Escape from Egypt!

8 years ago

I haven't posted anything lately, because since Purim, I've been working like a slave in ancient Egypt, cleaning the house for Passover.

It's an annual ritual -- one I dread and loathe.

Many people have written about a supposed "spiritual dimension" to this yearly drudgery. In exalted terms, they describe how removing every last crumb of hametz (leaven) from our houses prepares us to deeply experience the meaning of Passover.


Who are these people? Have they really ever cleaned for Passover? I suspect they haven't -- you can't spend weeks digging bread crumbs out of the crevices of your furniture and wax rhapsodic about it.

It's time to cast aside this nonsense about "spiritual betterment" and be honest.

There's nothing vaguely spiritual about folding yourself in half and swiveling your head around like Linda Blair in the Exorcist so that you can peer into the recesses of your oven and scrub at baked-on, caked-on hametz residue.

Shoving the refrigerator aside to reveal the greasy dust, lost magnets and errant food remnants underneath is not -- I repeat, not -- a transcendent experience. The grunts and expletives you emit while mopping up the mess are not prayers or hymns of praise.

I have never encountered the Divine while scraping ground-in chocolate cake out of the carpet.

This year, I say we acknowledge a dirty little secret -- the annual pre-Passover cleaning marathon is not good for the soul. It does nothing for the soul. In fact, my soul puts its feet up and laughs as it watches my body crawling around looking for wayward balls of Trix and dessicated bits of bagel that might have rolled under the stove.

So why do I bother with all that obsessive-compulsive spring cleaning when I could be doing something spiritual, like reviewing the haggadah and meditating on its subtleties? Why do I battle the enemy hametz for a Pyrrhic victory when I could just sweep all those hateful crumbs under the rug and be done with it? My seder guests won't know the difference, right?

True. But I will, and there's the rub. Purging my house of hametz has become a necessary prerequisite for celebrating Passover. It alters the space (my house is never as clean as it is on Erev Pesach) and sets the stage. Cleaning is part of the theatrical experience that is Passover, when we reenact yet again the story of our People's unbelievable liberation from bondage.

And when that dramatic retelling is over, there are crumbs everywhere! Bits of matzah freckle the tablecloth and the floor. And I don't have to worry about it, because it's not hametz! After weeks of freaking out about the possibility of a forgotten granola bar lurking in the back of a cupboard, and shrieking at my family, "Don't eat that toast in here! This room is a hametz-free zone," I can finally relax and enjoy my own liberation from the bondage of dust cloths and scrub brushes.

And that, my friends, is what you call the sweet taste of freedom.

Hag pesach sameach! Have a happy and kosher Passover! 

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