To the person who wished me Chag S'meach yesterday, it is not yet Passover! It is not even erev Pesach. Let's say - generously - that erev Pesach begins two weeks before the holiday. Well, that is not until next Wednesday. So please!
True, our sages tell us to start learning the laws of Passover thirty days before the holiday, and many of us may remember someone at the Purim meal (though I don't; see below) getting up to fulfill this mitzva.
I also fully understand people - like my wife - who begin the slow task of cleaning the house for chametz weeks before the holiday. But I don't really get the people who perform their religious observance in an aggressively public way.
It's a tricky thing really. For a good way to stay away from hypocrisy is to denounce all forms of outward religious observance as inauthentic - to be a kind of antinomian like one of my favorite poets, John Milton. But we Jews have a different mandate - which is to render the world holy by means of our performance. So the trick is to have those performances - in another language, mitzvos - serve as a way of expressing ourselves in service of G-d, and not as a means of the expressing our supposed superiority.
As with any thing, it's a matter of tone. So I don't mind my neighbors who - every year - cheerfully and without any appearance of attitude empty the entire contents of their house on to the sidewalk in their preparation for Pesach (though, it should be noted, this is probably spring cleaning and not Pesach cleaning). But I do find objectionable the women who - last year in the local makholet (grocery store) - shrieked at one of the arab workers who had inadvertently put a cup of instant coffee on the counter for 'treifing up' her vegetables.
The mitzvos are a vessel for holiness, not for our neuroses. So while I know that Pesach is one of the times of year when we attempt to be stringent, if we sense that our observance is turning into the expression of hysteria or self-righteousness - it's called frumkeit - it may be better to turn things down a notch.
The wife of a good friend of mine suffered pneumonia during the winter. Under doctor's orders, she has been instructed not to exert herself this year. Her husband consoled her for not being able to keep the stringincies she has in years past. 'I suppose,' he said, 'we'll have to settle and just keep the Shulchan Aruch' - the laws of Pesach as expressed in the authoritative code of Jewish Law. For the rest of us, that may also be enough.
So happy - oops I almost said it - shabbat shalom!