A Pesach Letter from Rabbi Rose

Why do I feel a sense of dread with Pesach arriving? That is not a feeling for a Jew, let alone a rabbi to have!  

Channah and I are, like many of you, locked in and stressed out. It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed with our home in disarray while we both work hard at our jobs, try to keep the boys on track with their remote school work, and keep up with the busy lives we were leading before the current crisis. We know we are very fortunate to have a family, to have a safe home, to have jobs, and to have enough food and belongings that our house can be such a mess. But still – it gets to us. 
Now comes Pesach with all of its demands. It feels more challenging than usual to find the joy in this season. 

I offer two thoughts to carry with you as the demands of Pesach begin to rise up.  
First, these are extraordinary times. Therefore our efforts to connect to Torah and mitzvah may have to be extraordinary. We will one day look back on this period with amazement. It will be good, I think, to remember that this Pesach season had a different shape, a different meaning for us, and even additional challenges that we had to overcome. The matzah will taste different this year, so to speak. But the blessings that come to us from Pesach will also be unlike those of previous years. We cannot discover those blessings unless we are prepared to accept them on their own terms.  

The second idea is in tension with this. It is that we must avoid making ourselves so overwhelmed by our preparation that the joy and beauty is obscured. “הקב”ה ליבא בעי – the Holy One desires the heart” says the Talmud (Sanhedrin 106b). Rebbe Nachman of Breslov invokes this teaching in his warning against draining joy out of our religious inheritance: 
“concerning those who are exacting and unnecessarily strict …. They have novitality whatsoever and are always depressed, because it seems to them thatthey fail to meet their religious duties with the mitzvot they perform. And onaccount of their exactitude and depression they have no vitality from anymitzvah….”

I want to challenge us to renew our strength to prepare for Pesach with these two ideas in mind. We should prepare ourselves and our homes with commitment so that we can truly be ready on Seder night. And at the same time remember that we accomplish nothing if our preparations lead us to misery and depression. Paradoxically, we may need to be a little less exacting, a little less stringent, in order to be serious about preparing for Pesach.

Channah and I join in sending you wishes for healthy and balanced Pesach preparations, meaningful preparation, and rich and powerful Seder. Please reach out to us if you need help in finding the resources you need for Pesach, or if you need to be virtually connected to a seder.  

In the mean time, please take the necessary steps for your own health and the health of others. May all those stricken by this terrible virus find comfort and my HaShem send them a refua shleimah.
Rabbi Joshua Rose