Cantor Shapiro's Shabbat Message - April 7, 2023

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Cantor Shapiro's Shabbat Message - April 7, 2023

In Hebrew, the words Mitzvot and Matzot (the plurals of mitzvah and matzah) appear exactly the same -  מצות. In order to know which word is being referred to, one would need to know the context in which it is being used. The rabbis noticed this Hebrew homograph and expand upon it in Orchot Tzadikim, a text that was written in Germany in the middle ages by an anonymous author, which advocates improving one’s character and exercising balance in one’s life.

"And ye shall observe the matzot (Ex. 12:17), do not read it as matzot (unleavened bread), but read it is as mitzvot (commandments)" — meaning if an opportunity comes to you to do a good deed, do not let it grow stale but do it at once (Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael, vol. I., p. 74). (Orchot Tzadikim 15:11)

My home is still echoing with the sounds and smells of our family seder as I write this Shabbat message during Passover. Many of us have engaged in wonderful traditions with family and friends and may join in another seder for the second evening as well. By the time you read this message, our Wilshire Boulevard Temple Community Seder will have concluded as well. At each of these events, we have brought the past, present, and future into view as we experienced family and communal traditions and lovingly passed these down as gifts to our children.

As we continue to consume matzah throughout the week of Pesach, the taste of it may become stale to us! Instead, let us use it as a reminder. While we eat this lechem oni (bread of poverty or affliction) we should be reminded with each bite to be moved immediately to add goodness to the world. Our tradition, once again, is countercultural, telling us that when we experience/remember harshness, we should run to do good. In a world where conversations (especially online) are rife with schadenfreude and trauma contests, Judaism tells us to recognize, remember, and experience our pain or trauma and to simultaneously hurry to bring goodness into the world in whatever way we can. 

May your Pesach be redemptive for you and may you encounter each opportunity to do good with an urgency that comes from a recognition of the beauty of our faith.

Chag Sameach,

Cantor Shapiro