Pesach is the most cherished Yom Tov in the year. Despite the enormous amount of work needed beforehand, and although each year we are a bit surprised by it all, Pesach is a time we can plan for, space out the preparations, and hopefully get there with some time to spare to sit back and enjoy.
In fact, on Seder night, the first night of this special week, we are actively requested to sit, with family, friends and newcomers, if possible, to listen to the remarkable account of how Jews started to come together as a nation, with shared experiences, the mighty hand of Hashem lifting us up, melding us together, and forming us into the remarkable melting pot we find today.
The events of the past year have reminded us that achdut, our togetherness, is more important than we realised, that freedom has many guises, and that in the crisis that is covid, our Rabbonim can guide us to the proper way to ensure chometz free homes instead of the mad frenzy of scrubbing we tend to think is necessary.
Ask your Rabbi what you must do and what you can avoid, reflect what your personal 10 plagues might be (like moving all the furniture and kitchen appliances, emptying the bedroom linen closet, scraping away at the baking trays and bowls), so that he can help you move past them towards the elevation of the yom tov we call Zman Cheiroseinu, the season of our freedom.
This special year Pesach is no exception to unusual timings, and erev Pesach is unusually on Shabbat. There will be several changes to our routine, with Bedikas Chametz a day early (on Thursday), the Sereifus Chametz (burning of the chametz) on Friday, but exceptionally after that we will still be eating chametz until Shabbos morning! And though Friday will have a feeling of erev Pesach, as we make as many Seder preparations as possible in order to start our Seder promptly on motzei Shabbat, actually it is not erev Yom Tov. While erev Pesach afternoon usually has some of the restrictions of Yom Tov already in place, erev Shabbat (26 March) does not. You can launder and iron, have haircuts, clean, and do anything necessary to prepare for Shabbat and then Pesach.
In the midst of our kosher l’Pesach homes, Shabbos Hagodol, the last Shabbat before Pesach, has to have chametz on the table for Hamotzi. And it is acceptable to have only two hamotzi meals instead of three. Many have the custom to use pita bread instead of challah, because it may generate less crumbs. Some of the little children will not get Hamotzi in case they inadvertently spread crumbs around the now Kosher l’Pesach home. Plastic covers, plates and utensils will be laid on the Shabbat table where they might never have been seen before, and there is a vast choice from the cheapest paper to the luxurious china look-a-likes, all to be bundled up into the wheelie bin before that final Biur Chometz declaration, the negation of chametz in our homes for the glorious Yom Tov coming. Check all this out with your Rabbi for the finer details.