Nobody can ever accuse me of waiting until the last minute to prepare for Pesach. No, not me. I started my prep several weeks ago. I went to the store and bought toothbrushes. This is one of the most difficult tasks of Pesach prep. Even here in Israel, the toothbrush section in the supermarket is not as small as it used to be. So many choices! Brands galore. Hard. Soft. Medium. With a cover. Without a cover. Package of one. Two. Economy pack. Electric. A rainbow of colors to choose from. But I did it.
I can now check it right off my list! My new toothbrushes are comfortably nestled in my bathroom drawer, counting down the days until Erev Pesach when they suddenly take on prominent status as everyone asks me, “Did you remember to get toothbrushes?” I assume it’s a rhetorical question because everyone knows just how totally together and organized I am about my Pesach preparations. They know that I would never forget to buy toothbrushes or virtually anything else needed for Pesach or any other day of the year. Ever! I’ve got this thing down so well that the weeks before Pesach are unusually relaxed in my home. I’m even thinking about offering free Pesach-Prep workshops during my spare time for those who wish to hear my tricks of the trade. Now that I have my toothbrushes, everything else is just easy-peasy. No problem at all.
I’ve noticed that over the last few years, there has been a trend to attempt to reduce pre-Pesach stress. “Stress?” I ask. “What stress?” You call having to scrub every corner of one’s home with toothbrushes and toothpicks stressful? You don’t just love to inhale the fragrant aroma of bleach? Ridding one’s home of chametz only to find that some short people living there think that shoes are the most appropriate place to store pretzels and crackers is anxiety-producing? Nah. The reason the most chametzdik holiday of the year is right before Pesach is clearly because…um…. Give me a minute, I’m thinking. Okay, so I don’t know the answer to that one right now, but I’m sure there is an extremely profound explanation. “How can one easily change the kitchen over?” you ask? Piece of cake (kosher l’Pesach, of course). Not having access to the kitchen sinks for twenty-four hours and spending the whole day saying Tehilim begging Hashem that nobody in the family should forget and accidentally uses it is challenging? C’mon. Maybe for you. But certainly not for me. What about dealing with the lines in the supermarket during the pre-Pesach frenzy? This is not an activity one looks forward to all year long? Is it not a beautiful thing to be preparing for Pesach together with so many other wonderful people of Am Yisrael in the same room? And of course, I understand that while all this preparation is taking place, work still needs to get done. People still need to eat. Clothes still need to be laundered. And bought. Family members need to be outfitted with new clothes l’chavod Yom Tov. So many beautiful parts to this mitzvah! Yes, there’s certainly a lot to do.
It seems that not everyone had things under control as well as I do and the situation was really getting out of hand. Women (not me, obviously) were feeling terribly anxious in the weeks leading up to Pesach. Some could be seen hanging from their ceilings trying to clean the non-chometzdik dirt off their chandeliers. Others were found to be dangerously filling their homes with boiling water. They would sit down to the seder looking not all that different from the shmata they had used to clean their refrigerator. Something had to be done. Rabbonim began writing articles making the distinction between what really needs to be done for Pesach and what is simply not necessary. Some outright discouraged women from doing tasks not required by halachah. They can be done after Pesach without creating added pressure. The pre-Pesach guidelines of Rav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg began appearing in the frum women’s magazines several weeks before Pesach. Under the title, it would read, “Sponsored by one who suffered needlessly for many years.” The time had come to put an end to the suffering, once and for all.
The pendulum has turned. These days, there is much support to help women get through this hectic time. Women can participate in a wide array of therapeutic workshops about home organization, money management, time management, relationships, meditation, meal planning, mindfulness, physical fitness, cooking, and much more, to help them prepare for Pesach while maintaining their sanity and even growing through the process.
But for me, I love it all. I love it when you can’t hear anything on the street because everyone is vacuuming their cars at the same time. I love the hustle and bustle in the city center, where people walk at such a quick pace that standing in their path can be downright dangerous. I love the big annual hagalas keilim event where I kasher my kitchen wares that got messed up throughout the previous year and are too difficult to kasher at home. It’s like Yom Kippur for pots. They go in blemished and come out pure. It’s a dream come true!
All joking aside, Pesach is a time for us to get rid of our physical and spiritual chametz, be grateful for what we have, and become closer to Hashem. Like everything else in life, this requires keeping our heads on straight and doing things in a balanced way. Then we and our families can grow spiritually and enjoy the chag as well. Whatever you do or don’t do, just don’t forget the toothbrushes.