Every chag has something unique about it which we are meant to focus on. During the Yamim Noraim, we focus our time on doing teshuva and recognizing that Hashem is in control of our lives. During Sukkot, we are focused on enjoying and celebrating Hashem’s presence. Purim is a time of happiness and our spiritual renewal. Shavuot is a time for the renewal of our people through Matan Torah.
So, what is Pesach a time for? Cooking? Cleaning? Stress?
That can’t be, even though some (including myself) might feel that way.
How stressful it becomes when one goes to the local supermarket before Purim has even arrived, and sees the Pesach products beginning to line the shelves. We have become obsessed with our Pesach lists; when to start shopping, when to clean, where to clean first, and when to start cooking.
This concept of time and Pesach isn’t something we women of today invented. Rather, the concept of time and Pesach are interwoven from the onset of the chag. When it comes to Pesach, timing is everything.
When the Jews were leaving Egypt, it states in שמות פרק יב:יז—
:ושמרתם את המצות כי בעצם היום הזה הוצאתי את צבאותיכם מארץ מצרים ושמרתם את היום הזה לדרתיכם חקת עולם
You shall observe the (Feast of) Unleavened Bread, for on this very day, I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day throughout the ages as an institution for all time.
Rashi explains on this pasuk:
.רבי יאשיה אומר: אל תהי קורא את המצות, אלא את המצוות- כדרך שאין מחמיצין את המצה, כך אין מחמיצין את המצוה, אלא אם באה לידך, עשה אותה מיד
One shouldn’t read the word as “matzot”, but rather read it as “mitzvoth”, and so, just as we don’t let the bread rise, one should not let the mitzvah “rise”. When a mitzvah comes your way, do not delay.
So, time is of the essence. The Jews had to eat their food in a hurry. Time mattered. It even became the basis for the holiday. That famous adage “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today” is very apropos here.
However, some have taken this concept too far. While the name of the holiday may be חג האביב, looking at it as an opportunity to do spring cleaning really isn’t the essence of what Pesach is all about. Pesach is the Holiday of Renewal and Freedom—זמן חרותינו. It is a chance to do some self-reflection and get your life in order. That is why the seder is called “seder”—to bring סדר, order, to one’s life. To develop a sense of rhythm, pattern, and structure to all areas in which you might be lacking. When cleaning your house, you should be doing a mental cleansing as well, trying to set up priorities and boundaries, if necessary.
For example, while cleaning your kitchen, you can focus on the area of food. Are you enslaved to your food? Are you missing kavana when you say brachos? Are you not very knowledgeable about which brachos to say? With this mindset, each room can represent a different “room” in our lives—a different area in which we can improve upon. It is the ego that pushes us—or enslaves us—to think that we need to do all this preparation in advance. It can hinder our soul-fixing and deter us from the true purpose of the chag. Yes, when the mitzvah comes our way, we shouldn’t delay, but let’s not bring it our way, rather the way Hashem had intended. Enjoy the special times that Hashem has gifted to us.