Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chodesh Tov!

IYAR (alef, yud, yud, reish): ANI HASHEM ROFECHA (I am Hashem, Who heals you)

How can we tap into the powers of healing that Hashem implanted into the month of Iyar?

Through following the chukim, mishpatim, and osos.  These three categories heal our actions, thoughts, and feelings, respectively.

In addition, the sefiros that we are aware of during counting sefira, add another dimension to each day of this month.  With each day we can tweak a little bit of our midos.
(Rebbetzin Heller shiur on Iyar)

What if we are unsure of what we are supposed to be doing? Don't worry! Hashem is leading each of us to the exact place and situation we need to be in, so that we can grow in the perfect way.  We simply have to WANT to grow closer to Hashem, and He will guide us.

"Wherever your feet lead you, they are directed from above, to bring you into proximity to those divine sparks that belong to your soul alone. 

It may be a herb waiting to provide its healing powers, a stroke of wisdom that has yet to find an understanding heart, a human relationship that must be healed, a grand landscape that has been waiting to grant inspiration. 

If you learn to say a blessing over your food before eating, then a fruit somewhere in the world may await that blessing of yours. 

If you have learned to study Torah, there may be a place in the world sustained by divine sparks that have been waiting since the beginning of Creation to provide you an inspiring place to study, so that your words of Torah will redeem them." 
 (Reitza Sarah discovered this quoted paragraph on

Love, Aviva Rus

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Chaburah resumes on Monday May 7, iyH


I can't wait to learn with you next week.  Right now I can only run one chaburah per week so the Sunday night one is on hold for a few weeks.

We are up to chapter 5 in Da Es Atzmecha.  I will post the outlines (of Bilvavi and Da es atzmecha) iyH  in a few days.

Some of us are feeling a let down after the high of Pesach.  This is a normal feeling.  Hashem showed us our potential on Pesach and now, during sefira, we take a small step to approach that high space that we experienced.  (Rabbi Nivin Chaburah)

Someone asked me how she can stay happy when she  hears bad news.  In Rav Schwarz's sefer, Da es Menuchasecha; Discovering your Inner Peace, he discusses how Rabbanim/ tzadikim who listen to everyone's issues are able to maintain their joy, without sinking into deep depression from all the difficulties that others are experiencing.  They learn Torah and this is the antidote to depressing feelings and thoughts.

My friend asked- then which one is real? (the pain or the Torah easing the pain).  

The issue is not what is real- the pain is real and the Torah is emes.  The issue is : "What is my hishtadlus in each moment to be the very best eved Hashem that I can be?"

When someone is before us and is in pain (chas veshalom) then our job is to listen and help, daven and do.  However, when the person is not with us, our job is to learn Torah (if no one else needs you).

In Divrei chaim, he discusses a midrash where Bnei Yisrael tell Moshe Rabbeinu after krias yam suf that they had done what they had come to do, celebrated Pesach and singing shirah to Hashem.  Moshe answers them that they still have a task to do, receive the Torah.

The Shem m'Shmuel says that this was self sacrifice on their part, as they saw that 190 years of  being slaves still had to be served to achieve the 400 years of slavery.  They didn't want their descendants to be stuck with it in the future.

Moshe's answer, however, is the key.  The Torah can provide the redemption from the outstanding 190 years.  Turn to it, learn it, live it, love it, as it is the key to our relationship with Hashem, and to our redemption from all the things we are currently enslaved to.  

This is the first thing to remember as we approach Shavuous and receive the Torah. 

The question is, who do we want to be when the Torah is being placed in our hands?  (The answer to that is the arrow to point you to the small step to take that we discussed above)

b'ahava, aviva rus

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Shabbos HaGadol!...Pesach!!!

Rav Kanievsky said in the name of Rav Elyashiv that this Shabbos we should wish eachother "good Shabbos Hagadol".

When the world was created,  each day had a pair except for Shabbos.  Hashem said to Shabbos 'your pair will be Bnei Yisrael'.  On Shabbos Hagadol we took the step (blood on the doorposts) to become a nation and thereby became a pair to Shabbos. (Divrei Chaim)

Sfat Emet states that this is a supernatural Shabbos and at candle lighting we should take on a small commitment toward growth. (Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi parsha sheets)

We have been cleaning our external environment until now with the intention of cleaning our internal self of any chometz.

Many of us took on something small already. 
(Rabbi Nivin Chaburah) 
----Perhaps add one small thing to that commitment or re-commit to it when lighting the candles.

Bottom line- it's the ratzon to want to rid ourselves of the chometz that will bring us close to Hashem. (Alei Shur)

Remember, we take one small step and Hashem does the results.

We all want a beautiful - connected to Hashem- full of emunah- seder.   We all want the geulah.  

Why does it feel so far, beyond our grasp?

Believe me, I think about this a lot.  I see many of us are in pain and in extremely difficult situations.  Even those of us who are not in times of tzaros feel pain!

From reading and listening to shiurim about Pesach, it has become increasingly clear to me that the ball is in our court.  It is up to us to take that one small step that will bring the geulah.

First, each of us must know how much Hashem loves every single one of us- no matter what mistakes were made in the past.  It is the now, this moment, that exists.  (Rav Moshe Weinberger)

-----take the list of things that are causing you to feel removed from Hashem and place it in the fire during biur chometz. (Rabbi Nivin, Rabbanit Yemima)

If you don't love yourself yet and see the real you, a pure shining neshama contained in a special kli, your body, then add that to the paper and burn it.  (Label that lack of self awareness;)

Second, the seder!  We each have a different vision of how we want to experience our seder.  However, let's remove all the outer layers and go to the foundation: EMUNAH.  The bottom line is that all the times we feel far from Hashem, it is from a lack of emunah.  

The seder is the antidote.  We are supposed to act as if we are being redeemed all over again. 

Zohar: Matzoh is the food of healing - it's vitamins that fill us with emunah. Matzoh has the power to erase any doubts(Rav Aharon Weinberg, nesivos;pesach)

It is a night of above nature nissim.  We are above malachim on this night! It is the Rosh Hashana for emunah! Avnei Nezer says that if a person has the teshuka (desire) to change on this night, Hashem makes it happen. (Rav Aharon weinberg)

Sfat Emet says in the name of Maharal "anyone who acts k'ilu- as though- on this night will have his/her 'as though' become their reality" (Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi)

----have a clear idea of what your 'as though' looks like =something that you want to be redeemed that you can feel and sense Hashem with deep emunah.

Our greatest feelings of pleasure come from this sensation of emunah coursing through our souls and body, unifying the two to serve Hashem and thereby, express our love back to Him, as a refelction of His love for us.

If you have more time- see the story below that really shows this idea! 

Chag Kasher Vesameach
Love, aviva rus

Lonely; Yet, Not Alone
His older brother was already married and his father who was recovering from heart surgery was unable to help. That left only Yitzchok and his mother to ‘make Pesach’.
For the Sedarim, they would be walking about a half a mile to a nearby relative.
As Yitzchok and his mother cleaned and talked, she told him stories of her mother and how they made Pesach in the Bronx in the 1930s.
At that time, the Bronx was known as the “Jewish Borough” with almost 50% of the total population Jewish.
Yitzchok could listen for hours as his mother regaled him with stories of Bubby’s homemade “chrain” and how she her knaidlach (matzo balls) were known along the entire Grand Concourse!
Yitzchok and his mother finished cleaning the house a few hours before Bedikas Chometz and after a thorough searching of the home; he went to sleep with thoughts of how nice the Sedarim will be in the company of friends and family.
However, as Yitzchok woke on Erev Pesach he was shocked to discover that as he soundly slept, Hashem had been busy at work. As he opened the door to head to Shul the ground was already covered in snow and more was coming.
A rare Erev Pesach storm had blanketed the entire New York area in snow.
It would be too much to for Yitzchok’s father to walk and they would be forced to having the Seder at home.
Quickly Yitzchok and his mother took to preparing foods for the “unplanned” Seder.
That night as he returned from Shul he looked at his parents and felt somewhat alone.
There was only the three of them.
He recalled years past when his father was healthier and his mother was younger and twenty or more people crowded around Seder table.
The three of them began the Seder attempting to be joyous as they huddled together in the cold snowy night. However, just as Maggid began, Yitzchok’s father who was still fragile from his surgery began to fade and quietly retired for the night struggling to make his way upstairs to his bedroom.
That left just two; Yitzchok and his mother.
Yitzchok and his mother continued; however, as they neared Dayeinu, the hectic effects of the last few weeks took their toll and his mother’s eyes began to close. His mother attempted to continue, however, Yitzchok saw the exhaustion in her eyes and insisted that she too retire for the night.
Suddenly the threesome had turned into a solo performance; for now there was just one.
Images of Sedarim of years gone by danced in Yitzchok’s head; he recalled his father, young and strong leading the Seder and the lively discussion which followed. He saw his mother and his departed Bubby checking on the knaidlach as the Seder progressed; laughing together in the kitchen.
He recalled how his father would passionately defend Torah Jewry in the face of criticism from relatives who had strayed from the path; and how it was done with love and compassion.
However, now he was alone and as he sat at the table he felt a tear of sadness slipping down his cheek.
He no longer needed salt water to dip; his cheeks were wet with his own tears.
He pushed himself to continue the Seder, to delve into the deeper meaning of the text; however, he felt sad and alone.  
However, he soon reminded himself that we are not here to dwell on the ‘hand of cards’ we wished we were ‘dealt’; rather, we are here to make the most of the ‘hand of cards’ we have in front of us.
And therefore, although alone, he continued to read and to sing as if he were surrounded by a crowd of guests.
Suddenly he felt that although he was alone, he was not lonely.
And although no one else was in the room, he was not abandoned.
A feeling of quiet solace and comfort filled him.
Was it the realization that despite the fact that he was alone, he had much to be thankful for; his parents were safe and warm and resting and there was peace in the house?
Or perhaps it was something more sublime and inexplicable?
Perhaps it was his sudden epiphany that no matter where you are and no matter who you are, there is what to accomplish and ‘with whom’ to bond?
Whatever the reason, he continued to sing; at first hesitantly and then with excitement and joy and he sang his way through the rest of the Seder.
And as he finished Chad Gadya he was filled with a special contentment which he never felt before.
As he drifted off to sleep that night there was a feeling of solace and comfort he had never quite felt before.
Many Pesachs have passed since that solitary spiritual night decades ago.
Today Yitzchok leads the Seder surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren and many guests.
And although I hope to never have another ‘solo Seder’ again; as I recall that snowy night in Brooklyn over thirty years ago surrounded by me, myself and He who is always there, a warm and nostalgic  tear gently falls down my face.
“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel
Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

Monday, April 7, 2014

More Pesach Torah- from Bilvavi website

 in the zchus of a refuah shlaim-   Chaim Dov ben Leah Etel  .חיים דוב בן לאה אטל (etel): Please say Tehillim for this boy- he is a son of someone in our Bilavi family in need of our immediate tefilos.

Pesach | פסח

The Egyptian exile was an exile of our da’as (our mind). This we can see from what Hashem told Avraham Avinu, that “you will surely know (“yodua teida”) that your offspring will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs…”

The Egyptian exile was an exile of our da’as, and its redemption was a redemption to our da’as. From the double usage of the word da’as in the possuk (yodua teida) we can see that there are two kinds of exiles that both involve an exile to our da’as. Let us reflect what these two kinds of da’as are.

The Baal Shem Tov explains that these two kinds of da’as are a “masculine” kind of da’as and a “feminine” kind of da’as. The redemption from Egypt was a feminine kind of da’as, and the future redemption will be a masculine kind of da’as. What does he mean? The way to understand his statement is as follows. In a person, there are two components: feelings and vision. (An example of “vision” is that a person is obligated on the night of Pesach to see himself leaving Egypt”).

The feminine kind of da’as is "feeling", and the masculine kind of da’as is vision. Egypt was an exile to our feelings – our feminine aspect of da’as. Its redemption was a redemption as well to our feminine da’as. But the future redemption will involve our masculine kind of da’as, which is our vision. “For with an eye and an eye we will see the return of Hashem to Zion.”

It is well-known that the final redemption is also contained in the first redemption. The redemption from Egypt is the root of the final redemption.

In terms of our soul, we must know what these two different kinds of redemption are.

Our Mind Is Still In Exile

There are two “kings” that reside in a person: the mind and the heart. The mind’s vision is limited and we need to learn how to expand it.

The Zohar always uses an expression of ta chazi, “come and see”, while the Gemara always uses an expression of ta shema, “come and hear.” When a person hears, he hears the feelings, but when a person sees, he doesn’t use his feelings, just his limited vision. The abilities of feeling and vision are two distinct forces in the soul, and each of them need to be removed from what’s stuffing them up. Our mind’s vision is prevented by being too narrow-sighted, while our heart’s feelings can be stuffed with timtum halev (spiritual “blockage”).

In the Egyptian exile, our heart was in exile. There was a redemption to this, so our feelings were redeemed with this. But our mind still hasn’t been totally redeemed. Our feelings of the soul, such as ahavah (love), yirah (fear), hispaarus (pride), etc. were redeemed in Egypt, but our mind’s vision – in other words, our inner vision, the ability to see holiness – is still concealed in an exile.

The Avodah of the Egyptian exile was to recognize Hashem’s goodness and to come to have feelings for Him, such as love and fear of Hashem. But what is the Avodah of the final exile?

We must expand our minds in order to know this.

The Secret Of The Redemption: Unity

In the writings of the Arizal it is brought that the night of Pesach is a time of “gadlus hamochin” (a higher state of mind). What is the higher state of mind, and what is the lower state of mind?

Simply speaking, it means that sometimes our mind is more or less clear. But the more truthful outlook is that gadlus hamochin is a straight way of thinking – “G-d made man upright” (Koheles 7:29) – it is a straight kind of vision, and in it lies a person’s mind.

In the redemption of Egypt, anyone who didn’t merit to leave Egypt perished. The wicked perished in the plague of darkness. Everyone else who left Egypt all left as one collective unit – there was achdus (unity) of the entire nation at the redemption. At this redemption, the entire Jewish people were united to follow Hashem into the desert, experience the splitting of the sea and the giving of the Torah. At all of these events, all 600,000 souls of the Jewish people were all present.

The inner way to look at reality is to see everything as one. From an inner perspective, a person sees how many details are really all one collective unit. The secret that brings on a redemption is to be united into one unit. For example, the entire Jewish people in Egypt did not change their names, language, or dress.

Thus, the redemption is all about achdus – unity. There is a redemption that will take place to the Jewish people as a whole. There is also a personal redemption to each person that will take place, a redemption to each person’s soul. This is to redeem our mind. To redeem our mind, we must acquire an inner perspective on things – a perspective of achdus, to be able to see how many details connect and are all one.

Before, we mentioned that we have two different component in us: the feelings, which are in our heart, and our vision, which is in our mind. Our mind, which is otherwise known as the masculine kind of daas, has an advantage over the heart in that it can see how many details connect into one. Our mind is capable of seeing achdus.

The second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam (baseless hatred). The future redemption will be the opposite of this; it will be a unity of the world. The secret to the redemption is achdus.

When a person acquires the inner perspective – the way to see unity in many details – this is the secret to the redemption.

The secret to the current exile is contained in the Egyptian exile. By understanding what the Egyptian exile was, we can learn about our own redemption from the current exile, because the root of all redemption is the redemption from Egypt.

What Is This Unity?

What is this secret of “achdus” of the final redemption, which is contained in the Egyptian exile?

We say in the Haggaddah, “And G-d took us out of Egypt, not through an angel or through a seraph or through a messenger, but G-d Himself, in His Honor.”

There is a concept that everything which takes place in the world also takes place in time, and everything that takes place in time also takes place in our soul. In our own soul, there can be a redemption by Hashem Himself.

On the night of Pesach, there is a revelation of G-dliness in every person’s soul! “Not through an angel or a seraph or a messenger, but G-d himself.” As long as a person doesn’t block this revelation from happening, it becomes revealed in one’s soul on the night of Pesach: a personal redemption that takes place in the soul.

When a person still has an egotistical “I”, he is separate from others. But when there is a revelation of G-dliness in the soul, a secret of “oneness” (rozo d’echad) is revealed in the soul.

If a person looks at another person according to the other’s opinions about life, then he is apart from others. Chazal say that “Just like all faces are different, so are all minds different.” But when a person looks at another person’s soul with a deep perspective, he sees G-dliness in another Jew’s soul. He sees “Hashem Himself” that resides in the deepest point in every Jew’s soul. (This deepest point is the called “Yechidah”.) When a person has this perspective, he has an outlook of achdus toward every Jew and he unifies every soul into one unit.

This revelation that takes place in the soul on the night of Pesach is the root of the future redemption.

Thus, on the night of Pesach we have an additional Avodah upon us. Besides for the well-known Avodah that we must connect ourselves to leaving Egypt now, there is another Avodah – to reveal the root of the future redemption. We must recognize what the redemption is and connect to it.

The Root Of The Future Redemption – Nullifying Your Ego

The power of the future redemption is essentially the ability to leave the selfish “I” in a person. As long as a person is still egotistical, there is a divide between a person and Hashem. When a person still has his ego, he has only his daas, and each person’s daas is different…this is the depth of Chazal that “Just as all faces are different, so are all minds different.” A person’s self-absorption prevents the revelation of achdus.

We need to acquire the higher daas. This is called “Keil de’os (G-d of knowledge”, an expression used by the Rambam). This is not regular daas of a person; it is a higher kind of daas that is hidden from us. It is the kind of daas which unifies the many varying opinions of people, the many different kind of daas that everyone has.

In the redemption from Egypt, even though it was a redemption to our daas, it was only a redemption to each person’s private daas. We are still different toward each other, because we each have our own opinions. It wasn’t yet a total redemption.

There are two ways how we can see this. First of all, Moshe Rabbeinu was afraid that the people wouldn’t be worthy of being redeemed, because of the wicked individuals present. This was already a lapse in the unity of the Jewish people. In addition to this, even when they were redeemed, the Erev Rav (“Mixed Multitude”, Egyptian non-Jews who escaped Egypt together with the Jewish people) came with them, which affected the unity of the Jewish people.

The future redemption, though, will be a total redemption to our daas. It will be a nullification of our daas and in its place a revelation of the higher Daas, the Daas of the Creator. The revelation of Hashem by the redemption will be a revelation of the achdus of the Jewish people.

This we have two missions on Pesach: we must feel as if we are leaving Egypt now, to receive a new vitality in our feelings. But this isn’t enough. Even with renewed feelings, our perspective can still be very limited. Feelings without a developed mind can be imbalanced; feelings aren’t everything. Some people are so zealous that they go overboard with their zealousness. We must realize that our feelings are only a garment on our soul – feelings aren’t everything, and we shouldn’t get caught up in them.

Our feelings alone aren’t everything – they need to be fused with an expanded mind.

For example, the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael is really going on wicked people as well. One of the four sons is a wicked son; we must still love him as a son, even though he is wicked. In the future redemption, all the dispersed members of our people will be gathered together, even the wicked members. Although in Egypt, “had the wicked son been there, he wouldn’t have been redeemed”, still, in the future redemption, which is a more complete redemption, the wicked will be included.

This kind of feeling is a feeling expanded by the mind. This is the gadlus hamochin contained on Pesach.

“Now we are slaves, Next Year we will be free”

We need both kinds of redemption: the past redemption of Egypt (which we already experienced), and the future redemption. These are two different kinds of redemption.

The previous redemption, the redemption from Egypt, is a light that we must return to each year on Pesach. The future redemption is something else: we must draw it closer to us and extend it upon us even now.

In the beginning of the Hagaddah, we say “Now we are slaves, Next year we will be free.” These are the beginning words of the Hagaddah, and they are the preface to what is upon us on the night of Pesach.

In these words we mention two things. We mention the “bread of suffering” which our ancestors ate in Egypt, yet we also mention the future redemption – “Next year we will be free.” This is not just a yearning for the redemption (which is also a wonderful thing to aspire to), but it is a connection to the redemption.

If we only consider the light of the redemption to be a thing of the past, then the purpose of the festival remains concealed.

The redemption hasn’t yet come. Thus, the Avodah we have on this Pesach is to awaken in us the inner meaning of the redemption – the higher aspect of the redemption, not the lower aspect of the redemption. We need both aspects, but the point is that we need the higher aspect of the redemption as well.

Inspiration Lasts Only If We Expand Our Mind

Upon understanding these words, we can look at the inner depth of the Avodah upon us, in a new light. There is a deep point hidden here.

Every year, the holy Jewish people want to be awakened and inspired. People hear inspiring lectures – each to his own. Everyone wants to awaken in his soul a feel for the holiness of the Yom Tov. But we must know that many times we just have “inspiration” (hisorerus) and after some time, our inspiration wanes and we just go back to usual.

What is the mistake that people are making? It has to do with what we have been saying until now: feelings, without the mind to guide them, are only half the equation. Even if we redeem our “feelings” and we are full of renewed feelings for holiness, without expanding our mind the feelings won’t last. It’s only “half” the redemption.

If all we do is open up our feelings, without expanding our mind – then we only have the first kind of redemption, a redemption from Egypt. We will be missing our current redemption.

With just feelings and no mind, the inspiration we get doesn’t last. We will be able to connect to the redemption from Egypt with our renewed feelings of love and fear of Hashem, but after that our inspiration will go away, and we will just be left with the remaining exiles that came after Egypt….

In order for our inspiration to last, we need an expanded mind. On the night of Pesach, one is obligated to “see” himself as if he’s leaving Egypt. What does it mean to “see” yourself leaving Egypt? Are we supposed to become deluded by our imagination?! We can understand that all our souls were there one time in Egypt, but why must we see ourselves actually leaving Egypt now?

The answer to this is part of our discussion. The other part of our redemption is to redeem our power of vision in the mind. We need to be able to “see.”

This halachah, that one must see himself leaving Egypt, contains the higher aspect of the redemption: to redeem one’s vision of the mind.

The depth of this is that if a person hasn’t nullified his ego and he doesn’t integrate himself with the Jewish people, then he doesn’t know how to “see.” He doesn’t have a vision of achdus. His redemption has nothing to do with Hashem – it’s all about redeeming himself. When a person remains absorbed in himself, he might have wonderful feelings for Avodas Hashem, but he actually might be on a very lowly level. Reb Yisrael Salanter’s words are famous – a person can be so afraid of the yom hadin (day of judgment), yet he damages others when they see a scowl on his face.

When a person only seeks to have great feelings in Avodas Hashem, it doesn’t mean yet that he is pure. It’s possible that he is self-absorbed in himself as he seeks to gain high levels in Avodas Hashem. He is so self-absorbed about his personal growth that he doesn’t even see one person next to him! Even when such a person tells about the story of the exodus to his household, he’s wrapped up in his own self as he seeks high levels to be on. Such a person is sorely mistaken in the purpose of the festival.

When a person doesn’t realize that the main part of the redemption is to be redeemed from one’s selfish ego, he is missing the whole redemption. He might love and fear Hashem and have all the great feelings that one can reach, but it’s all another way of being self-absorbed. This is not a true redemption. The true redemption to have on Pesach is when one nullifies his self and integrates into the Jewish people, as a part of a whole.

When one considers the redemption of Pesach to be about himself, he only redeems “himself.” We cannot call this a redemption. The purpose of the redemption is that all should recognize Hashem; it is about revealing Hashem, not about revealing one’s “I.”

The way to redeem yourself on Pesach is actually be nullifying yourself. When a person is locked up in a jail, he desires to escape it – he wants his “I” to escape it. His escape from it will just be all about how he worries for himself. But the depth to the redemption is to leave your very self and forget about yourself.

This is really the depth of Ahavas Yisrael, which is the secret of the final redemption. Ahavas Yisrael is really when your soul has a redemption – when you leave yourself!! In other words, there is a kind of personal redemption in which you leave your inner imprisonment, and then there is another kind of redemption – when you leave your “I”. This is when you leave your ego for the sake of integrating with the rest of the Jewish people.

Thus, the beginning of redemption is to redeem our feelings. We need to first leave the materialism – the “bricks and mortar” – and enter the world of spirituality. The second part of our redemption, which is the purpose, is to reach our masculine kind of daas – the revelation of unity on the world; in other words, to nullify your “I.”

Hashem should merit all of the Jewish people that we all integrate with each other and from there, to integrate in unison with the Creator, who is really only One who exists.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cleaning for Pesach...

בלבבי Bilvavi
Preparing for Pesach is Part of our Avodas Hashem
In whatever time or situation we are in, we should always be aware that it is an inseparable part of our avodas Hashem. It doesn’t matter if it is something that has to do with ruchniyus (spirituality) or if it something more mundane. Wherever we are, whatever the situation, it is somehow part of our avodas Hashem.
We must wonder in every situation: how is a Jew supposed to go about this?
In these weeks, those who keep Torah and mitzvos are very careful to clean the house scrupulously from any trace of chametz. We have a commandment in the Torah to make sure that we do not see or find any chametz in our house; but this mitzvah has much to it and seem to have little to do with Pesach.
Upon reflection, we can see how the actual preparation for Pesach is part of our avodas Hashem, and  it can bring us closer to Hashem.
“Melumadah” --Acting By Rote
There is a simple point that we must all know and be aware of; we can find Hashem in anything – without exception!
When a person begins to clean his house for Pesach, he first has to get rid of the “melumadah” – the tendency to do things by rote. We are not simply cleaning out the house for Pesach “because we have to clean.” Why are you cleaning for Pesach? Because that’s what you did last year and the year before it?! That is not the reason.
We all know that cleaning for Pesach is a mitzvah of the Torah, but what are our thoughts as we do this? If a person doesn’t stop to think,  and is only bothered by; What is the best way to clean the house? What needs to cleaned, and how much? The whole relationship with Hashem is lost with all these questions.
So first, we must get rid of our tendency to just do things without thinking. We must realize that preparing for Pesach is purely avodas Hashem. After we know this we can begin to know how it is avodas Hashem.

The first step is don’t prepare for Pesach like a robot. Just like we understanding that learning and davening is avodas Hashem, so must we be aware that preparing for Pesach is avodas Hashem.
If a person feels that cleaning the house for Pesach is not part of avodas Hashem, we can almost tell him that he is forbidden to do it! The Chovos HeLevovos writes that there is no such thing as a gray area; it’s either forbidden or permissible. If it’s not a mitzvah, then it’s wrong to do.
We will try to explain how cleaning for Pesach can be avodas Hashem, in a way that everyone will be able to enter Yom Tov feeling pleasure in  avodas Hashem, and not stress.
Why Do We Clean The House?
If we think about it, besides for the mitzvah of the Torah to keep the house clean from chametz on Pesach, there are more reasons why we need to clean the house.
One possible reason why a person cleans is because one feels bad to make the rest of his family do everything!  Many times it is simply because he feels bad standing around and watching everyone else do all the work. He’s doing it all for the sake of chessed.
Another possibility could be that we don’t like it when the house is dirty. Hashem created each person with a natural desire to have a clean house. Some people are cleanlier than others, and they can’t take even the slightest amount of messiness. But all people want their house clean somewhat, so they clean for the house for Pesach.
Another possibility can also be because people like it when things are orderly. During the rest of the year people are very busy, and they want to have one time in the year where they sit down and just arrange everything in its place (This is not the same thing as a desire for neatness.)
So far we have mentioned five possibilities why a person cleans the house for Pesach: Acting robotic, doing it because it’s a mitzvah of the Torah, kindness, cleanliness or orderliness.
The first kind of person we mentioned – the one who does it robotically – is obviously not doing it in the right way. That is simple and we don’t need to explain why.
The second kind of person, who does it because it’s a mitzvah, has to put some more thought into it. It is not enough to know that he must clean the house – there must be some more life involved, some more thinking.
Before he begins to clean the house, he should talk to Hashem and say, “Ribono shel olam, For what purpose am I going to clean my house? I have other things to do; I can be learning or relaxing. The reason why I am going to clean my house now is because You, the Ribono shel Olam, commanded me that the house be free of chametz. Since I want to give You a nachas ruach, I will exert myself now to clean my house.”
While a person is cleaning the house, this is what he should be saying to himself. If someone knows how to think in learning Torah as he does something, then he should think in learning and he doesn’t have to do this. But if someone usually doesn’t think in learning as he cleans the house, and his thoughts are just floating elsewhere, then he should at least for a few minutes here and there remind himself of what he’s doing and why he’s doing it.
We are speaking about a very simple thing one can do; there are people who are on a very high level and always have d’veykus in Hashem wherever they are, but we are addressing those that don't feel this way.  This is  very basic and simple avodah one can do to feel close to Hashem as he cleans.
If a person cleans the house because he wants to be nice and doesn’t want everyone else to do all the work, he also has to think about this and say, “Ribono shel olam, Why am I doing this? I don’t personally feel a need to clean my house. The only reason why I am doing it is so that I can do chessed with my family.”
A person should keep talking to Hashem throughout the entire time: “Ribono shel olam, it is my will to do Your will. One of the pillars of the world is chessed, and I am thus doing chessed in order to give You a nachas ruach.”
After a day of doing this, besides for the physical exercise you get out of cleaning the house, your entire day is filled with pure avodas Hashem. In this way, a person never leaves ruchniyus even while being involved in this mundane world.
The Natural Desire for Cleanliness
Let us elaborate on the last two points, which are more subtle points in our soul.
A person desires cleanliness. Everyone loves cleanliness – some more, and some less. The soul of a person naturally recoils a bit from messiness. People often see a mess and start cleaning it, and if you ask them, “What are you doing? Why you are cleaning it up?” the answer is, “It bothers me.”
People clean because they can’t stand the sight of something dirty or messy, and cleaning it up removes this anxiety. It seems like this has nothing to do with trying to become close to Hashem, and that a person is simply trying to save his soul from some pain.
But if we think into it just a little, we can connect everything to Hashem. If a person likes to clean, the first thing he should ask himself is: “Why do I like to clean? Did I make myself this way? No. Hashem gave me this nature.”
Realize that whatever your nature is, it was Hashem who gave you such a nature. Not only that, but Hashem is constantly renewing Creation; He is constantly renewing your nature, which is that you like to clean and that you hate messiness.
After you realize with certainty that it was Hashem who gave you this nature to desire cleanliness, and that He continues to renew this nature in you, now think: “Why did Hashem give me such a nature? What is the purpose of wanting cleanliness, and how do I use this natural desire in a person? What are the pros and cons of it?”
The desire for cleanliness doesn’t happen on its own. (It is absurd to think that it does, but the yetzer hora gets a person to succeed not to think.) A person must think to himself, “Hashem gave me this desire for cleanliness. It was Him who placed this desire in me.”
This realization helps you begin your relationship with Hashem.
What indeed is the root of why we like cleanliness?
Cleanliness (nekiyus) is one of the ten steps in the ladder of Avodas Hashem as described by Rebbi Pinchos ben Yair, the basis of sefer Mesillas Yesharim. Cleanliness exists for us to cleanse ourselves from sin, because sin sullies our soul. Every power in the soul is also manifested somehow in our body; the power of cleanliness in our soul manifests itself in our body with the need for physical cleanliness.
The truth is that the more a person grows spiritually, the more he increases his cleanliness. Some people are very clean in their soul and others are very particular also about physical cleanliness (in addition to their spiritual cleanliness), but the point is that the more a person purifies himself, the more of a need for cleanliness he has, and the purer his soul becomes.
The root behind cleanliness comes from an inner desire to be purified. This gives us a whole different attitude to have about our need for physical cleanliness – it is rooted in our soul’s need for cleanliness and purity.
Knowing Your Motivation For Cleanliness
There are two reasons why a person wants physical cleanliness; one reason is unnecessary and more of a luxury to a person, while the other reason is coming from our soul’s need for purity and closeness.
There are situations in which we clean more than we have to, and it is extra. It is hard to say exactly what is considered overdoing it, and each person needs to decide for himself what is considered already too much. If a person is just taking a shower or brushing his teeth simply because he is very concerned about his body, this is totally necessary (except for certain rare individuals who won’t get affected by this).
Something even worse than this is when a person is really bothered by uncleanliness and he doesn’t clean. Such a person not only has physical messiness, but he damages his soul with this. He is denying his soul’s demand for cleanliness.
So before one begins to clean, he must ask himself: What is my motivation in cleaning the house? Am I doing it out of a compulsiveness to clean (just like there are people who indulge in food and drinking), or am I doing it to help my household? If he realizes that he is doing it to help, then he should work on the Avodah we mentioned before (which is to say a Tefillah to Hashem).
If he discovers that he’s doing it because he has a personal need for cleanliness, he must really ask himself if he is overdoing it or not, or if it comes from a sensitivity in his soul for cleanliness (and he therefore needs it). Everyone must uncover what is motivating him to clean.
Most people do not have these issues. We will therefore discuss a more simple kind of issue that people have which is much more common: when people love to clean something that is clearly a mess. In this, we need to put some thought into the cleaning.
Before a person cleans, he should say: “Ribono shel olam, this mess really bothers me. Who gave me this feeling? You – Hashem. Where does this nature in me come from? It comes from a power in my soul to demand purity. Ribono shel olam, is it Your will that I break this nature of mine and endure the messiness? Or is it Your will that I live with purity and cleanliness? Since it is clear to me that You want my soul to desire this cleanliness, I will go clean the house in order to get close to You and give You pleasure.”
Even though you’re doing it shelo lishmah – not for the sake of Heaven (because you’re doing it out of your need for cleanliness) – you can still add this element of lishmah into your action.
But always remember that cleaning the house for Pesach is purely avodas Hashem. It must be done properly with thought and concentration.
The Importance Of Orderliness
Another point to be addressed is the fifth reason why a person wants to clean the house: to have orderliness.
Just like a person has a natural need for cleanliness, and this comes from the soul’s desire for purity which Hashem put in us, so too Hashem put in us a natural desire for orderliness.
Some people have a more of a need to be organized than others, but all people have a need to get things organized. This is not by itself – it is a nature which Hashem gave each person.
Without our natural desire for orderliness, no one would get anywhere. In order to build up anything, there is a certain order involved. Since every person on this world must build himself, Hashem endowed each person with an ability to have orderliness. Without orderliness, we wouldn’t be able to build up our avodas Hashem.
The more orderly a person is, the more he is able to build himself up in avodas Hashem. The less orderly a person is, the more confusion he has, and he feels like he is an exile. A person has to get out of this exile of confusion and become more orderly. This is the beginning of an inner freedom.
Orderliness is thus a need of our soul, but we often use it just for our body’s physical needs, such as the need to look very put together and organized.
Just like a dirty house makes our soul suffer, so can living in a messy house bother us so much that it is an impediment to our avodas Hashem. If we don’t care about how our house looks inside, we will definitely be affected spiritually as well.
It is well-known that when a tzaddik would look for a prospective match for his daughter, he would inspect the boy’s room and see if he’s neat. When a person has no sense of orderliness when it comes to the physical, it is a sign that he has is spiritually messy as well.
In order for our soul to get orderliness in spiritual matters, a person needs to first make sure he’s neat when it comes to his physical matters. But we must always remember that it is Hashem who gives us such a nature. We must recognize that our need for orderliness comes from Hashem, and that this need that people have doesn’t come by itself.
Realize that this need for orderliness can be used as a way to connect to the Creator. Like this, a person can take the physical world and use it to develop a relationship with Hashem. It is an inner kind of life, a life spent with Hashem even in ordinary, mundane actions.
When a person realizes that the need for organization is necessary in his avodas Hashem, he is able to realize that organizing the house is not just an act of kindness with his family, but it is a necessary part in one’s personal avodas Hashem.
In this, there are two parts. Some people were born with a need for orderliness, and it really bothers them when things aren’t in place. The avodah of such a person is to realize that this need comes from Hashem, and it is a way to serve Hashem.
But others don’t feel such a need for cleanliness. They know with their minds that a person should be orderly, but they don’t feel that this is a need for their soul. Such people feel that it makes sense to clean the house once a year, or else the house becomes unlivable…but not more than once a year.
This person’s avodah is the opposite of the first kind of person. Besides for the fact that he must organize his house, he also needs to awaken in his soul a desire to have orderliness.
Days Which We Can Grow From
A person wonders: Why did Hashem make it that people have to work so hard on Erev Pesach? Doesn’t this sacrifice our opportunities to grow spiritually by making preparations for Yom Tov? If we have to work so hard cleaning up, how do we prepare for the Yom Tov??
But if you think about it, these days before Pesach contain tremendous areas which we can use to attain growth in. If Hashem made it this way that we have to clean and organize the house, then that is the way for us to acquire all the precious areas of growth which we need.
Really, cleaning up and organizing the house are there to remind us of our soul’s need for purity. This is a precious gain in our avodas Hashem. But the yetzer hora comes and takes away the message of it and turns it into mundane actions, drying it up from all the avodas Hashem contained in it.
If a person understands the depth of avodas Hashem, he doesn’t clean the house simply because he wants it to be clean. He cleans the house because through that, he connects to an inner point in his soul – the need for spiritual cleanliness. He understands that now is precisely the time to work on this.
The truth is that all of life is like this: the yetzer hora comes and takes what’s very important and turns it into something that’s not important. In whatever we encounter, we should always see the greatness we can achieve in this situation. The more confusing and seemingly pointless a situation appears, the more greatness lies in it if we uncover it.
If a person, before Pesach, is caught up in this and that and he comes into Yom Tov exhausted and stressed out, what is all our hard work worth? We don’t gain from this kind of a life.
If we don’t see how everything we do can be a form of avodas Hashem and how much being involved with the world takes away from our soul, then these days go to waste. Our preparation for Pesach should not be a physical preparation; although we do exert our body to prepare for Pesach, really, there is an inner depth taking place in what we are doing. It is really a preparation of our soul for the coming days. Through preparing for it in the right way, a person comes into Yom Tov the way he should.
Each person can take these words and open them up more, each for his own life situation. The common denominator between all people is the days preceding Pesach are days of ruchniyus, not days of materialistic pursuits. They are days of closeness to Hashem.
Hashem should help us that we prepare properly for Pesach during these days, from a sincere desire to give pleasure to our Creator. In these days preceding Pesach, each of us should merit to increase our true closeness and love of Hashem.