Sanzer Rebbe: Anger and Tension in the home is worse than Chametz

Of all the wonderful messages we have received from Torah personalities, a directive from the Sanzer Rebbe may be the most incisive and reassuring about how to prepare for Pesach this year. Kudos to Rabbi Yehuda Oppenheimer for translating it, and making it available to thousands of harried families for whom this could make a major difference

(Translator’s note: The following are remarks delivered last week by the Klauseberg-Sanzer Rebbe in Netanya, Admor Tzvi Elimelech Halberstam שליט”א.   I thought it important to make these important words available to the English speaking world.)

He began by citing the verse in Yeshayahu (26:20-21):

לֵךְ עַמִּי בֹּא בַחֲדָרֶיךָ וּסְגֹר דְּלָתְךָ בַּעֲדֶךָ חֲבִי כִמְעַט רֶגַע עַד יַעֲבָר זָעַם. כִּי הִנֵּה ה’ יֹצֵא מִמְּקוֹמוֹ לִפְקֹד עֲו‍ֹן יֹשֵׁב הָאָרֶץ עָלָיו וְגִלְּתָה הָאָרֶץ אֶת דָּמֶיהָ וְלֹא תְכַסֶּה עוֹד עַל הֲרוּגֶיהָ

Go, my people, enter your chambers and lock your doors behind you. Hide but a short while, until the anger passes.  For Hashem shall come forth from His place ao punish the dwellers of the earth for their sins, and the earth shall disclose its bloodshed and shall no longer conceal its slain.

There will come a time that there will be a judgment in the world directed against the enemies of Israel, and what is required of the Jewish people is to go into a room and await the end of the process.

The destroyer of the Second Bais HaMikdash was the evil Titus, who tortured and slaughtered untold numbers while he defiled and then burnt the Holy Temple.  The Gemara in Gittin 56b relates that he was punished by a tiny creature that enters inside him and gave him great pain before finally killing him. 

We live now 2,000 years later in a modern world with all sorts of items that were unimaginable a generation ago. And yet, this tiny virus has overturned this whole complex world from one end to the other in just a few days.  It is important to contemplate that just as this virus cannot be seen by our eyes and yet it has the power to transform the whole world, so too the Almighty is not seen but runs the whole world.  And who knows what plans Hashem has for these tiny creatures to yet accomplish. But clearly, only the Almighty could be behind such a powerful tiny creature.

Some people say that we do not see the virus, and we also do not see the Hand of Hashem behind all this, although it is clear to the believer that there is a Master of the Universe who cares for and guides it.  And just as with the right instruments one can see the virus, you should know that if you have the right “instruments” you can also “see” the Almighty, as is hinted in the very last words of the Torah, that it was given “to the eyes of all Israel”. Those instruments can be accessed – as is mentioned in many works and throughout Chassidic literature – through a deep connection to Torah….

It is forbidden to say about anything – certainly about something so major – that it is just a random event. We must attempt to ponder: Why did Hashem bring this upon us? 

Some think they are able to find causes and assign blame. However, the teaching I received from my sainted father זיע”א – which is one of the fundamental teachings of Chassidut – is that we are not to look at the deficiencies of others.

It is not the desecration of Shabbos that’s to blame – nor any other sin that other people may have transgressed. We must especially refrain from finding fault during a time when we are supposed to awaken Heavenly mercy. G-d forbid, we should not arouse negative judgment against the Jewish people. We should only speak in their defense.

Instead, at such a time, everyone should look at himself: What can I improve about myself and my Avodah for me and all of Klal Yisrael? Let them look at where they can improve in Torah, Tefillah, and, most of all, in the way they treat other people.

People are frightened and stressed, and naturally, they feel pressured and may tend to lose patience at home and outside. In this situation, when the children are at home – everyone is at home – along with the pressure of Pesach and all its preparations, which yields its own stresses, the primary behavior that we must accept upon ourselves is to be joyful and filled with Simcha. To exude calm, to be peaceful with the children, to spend time with the children – the boys and the girls – even more than usual.

I must state – and this is the primary message I want to get across – that although righteous women have been accustomed to devoting all their energy to preparing the house for Passover, this year must be different. I have a tradition that I received many times from my sainted father זצ”ל, that Pesach was not intended for making the house new once again or to do “spring cleaning” of all kinds of dirt 

that may have accumulated.

What is required for Pesach is only removing chametz, and according to halacha, nullification [i.e., Kol Chamira] is sufficient. In fact, my father recounted that in the home of his grandfather – the Bnei Yissachar – they would clean the house on the night before Pesach as they searched for chametz, and that was the entirety of the “Pesach cleaning.”

Furthermore, my father himself instructed his children when they had small children of their own to take care of that the mothers shouldn’t go beyond the basic obligation of cleaning at the expense of caring for the children and should not turn the house over to make it clean.

The evil inclination is ready to bring into your home pressure, stress, and irritation about the children – and to cause tension between husband and wife – trying to convince them that “this is necessary in order to make Pesach.” One needs to know that one point of anger – one moment of stress – is far worse than having chametz in the home!

It is our duty – that of parents and righteous women – to ensure calm in the home. Pesach will be kosher with doing less. Do as much as you can calmly with no stress – and nothing more.

Place far more focus on the mitzvah of “You shall tell your son.” Make sure the children grow positively in their spiritual and material needs. Be careful that they come to no harm during these weeks….

What is wanted from us now from heaven – and Jews just want to do the will of God – is for our homes to be islands of calm and happiness. G-d is leading in the way that He is right now; let us gladly accept His will with joy and without any angry fights and shouting.

Let us maintain calm and avoid aggravation and not be stringent when it is not necessary, while at the same time not be lenient with what is truly forbidden.

Of course, it is important not to transgress the prohibition against bitul Torah and one should use their learning time productively, but most of the learning should be with the children – as the Torah states, “And you shall teach it to your sons.”… Prepare them for Pesach. 

Let us yearn to bring – even this year – the Korban Pesach. If one can, one should study the halachot of Korban Pesach. But what is most important is to engage in Chessed – to do what we can to help others. At times like this, when there are many homes that are having difficulties, it is up to us to help with whatever possible. Older girls can help neighbors or the elderly….

My message to children and young men is to be very careful – especially in these days when the challenge is greater – to respect their parents, which is such an essential Torah command…. 

Unfortunately, there are many who are ill, and if the illness can be prevented from spreading by adhering to the government guidelines, they should not be underestimated. The dictum of the Torah “You shall be very protective of your life” has no limit. We desecrate Shabbos and Yom Kippur even if there is a small chance that life may be in danger. And it is even more important to be careful to avoid harming others than to avoid harming oneself….

Of course, one should add a few chapters of Tehillim to one’s prayers and ask of G-d “מנע מגפה מנחלתיך – prevent a plague from your inheritance.”… We should endeavor to instill in our sons and daughters deep confidence in Hashem, as Hashem is the Protector of Israel. Encourage and embolden them; help them appreciate the concept of doing kindness with others, both spiritually and physically.

If we do this, may we merit complete salvation – כי בשמחה תצאון ובשלום תובלון “with joy you will you come out and with peace will you bring” – speedily in our days.

Appeared in Jewish Press, March 27, 2020

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16 Responses

  1. Reader says:

    This type of counsel re how to make Pesach with joy has been circulating for many years now based on teachings of Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg z”l.

    It can be seen in various places, online and off, for example at

  2. Reuven Ungar says:

    All this from the son of a great tzaddik ztl who in the midst of Hell on earth promised to Hashem that if he would survive he would build a hospital to bring more Jews into the world. Baruch Hashem several of our children were born in Laniido. The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. Be’ezrat Hashem may we all merit to bring children into this world and to raise them with calm & joy as outlined above. (easier said than done, but someting to strive for- we all want to avoid chametz, let’s avoid negative atmospheres as well).

  3. dr. bill says:

    Though I have a few philosophical disagreements wrt hashgacha, I am overwhelmed by the Rebbe’s sensitivity and sagacious advice. Both his priorities wrt Pesach and focus on where to look for improvements given Covid -19 reflect what has been traditionally recognized as Torah infused wisdom.

    I have a warm place in my heart for Sanz. As a teenager right after WWI, my late father davened in a shul led by the Divrei Chaim’s grandson, a son of one of his older children. In the ghetto, he received a haunting Bracha from the youngest son of the Divrei Chaim, the Tzhiliener Rebbe, born when the Rebbe was in his late 70’s. He was killed by the Nazis YMS, a few days later. He said to my father: ba mir iz shoen tunkel; uber dir vellen de reshayim nisht hoben kain shelittah. (Translated: For me, it is already dark; over you, the Nazis will not rule.) Miraculously, my parents and my very young sister survived the war.

    The Rebbe displays the sensitivity that goes back to Rav Chaim of Sanz. The late Jacob Katz (primarily in The Shabbos Goy) writes about the disagreements between the Divrei Chaim and the positions of the Chatam Sofer, who lived almost 2 generations earlier. In my judgment, the Divrei Chaim exhibited a remarkable and profound awareness of the (new) world in which he lived and its halakhic implications.

  4. Weaver says:

    Now, this, my friends is da’as torah. (You know, it has both da’as and Torah.)

    • Neomi says:

      Torah is Daas and Daas is Torah

      He who created us knows how we operate best and He put it in His Holy Torah for us to follow

      • dr. bill says:

        Neomi, All knowledge may be embedded in the Torah; a group tried that approach with Bible codes a while back. They recently told us that the average amount of time between lunations was HLMM. Yes, Chazal’s use of the average period between lunations was brilliant, probably reflecting the best of scientific knowledge 1700 years ago. But if you believe it was part of an ancient oral tradition, why was God not as accurate as are today?? Remarkably, the ancients in Talmudic times got it correct to 6 decimal places; we have 2 decimal place more accuracy.

        But forget fact-based, rational reasoning. Suppose all knowledge is in fact embedded in the Torah; do we have a way to extract it accurately? We do not; our tradition is to learn from our Mesorah, not from the Holy Torah.

      • Weaver says:

        Not so (to simplify).
        “A Torah scholar without da’as is worse than a rotting carcass.”
        – A Gemara somewhere

      • nt says:

        dr. bill: I too have plenty of problems with the people who say knowledge of Torah equals knowledge of all of science, mainly because we don’t have that level of interpretation. But the answer to the lunation question is simple: The measures used by Chazal are only meant to be as accurate as necessary. Thus the diagonal of a square is 7/5 of its side in the gemara, even though scientifically it is 1.41… Tosafos points out that the measurement of the gemara is off by 1%. The amount of rounding allowed is part of the shiurim that are Halacha L’Moshe MiSinai.

        Also, your distinction between Mesorah and Torah is confusing. Mesorah just means tradition. It is the tradition of what the Torah says.

      • Natan – I think what Dr. Bill means is that “Torah” can include all kinds of information and sodos that are found in it. But we don’t necessarily have the ability to reliably access it. We are left with the sum total of what talmidei chachamim have put forth for considerations, examination and debate.

      • dr. bill says:

        Rabbi Adlerstein, thank you. To illustrate further RHS’s pesakim given our current situation do not quote the actual Torah but from how chachemai hamesorah, generation after generation, decided and how Jews were nohaig. That is our mesorah. It originates in the torah shebe’al peh and the torah shebe’kesav.

        With respect to hazal’s knowledge used to established the calendar, think of it this way. they were not approximating as they did with pi or the square root of 2. I do not believe that the tekufot of shmuel were necessarily an approximation. In ancient times the Metonic equation was thought precise and the calculation done since bayit rishon used by astronomers to calculate an average month was correct to 6 decimal places. 793 chalakim is not an approximation; it is a testament to chazal. The first complete (like Rambam and the Tur)ancient account of the calendar was by a non-Jew in Geonic times. He marveled at the accuracy of Chazal’s precise calculations and rules. Were chazal to be approximating we might have Pesach close to the summer with snow-covered sukkot in NY.

  5. nt says:

    FYI, the possuk the Rebbe quoted is specifically linked to plague in the Gemara. SEE:

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr. Bill Scientific knowledgecis part of Hamchadesh bchol yom Tamid Breishis and what he acknowledge in Atah Chonen LAdam Daas It is not Kochi VAtzum Yadi Perhaps we all need some recognition of that during this Magefa See a review of Ross Douhats book on Decadence at Mosaic A society that values centers for facilities for yoga and working out over child care centers by its most prominent employers is promoting sterility Acknoedging that which the Torah and its Chachamim have always advocated even and especially in an age that is narcissistic to the extreme is important Rhat is one Pshat Vhayu Mitzuyanim Sham

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    See YWN about the levaya of the Klausenberger Rebbitzen ZL with social distancing and audio hookups and compare that with the patently inappropriate behavior in Williamsburg Gov Cuomo just increased fines for social gatherings How much Chillul HaShem should we forced to witness and be ashamed of? If OU see someone without a mask out on public why not say something ?

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