Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev was renowned for being the Jews’ greatest advocate, and he would find the positive aspects of every event. During one of the days of Elul, a non-Jewish shoemaker arrived in his town. This shoemaker went from door to door peddling his wares, announcing that he could mend shoes. Hearing the calls of the shoemaker, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak looked out his window to the street. The shoemaker called out to him, “Do you need anything mended? I mend shoes!” Rabbi Levi Yitzchak burst into tears. One of the students present questioned this reaction, and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak explained, “What wisdom there is in this non-Jew who knows that everything need be mended, not merely the soul.”

Our parashah relates Moshe’s anointing of the kohanim (priests) and the utensils of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) with the oil of anointment. The purpose of this act was to dedicate and sanctify the kohanim for their hallowed service in the Mishkan. The various utensils of the Mishkan undergo a like process of anointing, for every article to be utilized for the sanctified services of the Mishkan must be prepared for their transformation into utensils imbued with sanctity and holiness. This logic certainly applies to those utensils directly employed in the sacrificial services – for certainly these require elevation from being the handiwork of man to becoming a receptacle for God’s sanctity and a vessel in His service.

However, it is not solely these instruments that were anointed, but even those secondary articles not involved in the central services of the Mishkan were anointed. The Torah states, “And he anointed the altar and all its utensils, and the laver and its base in order to sanctify them” (Vayikra8:10, 11). The laver – and even its base – which was only used by the kohanim to wash their hands and feet were anointed for service in the Mishkan. Thus God teaches us the tremendous importance of preparation. Before one begins a task he must adequately prepare himself. Furthermore, even the object or action that is merely a preparatory stage for this task requires forethought and preparation.

This lesson accompanies us in the days prior to Pesach. The Gemara establishes the dictum that the laws of Pesach are to be discussed thirty days prior to the Festival. This lengthy preparation reaches its climax on Shabbat HaGadol, the Shabbat immediately prior to Pesach, when the entire community comes together to study the laws of Pesach, culminating with the burning of Chametz on the morning prior to Pesach. Our sages question why a candle must be used in our search for theChametz. They answer, “The candle of God is man’s soul” (Mishlei 20:27) – God uses the candle to search out all the chametzin one’s soul, and when we burn the chametz we destroy all remnants of our sins prior to entering Pesach.

In its historical context, Pesach required the Jewish nation in Egypt to undergo a great measure of purification and sanctification after the long servitude in order to be worthy of their redemption and the Exodus. Yet even this great salvation was merely a stage in the great process of our nation’s redemption, for freedom comprises two distinct characteristics. Freedom is both the lack of an imposing external force, and also the ability for independent control and domination. Our exodus from Egyptremoved the yoke of the external Egyptian oppressor from our necks, yet in its journey towards true freedom and liberty the Jewish nation was to develop its own independent identity – which would only be completed with the Giving of the Torah.

Thus the period following Pesach and our exodus from Egyptprior to the Giving of the Torah is a period of preparation whereby each person must concretize his previous spiritual achievements, incorporating them into his being, and then prepare himself for the next stage in his development – the giving of the Torah. In the days remaining until the Seder night we must clear all internal and external chametz away, and prepare ourselves for the Seder itself. However we must have the constant awareness that this is merely one stage, in fact, no more than a preparatory stage, in our journey towards the true freedom; for “There is no man who is free other than he who is involved in Torah”

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Nir Grossman.