My first serious study of the Halachot of Pesach took place in the Conservative Yeshivah fourteen years ago. The teacher, Menachem Pitkowsky, handed out a faded sheaf of notes, clearly at least a tenth generation of photocopies and we made our way through the note’s detailing of what needs to be disposed of, what needs Kosher supervision and how to Kosher a Pesachdik kitchen. The notes were taken from a talk given in the 1980s, by Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, who passed away this week at the age of 102! A graduate of the pre-war Mir Yeshivah Rav Scheinberg founded the Torah Ore Yeshiva first in New York and then Jerusalem.
The notes are incredibly touching. Headed, ‘Clean for Pesach and Enjoy the Seder,’ they are driven by a concern that cleaning for Pesach shouldn’t be too oppressive. The document is of wonderful historic interest, you can see a man who grew up a century ago, but also a little anachronistic. Nonetheless the sweetness and the concern shines through.
‘In former times, wealthy people who had large houses also had many servants who did their every bidding, while poor people, who could not afford servants, lived in small homes with one or two rooms. Understandably, the pre-Pesach chores of the rich were performed by the servants, while the poor, who had only their one or two rooms to clean, a few pieces of furniture a minimum of utensils, and some clothing, took care of their needs themselves. In those days, the cleaning was hard. Tables were made of raw wood, requiring them to be scrubbed or even to be shaven to ensure that no pieces of food were hidden in the cracks. Earthen or wooden floors also needed to be thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned.
Today, we seem to be caught in a trap. The average modern home is larger than formerly. Furniture, utensils and clothing are much more plentiful. The average home today could compare with the more affluent homes of previous generations. However, we do not have the servants that they had, so that today, all the chores fall on the housewife. At the same time, she still feels obligated to clean and scrub as they did formerly, even though she has laminated furniture and tiled floors, making this type of cleaning unnecessary.’
The command to enjoy the Seder weighs heavily. So he sets out standards that are some way below what many in the Haredi world would expect. A full copy of the notes – now somewhat sadly freshly typed up and uploaded, can be read at;
http://www.anshe.org/parsha/palm-pesach.htm and my own guide to Pesach is at at,
But I can’t do better than to conclude with the Rav Sheinberg’s parting words. May his memory be blessing.
‘Try to make the Pesach chores easy for yourself Don't do unnecessary hard work. Don't do unnecessary cleaning. You must enjoy your Pesach!’