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A Hop, Skip, and a Jump … and Then a Long Haul


Emor – Rav Hanan Schlesinger

A hop, skip and a jump – according to the Kabbalists, that is the essence of Passover. The Book
of Exodus says – in Hebrew - that God “pasach” over the houses of the Israelites who had
fulfilled the command to sacrifice the Pascal Lamb and to smear its blood on their doorposts.
Rather than translating the word as “passed over” as we are accustomed - hence the appellation
of the holiday as Passover - our mystical tradition reads it as “skipped” or “jumped”: God
jumped over the houses of the Israelites. The holiday is thus about circumvention of the normal
orderly progression of things, about being in one place and in the blink of an eye springing
forward to somewhere else, it involves sudden leaps and unexpected developments, it has to do
with a willingness to diverge from a pattern or norm.

The Israelites in Egypt were deeply mired in the idolatry of the prevailing culture. Almost all
connection to their monotheistic heritage had been lost. God gave them the opportunity to
separate themselves from all that by slaughtering the lamb, the god of the Egyptians, and
provocatively displaying to all what they had done by putting the blood on the doorposts … and
amazingly, many Israelites rose to the challenge and took the dangerous step of actually doing
what God had demanded. It was an inexplicable leap of faith and of action. They bumped
themselves up from the lowest levels of the spiritual ladder to quite near the top - in a moment.
And God responded in kind, by having the angel of death skip over them in a leap of
redemption. Men and women who only a few days earlier were worshipping idols, were
suddenly treated as if they were righteous and deserving of God’s love.

In a different context, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook speaks in his work The Lights of Repentance of
two different modes of spiritual rectification: Sudden Repentance and Gradual Repentance. The
latter is the normal path, the logical path. After all, who can turn himself around in one fell
swoop? It takes introspection, effort, internal struggle. That’s why Rosh haShana is preceded by
the month of Elul, a whole month of spiritual accounting, and is followed by the Ten Days of
Repentance, culminating in the climatic catharsis of Yom Kippur. The transformative process is a

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Phone: 214-295-3525 Fax: 214-295-3526
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gradual one and it takes time. But the essence of Pesach is the opposite; it is the possibility of
Sudden Repentance, of violating the strictures of human psychology and becoming someone
else, something better, through the lightning flash of a sudden, supreme act of will.

Nevertheless, it would appear that the abrupt personal metamorphosis symbolized and
facilitated by Pesach is no short cut that allows one to avoid the hard work. Rather, the toil
follows the climax instead of leading up to it. Once your heart is uplifted to the pinnacle of the
mountain, you now have the arduous task of dragging the rest of you up there as well. Spiritual
enlightenment and morals will now have to be to be founded and anchored.

Such may be the spiritual meaning of the Counting of the Omer in which time we are now
immersed – and of which this week’s Torah portion speaks – the 49 days that follow Pesach and
lead up to the Holiday of Shavuot when the Jewish people receive the Torah. Removing
ourselves from the shackles of our past mistakes, turning around on a dime and re-inventing
ourselves, does not automatically enable us to accept upon ourselves the Torah at our new
level. The heady consciousness of newly found spiritual freedom does not mean that we are
immediately ready to live life as we aspire. We must now slowly climb up to where we have
placed ourselves. On Pesach we leaped forward. With every day of the Counting of the Omer we
do the work - one step at a time - that will allow us to truly be what we have envisioned
ourselves to be.

Schultz Rosenberg Campus, 12324 Merit Drive, Dallas TX, 75251


Phone: 214-295-3525 Fax: 214-295-3526
Email: kollelofdallas@sbcglobal.net Web site: www.kollelofdallas.org
The Community Kollel of Dallas is an affiliate of the Center for the Jewish Future of Yeshiva University