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Holiday Preparation, Then and Now

The Passover holiday has a host of unique sensory associations: vibrations of scrubbing and cleaning; the sound of the vacuum cleaner; the smells of bleach and floor cleaner. Then the kitchen is finally ready for its transformation: pots and dishes that don’t see use year-round are taken out of storage and set up in the fresh, kosher-for-Passover kitchen. Finally, we sit down for the long-anticipated Seder: the Passover meal with its own unique taste and texture. Matzah replaces bread, and cooks around the world come up with creative concoctions that require no chametz, or leavened ingredients.

There was a time when the preparations for Pesach had a different tenor entirely. The chief concern was finding a suitable lamb or kid goat for slaughtering on the eve of the holiday, for the Paschal offering that would be eaten the night of the Seder. In those days, when the technology we have today could not even be dreamt of, our ancestors planned their trip to Jerusalem weeks in advance. The mode of travel, in most cases, was by foot—families streamed towards Jerusalem from the length and breadth of the land of Israel, and even beyond it. Before that they made sure to purify themselves properly to be able to enter the Temple and partake of the Korban Pesach, the Paschal offering.

Then, as now, there were plenty of expenses for Passover. There is a mitzvah to honor the holiday with special foods and new clothing. However, perhaps we can say that those particular preparations were more modest compared to modern sensibilities. More time and attention was lavished on the spiritual and emotional preparations for the upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Temple.


If we were to be honest with ourselves, and still have a spark of faith – then our Passover preparations should have the same tone. Moshiach’s coming is expected any day, any moment, as Maimonides writes: “I await his coming every day!” As soon as this happens the Temple will be rebuilt and we will begin to bring offerings in the Temple.

Recently a practice has developed in Israel, for groups of people to sign up for a shared Paschal offering, on the condition that the Holy Temple will be rebuilt by this Passover. This practice gives voice and meaning to our anticipation of Moshiach’s coming and our full faith that his coming will not be delayed for even a moment. For if we had complete faith, we would make the fitting preparations – including signing up for the Paschal offering, which will be our obligation.

The most important spiritual preparation for Passover that we can do is to increase in mitzvot and acts of kindness, particularly those that have a special power to hasten the Redemption: Prayer for Redemption, charity, and Torah study, particularly those topics that discuss the Redemption. Our preparations for Passover include studying the laws of pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the details of the Paschal offering. All these preparations, on top of the usual cleaning and cooking, bring home to us the ultimate meaning of the holiday: that we should merit the ultimate “Festival of Liberation,” with the coming of our righteous Moshiach, immediately.


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