It it well-known in the homiletic world, that the elimination of Chometz represents the elimination of the Yetzer Hora. The evil inclination is synonymous with Chometz, come Pesach the time of year when our nation is reborn, we remove any vestiges of Chometz.
Just what Yetzer Hora are we trying to rid ourselves of? There is no shortage of vices; to name a few: pride, anger, jealousy and lust. Is Chometz generic for all wicked impulses or is there a specific evil which we are trying to exterminate? Perhaps it is subjective, everyone knows the animal within.
Why is this Yom Tov called Pesach? Pesach translates as “jumping over” or “skipping”, referring to Hashem’s behavior during the Plague of the Firstborn, but does this attribute characterize the entire Exodus from Egypt?
It would seem that Chometz is closely related to tardiness and laziness. The correlation between this particular trait and the festival of Pesach, suggest sloth as the Yetzer Hora of choice.
In fact, the name of the Yom Tov itself, Pesach, indicates this information. Pesach meaning “jumping over” is the defining element of this festival. Jumping is the antithesis of lethargy, it denotes exerting oneself and making an effort to overcome an obstacle. One may choose to take a laid back approach and meander around the impediment or one can keep momentum by hurdling over the barricade.
A few more classic connections between Pesach and laziness:
- Chometz is formed by letting the dough rise.
- The ideal way to rid oneself of Chometz is by burning – energy.
- We are instructed to eat Matzo which must be baked in haste.
Granted that we have isolated this Yetzer Horah from the many others. Why is this Yetzer Horah considered the prime inclination to eradicate?
Pesach is the time we were released from bondage in Egypt. On the one hand, this was emancipation from slavery to freedom, but on the other hand this was a substitution of slavery. The dedication we had to Pharaoh was meant to be replaced with dedication to Hashem’s will. In fact the main reason of the Exodus was to accept the Torah. Torah is to be our guide in fulfilling the will of G-d.
The Talmud recounts some of the Amoraic prayers that they were wont to say. Amongst the many listed one focuses on our lack of doing G-d’s will: “Our will is carry out Your will. What restricts us? The yeast in the dough, and oppressive kingdoms”. The interference created by the subjugation of foreign powers is obvious, the strain of the exile has curtailed our service throughout the generations, but what is implied by the restraint created by the “yeast in the dough” how does it hinder our Avodah?
The commentators say this yeast is euphemistic of the Evil Inclination. So here we have it, the primary lack of fulfilling Hashem’s will derives from yeast – the fermenting tardiness of the human condition. Thus the Talmud is telling us that no other Yetzer Horah can compete with the interference generated by laziness. This is the prime impediment to doing Hashem’s will. Come Pesach, when we are commemorating our liberation from Pharaoh and our subsequent indoctrination in Hashem’s service, we attempt to eradicate any lazy influences to the contrary.