On Wednesday evening, March 22, community and shul members gathered at Congregation Ahavas Yisroel for a much-anticipated annual shiur. As always, Rabbi Herschel Welcher shlita, rav of Congregation Ahavas Yisroel, shared an inspiring and informative shiur.
“You always learn something new,” one congregant said.
“It energizes me,” someone else noted.
Rabbi Welcher began by stating that there are many negative mitzvos that carry a punishment of kareis, but there are only two positive commandments that carry a punishment of kareis. These are bris milah and korban Pesach. Why are these two mitzvos singled out, and how are they connected? Also, if a man or a family member of his is not circumcised, then he is not permitted to bring the korban Pesach.
“Pesach is unique,” he taught. “There is no comparable experience in the Jewish calendar.” We have indelible memories of Pesach. It is not the same as other holidays.
Rabbi Welcher shared a story that happened to Rav Yaakov Galinsky, a famous maggid. During World War II, he fled to Vilna, and Russia conquered Lithuania, which made it an unsafe place for a rabbi. He hid in the room of the town shochet. One day, there was a knock on the door; and when Rav Galinsky answered, he saw a KGB officer standing there in full uniform. The officer demanded to see the man who kills animals, and Rav Galinsky said that he wasn’t there. Then he asked for the man who cuts kids, and Rav Galinsky said that he wasn’t there. The man then said in Yiddish, “Don’t make me crazy.” He explained he had a baby boy who needed a bris milah but he couldn’t do it now as it was dangerous, but he asked if the rabbi could come in a month to do it. He said if a woman carrying a basket was outside the address he gave, then he could go in with the shochet to perform the bris milah. So, they went a month later and saw the woman with the basket and they went inside and performed the milah. Rav Galinsky was the sandek. Two weeks later, he saw the KGB officer and asked him why he risked doing the milah. The officer replied that the Jewish people have had ups and downs in history, and right now was a down time, but this will pass and one day people will be proud to say they are Jewish. When that day comes, he wanted his son to be proud.
Rabbi Welcher shared that we see the importance of bris milah as a membership card. It’s a common bond and a sign of Hashem. This man understood that to be part of the history of klal Yisrael his son needed a bris milah.
Rabbi Welcher continued to teach that we took the deity of the Egyptians four days before we were going to slaughter it, and they paraded it through the streets. “What a phenomenal proclamation of faith.” We shook off idolatry and connected to Hashem. Each year, Peach is a celebration of klal Yisrael connecting to Hashem. “Peach is our connection to Hashem and to each other. We are connected to Hashem and that is who we are and that is korban Pesach.”
In order to bring the korban Pesach, one may not possess any chametz. What is the connection to possessing chametz and the korban Pesach. Rav Meir Simcha writes that chametz was an integral part of the idolatry of Egypt. The Ramban taught that we can’t use fruits or chametz on the Mizbei’ach because they were used in idolatry. We separated from Egypt and, after the sin of the golden calf, we have to eat matzah to sever ourselves from the world of idolatry. Matzah and the korban Pesach are part of separating from idolatry and collectively attaching ourselves to Hashem. “So, bris milah and korban Pesach are both our connection to Hashem and to each other.
Pesach is unique because it involves our relationship to Hashem. We shake off all the negative influences of the world around us, particularly in galus. “Pesach celebrates our connection to Hashem.”
Rabbi Welcher shared a teaching from Chovos HaL’vavos that our attachment to our children is not just natural, but it is also because of how much effort we put into raising them and caring for them. The more effort we put into something, the more attached we are. There is nothing requiring more effort than our children. So, to the extent that we attach ourselves to mitzvos, the stronger our attachment is. He shared that one sixth of the sh’eilos he receives are about Pesach. It’s the hardest yom tov.
Rashi teaches that just as there is s’char for the korban Pesach, so the effort we put into preparing for it earns us s’char.
“Pesach has a special place in the history of klal Yisrael and in the place of every family. It is indelibly imprinted on our soul.”
Rabbi Welcher taught that we are a people of the halachah. “Spirituality of Judaism can only be experienced through the halachah. Through the k’dushah of mitzvos, we experience spirituality.” A beautiful tree with no roots is a dead tree. We need roots.
He then shared basic halachos of cleaning the stove top, ways to kasher an electric or a glass stovetop, and he shared how to clean and kasher the counter tops and the refrigerator, as well as many other important details. He stressed how important it is to check the hashgachah on every item you purchase for Pesach. Don’t assume that if it’s in the Kosher for Pesach aisle, it is kosher. Check the label. The Arizal taught that if we are zocheh to not have any tiny piece of chametz during Pesach, then we won’t have any sins the whole year.
The shiur was followed by a lively Q&A session. The community and the congregation greatly appreciate Rabbi Welcher’s pre-Pesach shiur. Everyone left energized for cleaning and inspired about celebrating the upcoming chag. May klal Yisrael be blessed with a Chag Kasher V’Samei’ach! This shiur can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber