The Mitzvah of Settling the Land of Israel

[Tal Chermon – Moadim pp. 213-220]

The Mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel according to the Ramban
Is having our own State in the Land of Israel a means to an end, or an end in itself?  Does the State possess inherent value and holiness, or is it merely a way to accomplish certain goals, such as the observance of Mitzvot?  Is it no more than a place to achieve security for the Jews – a "safe haven," to quote Theodore Herzl?  If so, then there may be times when we can achieve these goals better somewhere else.  We may come to the conclusion that Jews are safer in the Exile than they are in the Land of Israel, or that it is easier to observe the Torah outside of the Land of Israel.  If this is the case, are we to give up the idea of a Jewish State?
To answer this question, we must first clarify how Halachah relates to the State, since Halachah is the system that enables us to put the Torah's ideals into practice.  Ramban, who categorized the halachot pertaining to the Land of Israel and the State of Israel, derived our halachic obligations regarding the Land from the verse, "And you shall inherit it [the Land of Israel] and you shall live in it" (Devarim 11:31).  This general Mitzvah includes three related stages (Ramban, additions to Sefer Ha-Mitzvot of the Rambam, positive Mitzvah #4):
1.    It is a Mitzvah to live in the Land of Israel and not in the Exile.  This Mitzvah is incumbent upon every individual Jew.
2.    It is a Mitzvah to build up the Land of Israel and to make it flourish: "We may not allow it to remain desolate."  This Mitzvah is directed to the Nation and not to individuals.  Not every Jew is a contractor or a farmer (though doctors and teaches obviously also play important roles in developing the country).  Therefore, it is the Nation as a whole that is responsible for the population and development of all parts of the Land, by creating cities and villages, and developing agriculture and industry.
3.    It is a Mitzvah to possess the Land of Israel: "And we are forbidden to allow it to be ruled by any other nation."  The Land of Israel must belong to, and be under the sovereignty of the Nation of Israel.  And not be ruled by any other nation.  This Mitzvah is also incumbent upon the Nation, and not upon individuals (There are other Mitzvot that are the obligation of the Nation of Israel as a whole, i.e. appointing a king, building the Temple and declaring war).  Sovereignty of a nation over its land is the definition of a state.  Therefore, the Torah commands us to establish a sovereign Jewish State in the Land of Israel.

A Mitzvah for every generation, even in exile
We might think that this Mitzvah applied only until the period in which we entered the Land of Israel under the leadership of Yehoshua, or to the period in which King David conquered the Land, and that it is not relevant today.  After all, G-d sent Assyria and Babylonia to destroy the Kingdom of Israel, resulting in the Nation of Israel's exile.  Perhaps this is a sign that he that He no longer wishes us to have a sovereign State in the Land of Israel.  The Ramban, however, reiterates three times that the Mitzvot of conquering the Land of Israel and settling it apply throughout all generations, even during our exile.
It is incorrect to presume that our current dispersion indicates that G-d does not want us to leave the Exile and establish a State.  If it is a Mitzvah, no difficulty or obstacle can erase our obligation.  We cannot use difficult events as an excuse not to fulfill a Mitzvah.  This may be compared to a person who is about to write a check for Tzedakah, when his pen suddenly runs out of ink.  Is this a sign that he should not make a donation?  No, it is a Mitzvah to give Tzedakah.  If someone mistakenly violates the Shabbat laws is that a sign that that person is incapable of observing Shabbat?  No, it is a warning to be more careful and study the laws.  When we experience difficulty in fulfilling any Mitzvah, we are simply being told to try harder, even if it may take a long time until we see the results of our efforts.
Some of the Mitzvot which require the greatest exertion, and take the longest to bear fruit are Torah learning, prayer, acts of loving-kindness and settling the Land of Israel (Berachot 32b).  Before Yehoshua entered the Land of Israel, G-d urged him to "be strong and courageous" (Yehoshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18), signifying that it was going to be a major undertaking.  We never received the Land of Israel on a silver platter in the past, and our task today is no less fraught with difficulty.  We might wonder why the Ramban himself did not try to establish a State in the Land of Israel.  In his times, conditions were not conducive for its fulfillment.  Halachah terms this phenomenon as one's "force of circumstance" ("ones").  One who is unable to perform a Mitzvah is not exempt from it; he is simply not liable to punishment.  We must keep on persisting throughout the generations, until we succeed in fulfilling this Mitzvah.

Rambam: The Mitzvah to appoint a king
In his addenda to the Rambam's Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, the Ramban inserts the Mitzvah of possessing the Land of Israel and establishing sovereignty over it.  The Rambam himself, however, did not include this Mitzvah there as one of the 613 Mitzvot.  Yet, in his Mishneh Torah, he does state that it is a Mitzvah to live in the Land of Israel, and that this Mitzvah is as important as all the other Mitzvot combined.  In fact, it is so important that one spouse can legally force the other to fulfill it (Hilchot Melachim 5:9-12).  Therefore, its conspicuous omission from the Sefer Ha-Mitzvot is significant and requires explanation.
We do find that the Rambam considers the appointing of a king over the Nation of Israel a Mitzvah and includes it in his Sefer Ha-Mitzvot (ibid. 1:6).  Obviously, there can be no king unless there is a Nation over which to rule.  If the Nation of Israel does not live in its homeland – or is ruled by another nation – this Mitzvah is meaningless.  Therefore, the Mitzvah of appointing a king includes within it the obligation to establish a sovereign State of Israel for the Nation of Israel who resides there.  The term "king" does not necessarily mean a king in the narrow sense of the word, but refers to any authoritative leadership agreed upon by the Nation as a whole.  This government has all the power and authority of a king.  The laws concerning rebellion against a king are deduced from Yehoshua, who was the leader of the Nation of Israel, but nevertheless was not officially its king (Sanhedrin 49a; Hilchot Melachim 3:8).  For example, Yehoshua was told, "Any man who rebels against you…shall be killed" (Yehoshua 1:18).  Although he was not formally a king, defying his orders was deemed "rebellion against the king" because he was the national leader (National leaders are only granted kingly powers regarding the leadership of the Nation and do not have the special dispensations granted to kings such as permission to marry eighteen wives, etc…).
The Israeli government of today falls into the same category.  Since it is elected by the people, it is empowered to make national decisions.  The sovereignty of the State of Israel is certainly not a true kingship; it is a government and not a monarchy.  Moreover, it is not run according to religious principles.  Despite this, our government has some of the authority of a king of Israel (see Mishpat Cohain, pp. 128, 365), and is part of the necessary groundwork for fulfillment of the Mitzvah of establishing the Kingdom of Israel.  This is a long and arduous process, consisting of many phases, which will ultimately culminate in the Kingdom of the House of David.

Independence signifies rejuvenation and its loss signifies destruction
Loss of an independent State in the Land of Israel is the halachic definition of destruction.  According to Halachah, "One who sees the cities of Yehudah in their destruction must tear his clothes" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 561).  Rav Yosef Karo writes, "As long as the cities are ruled by non-Jews – even if they are settled by Jews – they are termed 'destroyed'" (Beit Yosef on the Tur, Orach Chaim ibid. and cited in the Magen Avraham and Mishnah Berurah).  In other words, despite the fact that the cities of the Land of Israel are populated by Jews, if non-Jews rule them, their halachic status is one of "destruction."  If, however, Jews control the cities, they are considered "built," even if no one lives there.  Therefore, we do not tear our clothes today over the sight of any cities, standing or destroyed, that are under Israeli jurisdiction.   
After the Six Day War, our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, ruled that we should no longer tear our clothes upon the sight of the Temple Mount, since it is under Israeli jurisdiction.  We have the political power to rebuild the Beit Ha-Mikdash today.  The fact that we have no immediate plans to do so, for various religious, political and other reasons (justified or not), does not negate the fact that it is our decision not to build the Beit Ha-Mikdash, and therefore we no longer tear our clothes when we see the Temple Mount, as we would if it were under non-Jewish domination (Be-Ma'arachah Ha-Tizburit, p. 55).
Loss of independence and exile also constitute the destruction of the Torah.  There are those who say, "The Torah alone is sufficient; there is no need for a State.  We managed very well without own State for two thousand years."  Our Sages were not of this opinion.  They explained, "Her [Zion's] king and princes are scattered among the nations – there is no Torah.  There is no greater nullification of Torah than the exile of Israel" (Chagigah 5b).  They did not intend us to take this statement to mean that we need devote less time to learning Torah in the Exile.  They meant that the Exile invalidates the essence and purpose of the Torah, which can only be realized when the Nation of Israel is in its homeland.

Independence equal peace
Another halachic reference to national independence as an ideal may be found in the laws of fast days.  The prophets declared four national fast days: the Seventeenth of Tammuz, the Ninth of Av, the Fast of Gedaliah and the Tenth of Tevet.  The prophet Zechariah promised us that in the future, these fast days will become days of joy (Zechariah 8:19).  The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (18b) expands upon this, listing three possible permutations regarding our obligation to fast on these days:
1.    In times of peace – these will be days of joy.
2.    In times of oppression – these remain fast days.
3.    When there is neither peace nor oppression, fasting is optional; it is not an obligatory Mitzvah.
The Rishonim (early halachic authorities) wrote, however, that regarding the Ninth of Av – when so many tragedies occurred – the Nation voluntarily accepted upon itself the obligation to fast from sunset to sunset with accompanying restrictions.  On the other fast days, we also fast, but with certain leniencies – only from sunrise to sunset and without the added restrictions of the Ninth of Av.  In any case, in times of real peace, we do not fast.
What is the definition of "peace"?  According to the Ramban, it refers to the time when the Beit Ha-Mikdash is built.  According to Rashi, it means "that the nations of the world do not rule Israel with a heavy hand" (both opinions are cited in the Beit Yosef on the Tur, Orach Chaim 415).  In other words, we are autonomous and not subject to foreign rule.  Rashi's definition of peace has no organic connection to the cessation of hostilities, but rather of to autonomy.  Even during times of war – as long as we have the ability to defend ourselves and fight back without losing our independence – according to Rashi, we are "at peace."
The Rambam writes that the Jews even fasted on the Ninth of Av during the Second Temple Period, after the Beit Ha-Mikdash had been rebuilt (Rambam, commentary on the Misnayot, Rosh Hashanah 1:3).  The Admor (Chasidic Rebbe) of Gur explains that the Rambam follows Rashi's definition of peace, which is determined by our independence from other nations.  For most of the Second Temple Period, we were under foreign domination – first under Persian rule and then Greek and Roman rule.  This period was defined as one in which "there was neither peace nor war," and in such a case, according to Rashi, the Jews should fast on the Ninth of Av, despite the fact that the Beit Ha-Mikdash was standing.  Only later, under the Maccabees, did we achieve self-rule.  The Rambam therefore rules that the Jews' lack of liberty during the Second Temple Period obligated them to fast, except for the brief period of the rule of the Chashmonaim (ibid.).
Today, the dove is the universally accepted symbol of peace.  Where did this symbol originate?  In our sources, the dove first appears in the story of Noach.  He sent the dove out of the ark to find out whether the floodwaters had sufficiently dried up, and she returned to him in the evening with "an olive leaf in her mouth" (Bereshit 8:11).  Our Sages commented: "The dove requested of G-d: Let my food be as bitter as a raw olive, but only dependent upon You, rather than as sweet as honey, but at the mercy of men" (Eruvin 18b).  The dove thereby revealed a desire for freedom, even at the price of self-sacrifice and inconvenience.  Thus, the dove is the symbol of independence and of the willingness to sacrifice in order to achieve this aim.  This is Rashi's definition of peace: that no other nation will rule over us, even if we have to fight to preserve our freedom.  According to this view, peace is not a state of "ceasefire," but rather one of independence despite the wars.

According to Rashi's outlook on peace, it would seem that we should not fast in this generation, since we have the State of Israel in our possession.  Aren't we independent in our country, free from the domination of other nations?  Aren't we at the stage of "peace," wherein the fast days are transformed into days of rejoicing?  There are those who say that our independence is not complete since we are not altogether free from the influence of the nations, as we are subject to political pressure.  This is not a valid claim because all nations of the world are subject to such pressure; this does not make them any less independent.  Rather, the reason that we still fast in our generation is because the majority of the Nation of Israel is still in Exile under the rule of other nations; Rashi's definition is peace therefore does not apply to the entire Nation.

Why are Women Obligated in all of the Mitzvot of the Seder

[From Rav Aviner's Commentary on the Haggadah]

Question: Why are women obligated in all of the Mitzvot of the Seder, when these Mitzvot are time-bound and women are exempt from time-bound Mitzvot? 
Answer: They also experienced this miracle (Pesachim 108a-b).  Here are two explanations for this answer.  According to Tosafot, women are obligated because they were also in Egyptian Exile and were redeemed.  According to Rashi, women are obligated because the Jewish People were redeemed on account of the righteous women of that generation.  The first soldier in the struggle against Egypt was Miriam.  "And I sent before You Moshe, Aharon and Miriam" (Michah 6:4).  "You have three great leaders" (Ta'anit 9a).  Miriam taught Torah to the women (Aramaic translation to Michah ibid.).  She was born during the most difficult time for the Nation of Israel.  She was therefore named "Miriam" based on the Hebrew word "Merirut" meaning "bitterness."  The Egyptians decreed that every baby boy was to be thrown into the river.  Amram, the leader of Israel, despaired and separated from his wife, Yocheved.  He said: "Why should we bring more children into the world to be killed by the Egyptians?"  The entire Jewish People followed his lead and separated from their wives.  This would have certainly destroyed the seed of Israel and we would have been defeated without a fight.  Everyone yielded except for one six year old girl – Miriam.  She said to her father: "Your decree is worse than Pharaoh's.  He only made a decree against the boys, but you made a decree against the boys and the girls!"  She succeeded in convincing her father; he remarried his wife, and all Israel followed his lead and did the same.  At the remarriage of her parents, Miriam danced with her little brother, Aharon, who was two years old.  When Moshe was born, Amram was again concerned and wondered if perhaps he acted imprudently.  Miriam, however, was confident that there would be a solution and, indeed, Moshe's salvation came in an unexpected way.  Even before this event, Miriam showed herself to be a warrior.  The Jewish midwives, Shifrah and Pu'ah, who saved the Jewish People, were Yocheved and Miriam.  Even though Miriam was young, she helped her mother.  Yocheved was called "Shifrah" because she made the child beautiful ("meshaperet" which is similar to "Shifrah") and cared for him.  Miriam was called "Pu'ah" because she spoke ("Po'ah" which is similar to "Pu'ah), sang songs, and hugged him.  When Pharaoh asked Yocheved why his decree to kill the baby boys was not followed, Yocheved evaded the question and said that the Jewish women are skilled at giving birth without a midwife.  Miriam, however, spoke brazenly to Pharaoh, "She stuck out her nose at him and said: Woe to the man from whom G-d comes to take retribution.  He was filled with anger against her and wanted to kill her.  Yocheved attempted to pacify Pharaoh: "Do not pay any attention to her.  She is a baby and does not know anything" (Shemot Rabbah 1:13).  Miriam obviously understood everything, and she began to organize a rebellion ("Meri" which is similar to "Miriam") among the Nation of Israel.  Our Sages relate how the women established a powerful underground in Egypt.  They would encourage their husbands, give birth in the fields under apple trees, "I roused your love under the apple tree" (Shir Ha-Shirim 8:5), and raise their children in secret.  They stubbornly continued to become pregnant and give birth, until they reached six hundred thousand.  Including the elderly, woman and children, they reached a few million.
At a much later time, during the donations to the Mishkan (desert sanctuary), the women brought copper mirrors as a donation.  At first, Moshe Rabbenu refused to accept them, since they were used to focus on the external beauty of women.  "Grace is false and beauty is vain, a woman who fears Hashem, she should be praised" (Mishlei 31:30).  Moshe was repulsed by the mirrors because they were used by the evil inclination.  The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said to him: "Accept them, because these are the most precious to me.”  Through these, the women created legions of Jewish children in Egypt.  These mirrors were not objects of the evil inclination, but of the awe of Hashem.  The daughters of Israel beautified themselves with them in order to entice their husbands who were exhausted from the back-breaking work.  When Pharaoh decreed that the men would sleep in the field and the women in the city, the women heated up food and brought food and drink to their husbands.  They would comfort them and say: We will not be enslaved eternally. Hashem will redeem us in the end.  They took the mirrors, and each one would look in the mirrors with her husband and entice him with words…as it says, 'I roused your love under the apple tree,'" and this is how they had children.  These mirrors are therefore called "legions of mirrors" ("Marot Ha-Tzovot"), because in their merit, legions ("Tzeva'ot") of Israel were born (see Rashi to Shemot 38:8).

Therefore, do not be surprised that after the splitting of the Red Sea, after the Song at the Sea of Moshe Rabbenu, "Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aharon, took the drum in her hand, and all of the women followed her with drums and dances" (Shemot 15:20).  They knew that the redemption was on account of their merit, the merit of the righteous women.  They danced, they overcame the laws of gravity, they floated in the air, and they were freed from the physical reality of the land.  When they left Egypt, they did not even bother to prepare leavened bread, yet they packed drums among their belongings out of the faith that a great salvation would occur and the chance would come to play music to the Master of the Universe, Redeemer of Israel.

How to do your Pesach Cleaning Cheerfully in Less than One Day

Going away for Pesach
If you are going away for Pesach and will not be at home during the entire holiday, you can be lenient and not clean for Pesach.  You should sell all of the Chametz (leaven) in the house, including all of the crumbs -- but not just the crumbs on their own, because that would have no halachic value.  It is possible, however, to sell the food in the cabinets and closets including the "Chametz dirt."  If someone is staying in your house, you need to clean the rooms which will be used.  The remaining unused rooms must be closed off with tape, and you must sell any Chametz that is in them.

There is still the question of how to fulfill the Mitzvah of Bedikat Chametz (the search for leaven).  If you arrive at your Pesach destination by the fourteenth of Nisan, perform the search there.  If you arrive on the morning of the fourteenth, you should clean well and check a small room, i.e. the entrance way and not sell the Chametz in that room.  You must also perform the search for Chametz, with a blessing, in the rooms in which you will live during Pesach - if no one else has done so.

Chametz smaller than a "Kezayit" (the volume of an olive)
Chametz which is less than a "Kezayit" may obviously not be eaten, but it is not included in the Torah prohibition of "Bal Yeira'eh" and "Bal Yimatzeh" (Chametz may not be seen or found on Pesach – Shemot 12:19, 13:7) (Responsa Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:145).  Regarding the Mishnah Berurah's statement (Sha'ar Ha-Tziun 451:6) that Chametz which can be seen is included in the prohibition of "Chametz She-Avar Alav Ha-Pesach" (using Chametz that has spent Pesach in a Jew's possession) -- the fact is that if it was included in the sale of Chametz, there is no problem (see Mishnah Berurah 142:33 and Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim 117:15).  A "Kezayit" is 27 cubic centimeters - 3 centimeter square or a little over a square inch.  Usually, only rooms in which children are allowed to bring sandwiches or cookies are likely to contain such big pieces of Chametz.  A room in which people do not walk around with food does not need to be cleaned at all.  Incidentally, you must take care not to hide pieces of Chametz which are larger than a "Kezayit" before "Bedikat Chametz," in case one of the pieces should get lost.  That way, you do not find them, you will not need to bother much to hunt for them, and you can rely on the "Bittul Chametz" (declaring Chametz ownerless) that you do after the search (Responsa Yechaveh Da’at 5:149).

Bedikat Chametz
Start "Bedikat Chametz" in a place where Chametz was used, so the blessing will apply to it.  Only search for Chametz in places in which there is a reasonable chance of finding it.  It is nearly impossible for Chametz which is a square inch to be hidden inside a book!  If there is a chance that the book has Chametz in it, then it must be thoroughly checked. Most books, however, do not need to be cleaned or checked. Cleaning and checking a sample is sufficient. It is customary not to place books that have not been checked for Chametz on the table during Pesach.  Everybody knows their kids' habits. Peek, and open here and there.  Regarding crumbs in the corners of the house: 1. They are not a "Kezayit."  2. They are inedible to a dog.  If there is bread behind a cabinet in an unreachable place, nobody will get to it on Pesach and it is as if it is buried -- just as you do not have to search under stones or under the house's foundations, since nobody will take Chametz from there.  

Educating Children
If you want to do a spring cleaning, this is certainly possible, but not before Pesach – this is not the appropriate time.  Pesach vacation is for taking trips, playing with the kids, being happy, dancing and preparing stories for the Seder.  A woman works hard all year long: "They enslaved the Jewish women with back-breaking work" (play on Shemot 1:13).  If the husband is on vacation too, this may be a good time to leave him with the kids, and give the wife a vacation!  That is what vacation is for – not for working like a donkey and scraping floors.  You can take trips, enjoy yourself, and arrive at the Seder rested in order to make a beautiful Seder and inspire the children.  If a woman wants to work like a donkey, and be a kind of slave, she is permitted to do so, but it is not good educationally.  She should be free in order to play with the kids.  We left the slavery of Egypt, and it was not to enter into our own slavery!  We do not have anything against house cleaning, but you should spread it out over the course of the year – each few months clean another room.  This is not the time for projects of cleaning and arranging.  In any event, when the Seder arrives there will still be disorder and cleaning that has not been completed.

If a woman is happy with suffering, she is allowed and it subtracts from the suffering of "Gehinom": Any suffering in this world is deducted from the suffering of "Gehinom."  If someone desires, this it is legitimate, but not before Pesach.  The month of Nissan is a happy month.

Husband's Help
Question: Does a husband have to help his wife?
Answer: A husband does not have to help his wife nor does a wife have to help her husband.  Rather, the two of them have to clean together since this is a shared home, and theirs is a shared life as well.

Children's Clothes
There may be cookies in your kids' pockets. Even the crumbs must be removed, since a child may put his hand into his pocket and then into his mouth.  You only have to check the clothes you will be wearing that season.  It is unnecessary to check any clothes that are put away and will not be worn now, such as winter clothes.

Question: Is it possible to simply wash them in a washing machine?
Answer: Running the clothes through a washing machine will not necessarily get rid of all of the crumbs.  The clothes must be checked.

Toys
Toys must also be checked.  However, you may put some or all of the toys away, and buy new toys as a present for the holiday!  This serves a double purpose of saving work and making the children happy.

Bathroom Cabinets
These may contain Chametz, such as wheat germ oil and alcohol derived from wheat.  What a waste to clean it.  Close and tape the cabinets and include it in the sale of Chametz.

Couches
You have to check between the pillows.  It is an interesting experience to find lost objects.

Books
There is no need to clean them, just do not put them on the table on which you eat.  The custom is not to check books for the crumbs that remain in them, but to rely of the nullification (Haggadah Chazon Ovadiah of Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef, p. 21).  Clean the books which you will want to read at the table on Pesach, or clean a few books for Pesach.

Dining Room
You do not have to clean everything, just the place where people eat, i.e. the chairs and the table.
Chairs: If the chairs are clean, there is no need to clean them.  If the kids throw cereal or other things on them and they do not look clean, clean them with a wet rag.
Table: There are two options: 1. Kashering with boiling water.  2. Covering with several layers of plastic and cloth tablecloths.

High Chair
If it is plastic, it may be immersed in a tub with boiling water and cleaning agents. Clean the cracks with a stiff brush. It is unnecessary to take the chair apart, because whatever is in the cracks and holes is inedible to a dog.

Kitchen
This room must be thoroughly cleaned and not one crumb of Chametz left. A crumb is not nullified even in a thousand times its volume. 

Dishwasher
It is preferable not to Kasher a dishwasher. You can do the dishes by hand as in previous generations.  It is also possible to use disposable dishes.  

Question: Is it at all possible to clean a dishwasher?
Answer: It is possible, but it is a lot of work; there are a lot of rubber parts and connections.

Oven
If you do not have a self-cleaning oven, it is best not to Kasher it. Seal the oven and buy baked goods or buy a "wonder-pot" which allows you to bake on a stove.

Stove
Grates: Clean and cover the grates with as much aluminum foil as possible.  Use aluminum foil that is thick enough not to tear, but thin enough to bend and shape.  What a waste of time and effort!  The best thing is to use special Pesach burners.
Burners: There is no need to clean them; they get burned up in the course of use. Bottom Pan (where everything falls): In general, if some food falls into it, we do not pick it up, and it is considered "treif;" nevertheless, put aluminum foil on it. 
Knobs: Wipe them clean.

Refrigerator
Clean it, but it does not have to be a lot of work. Of course, defrost the freezer (if you have an older model which does not defrost automatically) and clean it. It is best to eat up all Chametz before Pesach, but if expensive Chametz food products are left over, i.e. frozen foods, they may be wrapped up well, labeled "Chametz," stored in the back of the freezer/refrigerator and included in the list of Chametz sold before Pesach.  

If you have an old refrigerator with cracks or crevices in the door which is difficult to clean, do not use its inner shelves, but cover them with plastic. Similarly, you must clean the door's rubber part well. If it is old, sometimes it is easier to replace it.

Food Pantry
Do not clean.  It is a waste of time.  Seal, put sign or sticker not to use and include it in sale of Chametz.

Cabinets of dishes, utensils, pots and pans
Dishes, shelves, and drawers that will not be used on Pesach may be sealed, and need not be cleaned.  There are those who are strict to clean even the things which are used for Chametz, but one can be lenient on account of three reasons, each of which would be enough:
1. We sell all the crumbs together with the sale of Chametz.
2. The dishes are clean -- nobody puts a dirty dish away in the cabinet.
3. Even if there is "Chametz dirt," it is definitely less than a "Kezayit."
By the way, sometimes it is easier to paint than to clean. You can paint the corner of the kitchen where food flies using a water-based paint and the gas grates using aluminum paint. 

Microwave
It can be Kashered by not using it for twenty-four hours, cleaning it for five minutes and boiling water in it for half an hour. All food cooked or baked in it on Pesach should be placed in a covered utensil.

Counters  
It is possible to cover them with thick aluminum foil, and then there is no need to Kasher them at all; just wipe them with a rag. Sometimes it is complicated to cover, and then one can Kasher it. Where there are holes, pour floor bleach in them and then pour water from an electric kettle which is still boiling.  It is good for two people to do this: One to pour and the other to unplug.

Sink
Regarding the kitchen sink, there are a few solutions:
1. Do not put anything into the sink on Pesach, and wash the dishes in the air.  This, however, is unrealistic.
2. Put a plastic bin inside. Just make sure there is still a direct flow down the drain.
3. Thoroughly clean and Kasher the sink like the counters.

Toaster
It is impossible to clean a toaster, but there is no need. Put it in the cabinet of sold Chametz. 

Mixer
You have to do "Hagalah" (Kashering by dropping into boiling water) for the bowl and blades. As for the body of the mixer, wrap it in plastic -- making sure not to block the air holes. The best thing is to buy a cheap hand-mixer for Pesach.

Kashering dishes
This is a tremendous amount of work. It is preferable to buy new dishes.  True, it is expensive, so buy a few things each year. As for pots, it is possible to buy cheap aluminum ones which are okay for just seven days. There are cheap plastic plates as well as cheap cutlery.

Car
You have to clean it. Take out the mats and gather the "Chametz dirt" – there is no need for a vacuum cleaner -- and clean the compartments and containers. There is no need to pour water or dismantle the seats. In general, there is no need to dismantle anything with screws. Any way you look at it -- if the Chametz is accessible, you can take it out without a screwdriver, and if it is not accessible, it will not come out on Pesach either.

Chumrot - Being Strict
If you know that you are being stricter than Halachah requires, and you choose to be strict, you deserve a blessing.  And if you accepted a stricture on yourself and now you want to stop, the way to do that is to do "Hatarah" (getting the vow annulled). But if you thought that a particular act was the actual Halachah, and now you realize it is a stricture, you do not need a "Hatarah."  If you have a strong desire to clean a lot, you deserve a blessing, especially for Pesach, "whoever is strict deserves a blessing."  You should not, however, force a stricture on yourself, but accept it with love.  

Summary
In light of what is written above, it should take about an hour for the dining room, two-three hours to Kasher the kitchen, and another hour to clean the rest of the house. In short, about one day!

All the rest of the cleaning jobs are either strictures or just made up.  When we work hard, we use up our energy and get mad at the kids. You have to educate the kids -- but not to educate them to be aggravated: "I told you not to go into this room anymore! Why did you go in?! Eat on the porch! Eat standing up! Don't touch!" The whole kitchen looks like it was overturned by vandals; the husband and kids are trembling in fear in some corner and eating; the mother looks at them like a drill sergeant; there's anger between husband and wife. This is preparation for Pesach?! This is educating the kids?  This is definitely not setting a positive example!  Our memories of Pesach should not be of a reign of terror.

If you clean together with the kids, that is great, but it must be a happy adventure.  First of all, you have to clean what you must – taking half a day – and after that if you want to do other things, you can clean with happiness and joy.  Clean, sing, pour water and "you will clean with joy from the wellsprings of salvation" (based on Yeshayahu 12:3).

The Rama rules in the Shulchan Aruch: "Every person should sweep his room before Bedikat Chametz, and check his pockets for Chametz, and the pockets or cuffs where you sometimes put Chametz also need to be checked" (Orach Chaim 433:11) The Mishnah Berurah (#46) adds: "It is the custom to sweep the whole house on thirteenth of Nisan, so that it will be ready to check immediately after nightfall on the fourteenth."  This custom is enough. Beyond that, "whoever is strict deserves a blessing" -- as far as Pesach goes, but not as far as the kids go.

It is understood that I am not forcing my opinion on anyone.  I am simply stating my humble opinion with explanations.  Whoever accepts the explanations will listen and whoever does not accept them will not.  I heard most of the practical suggestions about how to shorten the cleaning from women themselves.  It is possible that a woman has a strong desire not to shorten this work, and just the opposite, she finds joy in it.  That is okay.  Even she will benefit from all of the above, because she will not feel pressured that she might violate the Halachah, but rather she will clean with satisfaction and tranquility.

The essential point is the distinction between Chametz, which there is an obligation to clean with all the severity of the Halachah, and dirt – which should obviously be removed, but not necessarily before Pesach.  You can spread out the work of removing dirt over the whole year, so that we and our families do not suffer before Pesach.  I am not advocating poor housekeeping.  We should stand before Chametz with awe and fear, but not all dirt is Chametz.  Do not treat Chametz cavalierly, G-d forbid, but at the same time, not everything that is accepted as Pesach cleaning is directed at Chametz.

Have a kosher and happy Pesach.  We should ensure that we have a HAPPY Pesach and a KOSHER Purim (!).  We should arrive at the Seder night neither tired nor aching but happy, so that this night will be a powerful experience for the kids, and a great source of faith in Hashem, the Redeemer of Israel.


"Dirt is not Chametz and children are not the Pesach sacrifice!"

Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Meir Soloveitchik ztz"l: The Loyal Gaon of Beit Brisk

[Eulogy delivered in the Yeshiva]

Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Meir Soloveitchik ztz"l, Rosh Yeshiva of Brisk in Yerushalayim, has ascended on high.  Ha-Rav Meir ben Ha-Griz – the "Brisker Rav" ben Reb Chaim Mi-Brisk ben Beit Ha-Levi.
In Brisk, they learn quietly, without publicity and noise.  Furthermore, their Rabbis fear publishing their Chiddushim and Piskei Halachah on account of their perfectionism.  Rav Meir was therefore not famous and was certainly not known by the media.  But in Torah he brought incredible blessing.    
Rav Meir was born in the year 5689 in the city of Brisk.  He was the youngest son of the Brisker Rav.  When he was 12 years old, he succeeded in escaping the Holocaust with his father and five brothers and sisters.  His mother and other siblings perished.  
In his youth, he was already extremely close to his father.  After learning in Talmud Torah Eitz Chaim in Yerushalayim, he learned for long hours with his father.  The Brisker Rav referred to him as "My Prodigy".
He then learned in his father's Yeshiva and learned the Brisker Method of learning Torah in depth and with great toil.
The Brisker Method already began with his great grandfather, the Beit Ha-Levi.  His grandfather, Reb Chaim, improved upon it.  Some say that at that time of the Enlightenment, Reb Chaim saved thousands and even tens of thousands from leaving the Yeshivot through his analytic method of learning Gemara.
This method is based on understanding the underpinnings of a Sugya, its foundations and precise definitions, thus allowing one to understand the different opinions, not just in the Sugya being discussed, but in many different Gemaras.  There are various ways to arrive at the root of a Sugya.  For example: "Tzvei Dinim" (two laws) – whereby a law can be shown to consist of two or more parts, only one of which might apply in a particular case.  Or, alternatively: "Cheftza Ve-Gavra" – wherein a particular law applies to a person or to the object which the person is using.
Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter, one of the Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshiva University, related that when he learned Issur Ve-Heter with Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, "Suddenly, the pots and pans, the eggs and onions, disappeared from the laws of meat and milk, the salt, blood and spit disappeared from the laws of salting.  The laws of Kashrut were taken out of the kitchen and removed to an ideal halachic world… constructed out of the complexes of abstract concepts".
There were great Rabbis, however, who did not fully agree with this method.  For example Ha-Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg wrote in a letter that when he was in Berlin, he once asked Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, who was greater the Vilna Gaon or Reb Chaim Mi-Brisk?  He answered that regarding understanding, Reb Chaim is greater than the Vilna Gaon.  Rav Weinberg disagrees.  He says that the Gra searched for the Peshat, while Reb Chaim's logic and reasoning did not always mesh with the wording of the Gemara and Rambam.  Reb Chaim was in and of himself a new Rambam and not a commentator of the Rambam.  Rav Weinberg said the same to Ha-Rav Moshe, Rav Soloveitchik's father (see also Shut Seridei Aish 2:144).
Ha-Rav Weinberg's words, however, are not necessarily correct.  As is known, in our Yeshiva, Ha-Rav Yosef Solovetichik, son of Ha-Rav Aharon of Chicago, son of Ha-Rav Moshe, taught for many years.  He would deliver a lengthy daily Gemara Shiur which lasted three to four hours, in which he explained the Gemara, Rishonim and finally the words of Reb Chaim.  It then became clear to the listener that Reb Chaim's words were not an addition here or even a change, but rather were found within the words of the Sugya itself.  When Lamdanim in the Yeshiva raised difficulties, Rav Yosef would answer patiently and explain things properly.  This is like what people say in the name of Reb Chaim: I do not interrupt the Gemara, I learn the Gemara.
This method of learning in fact conquered the Yeshiva world.  And when Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik arrived in Israel as a candidate to be the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Maran Ha-Rav Kook directed Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah to attend all of his Shiurim in order to taste the Brisker Method. 
Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter writes that when he was married, Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein attended the wedding and sent him three of his books as a gift (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim Volume 1, Yoreh Deah Volume 1 and Dibrot Moshe on Baba Metzia Volume 1).  Reb Moshe wrote the inscription in the Dibrot Moshe – his commentary on the Gemara, and not in Shut Igrot Moshe – his Teshuvot.  The books were brought to Rav Schachter by Ha-Rav Michal Shurkin, who learned in Reb Moshe's Metivta Tiferet Yerushalayim, and attended Rav Yosef Soloveitchik's Shiurim as well.  Rav Shurkin explained to him that Reb Moshe was particular to inscribe the Dibrot, because he held that Shiurim in the Dibrot were of much greater importance than the more famous and popular Teshuvot in the Igrot.  Reb Moshe exerted great effort and toil on the Shiurim and spent many hours preparing them, in contrast to the Teshuvot, which came easily to him (Divrei Ha-Rav p. 207).  The Dibrot Moshe however are not generally learned in Yeshivot.  Some explain that there are two reasons for this: 1. The explanations are extremely long.  2. Reb Moshe did not learn according to the Brisker Method, which is the accepted Method in Yeshivot.          
There is a saying "Before the Giving of the Torah and after the Giving of the Torah", i.e. Reb Chaim of Brisk is a sort of Giving of the Torah.  This is obviously an exaggeration, but the method expounded by Reb Chaim is the one used in Yeshivot today.  The same is true in many Zionist Yeshivot, since Ha-Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, who served as Rosh Yeshiva of Har Etzion, and who was the leading student of his father-in-law, Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, planted the Brisker Method here.
This was the method of Ha-Rav Meir ztz"l.  After years of learning in Kollel, he began to serve as Rosh Yeshiva of Brisk in the neighborhood Zichron Moshe in Yerushalayim, where he taught Torah to hundreds of students with pure Yirat Shamayim. 
The Mishnah in Kiddushin (41a) says that it is possible to perform certain Mitzvot through an agent.  But the Gemara there adds that it is greater for one to perform a Mitzvah on his own.  The Magen Avraham (251:2) brought in the Mishnah Berurah (250:3) says that this applies to all Mitzvot.  This was a fundamental principle of Ha-Rav Meir Soloveitchik.  He would strive to perform every Mitzvah on his own without relying on others.  Even when he was elderly, he would walk each year to a spring in Yerushalayim to take "Mayim Shelanu" to bake Matzot.  And the same was true for every Mitzvah and for teaching Torah.    
Ha-Rav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtel writes that one needs greatness to serve as a sort of bridge which connects there and yet leads to here.  For example, Yaakov Avinu transferred everything he had from one side of the river to the other (See Eim Ha-Banim Semeichah 3, 48).  Only unique individuals were able to serve as a bridge to reestablish the Yeshivot from Europe in Israel.  And these Yeshivot are blossoming here to an even greater extent than they did there.  As a continuation of the Brisker dynasty, Ha-Rav Meir succeeded in receiving the Torah from his father, Ha-Griz, and bringing it here.


May the soul of Ha-Rav Meir ztz"l be bound up with the bonds of the living with all of the Tzadikim and Geonim.