Torah Thoughts: First Day of Pesach 5779
By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
A Kosher and Happy Festival of Passover
Jewish tradition provides appropriate greetings for every Jewish festival or commemoration. We use different greetings for Shabbat, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, just to mention some examples. Regarding the festivals, there is one greeting that works well for all of them. It is the simple and very general Chag Sameach, which means “Happy Holiday” or “Happy Festival”.
It is interesting to note that during Pesach we add one word to this general greeting. That word is “kosher.” On Passover we say Chag Pesach Kasher Vesameach, which means “A Kosher and Happy Holiday of Passover”. Why do we do this?
The most credible explanation is that on Pesach the laws of Kashrut are much stricter than during the rest of the year. All of us who prepare for Pesach know that it requires a lot of effort to properly clean the house, prepare the appliances and cook the meals for the eight days of the festival. If eating Kosher is one of the main aspects of the Jewish experience, eating Kosher during Passover is of paramount importance!
The stringent laws of Pesach are very important and part of the atmosphere of this cherished festival. However, it is certainly no less important to experience the spirit of these laws. Some people are so worried and stressed about fulfilling the Kashrut of Pesach that it is hard for them to relax and enjoy the festival and its significance. That is not what we want to happen. We definitely want to have a kosher holiday, but also a happy one.
Apart from the obvious joy that comes from celebrating, resting, eating and enjoying with family and friends, I believe we can find real happiness when we learn about the values of Pesach. What is the main value that we learn from the festival of Pesach? I will say it is the value of freedom. During Pesach we remember that we were slaves, and we value how vital freedom is for human beings. Maybe we can concentrate on this principle of Pesach in the word Sameach, happy. After all, only a free person can find happiness in his/her life. We should all be grateful and happy to be free.
Following this idea, we can think that every time we greet our friends with Chag Pesach Kasher Vesameach, we are telling them (and we are telling us too!) that we hope they can enjoy a festival where ritual and values are joyfully lived. It is important for the Jewish tradition to keep a good balance between the observance of the law and the deep values that those laws reflect.
Shabbat Shalom and (here it goes) Chag Pesach Kasher Vesameach!