I have become known among my friends as somewhat of a single malt aficionado. I have come to appreciate the diversity of styles and flavors in much the same way an oenophile approaches fine wines (with the one advantage that a bottle of scotch once opened lasts far longer than an open bottle of wine) and I have amassed a nice collection of bottles. Generally, collecting single malts is a very easy hobby, requiring only shelf space in a cool closet or cabinet. Once a year, however, it poses a bit of a problem. As a grain based beverage, it is most definitely chametz (a leavened product). Chametz is prohibited on Passover and we are command to eliminate its presence from our homes. But what does this mean for my precious collection? My Judaism doesn’t command me to throw out hundreds of dollars of scotch, does it?
Fortunately, our sages determined that in order to avoid such a hardship, you can actually sell your chametz. Originally only food merchants sold their chametz to avoid major financial loss, but ultimately the selling of chametz was extended to all. In essence, the way this works is a closed or locked area containing the chametz is sold to a non-Jew with the understanding that it will be sold back at the end of the holiday. Each year I sell all my chametz, including my single malts, to my friend Chris. And every year she jokes with me about coming by to pick out a few bottles from her “newly acquired” stash (thankfully, she really is just joking… I hope!)
Giving up ownership of something you value once a year has an interesting spiritual dimension. During the course of the year, I take my collection for granted and really don’t think about it very much. Except for the occasional glass shared with a friend, it simply sits unnoticed behind closed doors. Yet during the course of the Passover festival I have an almost heightened awareness of that which is denied to me. And that first glass shared after the holiday has passed and possession has been retaken has a transcendent flavor all it’s own.
The lesson here is that of our Zman Cheruteinu our festival of freedom: It is easy to take something as precious as freedom for granted until it is denied you. Sometimes it is only when freedom is taken away that you are truly aware of what it means to you. And in the light of redemption its sweet presence is a transcendent experience.
As Passover approaches, ask yourself what is it that you are taking for granted? What or who has lost its rightful place in your awareness? What or who can you learn to appreciate more fully today, rather than risking losing them tommorow?
” Learn to appreciate what you have, before time makes you appreciate what you had.”