Question & Answer With A Talmid - How To Prepare For Pesach
A Simple Jew asks:
When I asked the Sudilkover Rebbe for advice how to prepare for Pesach, he recommended that I learn the Pesach section in Yesod v'Shoresh HaAvodah.
What unique insight does the Yesod v'Shoresh HaAvodah provide on this yom tov that is not contained in other seforim?
A Talmid answers:
First, a little background about the sefer Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’Avodah is in order. The author, Rav Alexander Ziskind of Horodna ZY"A, who passed away in 1804, was a great Rov and tzadik, well versed in the revealed and hidden portions of Torah. His sefer has universal acceptance among Chassidim, non-Chassidic Ashkenazim and Sefardim. Tzadikim have said that just learning the sefer brings one to Yiras Shomayim. (See the 2 volume menukad edition which contains a biography and the praises Gedolei Yisroel had for the sefer and author.) In the sefer, he goes through the order of the day, Zmanim and then the last section contains mussar and guidance on many different subjects.
Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’Avodah, I believe is a most important sefer to learn, since it teaches one how to perform the mitzvos with simcha. He goes through the basic intentions of the mitzvos, and although he does quote much Zohar and Arizal, he does not explain things in an esoteric fashion, though he will let us know that there are great secrets behind the subject matter. After learning this one could and should try to learn other Seforim Hakedoshim to get even more of an understanding and enjoyment of the Yom Tov.
A common theme throughout Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’Avodah is that one should not do mitzvos by rote, but rather they should be done with the proper intention and with simcha. He will often say that one should say something along the lines of “I am performing this mitzvah in order to fulfill the mitzvah that Hashem commanded me and in order to bring nachas ruach to my Creator”. Often, a piece of Chumash, Gemara, Zohar or Kisvei Arizal will be quoted to explain the intent behind the particular mitzvah. However, he explains everything in a manner everyone can understand. He will often say, such as by Sefiras HaOmer, that there are great Kabbalistic secrets in a particular item but since not everyone can understand them they should have emunah that there are great secrets involved, and he should say “that this mitzvah should be in the Eyes of Hashem as if I have in mind all the kavanos that the Anshei Keneses Hagedola intended”. He says further that when one says the Sefira he should have in mind that the words that leave his mouth are making great tikunim in the Holy Upper Worlds and they should bring nachas ruach to Hashem
Another example: in the section on Chodesh Nisan, he teaches that from the first day of Nisan we should be exceedingly happy that the days of Pesach are coming and we will be able to bring “nachas ruach” to Hashem with the many mitzvos we will perform… Everyday we should anticipate and desire with joy that we are coming closer to the days of Pesach; we should be more joyful as we get the closer. He takes through the preparations for Pesach, the tefilos, the Seder, Sefiras HaOmer, Chol Hamoed and the final days of Pesach.
There is also much practical advice given. He instructs us that besides the actual Haggada we should explain more details to our families as to the miracles that happened in Mitzraim, as described in the Gemara, Medrashim and other Seforim. We should also look into all the seforim we can for more insights into Yitzias Mitzraim. This advice, simple as it sounds, will of course make the Yom Tov much more meaningful. We can’t just read the text of the Haggada and expect everyone to get excited. We need to explain to each on their own level. (Of course, if everyone is hungry, do this during the meal. Don’t be a tzadik at the expense of someone else.)
It is a sefer that will change the way you observe Yom Tov, by injecting in yourself a greater appreciation for the mitzvos being performed. I would have a hard time explaining what a steak or a glass of Bordeaux tastes like to one who never tasted it. Similarly here, I would suggest that everyone learn the section on Pesach and taste it for themselves. There are only about 20 pages on Pesach (plus another 3 on Hallel). It’s a small amount to learn and it help you observe Pesach like you never have before.