Preparing for Pesach

March 11, 2021

Preparations for Pesach are well on the way. Houses are being transformed into chametz-free zones, food is being removed from the cupboards and placed in carton boxes, the strong smell of bleach invades the house, and slowly but surely, Pesach is being brought in.

Of course, this is all being done in order to be mekayem the mitzvah of tashbisu, ridding the house of the chametz. However, there is another hachanah that must be in motion—a hachanah that takes no less effort, organization, or planning. That is the hachanah necessary to be mekayem the mitzvah of v’higadeta l’vincha. It is well known that a house renovation of any proportion requires intricate and, at times, painstaking planning—from the initial process of engaging the services of an architect to the process of drawing up the plans, to the actual decision of hiring the contractor. Next, of course, begins the arduous job of selecting the materials and colors for the tiles and cabinets. Every detail is planned, and all of these decisions are made with one goal: to actualize the project, bringing it from conception to successful fruition.

At least as much planning must be invested in preparing for Pesach and Seder night. Arranging for theSeder must include exact plans of how best to accomplish the goals of the Seder, the best method for achieving the most powerful results, and the best road to highlight sipur yetzias Mitzrayim. We know that Chazal instituted various mitzvos to be performed on Seder night for the explicit purpose of engaging the children, arousing their curiosity, and thereby encouraging them to participate, to ask, and to ask some more. The father must fully understand that he has been bestowed with the daunting responsibility of successfully transmitting our mesorah to this generation and to all future generations. He is responsible for achieving v’higadeta l’vincha.

Practically speaking, I believe that the two most powerful messages of this awesome and potent night are that of emunah and hoda’ah—faith in Hashem and thanks for achieving cheirus. And it is toward this end that everything discussed on Seder night propels us to greater heights, to help increase our understanding and awareness of these two life-altering lessons.

We must highlight and extol the hashgachah of yad Hashem in Mitzrayim. It is incumbent upon us to demonstrate how Hashem proved to the entire universe, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that He—and He alone—was, is, and will be sovereign. Each makkah was executed with the precision of middah k’negged middah, and every makkah etched into the people’s minds and hearts that there is no area in this world that is out of Hashem’s reach, supervision, and control.

We are obligated to infuse into the psyche of all participants at the Seder table that there is no teva, that nature is the will of Hashem. It is our duty to demonstrate that everything that happens is a manifestation of ratzon Hashem. Midrashim, stories, songs, props, and acting are all mediums to be used as tools to help the one leading theSeder accomplish and succeed in his lofty and heilege responsibility.

We must create a mood of reliving the yetziah. We must exhibit cheirus from the ideals and culture of Mitzrayim, and cheirus from the shackles of outside influences and foreign philosophies. We must express our love and desire to be Hashem’s children and to yearn solely to serve Him, and our genuine happiness that we are free to perform the mitzvos hayom. Creating a reality of cheirus as avdei Hashem is essential to the focus of this evening. This is the hoda’ah that we so vividly and passionately express on Seder night.

Concretizing our emunah and reliving the cheirus are the harbingers to accomplishing our lifelong goal to praise, appreciate, and be thankful for our very existence and His constant benevolence. The central theme of the night is to be thankful and appreciate the tremendous chessed of Hashem, who adopted us as His children, His nation, and His beloved. All the nissim He performed to extricate us from under the yoke of Mitzrayim, the constant hashgachah throughout the generations—watching over us and protecting us—are all included in the obligation to be thankful.

The Gemara in Masechta Shabbos relates a ma’aseh about a non-Jew who passed by a beis midrash. The non-Jew overheard a “sofer” quoting the pasuk regarding the various bigdei kehunah. He inquired about the meaning of the pasuk and was told that these were the kohen gadol’s begadim. He became so exuberant upon hearing about these lofty concepts that he ran directly to Shammai, and begged him to convert him so that he could become a kohen gadol. He was not positively received by Shammai, and so he ran to try his luck with Hillel. Hillel encouraged him to first study the halachosof the taryag mitzvos. Eventually, he converted. Subsequent to his geirus, he learned the halachah that states that a ger may not become a kohen gadol. And yet, even after discovering this startling revelation, he wholeheartedly expressed his appreciation to Hillel for his encouragement and support that had eventually brought him into the fold of the am kadosh.

Rashi points out that the voice the ger overheard was that of a melamed tinokos, a rebbi. Why is this so essential to point out? How does this detail affect the storyline?

I heard the following pshat. Rashi was bothered about how it was possible that a random passerby, totally ignorant and void of any prior knowledge of Torah and mitzvos, should incidentally overhear a pasuk in Chumash and become so motivated and enthusiastic, he desired to change the entire trajectory of his life, and the lives of his descendants, for eternity. It seems beyond comprehension! Rashi, therefore, came to resolve this perplexity. This “sofer” must have been a melamed tinokosa rebbi doing his job and fulfilling his responsibilities faithfully. A dedicated and committed melamed, devoted totally to his talmidim, cognizant of the importance of his sacred mission to transmit Toras chaim and dvar Hashem, he must have unquestionably transmitted the message of every single pasuk with excitement and passion. The pesukim were so real, they came alive, creating a tangible sense of the aura enveloping the kohen gadol and the tiferes of the bigdei kehunah, and loudly declaring the kavod of his coveted position. This rebbi animatedly brought the words of the Torah to life and this is what struck the innocent passerby. The kedushah of the bigdei kehunah pulsated through his veins. The message of the cheder room reverberated palpably to any listener, even those previously in the dark.

This is the methodology with which to impart the lessons of this special night. Serious emotional displays. Discussion of personal anecdotes of yad Hashem. Leibedig singing and dancing. Genuine warmth and gratitude. Purely elucidated visions of emunah. Bring sipur yetzias Mitzrayim into a frame of reality. Skip the cute vertlach and hordes of pamphlets of divrei Torah and gematrios. (Save those for the Yom Tov seudos!) Imbue the Seder participants with hoda’ah and appreciation for Hashem and His love for us.