I can’t remember how many shiurim I have attended over the years. I have always enjoyed listening to different speakers on a wide variety of topics, and I feel fortunate to have been able to hear so many outstanding speakers. But, if someone were to ask me what the most memorable shiur I have ever attended was, I would be able to pick it out without a moment’s hesitation.
It was many years ago, and was being given by Rav Chaim Scheinberg, ZT”L. The shiur was on the topic of Pesach, and that year was the first time I would be making it, as I was in shana rishona. I eagerly anticipated the words of wisdom from my husband’s Rosh Yeshiva…I couldn’t wait to drink in all that he would say.
To my utter delight, Rav Scheinberg spoke with such eloquence about the JOY in making Pesach. He emphasized again and again that this was a Yom Tov filled with simcha, and that we should never go around bemoaning all we had to accomplish to get to the chametz-free environment we wished to obtain. Since this was the first Pesach I was attempting to make by myself, I had been feeling quite anxious about “doing it right”. But Rav Scheinberg’s warm words made the Pesach experience seem like something we all should be looking forward to, instead of overshadowing it with what had to be done.
Teamwork is the key ingredient in getting through Pesach. This is where the emphasis of “working for Pesach” is supposed to be.
After Rav Scheinberg spoke, he opened up the shiur for questions. And of course, there were plenty! But the one question which I can still clearly recall in my mind’s eye to this day is the young woman who asked him, “How long should it take to clean our kitchens properly for Pesach?” The majority of women lived in basic Israeli apartments with small kitchen areas. Rav Scheinberg replied, “An hour and a half!” We all looked at him, astounded—that short of a time to clean a whole kitchen?! The young woman then politely asked, “Rav Scheinberg…an hour and a half? Does that include the oven?” (In those days, there were not too many self-cleaning ovens around!) He replied, “For the oven, you can add an extra 45 minutes!”
We all tried to absorb this incredible tidbit of information, when Rav Scheinberg’s wife, the assertive Rebbetzin Betsy Scheinberg, who was sitting by his side, piped up, “Chaim! What are you telling these young women? Two and a half hours to clean a kitchen for Pesach? Oy!” Then she looked directly at us and said, “He doesn’t know what he is talking about! He never cleaned a kitchen for Pesach!”
We did not know where to look! The Rebbetzin was good-humoredly shaking her head back and forth. As we looked to the Rosh Yeshiva, who we had grown to respect so much, we saw the mounds of talleisim on his shoulders slightly moving up and down as he laughed and smiled at the reaction he had just elicited from his wife. At that point, all of us started laughing, too.
Rav Scheinberg then told us if we wanted advice on how to properly clean for Pesach, and how much time it would really take, we should really ask his Rebbetzin. I was too much in awe of the Rebbetzin to go over to her, but it planted the seed in my mind to ask different women I felt comfortable with about their system for making Pesach. As my family grew, a whole new area of questions arose, and I did not hesitate to ask friends who were older than me how to prepare with toddlers (and their crumbs!) floating all around.
That year, I was also given a pamphlet on cleaning for Pesach that Torah Ohr publishes under the auspices of Rav Scheinberg. I read it every year before I begin my preparations. I feel like the Rosh HaYeshiva is talking directly to me! I can still hear his voice stating the halachos of Pesach in such a gentle way.
Although Rav Scheinberg always observed halachos according to the letter of the law, the way he gave this over to the women was done with such saychel! All of us were meant to understand that we should not cut corners in any way when it came to upholding the halachos of Pesach, but that we needed to do it with a lev simcha. This would elevate the Yom Tov for us in not only a physical way, but in a spiritual way, too. To clean every cabinet with “happiness” is an accomplishment, indeed! I don’t always succeed in keeping calm as time edges closer to this particular holiday, but I do try to keep Rav Scheinberg’s wise advice in the uppermost part of my mind, and at least start preparing with a lightness of heart.
It always brings a smile to my face when I think of the humorous banter between Rav Scheinberg and his Rebbetzin. A beautiful glimpse into their marriage unfolded before all of us that day. It is a good thing to remember to keep a healthy dose of humor between couples…even when you are discussing cleaning for Pesach. Teamwork is the key ingredient in getting through Pesach. This is where the emphasis of “working for Pesach” is supposed to be.
I always think about the Rosh HaYeshiva and his Rebbetzin when Pesach is just around the corner. I try and focus on the words of Rav Scheinberg, and to always keep in the back of my mind that my family and I are, Baruch Hashem, free Jews…free to celebrate this special Yom Tov in any way we want! There truly are so many things to be grateful for at Pesach time. Thinking back to that shiur, I am extremely appreciative of my self-cleaning oven! And for the attitude I have at this time of year, which I attribute to a very special couple whom Klal Yisroel miss very much.