To the outside world, preparing Thanksgiving dinner for family and a few guests can be amazingly stressful. It’s once a year, with so many expectations and so many traditions, including all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning up afterwards. Okay–you’re probably laughing right now, thinking, “that’s just a regular Shabbos dinner we do every week!” Pesach is in a category all its own-cleaning the whole house, kashering everything, shopping, cooking and paying many more expenses can cause some legitimate stress. People can become on edge from the many demands.
Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein relates the following story about a tense week before Pesach. Yisroel Goldbaum bought an expensive diamond-studded ring for his wife Esther, as a present for the upcoming Yom Tov of Pesach. Esther was deeply touched and felt so special.
A week before Pesach, she noticed the ring wasn’t on her finger. She searched thoroughly and again came up empty handed. Naturally, she was very upset and began to cry. Learning that the ring was missing, Yisroel also got very upset and said, “How could you be so careless That was a very expensive ring.”
The tension increased over the next few days as the ring still had not turned up. Noam, their teenage son, saw what was happening and wanted to help. He went to the same jeweler where his father had purchased the ring and asked to purchase an identical ring, explaining the circumstances. The jeweler was impressed with Noam and agreed to sell it for a reduced price, with Noam paying $100 a month until it would be paid off in about two years.
That evening was bedikas chometz and Noam placed the ring on the kitchen windowsill. “Yisroel–come quick! I found the ring,” called out Mrs. Goldbaum. It was a Pesach miracle-courtesy of Noam. Mr. Goldbaum apologized to his wife for his criticism, and all the tension that had prevailed, disappeared.
It’s easy to “lose it” when we’re stressed. One might erroneously think Hashem wants us to be tense with all the preparations Pesach requires, but the truth is quite the contrary. Harmony in the home is the deeper mandate for Pesach, as is indicated in the special name given to the Shabbos before Pesach, Shabbos Hagadol. The Tur (R Yaakov Baal Haturim) explains the reason this Shabbos is called Shabbos Hagadol is because Hashem instructed the Jews to take sheep–the Egyptian deity–on the 10th of Nissan (which was Shabbos that year), tie it to their bedposts and on the 14th of Nissan, slaughter it as a korban Pesach to be eaten that evening. This was considered a great (“gadol“) miracle, as the Egyptians saw what was going on and did not attack or even protest!
Rav Avrohom Schorr brings an incredible explanation of the emphasis on tying the sheep to the bedpost, from the Sefer Beis Yitzchak. Many religions serve their deities in a shrine or temple, where they practice their religion, but day-to-day life is up to them. Hashem was giving the Bnei Yisroel an important message: You are now becoming the Jewish nation, where serving Hashem is not reserved for the synagogue or study hall. It’s the way we must live and interact every day–in the street, in our homes and in our bedrooms. Seeing the sheep each day when they went to sleep and woke up, the Jews absorbed this message of daily service to Hashem.
Hashem places a lot of emphasis on the home with regard to the mitzvos of Pesach. The korban Pesach is to be taken “seh leavos seh labayis” – by each family, each home In fact, we learn a halacha from here that the korban Pesach has to be eaten entirely inside one’s house; we cannot eat it partially in one house and the remainder in a different one. Similarly, cleaning and searching for chametz takes place in our home.
There are challenges when families get together in a home, especially for an extended time. Parents and children, in-laws, siblings, extended relatives-it’s a complicated mix! Perhaps the emphasis on harmony in the home is because Pesach is a unique opportunity for the father to convey his feelings of faith and belief in Hashem in conducting the Seder.
Everyone should remember that Hashem places us in a particular family because He knows what’s best for us. It’s our responsibility to work positively on our relationship with family, with both our speech and our actions. May we utilize this powerful time period and search for ways to promote tranquility in our homes and families, like Noam, who put himself into debt to replace his mother’s lost diamond ring and re-establish harmony in his home. May this Pesach reflect true harmony in our homes and herald in the ultimate redemption!