This Shabbos known as “Shabbos Hagadol” parallels the special day from many years ago when Hashem commanded the Jews to take a seh and tie it to their beds. The Shem M’Shmuel points out that this mitzvah is highly unusual, for this is a mitzvah of preparation. The main mitzvah is to bring the Korbon Pesach. Therefore he asks, what is the significance of the commandment to prepare the offering?
I would like to add that it seems to me that of all the holidays, the one that carries with it the greatest amount of effort, foresight and preparation, is the holiday of Pesach. In fact, it seems that Pesach needs so much more preparation than other holidays that the preparation becomes almost as essential as the seder night itself.
This year everyone is concerned about “keeping his distance”. Years ago, the Rebbe from Psishche commented that there is only one mitzvah in the Torah where we are commanded to distance ourselves, and that mitzvah is to distance oneself from sheker. The classical sheker in the world is avoda zora – false gods. The opposite of social distance is peer pressure. I once heard it said, “we buy what we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to please people that we don’t like”. None of this is happening today.
The commandment of bringing the korbon Pesach is to take the god of the Egyptians and roast it on a spit over a fire, which parallels the commandment to destroy all idols through fire. I recall once, being at kaparos on erev Yom Kippur and asking a small child “What is the significance of this ritual?” – I got a blank stare back from this child. I realized that many people were doing kaparos without understanding the meaning behind it. We are supposed to understand that the bird being slaughtered is in our stead, and that we should in fact be offering ourselves in service to Hashem. So too, the preparations that Bnei Yisrael undertook in Egypt (and the ones we are making now) signified our distancing ourselves from the “other gods”, the meaningless pursuits that others pursue. When we come to preparing for Pesach, do we really understand the meaning behind all of our work?
In our lives in the 21st century, many of us have our own private “avoda zoras” besides those which are common to others. When I speak about avoda zora, I am referring to things that we worship. We give these things too much significance, out of the proportion that they deserve. In these times, when we are locked up with ourselves and our loved ones, and forced to face life and …. issues, I think that many of us have come to realize what is really important in our lives. In a sense we are burning our avoda zoras and realizing that it is only teshuva, tefilla, and tzedakah that can avert an evil decree.
At this time when we realize that we must become more particular in our bein adam l’makom and bein adam l’chaveiro, we have indeed started the process of cleansing ourselves from the chometz that is within: Our personal ego (this is likened to chometz by the Kabbalah). We all understand that there is no real way to protect ourselves from this minute germ except with the grace of Hashem. We know that chometz is compared to the Yetzer hora, where even a small drop makes the entire mixture unkosher. Our living at a distance hopefully is a good preparation.
As we prepare to serve Hashem with simcha on this holiday, we understand that to be in His service is our true purpose in life. I am sure that the simcha that we can have through this clarity of purpose can bring about a full recovery and bring the final redemption.