How do we prepare for Pesach?
1) First of all, we should remember that through all of the simple preparations for Pesach such as cleaning and shopping, as well as all other accompanying Mitzvos, we build containers for ourselves in which to receive the holiness of Pesach. We should therefore carry them out with joyfulness and liveliness.
2) For sure we should pray and call out to Hashem, be Misboded to destroy the Chametz in our hearts, or at least to ‘nullify’ it and to tell Hashem that we have no interest in it. Even if you see that you don’t have the composure to sit and speak to Hashem, you can still talk to Him in the middle of working. Awaken your heart to Hashem and throw in some words of prayer to Him.
It’s said about Adel, the daughter of the Baal Shem Tov, that she would raise her eyes heavenward in middle of cleaning her house, and say, “How can I give Hashem satisfaction?”
Of course, you should still try very hard to find a set time to speak to Hashem.
3) You should study the Halachos of Pesach as well as the teachings of the Tzaddikim which explain the essence of Pesach and the subject of the Exodus.
4) But even after all of this, you should know that the main thing is to prepare is your heart. Awaken by yourself a new, fresh hope that Pesach is coming and you are about to be redeemed. There is a concept of ‘redemption’. There is a reality in which your entire mind and heart is going to change. From this Pesach on you will start to seek Hashem with sincerity.
This was the main effect of the exile in Egypt. Pharaoh enslaved Klal Yisroel so much that their spirit was defeated and they gave up on ever being redeemed. The greatest wonder is how even after they screamed out to Hashem and cried from their work, still, when Moshe appeared to announce their emancipation, their hearts were unable to believe anymore that Hashem had really listened to their cries and that He wanted to redeem them. “And they did not listen to Moshe from a defeated spirit and hard work.”
Pharaoh overpowers and holds us captive in this way, even now. He occupies a person and disturbs him in many ways; the main thing is that he should not have time to consider the possibility of having a free mind. What’s interesting is that Pharaoh will sometimes allow a person to be involved in Avodas Hashem, as long as he doesn’t use his mind to recognize his connection with Hashem, and the joy Above from the simple Mitzvos.
Therefore even though we have to learn about the essence of Pesach and to pray about it, it’s still possible that a person will learn ideas and study essays about the holiday of Pesach, but it all stays by him as nothing more than nice ideas to say over by the Seder. It’s also possible that a person prays to Hashem to be redeemed on Pesach, but on the inside he’s given up. Not necessarily given up on life, but he doesn’t believe anymore that it’s possible for things to be entirely different, that it’s possible to live a life of faith and joy, satisfaction from every Mitzvah, and a constant connection to Hashem.
A person therefore has to fortify himself with the conviction that Hashem certainly needs him, and will not leave him in exile forever. The same way that when Moshe announced the redemption to Klal Yisroel, he couldn’t just take them out because they didn’t believe him. It’s difficult to redeem someone if he himself doesn’t believe that he himself is ready for it.
We have to know that on Pesach an immense light of Geulah is revealed. The problem is that a person is so small in his own eyes that it’s hard for him to believe that this light which has redeemed us in the past is literally renewed every year.
Last year I also looked forward to Pesach, and I didn’t see myself being redeemed?
This is the question which lies deep in the heart and prevents a person from being redeemed. It’s reminiscent of the question, “What is this Avodah to you?”, for which we answer, “If you would have been there you wouldn’t have been redeemed.” We have to renew ourselves with a strong faith that there certainly will be a Geulah.
But a person has to know what the redemption that he’s looking forward to so much is. There are people who place high hopes on the Seder night, that from that day on they will be Tzaddikim or Talmidei Chachimim, etc., and are filled with disappointment when things don’t work out the way they had hoped.
On Pesach we have to yearn and to search to renew our recognition of Hashem, to put more thought and concentration into our davening, to pay attention to Hashem’s greatness, to say the Haggadah with a loud voice and with liveliness, to contemplate the miracles and wonders how Hashem keeps up the entire universe and reorganized the whole system of nature just in order to bring Klal Yisroel close to him, to open our mouths with song, to eat the Matzo with thoughts of Emunah, to believe that the Matzo is the remedy which Hashem gave us to heal our minds and heart, and when a person looks to change the way he sees looks at the world, he automatically merits entering into this Avodah this year according to his abilities.
Again, the main thing is to believe that there is another way to live. Not only that there are people in this world who are living differently, but that you yourself can be different.
Even afterwards, you have to know that after Pesach comes the period of Sefiras HaOmer. There are days in which a person is checked and tested in many ways. Some people have their presence of mind and their power of holy speech and prayer taken away from them. The purpose is not to distance them, but to test them to see if they will be stubborn to go after the truth, and to constantly push away feelings of imaginary distance form Hashem. Thereby, they will merit a true renewal of their constant connection to Hashem.