Pesach preparations are complex and multi-faceted. Way before Pesach, many people personally go to the matzah bakery and physically assist in the baking of the matzos, fulfilling the Talmudic dictum, “Mitzvah bo yotzeir m’b’shlucho – It is a greater mitzvah to do it yourself than to do it through an agent.” Then, there are those who go the extra mile and bake mitzvah matzos after chatzos, midday, on erev Pesach itself. Of course, there is the seasonal cleansing of the entire house, the office, one’s cars, lockers and everywhere else. These are not only time-consuming; they are also a barometer of our sincerity and dedication to fulfill Hashem’s will. Then, there is the specific Pesach shopping, both for the Pesach hardware and the Pesachdig food, but also for the clothing and accessories in honor of the festival that celebrates the birth of the Jewish People.
But, there is another vital part of preparing for Pesach that is sometimes overlooked in the midst of the hectic hustle and bustle of this frenetic season. This is the crucial mitzvah of passing the essential traditions of Yiddishkeit to our children at the Seder table. On this Night of Heritage, when we have the opportunity to etch the fundamentals of our faith into our children and grandchildren’s memory banks, it behooves us to spend time in preparation for this monumental task. One should spend at least as much time preparing a curriculum to pass over to his descendants as he spends time looking for a suit, shirt, shoes and tie.
Although we might be tempted to kick back our heels, recline, and listen to our children’s many p’shotim that they garnished in Yeshiva or from their own hard work, we must know that the directive of v’higadeta l’vincha, to teach your child, is a Biblical mandate for a father to forge another link in the chain of the Jewish People, and thereby connecting his children with that royal and lofty chain which goes all the way back to Hashem taking us our of Mitzrayim.
When preparing our presentation for the Seder, we must know our children. If sibling rivalry is a problem, we should discuss the fact that it was the hatred of the brothers to Yosef that led to us selling him as a slave. That generated the punishment wherein we should be sold down to slavery in Egypt. Thus, the Seder table can become a spirited springboard for discussing how important it is that brothers and sisters not fight among themselves.
If we find that our children are being seduced by the styles and fashions of the secular world, we should put emphasis on what the Haggadah says, “Sh’Bnei Yisroel hayu mitzuyanim sham,” that Klal Yisroel remained distinct when in Egypt. Even in the throes of the degradation and indignities of slavery, they maintained their sense of modesty and distinctive Jewish garb throughout.
The fact that Ukraine is at war is definitely on everyone’s mind. So, while we eat the bitter herbs and stimulate a remembrance of the suffering of our ancestors thousands of years ago, we should point out to our children how it is even more important to think about the suffering and the terror of our brethren in Eretz Yisroel during these times of danger.
Rav Shach, zt”l, zy”a, would never eat breakfast from 8:00 to 8:30 in the morning. He exclaimed that when hundreds of thousands of secular Jewish children start their school day without saying Krias Shema, how could he eat? Lessons such as these are examples of the legacy we want to carve and engrave in the memory banks of our beloved children.
When the Seder conductor announces “Boreich,” time to bentch, we can point out to our families that on the anniversary of the birth of the Jewish People realize that we were chosen specifically for our dedication to show appreciation to Hashem for all the gifts of life. The posuk says, “Am zu yetzarti li, tehilasi yisapeiru – This nation I have created to relate My praises.” Thus, in a very real way, one of the main reasons we eat is to be able to fulfill our Jewish destiny with the privilege of bentching. Indeed, when Rav Shach was asked what he attributed his amazing longevity to, he answered that he always bentched from a bentcher. It is practical lessons like these that leave a lasting and vital impression on our children.
May Hashem bless us with the wisdom to impart to our children the essential teachings of our Holy Torah and in that merit may we be blessed with good health, happiness and everything wonderful.