A Prayer before Eating Chametz thank G-d not this Pesach!
(Bergen Belsen, 1944, there were no matzot in Bergen Belsen for Passover 1944. It was decided that bread could be eaten preceded by this prayer.)
Our Father in Heaven: You surely know that it is our desire to do your will, and to observe Pesach by eating matza and by observing the prohibition concerning hametz. But to our great distress, our situation prevents us from doing so, and our lives are hanging in the balance. As such, we are hereby prepared and ready to fulfill the mitzvah of “living by Torah, and not dying by it.’ And so our prayer before You is that You allow us to live on, and that You redeem us, so that we can soon fulfill Your laws and serve You with a fuller heart. Amen.
Healthy Ways to Stay Happy
Being healthy and being happy aren’t too far from one another. In fact, they may be best friends. Numerous studies have shown that if you are healthy – eating right, at the right weight, getting exercise – you aren’t just going to live longer, but you are actually going to enjoy living longer. When you are healthy, you are more energetic, you sleep better, and in general, have a more positive outlook on daily life. In other words, healthy equals happy. Here are a few ways you can stay happy and live healthy (see Healthy Living Blogs for more).
Eat well. The type of foods we eat determine our moods because they often release chemicals in our brains. For example, carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cookies) are known to stimulate the release of the brain chemical serotonin. Serotonin regulates appetite, mood, and sleep, which is why people often turn to carbohydrates if they are feeling down. Another favorite is chocolate, which boosts brain chemicals, including phenylethylamine and anandamide, which give us the feeling of being “in love” or satisfied. Additionally, the fats found in most fish change brain chemistry to make us feel happier and smarter while the fats found in meats clog our brain’s blood vessels and therefore confuses our thinking, and our mood.
Another food-related item to be aware of is stress. When you are stressed, your brain releases a chemical called neuropeptide. This same chemical makes us have an appetite for carbohydrates, which causes us to gain weight. When we gain weight, it adds more stress and the cycle is very hard to break. If you know which foods are good for you and which messages they will send to your brain, you can choose wisely and stay happy and healthy. You can learn more about the importance of proper nutrition at the Nutrition Degree Online.
Exercise. It’s a known fact that exercise releases the feel-good chemical in our brains called endorphins. Endorphins are our body’s natural way of telling us it likes what we are doing, and in turn makes us feel happy. Exercise also boosts our immune system, which means we are able to ward of diseases and illnesses more effectively. With consistent exercise, we can make our bodies healthier, stronger, and more resilient – all items that lead to happiness. Additionally, it has been proven that exercise reduces tension so you feel less stressed and more relaxed.
Get outside. Aside from the benefits you’ll get from breathing fresh air and being active, when the sun is shining outdoors, its rays give us vitamin D, which we need to keep strong bones. Getting a moderate amount of sunshine (about 20 minutes per day) will help you stay happy because the sun also gives us endorphins. With these endorphins, we have more energy and feel positive – all from a stroll outdoors.
When Nissan arrives, a spirit of chiddush, newness and novelty, descends. This is seen in nature; the trees bud, the tulips bloom, and with the last vestiges of snow melting, the mood of the population lifts.
Chiddush is a power of Kedusha, holiness. Physically, everything is very much the same. Newness in a material sense is only an external mirage. The goal of the latest invention is the same as the invention of a hundred years ago – to give a person a temporary jolt of pleasure which dissipates quickly. In Kedusha, reality is constantly changing and assuming completely novel dimensions. Although externally it seems as if today’s prayer is a repetition of yesterday’s, it is a completely new reality all together. The words, though technically the same, have a completely different meaning and shine with a new and exciting Ohr, spiritual light. This is true for every single facet of holiness, be it Torah study, mitzvos, or anything related to Kedusha.
Unfortunately, if we do not tap into the wealth of chiddush that emanates in Kedusha and utilize it to serve Hashem with fresh vigor, the waves of novelty do not dissipate. They are captured by the evil forces and used to produce yet another invention which will further its cause. There are tremendous powers of chiddush today which are not being utilized by Jews in their service of Hashem as seen from the many inventions produced daily which serve to spread immorality. Every time a Jew seeks to gain a new dimension in Avodas Hashem by either learning a new idea which will infuse him with eagerness and freshness or by contemplating the meaning and value of every single act of Kedusha, we prevent the evil forces from gaining access to the power of chiddush and utilizing it for destruction.
A word on the strenuous Pesach preparations: The physical toil invested in Pesach is laden with meaning. Sefarim teach that the sweat produced through the Pesach preparations wash away our spiritual flaws, leaving us, too, ‘Pesach cleaned.’
Source: Based on the Shalosh Seudas Torah of Parshas Vayakheil Pekudei 5775 and other sources