Shoes and Matzos


For Pesach 2006, our family flew to England to spend Yom- Tov with my parents. Soon2 after our arrival, ‎my mother presented her two-year-old granddaughter with a gift for Pesach – a new pair of shoes. We ‎were grateful to put the kids to bed after our tiring trip. Once the children were soundly asleep, the adults ‎took the opportunity to reacquaint and socialize. My daughter awoke in a dark unfamiliar house. Carefully, ‎she buckled her new white dress shoes. Kitted in her Yom-tov shoes and pajamas, she was ready. ‎Cautiously, she trekked down two flights of stairs to the bottom floor and burst into to kitchen screaming ‎and howling – supposedly from fear at being left alone upstairs. None of the adults were fooled. If you ‎were so scared, why wait to don your pretty shoes?‎

I am reminded of transitioning my son to his first pair of shoes. This was a nightmare. He was unhappy to ‎have his feet clad, preferring to go barefoot – Tarzan style. Taking matters into his own hands, literally and ‎figuratively, he constantly tugged at the offending appendages. Often, his efforts met with success. Many ‎a bleary eyed morning found us franticly hunting his missing footwear; a blood-hound would have helped. ‎Time marched on and he was ripe for his second pair of shoes. By now, he had made peace with the reality ‎of wearing shoes. Pleased as punch, he would not go to sleep without wearing his new shoes. ‎

The Jews, too, expressed the same sentiment when they left Egypt. ‎

In recounting the Exodus, we are told that the people carried last night’s leftover meal on their shoulders ‎‎(Exodus 12, 34). Tradition tells us, that every single Jew who left Mitzrayim owned several donkeys laden ‎with treasures (Esther Rabbah 7). Yet the people chose to burden themselves with their leftover food, not ‎their newly acquired gold, silver and valuables. With all this energy at their disposal why carry anything? ‎Why did they lug the leftover meal in their backpacks?‎

My son elected to sleep in his shoes because he loved his new shoes and could bear to be parted from ‎them. The Mechilta explains, the Jews who left Egypt clutched their leftover Matzos out of love. Last night, ‎they fondly recalled, these same Matzos were utilized for a Mitzvah – a Divine instruction. This is not for ‎packing on a donkey’s back. Let the animals carry the gold and silver – I want to shoulder these special ‎items myself.‎

Yirmiyahu, (2:2) recounts the temperament of the Nation on leaving Egypt. The people followed Hashem, ‎he prophesied, with the feeling a bride has towards her groom. This emotion found poignant expression in ‎cherishing the leftover Mitzvah food. ‎

Mitzvahs are not dry acts, formalities or duties. They are actions to be charged with positive emotion. The ‎early 1900’s saw a significant drop in Shabbos observance amongst new immigrants. Back then, keeping ‎Shabbos was challenging, most jobs required work on Saturday, and many were fired on a weekly basis. ‎Rabbi Moshe Feinstein famously said: The decline in Shabbos observance was not because keeping ‎Shabbos was difficult. The people withstood the test. Rather, because Jews krechtzed in response to the ‎sacrifices, the next generation rejected the krechtz that accompanies Shmiras Shabbos. Performance ‎without positive feeling has no future.‎


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