HOW SHE DID IT I DON’T KNOW
Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita
The starting pistol has well and truly been sounded. Pesach is on everyone’s mind, as orders are made, dishes washed, and the sound of Hoovering can be heard throughout the community. Into this cacophony of holy preparations, one must gather up their nerves and focus. What to buy, what needs preparation, how will it work out and if it will all come together?
The Rubin home is struggling thru the most difficult Pesach we have ever experienced. The loss of the Rebbetzin A”H has cramped my heart since those first tragic moments. I am told it will get better, but I have yet to sense this eventuality. My days are filled with activity, often manic, anything to keep the loneliness at bay. Then something like Pesach ascends, and all the realisation of how much the loss means comes crashing down.
The Rebbetzin was Queen of our little family, and it was her focus and diligence that made yom tov possible. How often did I find myself asking her, “Why are you cleaning those blinds, how could chometz ever be there?” This was said with my quant male superior voice. She would give me that withering look all Jewish women give their clueless husbands and whisper “what do you men know?” She was right of course, despite all my years of experience, I never “got it”, never fully understood the passion of Yiddisha women and their inborn zeal to create the “perfect” Pesach. There is a certain sheen, a shine on the surface of worktops cleansed by a woman who is focused on creating a home free of any trace of chometz. Tzaddikim used to say that with every ‘kratz’ (scrape) a woman extends in her efforts for Pesach, a malach (angel) is created.
Beyond the cleaning, I am challenged by the sheer weight of amounts of food needing to be ordered, the preparation, storing, and so much more. I can’t believe how much went into even the smallest aspect of catering to a growing family over these eight days. Just the ingenuity involved, the limited ingredients to hand, the various tastes of family members, the mind boggles. Added to this are the new needs for diets that are evolving as we speak. Non lactose, gluten free, sugar free, all of which are anything but free, create new challenges for the caring Bubby in today’s world. The Rebbetzin was a genius in this, and never met a special diet she couldn’t accommodate.
Now my wonderful children and grandchildren have picked up the baton and are trying their best to keep up the standards. I read their discussions and smile as they declare “how did she do it?’, “I can’t get the fish to taste like hers!”, “when did she start?” “Anybody know the recipe for the choruses?”
I know, this passing to the next generation is a natural progression of life, but it aches, the pain lingers behind each phase.
In parshas Pekudei we are told that Bezalel ‘did all that Hashem commanded Moshe’. Rashi explains that Bezalel was so in sync with the Rotzon Hashem that he understood what was needed with a clarity that ‘ (Bezalel’s) mind was in accord with that which had been said to Moshe at Har Sinai.’ Rashi tells us that Moshe commanded Bezalel to make the furnishings first, and afterwards the Mishkan. Bezalel said to him, “the common practice of the world is to first make the house, and afterwards to put the furnishings in.” Moshe tells his protégé, yes, that’s what I heard from Hashem, and with a play on his name, Moshe tells him, ‘You were in Hashem’s shadow (Tzel).’
The Tiferes Shmuel of Alexander Ztl goes into detail about this Rashi. He explains that before we do any mitzvos, we must cleans ourselves from any misdeeds. That is what the Mishkan represented, the outer shel wherein inside we would bring sacrifices and draw ourselves closer to Hashem. Bezalel therefor sought to build the container before bringing in the furnishings. In this way those mitzvahs would be done in an atmosphere enveloped in holiness. Moshe was worried, he felt that at that moment, when the Jews were on a high level of spirituality, it would make sense to build the building first, but what would happen later, when the Yidden would not be at such a high level? Then they’re building would be lacking of holiness and hence drag down their mitzvos, despite any effort at teshuva. Bezalel felt that even with such an eventuality, Hashem would have mercy on His children. Their broken hearted yearning to do mitzvos, would make them worthy of attaining forgiveness. When hearing Bezalel, Moshe realised that despite his reservations, the right thing to do was to build first a holy container for the Jewish avodah.
We all look forwards to sitting at our Seder, being led by our fathers, singing the familiar songs, telling over the cherished story of our redemption. However, it is the mother who creates the container of this Yom Tov. She creates the kedusha of the very walls of our life, scrubbing both physically and emotionally. A mothers tears, her tirelessness in doing everything and more for her family is the mainstay of the Yom Tov. Without her loving exertions, nothing would taste just right.
I had a minhag for over half a century. After the seudah on the second night Seder, I would clear my throat and ask for silence. I would then give offer my thanks to Bubby for everything she did in making this all possible. My children heard it, and boruch Hashem, my grandchildren in turn. We were blessed with so much, and for the last several years great grandchildren heard the unscripted thanks to the lady who brought kedusha to her exhausting efforts in making our mitzvos pure.
This year I will thank the next generation, thankful to the Eibishter for gifting them with a Mother who gave them a living example of true vivid Yiddishkiet.
I share all this because I would hope those reading will take the time to offer their thanks to the miraculous builders of our holy ambiance. We leave too much unsaid, trust me when I say this.