Just as I remove Chametz from my house and possession,
so You, HASHEM, remove the spirit of impurity from the earth, and our evil instinct from within us. (According to Ari
All of human life is a preparation. For mankind as a whole, all
events prepare the world for the rule of the Almighty - the time of Mashiach and Resurrection of the Dead. For each individual, all of life
represents preparation for Olam Habah, the World to Come. Even within
our this-worldly existence, every worthwhile step that we take on the road to our ultimate goal demands careful preparation. Before the departure from Egypt and, again, before the giving of the Torah, the Jews were told to
prepare for these great events (Shemos, 12 and 19). And, ever since, the
Mitzvos, the signposts on our way through life, have demanded from us
preparation; study of their laws, and proper dedication to their punctilious execution.
As a result, the Jew goes through life passing from the pursuit of
one Mitzvah to the preparation for the next. He gets up in the morning, washes, and prepares for his daily prayers - enjoined by the words of the Prophet, Prepare to meet your God, Israel (Amos
4:12). Every day is a preparation for Shabbos - whoever labored
before Shabbos, will have something to eat on Shabbos. Rising for
Selichos gives way to the frantic rush to obtain Lulav and
Esrog and to build a Sukkah... and so the Jewish year goes by.
Four weeks in advance of each of the Yomim Tovim we are
required to begin to study its laws and make all necessary preparations. In particular, there is the need for proper and early preparation in connection with Pesach - and the duty to guard the Mitzvos carefully is actually derived by our Sages from the injunction of the Torah to guard the Matzos (Shemos 12:17) and prepare for a
Pesach totally free of any Chametz.
Pesach has barely passed when the first steps must be taken
to secure wheat suitable for the next year's Matzos and, in particular,
for the specially guarded Seder Matzah which must be made from wheat
protected from the moment it is harvested in the field against any possibility of becoming Chametz. The preparation of other Pesach foods also
starts long before Pesach. But even the Jew who receives Matzos
and Pesach provisions delivered to his doorstep is concerned with the
Yom Tov long in advance. He may avoid putting books near food all year
long so that no Chametz should get into them. Many weeks before
Pesach the thorough cleaning of every nook and cranny starts. Slowly the
area where Chametz is kept and eaten contracts to a few square yards;
finally, on the night before Pesach, all rooms are searched by
candle-light, for any last vestiges of Chametz. On the next morning, we
burn any remaining Chametz. How are we to understand these extraordinary
preparations and precautions?
It has been pointed out that the difference between the letters of
Chametz and Matzah, is the difference between the letters
heh and ches - a minute point. And in fact, because the slightest
amount of yeast or leaven can cause food to become Chametz, the most
extreme caution is indicated. Leaven is the symbol of man's evil instinct; as explained before, our avoidance of any trace of Chametz on Pesach
is a warning that on this day of our national birth, there is no room for even such slight manifestations of spiritual impurity as might be tolerated
at other times. We must remember that only the minutest' difference separated the Jews from the impurity of Egyptian life, and only by not tolerating even the slightest further spiritual decline could they be redeemed to become God's people (Ari Hakadosh). Similarly, if we are to enter into the spirit of
Pesach, and relive that momentous period of initiation, we too must
avoid even the smallest concessions to evil and imperfection.
Now we perceive a further truth: before we can sit down to
the Seder table and try to enter into the spirit of Pesach, we
must first prepare for it by strenuously removing every speck of
Chametz from our homes and, in the same way, remove the characteristics
symbolized by Chametz from within ourselves.
The Talmud derives the obligation to search for Chametz
with a light, from the verse, 'The soul of man is like a Divine light,
searching all chambers of the body' (Mishlei 20:27). Apparently
there is a deeper connection between the search for Chametz and the searching of one's inner self (Chever Ma'amarim).
An extraordinary degree of caution is needed to remove all
Chametz, and an equal degree of zeal to hurry the baking process of
Matzos without their rising. Caution and zeal, however, are also
presented by Rabbi Pinchas ben Ya'ir as the beginning steps to the attainment of the highest sanctity possible to a human being. Caution in avoiding the smallest concession to the Yetzer Harah, the evil instinct, and zeal in
unrelentingly doing right - characterize the preparation for Pesach.
Some may regret that we approach the Seder night so very exhausted from
the work done before Pesach; in reality, however, this very work, done
with utter devotion and disregard for personal comfort, raises us to the. heights of single-minded spirituality, eager and ready to enter into the experience of the Seder night.
Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz explained the statement in Melachim (2, 23:22) that no Pesach was held like this one [in the time of
King Josiah] since the time of the Judges by pointing out that
Josiah first destroyed all pagan altars and places of worship; in other words, he truly removed all Chametz.
This, then, is the secret of proper preparation for that great
moment when we sit down to experience the redemption from Egypt and, hopefully, thereby to prepare the way for the coming of Mashiach.