In the haftarah for Parshat Metzora (which we won’t be reading this year due to Shabbat Hagadol), we usually read the fascinating story of the four metzora’im (lepers) who were faced with the prospect of dying of starvation. They debated whether they should try to find food among the Arameans, but there was also a possibility that they may be killed by the Arameans when they reached their destination. They decided to risk their lives, and the risk paid off. The Talmud (Avoda Zarah 27b) states that this is the source that if there is a situation that is going to lead to death, it is permissible to actively risk one’s life to reverse the prognosis even though a negative result will cause one’s demise earlier than the original prognosis.
This story and the Talmud’s observation are quoted in discussions in contemporary halachic literature about undergoing risky life-saving procedures. Yet, there is a message that extends beyond life-threatening situations. The four metzora’im were faced with a question that we all face in one way or another: Do we continue on a path that will eventually hit a dead-end, or do we take a chance and go in a different direction? This may relate to a career decision, the environment to raise a family, or the decision to live a healthy lifestyle. For the four metzora’im, the dangers of maintaining the status quo were clear, and their only question was whether to take the chance. However, we fail to realize the danger of maintaining the status quo for most decisions. Whenever we have inspiration for change and are inhibited by the risks, we should also evaluate the risks of maintaining the status quo and not making that change.
As we get closer to Pesach, cleaning and riding our homes from any shred of Chametz, perhaps this is the message we demonstrate by removing the Chametz. ‘The yeast in the dough’ represents the yetzer hara ‘the status quo’ – which prevents us from fulfilling G-d’s will with a complete heart. On Pesach, we are free to take an active step in a new direction by eating Matzah – baked with haste, not allowing any room for the dough to rise, symbolizing our appreciation for every minute of our lives.
Shabbat HaGadol Shalom,
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay