Cleaning out the Chametz and Clutter

9 years ago

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!

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

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

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?

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