Mark Twain and the Pesach Blues

Pesach is over and many see it’s chometz avoidance requirement as a chore and are relieved to see it over. Obviously that is not what Hashem intended in the mitzvah. Here is a comment from David Linn on a past post which may help us gain some perspective

I also think it helps if you focus on the mitzvah aspect of the cleaning, prep and carefullness. One of my favorite literary scenes is of Tom Sawyer painting the fence. For those who aren’t familiar, Tom has been punished and must whitewash the fence. He would, of course, rather be fishing or swimming or whatever else the other boys would be doing on a summer day. He devises a plan to make the other boys think that he wants to paint the fence and that they should only be so lucky. Before you know it, the boys are begging for a chance and actually giving Tom their respective prized possessions to get a chance to paint the fence.

Twain then writes:

“He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign.”

Now, I don’t think you’re going to have your friends paying you to help clean and prep for Pesach, if you do, please contact me so I can get the recipe. But, I do think that we build up the cleaning and prep to such a point of drudgery that we often fail to realize that there are mitzvos involved. Losing sight of that adds to the drudgery and exhaustion.

This won’t make it easy but maybe, just maybe, it will help us focus and see the gain from the pain.

One comment on “Mark Twain and the Pesach Blues

  1. It is not that women lose sight of the mitzvos due to the drudgery of Pesach cleaning. Many women are simply taxed beyond their physical endurance by the requirements of the holiday. Pregnant women who are already exhausted by holding down a full-time job and running after young children find it incredibly difficult to make Pesach. Divorced women and those with abusive spouses get no help. The burden falls unevenly hardest on the poorest women who cannot afford cleaning help or going away for the holiday. Blaming women for having the wrong attitude only makes the problem worse. There’s really no solution here, unless in the future some chesed organization gets together “Pesach teams” that go to selected households to help “flip over” and “Passoverize” the kitchens of those women who really can’t do it themselves, but can’t afford the cost of going to a hotel for the holiday. As for me, thank G-d I have strong helpful adult children who pitch in and get it done for me.

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