Preparing for Pesach goes beyond ridding our homes of Chometz. Our seforim teach that the opportunities for spiritual growth on Pesach are huge, but we need to prepare ourselves for that opportunity.
The principles of Jewish Belief broadly fall into three categories: belief in Hashem, belief in a G-d given Torah and belief in reward and punishment. Each of the three Jewish holidays emphasizes one of these: Pesach is Emunah, Shavuos is Torah and Succos is reward and punishment. So our focus on Pesach should be on strengthening our Emunah.
How do we define the Emunah we are trying to strengthen? Emunah is clearly not just a yes answer to the question, “Do you believe in G-d?”. Emunah is a knowledge-level clarity that there is a Creator, Who created and runs the world. But as Bilvavi and others point out, this knowledge has to go beyond the intellectual and reach the experiential.
Experiential knowledge is knowing something with a certainty beyond what our intellect can bring us to. For example, philosophers have shown that it is impossible to prove without a shadow of a doubt that we exist. Perhaps we are experiencing a dream-like illusion. Yet each one of knows with absolute certainty, that we do exist. Another example: do we have to prove to ourselves that we have a hand? No, our experience of moving and controlling hand leaves no doubt.
It is possible to reach that same level of experiential knowledge of Hashem. It should be clear to us that we have quite a ways to go in this matter, as how many of us can say we experience the reality of G-d in the same way we experience the reality of the existence of our hand.
Pesach gives us the opportunity to significantly increase our experiential knowledge. The Torah commands us to re-experience and re-tell the story. And Chazal through the seder and it’s 15 steps provide us with additional tools to experience G-d in even a deeper manner. Every single step of the seder (and all seven days of Pesach) provide the potential of experiencing Hashem in a deeper and clearer manner. If done with foresight and focus, we can each reach the next rung in our spiritual growth ladder.
To achieve this growth we need to prepare. One suggestion is to get one of the great Hagaddah commentaries and start reviewing it today. Try to concentrate on the Emunah enhancing commentaries (suggestions are welcome).
A second suggestion is to work on enhancing experiential knowledge well before Pesach. Perhaps consciously focusing our thoughts on the fact that there is a Creator and He created us, a number of times a day as Bilvavi suggests. Or focusing on feeling and experiencing Hashem’s greatness, might, and awesomeness when saying those words in the first brocha of Shomoneh Esrai.
Real growth takes real effort and we have a tremendous opportunity to achieve real growth in the next month. Please share any experiential Emunah enhancing techniques you have found in the comments.