Avadim Hayinu?

On the Seder night, we proudly announce to our kids, עבדים היינו – “Avadim hayinu” – we were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt.

For many Jews, especially housewives, it’s a bit hard to say all of this with a straight face.

Endless hours of cleaning, cooking and shopping create a sense of real “avdut” –  of slavery.

Isn’t it ironic that the chag that is supposed to trigger such deep feelings of freedom is looked upon with dread by so many, because of the amount and intensity of the preparation?

Now, maybe this is what our sages had in mind!  In every generation, on the Seder night , we have to feel as if we left Egypt.  Perhaps the idea is:  Overwork yourself till Erev Pesach.  Be your own self-imposed taskmaster…. until the night of the Seder.

Now, lean back, relax and enjoy…. Tonight, you are  free !

Another, more reasonable suggestion: Let’s re-examine our priorities. The Jewish world, including religious communities, have been swept up in the insanity of modern life.  And Pesach preparation has not been spared: The kilos of meat consumed, the cake mixes, the cheeses, the fruit jellies, the candies.  The list goes on….

Matzah is a simple food – flour and water.  Sure, we’re scrupulously fulfilling the letter of the law, but the spirit…..?

The need for Kavod Yom Tov – honoring the chag – must be balanced with a focus on a return to our essence: the Torah and its program for self-improvement, a commitment to halacha and to the study of Torah.

The chag is the framework.


  1. Ever since my year at Michlelet Bruria (Brovender’s) in 1983, I have been careful not to think about, and certainly not mention, Pessach prep until AFTER Purim. Well, I guess that time has come (It’s Motsai Shushan Purim and we already have photos of the grandkids in costume!) Alright, time to get to work…

  2. Like the idea, rabbi. Speaking of being our own taskmasters, Pesach’s spirit of freedom also reminds us we enslave ourselves by many other means during the year. Money, cars, homes, clothes, work, ego, alcohol, drugs, etc, etc, etc. Maybe Pesach forces us to reflect on the things we self-enslave with, re-evaluate, and change what’s needed to get back on Hashem’s path?

  3. Rabbi Meyers, I am so glad you are coming to KC. A major challenge you alluded to about the cleaning and preparation. My wife and many friends unfortunately don’t look forward to Pesach. It may be their least favorite holiday. My wife dreams about being in Florida and buying some ready made kosher for Pesach food. I hate being away for the Hag. I have suggested she do less- paper plates, no chicken soup, no fish, keep it really simple: some matzah and jam would be ok for me. Her reply, the soup is easy, the fish is easy… the cleaning is easy… you are a guy, you don’t get it. I think there is an underlying theme of negativity of converting a kitchen, etc is there anything I can say? I am very good at saying, you are right, I am a guy and I definitely don’t get it. Michael

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