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  An Overview - Part XI: Preparation For Pesach from
Haggadah - Expanded Edition
Passover Haggadah with translation and a new commentary based on Talmudic, Midrashic, and Rabbinic sources

By Rabbi Joseph Elias 


Other Available Chapters
An Overview - Part VI: God's People 
An Overview - Part VII: Our Obligation 
An Overview - Part VIII: From Bondage to Freedom 
An Overview - Part IX: The Redemption To Come 
An Overview - Part X: The Four Cups 


An Overview - Part XI: Preparation For Pesach

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 Hakadosh)

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.

 
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