By Shmuel Sackett
As we approach the holiday of Pesach, I want each and every one of you to do some simple Jewish math. Don't worry; it is easy and won't take much time away from your cleaning and shopping.
Here it is: How many verses in the ENTIRE Torah deal with Pesach?
I don't know the exact answer but my educated guess would be about 20.
Now, how many verses in the Torah deal with the Mishkan/Bet HaMikdash?
Once again, I am not certain but I feel it is around 800.
Hmmm. Pesach 20 verses and the Mishkan/Bet HaMikdash 800.
Now, how long do you prepare to get ready for Pesach?
Add the times for cleaning the house, office and car.
Add the times shopping for food, Matza and wine.
Add the times shopping for clothes and other Pesach items.
Add the times for learning Hilchot Pesach, preparing for the seder, doing bedikat/biur/selling chametz, koshering/tovelling pots, doing all the cooking etc.
Using my guessing head, I would say that these times add up to at least 100 hours.
OK, almost done.
Now, based on my calculations above that there are 40 times more verses in the Torah dealing with the Mishkan/Bet HaMikdash than Pesach - it should take you 40 x 100 hours to properly prepare yourself for the Bet HaMikdash.
According to my calculator, that equals 4,000 hours of prep time (which is over 166 days, working at this 24/hrs each day!!!)
Is that what you are doing???
I know what you're thinking. This guy is nuts. First of all, there is no Bet HaMikdash today so what is there to prepare for? Second of all, even if we do need to prepare, what is the comparison? Pesach is one thing and the Bet HaMikdash is something else. What is the connection?
Let me answer these two questions together. Sadly, it is true that there is no Bet HaMikdash today but that does not stop the obligation from studying, understanding and truly knowing every single thing that went on in that incredible House of Hashem. (Note: Even without having the Bet HaMikdash and with the entire nation being in a halachic state of impurity the overwhelming majority of opinions hold that the Korban Pesach can be brought in our day!) Unfortunately, however, many of us Rabbis included simply brush off anything to do with the Bet HaMikdash by saying, "These things don't apply today. We will learn these Halachot when Moshiach comes." With all due respect, this is absolutely wrong.
In many of his books, the holy Chofetz Chaim wrote about the need to, not only study, but actually master these concepts - today - even without the Bet HaMikdash. He said, over and over again, that if we truly want Moshiach to come, we need to be ready and "being ready" does not mean preparing after his arrives. it means being ready NOW! This is similar to the analogy above about Pesach. Can you imagine cleaning, shopping and studying everything about Pesach only when Pesach is already here? Who would dare do such a thing?
But there's more. Pesach and the Bet HaMikdash are more than just a way to compare things. In reality, the two are deeply connected and unfortunately the Pesach we have today has almost nothing to do with the Pesach at the time of the Temple. During those 830 years, plus the 400+ years of the Mishkan, Pesach was celebrated differently than the way we do it today.
First of all, while cleaning is important, 90% of the Jews did not clean at all. Instead, they travelled mostly by foot from all over Israel to be in Jerusalem on time for Erev Pesach. Many of these Jews left their homes weeks before Pesach! They took their entire families with them, packed large quantities of food for the way and trekked across the country with their Pesach offering, Chagiga offering and many other Korbanot they chose to bring with them. These animals had to be watched carefully so they would not be blemished along the way. Then, on Erev Pesach, instead of what we are accustomed to doing, they entered the holy Bet HaMikdash in purity to offer the Korban Pesach. At night, they sat around a seder table and, after the usual reading and learning, ate an entire roasted lamb! After that, they went to sleep in the homes of complete strangers! The next morning, they, once again, had to go to the Bet HaMikdash to offer their Korban Chagiga. The next day it was back to the Bet HaMikdash to witness the Omer offering. In short, our Pesach commemoration is significantly different from what was and from what WILL BE when the Jewish people rebuild the third and final Bet HaMikdash in Jerusalem.
I am not saying that cleaning for Pesach is not important- it is! I am not saying that proper tovelling of dishes is not important it is! What I am saying, however, is that we need to refocus and understand that being in the "Galut" means a lot more than we think. It is time for us to seriously plunge into the deep waters of what the future holds. The Jewish nation will soon return to Israel from the four corners of the globe. Very shortly after that we will have a Sanhedrin. After that comes the restoration of prophecy. That prophet will anoint a king. That king will build the Bet HaMikdash and then Jewish life as we know it will be changed back to what was originally planned.
And now for the good news: This process has already begun! 65 years ago Hashem gave the greatest gift to the Jewish nation in 2,000 years. He restored us to our Land! He gave us our inheritance and began the process of returning the exiles. This was not just some simple land swap or homeland for broken Jews from the Holocaust, it was the beginning of the process we have dreamed and prayed for since the first Tisha B'av! The children have returned home and our Father and King has welcomed us back into His palace. As you read these words, more than half of all halachic Jews are already living in Israel today!
This is what "Next Year in Jerusalem" means when we say it at the end of the seder. Therefore, before concluding this article, go back to the beginning and do that math once again. Figure out how much time and energy you and I need to invest into understanding what Hashem really wants from us and then - go and do it!