After having made Pesach thirty-seven times and never once being late for Bedikat Chometz, I think I can say with full confidence that I am somewhat of an expert on Pesach preparations. It would be well worth your while to read my pointers.
First and foremost, if you are reasonably healthy there is no reason to begin even thinking about Pesach until after Purim. I mean, why start the blood pressure? Just relax and enjoy Purim and all the preparations will be waiting for you the next day. There is one exception to this rule, however. As soon as Tu b’Shvat has come and gone slow down on your food shopping. It does not matter how good the sale of granola health bars are. How many can you really eat before Pesach?
Once Purim is over it is time to start the lists. I am a firm believer in lists and have a number of them. There are lists of what needs to be done and who will do what. There are lists of the foods left in the freezer and cabinets and when we are going to eat them. There are shopping lists and menu lists. Remember, though, the mitzvah of Pesach is to be at the Seder, not to serve gourmet meals.
Speaking of being at the Seder, if you can’t handle wine don’t drink it. I know, I know. The rabbis say drinking wine enhances the mitzvah more than grape juice. I bought into that years ago when I was pregnant with my second child. Five minutes after Kiddush my head was spinning. After another five minutes I had to lie down and missed a big chunk of the Seder.
As Pesach draws near it is always a challenge to find time between the cleaning, laundry, and rearranging the kitchen to feed the family. I find having pre-cooked meals in the freezer to be helpful. It pays to be realistic, though. One year I pre-made a number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which were really disgusting when I defrosted them. No one ate them, not even the dog, and I hate throwing out food.
There is always the question of when to kosher the kitchen and change over to Pesach dishes. There are some people who want that last bit of bread until the very last minute. In my opinion they should be sent to some pizza store and wait in line until they get their crust of chometz and stay out of my work area. Personally I cannot deal with a half and half kitchen. My goal is to change over soon after Shabbat HaGadol and be able to cook in a relaxed manner. This year that is not a problem as Seder night is Friday night and I have a whole week.
Last year, though, was a real challenge. Seder night fell out on Monday night. That meant that if I waited until after Shabbat to change over I would have less than forty-eight hours to cook. I could have turned my kitchen over before Shabbat, served Pesach food, and had everyone go outside to eat challah. Neither of those ideas was very appealing. There was another solution, though. One of our Seder guests invited us to spend Shabbat HaGadol with them! I highly recommend this option.
Back when I was first married I looked at every broken toy or torn piece of clothing as chometz. They had to be fixed before Pesach or else. After a few years I learned that was ridiculous. They were not chometz and neither were dirt on the windows or dust on the furniture. It is wonderful to have the house shining when you light Yom Tov candles on Pesach. If you have the time and well-being to do spring cleaning, go for it. If not, don’t confuse the issue. It can be done in the summer, fall, or winter.
When he was in grammar school one of my sons came home with a poem his class had made up. It basically went like this: Remember Mom, dust is not chometz and your kids are not slaves. Get the kids on your side. When they are little make games out of cleaning and offer prizes. When they are older appeal to their sense of family and offer prizes. Don’t forget praise, thank you, and a pizza outing.
There is one more suggestion to make your Pesach preparation life easier. If you have not yet moved to Israel, do so. It is unbelievable the feeling of liberation you will have when you have to make only one Seder. Start your Aliyah process today.
Bedikat Chometz: search for leaven done by candlelight the night before Pesach
Tu b’Shvat: new year for trees that occurs two months before Pesach
Seder: service and meal held first night Pesach, outside Israel it is held the first two nights
Mitzvah: Torah commandment
Kiddush: sanctification of wine
Kosher: according to dietary laws, in this case making non-Pesach appliances usable for Pesach according to Jewish law.
HaGadol: literally, The Big, here it refers to the Shabbat before Pesach
Yom Tov: holiday
Aliyah: Going up, moving to Israel