We are commanded to rid our homes of ḥametz for Pesaḥ. Somewhere during the physical activity of searching, gathering, and burning the ḥametz in our homes, we are drawn to inspect our own lives to find the ḥametz within. But what exactly would be our “ḥametz?”
Many of us have heard teachings which equate ḥametz with sin. If ḥametz symbolizes sin, though, how can we justify being ḥametz-free for only a single week each year? If ḥametz symbolizes sin, shouldn’t we clean our homes for Yom Kippur rather than for Pesaḥ?
Consider instead that ḥametz symbolizes pride. Unlike sin, pride can be both beneficial and catastrophic.
“For [HaShem] is restoring the pride of Ya’akov, along with the pride of Isra’el;”Naḥum 2:2a
“For we take pride in this: that our conscience assures us that in our dealings with the world, and especially with you, we have conducted ourselves with frankness and godly pureness of motive – not by worldly wisdom but by G-d-given grace.”2 Corinthians 1:12
“I hate pride and arrogance, evil ways and duplicitous speech.”Mishlei 8:13b
“Pride goes before destruction, and arrogance before failure.”Mishlei 16:18
“The pride of man will be bowed down; the arrogance of men will be humiliated, and when that day comes, [HaShem] alone will be exalted.”Yeshayahu 2:17
An appropriate measure of pride is a source of confidence and self-respect; too much pride makes us haughty and stubborn. Pride maintains a constant dynamic tension within us; we must continuously guard ourselves against excess.
With this perspective in mind, let’s look now at Yeshua’s warnings regarding the ḥametz of the P’rushim and Tz’dukim:
“’Watch out! Guard yourselves against the ḥametz of the P’rushim and Tz’dukim!’ Then they understood – they were to guard themselves . . . from the teaching of the P’rushim and Tz’dukim.”Mattityahu 16:11-12
“Watch out! Guard yourselves from the ḥametz of the P’rushim and the ḥametz of Herod.”Mark 8:15
“Guard yourselves from the ḥametz of the P’rushim, by which I mean their hypocrisy.”Luke 12:1
A careful study of the Aramaic יולפנא in the Peshitta uncovers the meaning of the quote from Mattityahu. Frequently translated “teaching,” the idea is more about teaching style rather than content. Their pride caused them to teach in a haughty manner, talking down to their listeners as only the self-aggrandizing elite can do. They were more interested in declaring themselves to be great teachers than in declaring the greatness of HaShem. Mark lists King Herod along with the P’rushim; other than pride, they have little in common. Yeshua clarifies His comment in Luke by equating ḥametz with hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is a direct result of pride based on the elitism which convinces someone that it is okay to declare, “Do as I say; not as I do.”
Getting back to Pesaḥ, how should we view the searching, gathering, and burning of ḥametz as mentioned at the outset of our discussion? What purpose does the symbolic purging of our pride serve?
Our nation’s exodus from Mitzrayim required that we follow HaShem without question or hesitation. Our success, or lack thereof, in doing so throughout our long journey can be gauged by how successfully we eliminated our pride.
As you and I prepare for Pesaḥ, may our souls be “like the dust.” For the week of unleavened bread, let’s eliminate pride and practice simple humility. Select specific behavioral changes so it is more than merely symbolic. May we have increasing success in this exercise year after year, so that when HaShem calls us to journey we will be ready to follow Him without question or hesitation.