The Yetzer Hara of Erev Pesach And How to Overcome It

“The greater the person, the greater his yetzer hara” (Sukkah 52b).

Harav Yisrael Salanter added: “And the greater the day, the greater its yetzer hara. Such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom HaKippurim, and so on, the trials and disturbances are greater.” (Harav Dov Katz, Tenuas HaMussar, Vol. I, P. 280)

The greater the person, the more Torah he knows, the higher the level of kedushah he’s attained, the more likely he is to esteem himself; and so … the greater the danger of ego, arrogance and all the foolishness and destruction that come with it.

Similarly, said Rav Yisrael, the ordinary weekday has its share of trials and tribulations. But the Yamim Tovim, with all their joy and excitement, even more so. A person can get carried away by the very ruchniyus of the day, and that can bring him down. He can think himself impervious to chet, he lets his guard down — and the yetzer hara seizes the opportunity.

Erev Pesach, as well. The day is replete with mitzvos hechsher mitzvos and minhagim. Biur chametz, seder amiras korbon Pesach, mikveh, the final preparations for Leil HaSeder. Our hands are so busy with mitzvos, our minds and hearts so occupied with mitzvos, it is hard to imagine that on this, of all days, we are in danger of falling.

However, Chazal saw the danger: “In a place where they are accustomed to do work on Arvei Pesachim until midday, a place where they are accustomed not to, one who travels from a place where they are accustomed to work, to a place where they do not, or from a place where they do not to a place where they do, we place upon him the chumros of the place whence he left, and those of the place where he went; and let one not deviate [from the minhag hamakom] because of machlokes.” (Pesachim 50a)

There are no guarantees. The very mitzvah of biur chametz will teach us to distance ourselves from the yetzer. Bitul chametz is insufficient, we have to burn it as well. Not only to relinquish it and avoid it, but to search it out, remove it, utterly destroy every last trace of it (Rav Issar Zalman Meltzer — Haggadah Arzei Helevanon).

Even in the midst of burning the chametz. The very act of annihilating the yetzer hara can provide it with an opportunity to strike at us.

When a person’s heart is full of Torah, the thoughts of desire cannot prevail. But the yetzer does not give up; thoughts of kavod enter instead. The more a person is engaged in ruchniyus, the more his yetzer hara tends to be a yetzer ruchani.

This is what the Gemara in Sukkah implies. Where once his yetzer enticed him with the gufani — physical; now it turns to the ruchani — spiritual. (Harav Shlomo Wolbe, Alei Shur, Vol. II, P. 233)

So Chazal enacted a rule to prevent the holy minhagim of Erev Pesach from generating machlokes: follow the minhag hamakom. Even if it seems the locals seem too machmir — or not machmir enough — do as they do, and avoid machlokes. On Erev Pesach that is the true minhag Yisrael Torah.

However, it would be wrong to think that it’s a matter of grit your teeth and bear it. Like all avodas Hashem, it should be performed with simchah and a lev tov, in recognition that in this way we contribute to the unity of Klal Yisrael.

On a leap year, such as this one, it was established that Purim be observed in Adar Sheni, in order to make the redemptions of Purim and Pesach contiguous(Megillah 6b).

The connection between Purim and Pesach is stated, but it needs clarification. The events of Purim and those of Yetzias Mitzrayim are very different.

A comment from Rashi elsewhere sheds light on the problem: “When Adar enters, we increase simchah.” (Taanis 29a), to which Rashi adds: “There were days of miracles for Yisrael in Purim and Pesach.”

There is a continuum of joy from Purim to Pesach. The joy of witnessing the miracles of Hashem, both hidden and revealed; the joy of overcoming the yetzer hara that keeps us from recognizing the Borei Olam, and that keeps us apart from our fellow Jews.

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