The period before Pesach is known to be among the most stressful periods of the Jewish year. The endless and sometimes excessive cleaning that goes on in Jewish homes, koshering dishes, expensive trips to the Super-market all make for an extremely pressurized time. It’s a miracle in and of itself that we make it to the Seder in one piece.
Addressing this issue, Rav Tzvi Meir, one of the Tzaddikim of our generation gives us valuable chizuk and advice regarding pre-Pesach preparation.
The first Halacha of Hilchot Pesach in the Rema”h is giving Maot Chitim to the poor and the needy. Likewise, the Maggid section of the Hagada begins with our sincere invitation, inviting anyone that needs a place for Leil Haseder. The Kedusha of pre-Pesach and the holiday itself gets off the ground by thinking and giving to others.
The great Sanzer Rebbe, Rav Chayim from Sanz, never used a silver goblet at his Seder. The Rebbe would give most of what he had in his home to the destitute. Furthermore, he would take a loan by giving his silver Kiddish cup as collateral so that he could give even more. For him, the greatest way to reach chayrut or freedom was to use a plain glass cup, knowing that he gave away all that he could.
As great as giving Tzedaka is before Pesach, Rav Tzvi Meir tells us, shockingly, that there is even a greater level of “giving” or should I say it precedes the giving of Tzedaka.
The first thing that we need to remember when we want to give and help others is what we call Sur Mera (departing from evil). Initially, our primal focus needs to be to hold back from kapdanut or excessive strictness, resentment or any type of negative speech toward others and especially toward our family members.
The Torah says that we have an obligation “to guard the Matzot.” Unquestionably, we guard our Matzot from actual Chamatz. But we need to guard our Matzot from spiritual Chametz as well. Anger, resentment, speaking down to our fellow Jew and loved one all fall under the category of spiritual chametz. What kind of guarding is it, when the Shemorah Matzot are sitting on top of your clean refrigerator and husband and wife cannot manage to speak a kind word one to another? Anger, explains Chaza”l with further elaboration of the Ar”i Z”l, has the impurity of idolatry and Chametz on Pesach. We are required to steer clear of any slight hint of anger “Afilu B’mashehu.”
Hashem singles out this time of year and gives us these challenges to overcome, whether it is before Pesach or during Pesach, in order that we can be worthy to receive Kedushat HaMatza and Kedushat Chag HaPesach!
Our disparaging and negative speech needs to be replaced with words that bring joy and simcha to another Jew. We bring tremendous nachas to Avinu Sh’Bashayim every time we can make a member of our household smile. Any time we lovingly say kind words, encouraging thoughts to our wives and to our children during this period we are giving ourselves and our loved ones “joy on the holiday!” (a Mitzvah from the Torah)
This entire idea is hinted in this week’s parsha, Tazria, which discusses Tzaraat and the Metzora. As the Sfas Emes and others say, Metzora is the combination of two words, Motzi and Ra. The purification of Tzaraas occurs when we “motzi” take out the “ra” evil from within us.
Finally, Rav Tzvi Meir gives us a few pieces of advice how we can limit our excessive strictness, resentment and anger during this period. It is important to “eat right” and sleep enough so that we have the strength and Kochot that we need to handle the challenges that we will face. Torah learning is always fundamental to help us return to ourselves and is practically an antidote for any negative speech or behavior. Tefilla, Tefilla, Tefilla! A Jew must turn to the Ribono Shel Olam numerous times a day, more than just 3, and say I can’t do it alone. Master of the World help me overcome my Yetzare Hara which constantly wants me to get angry and speak harshly or negatively. In the most practical way, when we think positively we will speak positively. When we watch what comes out of our mouth we will cut and limit our negative speech.
In this way we will properly prepare and experience the joy of Zman Cherutanu.