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We met with RBoaz Jurkowicz, rav of the Chabad community in Lud, for a talk about preparing for Pesach. He spoke about doing the preparations without stress or arguments; about spiritual preparations for Yom Tov; about the extra care taken on Pesach; and about the joy of the Yom Tov.

Erev Pesach. The ladies of the house in the Chabad neighborhood in Lud are beating rugs or cleaning windows till they sparkle. Preparations for Yom Tov are also underway at the home of the rav of the Chabad community in Lud, Rabbi Boruch Boaz Jurkowicz.

Despite the hour and time of year, the rav was willing to receive me for a long pre-Pesach conversation about preparations, chumros and hiddurim and other timely subjects.

R’ Jurkowicz was born in 1952 in Montreal. His father is R’ Yaakov Bentzion. He attended yeshivos in Montreal and in 5731 he was sent by the Rebbe to Australia (with the third group of shluchim) where he stayed for two years. Then he went to learn in 770 where he was one of the “seven branches,” which is how the seven top talmidim in the yeshiva were referred to.

Over the years, he held various Torah positions as befitted his talents and abilities. After marrying in 5736, he was appointed as rosh yeshiva of Tomchei T’mimim in New Haven and two years later he became mashpia and maggid shiur in the yeshiva in Morristown.

In 5748 he made aliya and settled in Nachalat Har Chabad where he served as a rosh kollel and as rosh yeshiva in Toras Emes. In 5751 he was chosen by the large Chabad community in Lud as their rav and about a year later he was also recognized by the religious council of Lud as rav of the neighborhood. , Since then, for the last two decades he has been wisely guiding his large community with his trademark smile and pleasantness, in addition to his tremendous knowledge of Torah and Halacha.

It was fascinating to see how calm R’ Jurkowicz was Erev Yom Tov. In the midst of the commotion he sat relaxed and quietly answered questions and offered guidance. At the same time, he received phone multiple calls from members of his community with halachic questions.

“The preparations for Pesach need to have the same goal as Pesach itself,” he says. “The goal is the main thing, and the preparations are the way to achieve the goal. If the purpose of the Yom Tov is the feeling of freedom, then surely this is the atmosphere that needs to prevail while preparing for Yom Tov. The preparations for Pesach are not allowed to be done under pressure and with quarreling for this goes counter to the main theme of the holiday.

“Some people, because of the pressure to get ready in time, convey this stressful feeling to their children. You must not do that! Because this is how a generation is raised that ends up considering Pesach a burden and a holiday of anger. ‘Do this,’ ‘Watch out over here,’ ‘Don’t go there.’

“In the world of musar too, R’ Yisroel Salanter warns that the biggest hiddur of the matzos is to understand the woman who kneads the dough for the matzos and not to shed her blood for your hiddurim.”

What does Pesach have to say to a Jew and Chassid in 5775?

There are many sichos in which the Rebbe speaks about Pesach being the holiday when the Jewish nation was born. We need to remember that we are born anew each year at this time.

Bedikas chametz is for the purpose of burning the evil within us, the evil inclination which is in our hearts. We first need to remove the pekel that we carry so that we can indeed be born again and be renewed. This is the idea of bedikas chametz, to check the chametz in your heart. We know of the great spiritual avoda of our Rebbeim regarding bedikas chametz.

In one of the sichos, the Rebbe says that the entire exodus from Egypt was for the purpose of kabbalas ha’Torah. The first of the Ten Commandments is “Anochi Hashem Elokecha” while the last one is “do not covet.” What’s the common theme running through these two very seemingly disparate commandments? Chassidus explains that if the “Anochi” is truly internalized, then you will be on the level in which you will truly not covet that which someone else has. This is the main avoda, refining middos, an avoda which begins in greater measure the day after the first day of Pesach, during the 49 days of S’firas HaOmer.

Are you saying that the preparations for Pesach in eradicating the chametz in your heart is primarily in interpersonal matters?

Yes. The Alter Rebbe in Tanya, at the end of chapter 12, speaks of two types of foreign thoughts that a person might have which he must immediately reject. One type of thought is that which can make a person fall into places of impurity. The Alter Rebbe immediately goes on to say, “and in matters between man and his fellow, as soon as the thought arises from his heart to his mind with any bad feeling or hatred, G-d forbid, or any jealousy or anger or peeve and the like, he does not accept them at all in his mind and will.” See how seriously the Alter Rebbe treats it.

I think that in our generation, the main “Egypt” from which we need an “Exodus” is in interpersonal matters. This is our main galus, in which a person can’t fargin another, one speaks against another, and there are even instances where a person is angry at another even though he doesn’t know him and never spoke to him, but it was enough that he heard lashon ha’ra. The Alter Rebbe screams about this and says, “to behave with one’s fellow with the trait of kindness and extra fondness displayed towards him,” and at the end of siman 22 of Igeres HaKodesh he pleads, “my beloved brethren and friends … please toil with all your heart and soul to implant love of your fellow in your heart.”

How can one truly feel like a free man when everyone has their pekel?

This is the avoda of refining the middos. Without it, you cannot access the holiness of the holiday. If you are not battel, you are unable to receive the spiritual influences of Pesach. This is precisely what the scraping and polishing for Pesach is all about.

How do you do this? All of a person’s spiritual avoda must be anchored in the idea that “ein od milvado,” nothing exists except for Him. Any significance that we have is derived solely from the fact that Hashem loves us and thinks about us. As the Rebbe said in a number of places, the idea of the exodus from Egypt is the idea of bittul, with the spiritual concept of skipping and jumping (i.e. reaching for levels beyond one’s current spiritual level) being a direct outgrowth of bittul. It is only thanks to this that we can take the leap and move on.


What should be emphasized when it comes to Pesach?

Pesach is the most expensive holiday with hiddurim here and there, and the costs for these hiddurim present an obvious difficulty.

The Alter Rebbe writes in his Shulchan Aruch (quoting the Gemara) that a person’s livelihood is designated on Rosh HaShana, excluding what he spends for Shabbos and Yom Tov. This is true for every Shabbos and Yom Tov and certainly for Pesach about which the Alter Rebbe says that there is reason to be mehader even in this: “Even though these five vegetables are called maror by the Torah, still, it is a rabbinic mitzva to look for chazeres and even to spend a lot of money on it, similar to what will be explained regarding an esrog hadar.” So in being mehader with the simanim, the Alter Rebbe compares chazeres to the hiddur of an esrog which we all try to obtain and for which we spend considerable sums.

It is part of our faith to believe that Hashem will repay us in full.

What is a chumra?

When R’ Jurkowicz spoke about Pesach food, he dwelt on the topic of wine and said one should be very careful. He says that some of the wines made today contain a high percentage of water, “sometimes even 45% water,” and in order for them to have the flavor and color of wine, they put in food coloring in the form of caramel and they also add alcohol, “products which are not used by Chabad at all on Pesach.”

R’ Jurkowicz recommends buying the best wines, where the percentage of actual wine is higher, and consequently, they do not contain additives that we don’t use.

As for grape juice, even those who make Kiddush on it the rest of the year, at least on the seder night one should drink four cups of wine. “We saw that even during the heart attack on Shmini Atzeres 5738 the Rebbe made Kiddush on wine and not on grape juice.”

R’ Jurkowicz, who runs the Badatz Heichal Lubavitch kashrus agency, supplies chicken and meat to thousands of Lubavitcher families. He told me about the chumros and hiddurim that the kashrus agency employs all year round.

“There is a problem with the chickens raised in pens because of the injections they give them, which can make them treif. With chickens there is a halachic question as to whether it is necessary to check for a “common minority,” i.e. if a thorough examination was not conducted, just taking one sample for every few chickens. The halacha is that even if is reasonable to assume that among every 100 chickens there are at least ten that, if you checked them, you would find are treif, nonetheless, if a sample check was done and we did not find the treif chickens, the halacha states ‘one in two is nullified,’ and therefore, all the chickens are assumed to be kosher.

“There are many slaughterhouses that rely on this halachic leniency, and the mashgiach just does a sample check and according to the halachic rule cited above, the chickens are kosher.

“In the sh’chita I supervise, the line moves slowly and the mashgiach opens the tzomes hagidin (the juncture of ligaments) of every chicken and checks it manually to make sure that it is kosher, for Chassidim take extra care with everything that enters their mouths.”

Many ask, why be so particular about food on Pesach and why can’t we use products that have excellent supervision which we use all year?

In the Alter Rebbe’s responsa he quotes the Arizal as saying, “to be stringent with all the stringencies on Pesach.” The Baal Shem Tov also instructed to be stringent on Pesach with all the stringencies. The Rebbe Rashab was also very stringent on Pesach and this was despite his saying in one of his sichos, “I am very fearful of stringencies.”

I believe you gave a hechsher to a hotel that hosts Lubavitcher families for Pesach. Does that mean you approve of going to vacation spots for this holiday of freedom?

Going to a hotel is for those who need it because they cannot make Pesach at home, and this applies only to singular families or families of older people who find it hard to prepare for Yom Tov and they have nowhere to go. There are families that made simchas right before Pesach and they cannot prepare for Pesach. What should they do? They can go to a hotel where they can celebrate Pesach properly in a way of hiddur and l’chat’chilla.

Final thoughts?

There is a sicha of the Rebbe in which he explains that at the seder there seem to be two opposing elements. On the one hand there is the “time of our freedom,” and on the other hand there is “kol dichfin – all who are needy.” There is also the wicked son who is invited to sit with us on Pesach. If Hashem took us out of Egypt, asks the Rebbe, why didn’t He do it in such a way that the Geula is complete?

The Rebbe explains that Hashem took us out of Egypt with “a strong hand” and in a way of “the nation fled,” for the Jewish people were not ready for Geula. In some way, the galus remained with us and this is why there are still tzaros, as the world was not yet completely rectified, and we still have spiritual impurity, poor people, and the wicked son.

So why should we actually rejoice on this Yom Tov? The Rebbe explains that the simcha is due to the fact that “He built for us the Beis HaBechira.” In the Hagada we refer to the Beis HaMikdash as the House of Chosen-ness, to emphasize that we are celebrating the fact that Hashem chose us in Egypt to be His nation and this is a source of great joy. True, we are not standing where He would like us to stand, but the very power we have as the Jewish people comes as a result of His choosing us. This is a great simcha on the way to the even greater simcha of the true and complete Geula which we will have in the month of Nissan, as it says, “In Nissan they will ultimately be redeemed.”

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