Through all the cooking and the cleaning, the checking and rechecking, there is an important mitzvah that often gets overlooked as we prepare for Pesach. That is, the positive mitzvah to be happy on every Chag, Pesach included. Rav Soloveitchik once wrote about the distinction between objective and subjective mitzvoth. According to the Rav, the goal of objective mitzvoth is to discipline our bodies. As such, whether one is donning tefillin or waving the lulav, the behavioral action is what is critical to performance of these mitzvoth. However, in the case of subjective mitzvoth, such as tefillah and teshuvah, the inner experience is critical.
Examining the mitzvoth of Chag HaPesach through this lens, the mitzvah of simcha is a subjective mitzvah. As such, it cannot be fulfilled through behavioral means alone; we need to really feel it. Eating meat and drinking wine are behavioral acts that can help us get to a place of simcha, but the mitzvah itself is only achieved when our internal state is one of happiness on Yom Tov.
But of course, it is easy for me to preach that we should feel happy while preparing for Pesach. While I am of course involved in many other aspects of Pesach prep, I am typically not heavily involved in many of the more tedious tasks that many people dread. Nonetheless, since simcha on the chag is in fact an obligation incumbent upon us all, I would like to suggest two ways to minimize the pre-Pesach stress that interferes with this important internal mitzvah.
First, prepare fewer dishes for the holiday. It is true that a lavish Yom Tov meal with many main courses and side dishes can enhance the atmosphere of the holiday, but the most important factor that creates the atmosphere is everyone’s mindset. Even if you may have cooked multiple dishes for every single Yom Tov meal in the past, consider preparing less food so that you will be more rested on the night of the Seder and during the Yom Tov.
Secondly, let us be mindful of what type of Pesach cleaning is a requirement and what type of Pesach cleaning is a stringency. It is true that on Pesach one may not eat even a crumb of chametz, but most Rishonim rule that one need not destroy chametz that is less than a kzayit. The Mishna Berura rules that the custom is to be stringent and destroy less than a kzayit of chametz; however, he does not write whether one is required to search for chametz that is less than a kzayit. The Chayei Adam and Chazon Ish are stringent to search for even small crumbs of chametz, but many poskim are lenient in this regard. In his Sefer, Peninei Halakha, Rav Melamed rules that since the mitzvah to search for chametz is only a Rabbinic mitzvah, one can be lenient and not search for crumbs. I believe that one can choose to search for crumbs while he or she is cleaning his entire house for Pesach, but if doing so will compromise our simchat Yom Tov on Pesach because of the sheer exhaustion from doing so, I would not advocate that we adopt this stringency.
This year, let us work hard not to work as hard so that we can be “stringent” in our performance of the mitzvah of happiness on Yom Tov.