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Inspiration from Pesach 2011

MPesach practice offers fewer choices than the rest of the year. Leavened grains are not permitted, and this being true, the eating of all grains is looked at differently.

The Pesach diet offers a subtle twist towards Tzim Tzum contracting as the days are getting shorter and warmer, and fruit is starting to blossom into the abundance of summer.

It is interesting to feel the changes that result in the body, which come about as a natural consequence of this eating practice. Torah teaches, v'achalta, v'savata, u'varakhta; you shall eat, and be content, and then invoke blessing. (Deut 8:10).

The industrial revolution brought with it blessings and curses. Technology offers high volume production. Abundant inexpensive processed came about as a result. More is better. The challenge is that the the quality of nourishment can be diminished, unless great care is taken to maintain it.

For example, refined sugar is a significant source of dis-ease in our society. It is a poison, since it is depleted of any life force, vitamins and minerals*. Essentially, sugar masks the body's sense of contentment -- that is, the feeling of being full and nourished. I clearly remember the sense of confusion I would get when I ate sugar. I had just eaten, yet was definitely hungry only 30 minutes later. I am being guided to remove sugar from my diet.

As a result, I can now tell when my body needs fuel. It is key to maintaining the body's sense of orientation to healthful nourishment. On the occasion that I eat sugar, I can feel my sense of contentment become altered. This masking takes away our freedom of choice - since the basis has been altered.

Have you ever seen a sugar refining plant?
I got a tour inside one by watching "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel. They showed an enormous factory, many stories high, with huge vats and mechanized conveyor belts that moved the sugar from process to process. Hard edges, many gears. It was hot in there. Steam emanated from the vats and furnaces.

Temperatures upward of 120 degrees F. Sweat streaming down the masked faces of those who dared enter. It looked unforgiving - like it would crush anything that got in its way.

The job being considered was severe - people wearing what looked like space suits were lowered via harness on a crane to clean the red-hot blades that moved the sugar past the heating element. The blades glowed red hot, like mechanical charcoal. If left untended, the sugar would stick to the moving blades, become layered, and clog up the heating element. It looked like the person was being dropped into the bowels of hell.

A toxic assembly line for a toxic substance: refined sugar. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as it were.

Pesach is a time when we are invited to limit our food intake - that is, to consciously limit our eating habits. It affords an opportunity to alter our personal eating habits as we re-integrate foods into our diets.

Of course, this is contrary to the way many people celebrate Pesach. Past culture has trained many that more is better. That "more" honors the holy day better. This overindulgence is a remnant, an anachronism, from a time when people did not have sufficient food to eat. It is hard, even counter-intuitive, for many to consider Pesach as a call for minimizing consumption. The world is different today than when our parents grew up. We have learned that "less" can be "more". A practice of consuming what is needed for nourishment supports health personally in the short term. Having said this, it is can be very challenging to shift into a mindset where "less is more". I feel differently after eating Pesach food for 8 days - lighter, more spacious, as it were. This feels good as the days continue to get shorter and we get ready for summertime. We need less food when the climate is warmer. I will try to use this to help modulate my weight this Summer.

This break from ordinary eating opens a door to the possibility of change. This is deep wisdom from our ancestors. Consider this - if you kept Passover Kashrut, you have already done the "heavy lifting" of committing to a change. If you did not, you can ride on the energy of the season and those who have. After Pesach, we re-introduce foods into our diets. We can do this selectively.

What will you change this year?
Hametz Musings

Hametz is known as the "puffy stuff" (Thanks R Jonathon Omer-man) we find in bread. Hametz expands and takes up space. Hametz restricts movement and causes narrowness (Mitzrayim). The narrowness tends to build up over time and restricts movement. This is a loss because movement is life. Life does not exist without movement.

Consider two kinds of Hametz; External and Internal. They impact each other.

Jews throughout the world seek and remove hametz in their homes in preparation for Pesach. Spring cleaning is a useful and pragmatic practice that promotes cleanliness and purity. This is an external hametz seeking practice.

The internal work is just as important. Consider - What is the "puffy stuff" that gets in the way of moving forward on my path? Are there aspects that get in my own way?

R Zalman Schachter-Shalomi teaches that the ego is a great manager and a lousy boss. We need ego to enable us to "show up". Without ego - knowing who we are in the world - we could not share our gifts and contribute.

It is essential to know ourselves and what our gifts are.

Ego can become distorted. When we become overly self important ego can get in the way of movement. Hametz - the puffy stuff - is a cause of Mitzrayim - narrowness (that can grow and accumulate over time.)

Hametz cleaning invites us to remove unneeded puffiness in our homes and in our selves.

What does Pesach have to do with a root canal?

Sunday night, I got a terrible toothache. Tooth pain can be intense. No surprise that on Monday I was at the dentist first thing.

Dr Naftalin, my dentist since my childhood, sat me down and numbed my mouth. He filed away in the deep canals of my tooth. The files make a distinct sound as he remove the "hametz" held deep inside my tooth. This, apparently, had been building up for years unnoticed. (Since I mistakenly bit into an olive with a bit that cracked my tooth. This was after getting some bad news - another story. It was like biting into a "Klipah" - a kernel of negativity that the holy Ariz"l teaches always contain a Divine spark.)

The "hametz" was in very deep, deeper than Dr Naftalin could go. A specialist was needed who has tools that permit reaching into deeper, smaller and more subtle spaces. Tuesday AM I saw specialist, Dr A. He used more refined tools to enter into the orifices of my tooth. He filed away at the insides and shaped a new form within it.

Apparently, the build up of "hametz" (the growth of tissue around the problem area) was layered and thicker than could be removed during that sitting. A dissolving agent was left in the tooth for two days to allow Dr A to access and clear out the remaining "hametz". This is a slow and needed release hametz release.

Thursday I return, and God Willing any remaining "hametz" will be removed. Soon after, a crown will be placed on the re-newed "hametz" free tooth.

What is the relevance?

Hametz - that is energies that block vitality - exists on many levels physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. Hametz causes "Mitzrayim". Said another way, the "puffy stuff" caused narrowing of the channels and restrict flow. Sometimes, hametz hardens and sticks stubbornly in its place. Removing Hametz is a process. It takes time, tenacity and focus to clear it and allow nourishing flow to continue in a natural manner.

Blessings this Pesach for free life sustaining movement of blessing into your life. May all channels that need be open be open and all boundaries that need contain, contain exactly what is needed. May abundant blessings be available to all.

A sweet Pesach!

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