by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis
Preparation Is Everything: Thirty Days Before The
Crispy brown matzos resting underneath an exquisitely
embroidered cover on a beautiful seder plate, freshly ground
morror, vintage dry wine in crystal goblets next to
leather-bound Haggadahs, shiny white kittles,
and a table set with fine porcelain and sparkling silver
vessels. Mothers and daughters arduously work weeks on end to
get the home kosher lePesach. Fathers and sons sweat
over grinding flour and baking matzos, kashering
utensils, selling and destroying the chometz, and all of
the other countless mitzvos that come up during the days
before the chag. Finally after all the running around
and all of the details have been seen to, when the seder
night arrives, the entire family is in euphoria that
everything is ready.
In the midst of all the endless preparation, it is worthwhile
to keep in mind that even after all of the technical aspects
of the festival have been seen to, some time should be set
aside to prepare ourselves as well. Yetzias Mitzrayim
is one of the foundations of Jewish belief, and the time when
we impart this to our children and ourselves is on Pesach
night. The amount of impact that the chag has on us is
directly proportional to the preparation that we put into it
beforehand. How can we be sure that we will be ready for this
The gemora encourages a person to shoel and
doresh the halachos of Pesach thirty days prior to the
chag (Pesochim 6b, Shulchan Oruch 429,1). In
addition to informing us of how we are obligated to act
before and on Pesach, this mitzvah presents us with sublime
ramifications which bore deep into the Jewish neshomoh.
Learning the "Torah" of the chag, especially the
halachos, fosters tremendous enthusiasm to fulfill the
obligations of the day. Comprehensive knowledge of what to
do, combined with a burning desire to do it, is the ultimate
way to prepare ourselves for the festival (Ohr Yisroel
Why did Chazal choose thirty days as the preparation period
for the chag? The Gemara derives this sum from an
incident that took place with Moshe Rabbeinu. On the first
day of Pesach he was approached by individuals who were
tomei and could not bring a korbon on Pesach.
On that day (the 15th of Nisan) Hashem instructed them to
bring a sacrifice on Pesach Sheini (thirty days later, on the
14th of Iyar).
However the Rishonim ask a powerful question on this proof.
In that specific scenario, Moshe Rabbeinu was asked a
question, and had to respond to them on that very same day.
If so how can this incident be brought as evidence that in
all situations everyone must learn and teach the halachos of
the chag thirty days beforehand, even if they are not
Perfect timing is imperative when prompting a person to
prepare for something. Telling him to get ready too early is
unwise, for the recipient will inevitably assume that he has
plenty of time, and will not take the instructions seriously.
It takes tremendous insight to know exactly when to remind
him, so that he will start right away.
Moshe Rabbenu was the greatest teacher that the Jewish people
have ever known. If it was advantageous to "put off" the
instructions about Pesach Sheini, he could have let those
people who were tomei know that they should not bring
a korbon on Pesach (Rishon), and informed them about
Pesach Sheini at a different opportunity. Since he told the
Jewish people about these additional halachos thirty days
beforehand, we can infer that this was the best possible time
to remind them. From his example we can learn that a month
prior to Pesach, one should already start studying the
extensive halachos of Chag Hamatzos (Tosafos,
"Moshe Rabbenu established that the Jewish people should
shoel and doresh about the festival on the day
of the chag, the halachos of Pesach on Pesach . . . "
(Megilloh 32a). This gemora seems to contradict
that which our Sages taught that one should start to learn
the halachos thirty days beforehand. How can we resolve this
In order to answer this question it is important to realize
that this mitzvah entails more than just preparing for the
chag. Chazal understood that even after learning
hilchos Pesach, in the midst of all of the pre-
festival excitement, a person could easily get distracted and
forget to actually do them. In addition to insuring that a
person will prepare for the chag, they also wanted to
guarantee that everyone would fulfill the halachos of
the chag when the proper time arrived.
These two objectives are somewhat in conflict. If the goal is
getting ready for the chag, then the earlier one
starts the better one will be able to prepare for Pesach.
However if the emphasis is that one will actually do what he
learned, then the best time to be shoel and
doresh is on the festival itself.
In order have both advantages, our Sages established two
separate mitzvos: to prepare thirty days before the chag
and then to review the details of the chag on the
actual day of the festival, in order to ensure that the
halachos will be implemented. In the words of the Mechilta
(chodesh daled), "We encourage a person while he is
learning, and then motivate him again when it comes time to
fulfill the halochos."
The Beis Yosef reconciles the seeming contradiction between
the gemoras by differentiating Pesach from other
festivals. He rules that the mitzvah to prepare thirty days
beforehand only applies on Pesach, where there are many
mitzvos which are not done on the chag itself (e.g.
baking matzos and getting rid of chometz). Other
yomim tovim (even Succos) do not require thirty days
of preparation in advance. Therefore this mitzvah does not
apply (Beis Yosef 429).
Most poskim argue on this, and maintain that the
mitzvah applies to other chagim as well. However with
regard to Shavuos where there are very few halachos, one can
start at the beginning of Sivan (Mishna Berurah 529,1
in the name of the Gra). For Chanukah and Purim, individuals
are not required to learn the halochos thirty days
beforehand, but are obligated to study or hear a droshoh
about the chag on the day itself (Responsa
Tzitz Eliezer 17,1 citing Rabbeinu Yeruchom and
Tosafos, Megilloh 4a).
Some opinions are that since today our primary learning is
from seforim, a rov is not obligated to speak in
public about the halochos, but rather one should learn from
seforim starting at least thirty days before, until he
is proficient in the relevant halochos (Graz 529,3).
The accepted custom is to have a droshoh before the
chagim on Shabbos Hagodol and on Shabbos Shuvoh. On
the day of the chag itself there should be a
droshoh on the halochos or aggodos of the
specific festival (Mishna Berurah 529,2).
What other ramifications does this thirty-day period have?
Even though when learning Torah it is considered to be proper
to stick to the topic at hand, nonetheless a student who asks
about the halochos of the chag thirty days prior, even
if that is not the main topic in the beis medrash, is
still considered to be asking le'inyan (on the issue).
Therefore his question should be addressed before others
[Ran, Rashbo, Ritvo, Meiri Pesochim 6b]. In yeshivos
and botei midroshim halochos of the chag should
be given first priority as the topic for shiurim (Chok
Yaakov 529,1 citing Yerushalmi Pesochim 1,1).
During the time of the Beis Hamikdosh this period
served another purpose. Although four days are generally
sufficient to check a sacrifice for blemishes, in the case of
selecting an animal for a korbon Pesach, our Sages
required thirty days. Be'ezras Hashem the Beis
Hamikdosh will be rebuilt soon, and we will once again be
able to eat from this sacrifice (Pri Chodosh based on
Avodoh Zora 5b).
Practically speaking it is very difficult to learn all of the
halochos of Pesach in thirty days, especially if one
has not studied them previously. Therefore, it is preferable
to get a head start and start reviewing them as early as
possible before Pesach. If one is unable to do so, it is
advisable to get hold of a condensed version of the halochos
(e.g. Guidelines on Hilchos Pesach) to get a
From Redemption to Redemption
"When wine goes in, secrets come out" (Eruvin 68a). In
the midst of a joyous Purim seudah, the head of the
household stands up on a chair to deliver words of wisdom
from the depths of his heart, and everyone wonders which
revelations will come out. To their surprise he says, "There
is a dispute among the Rishonim what constitutes chometz
nukshah . . . "
The poskim say that since Purim is thirty days before
Pesach, one should start to discuss the halochos of Pesach on
Purim (Mishna Berurah 529,2). Seemingly this day of
celebration does not seem to be an appropriate time to start
delving into a discourse regarding the extensive and
intricate halochos of Pesach. Chazal must have seen some
deeper connection between these two events.
The gemora (Megilla 6b) records an interesting
discussion, in which it first suggests that during a leap-
year Purim should be held in Adar Rishon because of the
principle of ein ma'avirin al hamitzvos, "We do not
let a mitzva opportunity pass by." However, the conclusion is
that Purim is celebrated in Adar Sheini because of the dictum
somech geulah legeulah, we adjoin the redemption of
Purim to that of Pesach. Why indeed did Chazal make an
exception and push off the mitzva of Purim?
Our Sages understood that in this case, a greater danger than
the risk inherent in delaying a mitzva was at risk. Making
Purim in Adar Rishon puts us in jeopardy of reaching a
crescendo in our Divine Service and allowing it to wane with
the interlude of time. To ward off this spiritual problem,
Chazal deviated from the normal practice of doing mitzvos at
the first opportunity and pushed off Purim until Adar Sheini.
(heard from HaRav Shlomo Brevda). Even in the midst of the
unrestrained festivity of the Purim seudah, we are
obligated to take a few moments to internalize that this is
only a beginning of a larger celebration that will culminate
In the merit of connecting these two redemptions, may the
Jewish people see an end to their current tribulations and be
privileged to witness the final redemption soon, in the days
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