that the men should not come to sin. The approach in Judaism is rather to be able to live in the world we are in, surrounded by temptations, and yet uplift this world along with its pleasures by keeping ourselves holy.

This idea is illustrated well by the following idea. On Pesach we bring an offering of barely - without Chametz, which is the symbol of the Yetzer Hara. On Shavuos we bring an offering of wheat (the two loaves) made out of Chametz. Shavuos is the only time of the year that we offer Chametz in the Beis Hamikdash. Otherwise, Chametz is banned as an offering. What is the deeper meaning behind the barley offering on Pesach and the wheat offering on Shavuos?

The holy Alshich explains that on Pesach we had not yet recieved the Torah. Instead, G-d shined his light upon us without us having worked for it. Barley is a food of animals (like Chaza"l explain that a Sotah brings a barley offering to symbolize that she did an act of an animal). Although we reached very high levels on the night of Pesach, we were still a bit like animals in that we had not yet worked for the high levels that were bestowed upon us. In such a situation, one must cut themselves off from worldly pleasure in order to retain their spiritual level. This is symbolized by barley, which contains no Chametz, i.e. no Yetzer Hara. However, after Pesach, G-d took the light away from us so that we could work towards the high levels that we had received on our own. During the seven weeks of Seffirah, we correct different attributes of ourselves each day (Chessed, Gevurah, etc...). By the time we get to Shavuos, we are worthy of receiving the Torah. Once we get the Torah there is no more need for "barley" offerings. We can now offer G-d even the Chametz. After getting the Torah, we are now able to DEAL with the Yetzer Hara. We can be involved with the Chametz and instead of sinking into it, we uplift this world with all its pleasures to G-d. Through the Torah and Mitzvos, we are able to use this world, together with our human instincts and inclinations, for the glory of G-d's name. This is the power of the Torah.