Observing children’s behavior in the last few days of school before Pesach break, one can sense that something is up. They’re jumpier, less patient, less tolerant of others and just plain crankier. Could it, might it have something to do with what’s going on at home? Overworked Moms, tense moments in the Pesach cleaning adventure, wavering bedtimes, `alternative’ supper menus and times – these are very likely ingredients.
This is no small or laughing matter. The good news is – there is something we can do about it. First, allow me to share an incredible observation of the Tolna Rebbe, Shlita, renowned for his insights in Chinuch. “I always ask little children which Yom Tov they enjoy more, Pesach or Sukkos. I’ve asked hundreds of children – almost all say Sukkos. Some say it’s because of the Simchas Beis HaShoeivah, while others say it’s because the Sukka is fun. But most say the real reason. On Pesach, Ima is nervous about a mess, Abba is nervous about the k’zeisim, everyone is nervous… Yom Tov is meant to be joyous. It doesn’t have to be a time of anxiety.”
In the Lifelines column in last week’s Mishpacha magazine, a woman told her story of anxiety, tension and Shalom Bayis busting experiences in observing Pesach in the early years of her marriage. She and her husband came from diametrically opposed upbringings as it related to Pesach preparations and observance. She was from the `Chometz in the garage only, for a full week before Yom Tov household’, he came from a home where `cooking macaroni a few hours before Bedikas Chometz was just fine’. One year, her husband prevailed upon her to attend a pre-Pesach shiur being given by their shul Rav.
This is the essence of what he was quoted as saying: “A lot of work goes into making Pesach, so it’s important to know what’s critical and what’s just a nice thing to do. Eating matzah is a mitzvah d’oreysa (from the Torah). That’s critical. Telling your children the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim (Exodus) is also a d’oreysa, so that’s also critical. I should stress, though, that the fulfillment of the mitzvah of V’Higadata L’Vincha (and you shall tell to your son) is very much dependent on the parents’ Shalom Bayis. When we give over a mesorah (tradition) it has to be palatable to our children, and if the atmosphere between the parents is tense, they’re not going to want to recreate what they saw growing up.”
“So if there’s a lot of arguing in your house before Pesach – even if it’s done behind closed doors – then chances are, you are not giving your children a positive example of what Pesach and Yiddishkeit are supposed to be about.”
“Next critical item is Simchas Yom Tov. Pesach is one of the Shalosh Regalim, so there’s a mitzvah d’oraysa of simcha (joy). Simcha has halachic parameters, such as drinking wine and eating meat for men, and buying new clothing or jewelry for women, but on the most basic level, simcha means to be happy.”
“Then we have the issurim (prohibitions) of eating and owning chometz. The Shulchan Aruch lays down the basic rules of how to eliminate chometz, but Klal Yisrael are kedoshim (holy), and we have developed all sorts of beautiful minhagim and chumras (extra stringencies) over the generations to help us avoid even the tiniest mashehu (speck) of chometz. It should be obvious, though, that if the chumras are causing tension and strife in the home, and preventing you from being b’simcha, then you need to reevaluate your priorities.”
To paraphrase another memorable line from the column – remember – neither you nor your family is supposed to be the Korban Pesach.
Best wishes for a rejuvenating Shabbos filled with anticipation for the Simcha of Yom Tov,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann