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PREPARING FOR A MITZVAH IS ALSO A MITZVAH
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The concept of preparation for Pesach is an integral part of the festival`s significance.

 

The Jewish year is replete with festivals, special days, fasts, and holidays, but none entails as much advance preparation as Pesach (Passover).  Well before the first night, we prepare the house by cleansing it of all traces of chometz (unleavened bread and related products).  We purchase matzahs and wine and the other special foods we will need for the Seder night.

This concept of preparation for Pesach is an integral part of the festival's significance.  The very first Pesach, at the time of the Exodus, was also marked by preparations in advance.  On the first day of the month of Nissan, G-d commanded the Israelites to start their preparations on the tenth of the month, by designating a lamb as the offering for the coming for the forthcoming day of their liberation. 

The lamb was to be slaughtered only on the eve of the fifteenth of Nissan: "On the tenth of the month they shall take for themselves each man a sheep for his household…" (Exodus 12:3), yet the people were commanded to set it aside well before it was actually needed.  This commandment was issued ten days previously, on the first of the month of Nissan, also well in advance, allowing ample time for preparation.

That first Pesach night, in Egypt, the Torah commanded that the paschal lamb be eaten in haste (Exodus 12:11).  This is all the more striking when we consider the time allotted for the fulfillment of the mitzvah of eating the meat of the sacrifice.  Of all the offerings brought to the Sanctuary, the Paschal lamb is the one which must be consumed within the shortest period of time – only until midnight of that same night.  In contrast, a peace offering (korban shlomim) may be eaten any time during the day it is slaughtered, all of the following night, and all of the following day, until sundown.

It is interesting to note that it was specifically this relatively long period of advance preparation that made it possible for the Jewish people to leave Egypt when the time came.  They were completely prepared, and left without delay, before Pharaoh could have regrets and rescind his demand that they evacuate Egypt at once.

Regarding the preparation of matzah, we find that the situation is similar.  In order to avoid any possibility of the dough leavening, the bakers are compelled to work with great haste, all the while exercising great caution, as the verse tells us: "And you shall guard the matzos" (Exodus 12:17). Meticulous precautions are called for when the wheat is harvested, transported, stored, ground, and then baked into matzah.  The water used to make the dough does not come from the tap, but must be drawn from a halachically acceptable source, before sundown of the previous day.  All in all, to celebrate the holiday of Pesach, the Jew must invest time and effort in its preparations.

Why should this be so?  How does Pesach differ from the other special days in the Jewish calendar?

Logic tells us that the more precise an action must be in order to succeed, the greater the degree of preparation we should invest in getting ourselves ready to perform it.

The emancipation from Egypt was so momentous an event that the Jewish People could not afford to risk the slightest chance of missing out on the opportunity due to a lack of preparedness on their part.  It was essential that all be ready and waiting when the moment would come.  We see that when Pharaoh was at last convinced that the prudent step to take was to free his Hebrew slaves and rid his nation of this anathema, there was no time to hesitate.  "And provisions they did not make for them, for they could not tarry."  The situation called for immediate action; otherwise, the opportunity to attain their freedom would be lost forever.  Consequently, it was of the essence that the people be ready to depart on a moment's notice, without the least delay or hesitation.   The people indeed prepared themselves by following each of G-d's commandments; when the time came, G-d redeemed them just as He had assured them He would.  In the twinkling of an eye, hundreds of years of enslavement came to an end.

This same principle applies in every area of life.  This is the formula required for future generations to be redeemed, as well.  The Psalmist tells us: "I am the L-rd, your G-d Who brought you up from the Land of Egypt.  Open your mouth wide, I shall fill it" (Psalms 81:11). The Exodus serves as a prime example of how anxious G-d is to shower His bounty upon us, if we will but prepare ourselves to receive His blessings.


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