Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cleaning out the Chametz and Clutter

I know many of my very Orthodox readers (and even some of the less practicing folks) are going to cringe at what I'm about to say:

I'm so excited to start getting ready for Passover!

There's a full lunar month between Purim and Pesach (Passover) and most Jews spend the whole month getting ready for the holiday. In fact, it takes the whole month to get ready and the holiday itself is only one week long. Sometimes I wish it were (gasp) longer, so we could put all that prep time to some use.

(Side note: we have a family rule for road trips: you must spend at least twice as much time in the destination as you do in total travel time. It doesn't always work but I sometimes wish that this rule applied to holidays as well. Then again, 2 months of Pesach might be a little much for me. Okay back to the post...)

Anyway, so I read this post here at The Jew and the Carrot (great Jewish food blog, by the way) about how much chametz (leavened stuff) that writer has in her cabinet. As a very happy baker myself, I too have a lot of different kinds of flour and other miscellaneous items in the cabinet that we're going to have to "eat through" in order to get to chametz-free for Pesach. (Can we do it? Another post, I think.)

But it's so much more than this for me. Pesach comes at just the right time of the year. I can't wait for a warm day so that I can throw open the windows and doors, welcome the sunlight and fresh air in, and really clean out my cabinets and the whole house. Chametz literally means the leavened food items that are forbidden on Pesach (specifically wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt), but to me there are so many spiritual connotations to chametz. Food made with these grains tends to "puff up" - to rise. Matzah is flat, without pretension. Chametz is all the stuff that "puffs up" our lives -- or in other words, clutter. This month offers a great chance to rid ourselves not just of the foodstuffs that are forbidden but also to clear out the chametz that fills our homes and our heads, the extraneous items and activities, the thoughts that don't need to be there and even perhaps an extra few personal pounds.

This phenomenon of spring cleaning is universal - it's not just restricted to Jews. And I know that just like preparing for Passover, it can be viewed as a chore, a dreadful activity that has to be done. Instead I think that we need to look at it as a part of our heritage passed down from generation to generation. From a different point of view we begin to understand how the search for Chametz applies to our lives both physically in our homes and psychologically within our spirits. As we prepare our homes for Passover so to do we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the freeing of our ancestors. Our Passover Haggadah reminds us “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord freed us from Egypt with a mighty hand. Had not the Holy One, praised be God, delivered our people from Egypt, then we, our children, and our children’s children would still be enslaved.”

It is the same with us.

I know that I need this responsibility. I need to clear out some of the clutter in my life. I need to ask myself what I'm doing that I enjoy, and what things I'm doing that I want to cut out. There's such a sense of renewal at this time of year and I feel it both inside and out. We become a community again as my neighbors and my family start to spend time outdoors again. I feel so much freer leaving my coat at home and walking down the street. Passover is a holiday of freedom, celebrating the Exodus from Egypt. Celebrating freedom can also be a very personal thing as I free myself from the physical and spiritual clutter that has gathered.

What clutter has gathered in your life? How will you begin to clear it out, both figuratively and actually?
What will you do to prepare for Pesach?

This is the beginning in an irregular series on Preparing for Pesach...stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post. And, it's so true, it's a great time of year of cleaning, both our homes and our lives.

I will be busy adding clutter, but positive clutter, with a new grandbaby due July 1st.

I've had some book clutter added in my life...but that is a given for me, being the bibliophile that I am.

I will be freeing myself from some negative clutter, bit by bit, and in that respect, begin to prepare myself for Pesach, in a more spiritual manner.

Anonymous said...

I feel kind of the same way. If I didn't burn myself at least once every year, I would look forward to Pesach cleaning even more.

Jack Steiner said...

Every year I think to myself that it would be nice to go away for Pesach and skip a lot of the cleaning.

And every year I stay home and clean. Rats.

therapydoc said...

I'm with you. But I have to say, cleaning for Pesach makes a case for built-in refrigerators.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I too wish to have a Pesach series for this year's holiday. i more or less started today with two psts on the subject.
As for the clutter in my life, that's a difficult question!

RivkA with a capital A said...

I am in Pesach denial... as I am every year.

I do not like cleaning. In fact, I hate it. Unfortunately, I like things to be clean. So, I am eternally in conflict.

Every year I promise myself that next year I will start early. But, when the time comes (i.e. now) it is so difficult for me to get motivated....

There are just so many other more fun things to do!!

nmf #7 said...

Wow, I'm so impressed by this- someone who is excited for Pesach.
Hope you don't mind I linked to you.