You can feel it in the air. There is no mistaking it. It is almost something you can touch.
There are two periods in the Jewish calendar when virtually every frum Jew can feel the anticipation and preparation in the atmosphere. The very air that he breathes seems to be permeated by it. Those are the two months of hachanah, preparation, the month preceding the Yomim Noraim and the month preceding Pesach.
Both of these months show the beauty of our nation. Both show how much we, as maaminim and bnei maaminim, take our relationship with Hashem seriously. Nevertheless, in a certain way, the month before Pesach starting with Purim is perhaps even more remarkable.
During Elul, there is no mistaking the strong atmosphere of preparation for the upcoming Yom Hadin, the day when Hashem judges the world and decides what the next year will be like for everyone. Any maamin can’t help but take those days extremely seriously. We all know that our entire year depends on how much favor we will find in His eyes when we pass by like sheep passing their shepherd. As we say in the tefillah of Kevakoras” during Mussaf of the Yomim Noraim, Hashem counts them, considers them and decides what the verdict of their judgment will be…
Throughout the month preceding the Yomim Noraim, one can clearly see how people daven differently, guard the words that come out of their mouths, are more vigilant to refrain from many aveiros that they might do during the rest of the year, increase their mitzvos, learn with more hasmadah, engage in introspection, and make kabbolos to improve.
Everyone wants a good year and every maamin understands that zechuyos are therefore needed. There is an element of yirah in the run-up to the Yomim Noraim, as there should be.
During this month, the month between Purim and Pesach, however, the hachanah, the preparation, stems from pure ahavah, pure love.
Hashem Loves Lakewood on Purim
We just witnessed the beginning of this process with the celebration of Purim. We all know that Chazal tell us that the Yidden accepted the Torah anew during the days of Achashveirosh in a special way and with a love that hadn’t even been present at Har Sinai. It was pure love.
You know, in many ways, Purim is unique. It is a Yom Tov without the boundaries and borders that define the other Yomim Tovim. It is not the eimah and solemnity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is not Sukkos, when we worry about the beauty of our esrogim, that our lulavim should be closed at the top, that our dofen ho’akuma in our sukkah should be kosher. We are not even worried about chometz in our house or shehiyos with our matzos. It is a Yom Tov of unbridled love.
Purim then kicks off the month preceding Pesach and we see this pure love in the way that Yidden celebrate Purim. A friend told me on Shushan Purim, “I am telling you, Hashem loves Lakewood on Purim. There is so much giving, so much money being distributed without any questions, so much love of Hashem being enunciated, so much love of Hashem expressed, and so many deep desires to serve Hashem and be better. That is what comes out when the barrier between the heart and the mind is somewhat removed.”
Of course, I am not naïve enough to say that Purim is perfect in Lakewood or anywhere. We don’t live in a utopian world. As with any good thing, there are always abuses. There are always going to be irresponsible people, and that is similarly reflected when the boundaries are removed. There will always be people who take things a bit too far, and instead of being mesameiach with others, they harass others. But when one looks at the klal, at the overwhelming majority of what transpires on Purim, my friend is right. The beauty, the purity of heart and the soul of the Yiddishe neshomah is revealed on Purim in the most beautiful way in any frum community.
Why Do Our Women Work So Hard for Pesach?
This brings us to the days after Purim, the days in which we currently find ourselves, the days that will continue until we sit down at the Seder. I know that some of us like to poke fun at the baalebostos who absolutely dread preparation for Pesach and talk about it with such trepidation. I know that we sometimes bemoan the fact that they might go overboard in their quest to clean the house of more than just chometz, but I think that it is important to look with a fresh pair of eyes at the way Klal Yisroel, and especially noshim tzidkaniyos, prepare for Pesach. They are not doing all of this preparation, cleaning, organizing, shopping and spending money because they are afraid of having a bad year if they don’t do teshuvah. They are not doing this because they have this visceral fear of Divine retribution if they don’t get on their knees and scrub that closet one more time.
They are doing it out of ahavah, out of their desire to please Hashem, to create a nachas ruach for Hashem, because they take their job as the queen of their castle so seriously. They are doing this job as the akeres habayis, as the one who feels responsible for her bayis and for ensuring that when Pesach comes, every member of the household is able to sing Hallel to Hashem at the Seder in a home Hashem can be proud of. This desire to fulfill the rotzon of Hashem stems from pure ahavah.
Making Sure Everyone is a King at His Seder Table
And what about the way that Yidden help each other out during the run-up to Pesach? Pesach is expensive, but we, wonderful bnei Avrohom, Yitzchok v’Yaakov, want to make sure that every Yid will sit like a king at his Seder table. The way we take care of our rabbeim and their families, the ones who are doing the most important job in Klal Yisroel of transmitting Yiddishkeit to the next generation, is inspiring. The special discounted shopping is done with utmost kavod and appreciation. Large families are offered all kinds of honorable ways to get to Pesach with less financial stress. What about the kimcha dePischa, the tens of thousands of dollars distributed to Yidden who need it? It is just amazing. It is a remarkable reflection of who we are, a nation of pure ahavah.
And what about all of the Yidden who, boruch Hashem, can manage on their own? Some of them really push themselves. What do they spend their money on? Pesach. Not crazy luxuries, but another pound of matzah, another suit, another dress, another pair of shoes for the children lekavod Yom Tov. This is done out of utter love for Hashem. The description of the love that Yidden have for Hashem in Shir Hashirim is so evident during this wonderful month between Purim and Pesach.
How Would Pesach Look Without the Avodah of Klal Yisroel?
This brings to mind a beautiful thought written by the Tiferes Shlomo. We know that the Gemara says that in the Purim story, Mordechai did an aveirah by declaring that the Jews fast to avert Haman’s gezeirah on Pesach. Why did he do that? The Tiferes Shlomo says, “Hashem has a tremendous nachas ruach from the avodah that Klal Yisroel puts into Pesach, an avodah that culminates in the Seder. Mordechai was saying to Hashem, ‘If You want to see how the world will look without the avodah of Klal Yisroel on Pesach, I will give You a preview. This year, there will not be a Seder. Everyone will be fasting. This beautiful avodah of the Yidden that is kulo ahavah will be missing. Is that the way Hashem wants it?’”
So this year, as we again prepare for Pesach, we must realize that even the kvetching is just “a niggun,” something that you are supposed to do to be yotzeh. The penimiyus of these days, however, as can be seen from taking a sneak peek into any frum community and frum home, is kulo ahavah, pure ahavah.