The holiday of Pesach is on its way, and in Jewish households around the world, diligent efforts are underway to eradicate every crumb of Chametz, leavened food. Year round, we tend to focus our cleaning efforts on the more public areas of the house, while the cracks and back drawers don’t get much attention. Only around Pesach time do we suddenly “remember” to eradicate the built-up grime from those hidden areas.
Just as our physical home needs regular maintenance, including those frequently overlooked corners, so does our spiritual “home” need periodic assessment and renovation. Each of us has areas that need correction and thorough cleansing. Over the course of the year, we may not pay particular attention to those deficient areas of our personality. We tend to sweep matters under a rug, and cultivate only those parts of our nature that are exposed to public scrutiny.
Carrying the heavy burden of our uncorrected defects is not pleasant; for this reason, G-d gives all of us the chance to discard our personal packet of troubles. Not only this. We also have the option to transform our bundle of rocks into diamonds and precious stones, which won’t weigh us down.
In the Torah’s terminology, this process is called teshuvah, return. When we regret our past deeds and take upon ourselves to conduct ourselves in the future according to the Torah’s guidelines, we merit immediate forgiveness and expiation of our sins. This is the standard teshuvah, which anyone can reach with due effort. However, there is also a more lofty level of teshuvah, in which our sins actually become transformed into mitzvot.
The Torah portion of Vayikra deals with the offerings that were brought by the Jewish people to atone for various sins. The Hebrew word Korban, offering, has the root of Karav, to come close. Every Jew, regardless of the sins he or she may have committed, is able to come close to G-d and be accepted by Him with complete teshuvah.
One interesting aspect of the sin offerings is that the required offering varied according to the person’s financial means. A wealthy person was required to bring a ram, while a person of average means could suffice with two turtledoves and a very poor person could bring a simple meal offering. G-d gives us all the opportunity to do teshuvah, each of us according to our ability.
There are certain times of year that are designated for doing teshuvah. One such occasion is a birthday.
In the upcoming week we will celebrate the birthday of one of the most significant figures of our time--the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Due to the Rebbe’s stature as a teacher and leader of the entire Jewish people, his birthday is not merely a private affair but is an appropriate time for reflection for the whole Jewish nation.
In honor of the Rebbe’s birthday, let us resolve to give the Rebbe a gift, by adding in our observance of Torah and mitzvot, especially the mitzvah campaigns introduced and encouraged by the Rebbe, such as laying tefillin each day, increasing in charity, and lighting Shabbat candles. In particular, the Rebbe stressed that each mitzvah should be fulfilled with the intention of hastening the Redemption.
Pesach is the holiday of Redemption. Through our intense physical and spiritual preparations, we will merit the immediate revelation of Moshiach, and celebrate the birthday of the Rebbe in complete freedom, with the true and complete Redemption.