Apart from one small segment of the year, the ingredients of chametz are no problem. The problem is caused not by the make-up of the chametz but by the date. If it is Pesach, chametz is out: for the rest of the twelve months it is in and acceptable.
Let’s now apply this idea to this week’s Torah reading, K’doshim, “holy people”. What makes us holy is not withdrawal from the world but elevating every ordinary event and experience.
Water makes us holy when we need to be physically and spiritually clean. Fire makes us holy when we need to prepare food and kindle the Sabbath light. But like everything else, water can also be a curse; floods do untold damage to human life. Fire can be a danger when it spreads and destroys nature and human habitation and life.
Like chametz, the question is the timing. If we carefully control water and fire, we can use them to make life magnificent. If they get out of control, they become our enemies.
As someone has said, we can use a brick to build a place of worship – or to construct a gas chamber. The question is what we do when the moment of opportunity is upon us.