Last week my husband and I hopped the Metro into the district (as in Washington, DC) to enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival. I couldn’t wait to get to the National Mall but Richard would rather be doing a hundred other things than follow me around as I shoot photos of flowers (394 frames to be exact, but whose counting), so he ended up visiting the History Museum while I meandered around the Tidal Basin, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, etc. etc. etc. We met up when I was done sight-seeing and photographing, and took in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Following that, we strolled together to the capitol building before finally heading home. I don’t even want to guess how many miles I walked but by the time I got home and after I had a nice chat with Mom, I fell into bed exhausted, sleeping soundly until around 4:30am. At that time, I awoke to the cacophony of birds tweeting, singing and chatting in the holly tree outside our bedroom window. That is always music to my ears. This truly is a glorious time of the year. While every season has its beauty and “specialness,” the springtime of the year has to be my favorite season by far. The earth is coming to life after its long winter slumber and I don’t want to miss a minute of it!
Spring is also the season of Pesach, known as Passover to most non-Jews. Pesach is the most work-intensive holiday in the Jewish year. Our homes, cars, businesses, storage areas ~ everything we own ~ must be rid of leaven, chometz as it is known in Hebrew. Every nook and cranny is scrubbed, checked and double checked for even a crumb, and it must all be destroyed. Refrigerators are thoroughly cleaned. Stoves are scrubbed and koshered. Ovens are scoured. Every cabinet, drawer, surface in the kitchen is completely cleared off and cleaned, then koshered and covered. The floor is continually swept and scrubbed until it is so clean one could eat off of it. EVERYTHING ones uses for food preparation or consumption is cleaned and koshered. If it can’t be koshered, it is sold along with all the consumable food items that might possibly have the slightest hint of chometz. The kitchen and dining area get the most attention during this time of Pesach cleaning. But the rest of the house or apartment must be checked as well. Every pocket in every garment is checked for small crumbs. We even look under the beds for half-eaten sandwiches or bag of chips that a child might have left (since our kids are no longer living at home, this is not a problem.) Clean the chometz out of bathrooms (you’d be amazed at how much chometz is in toothpaste, mouthwash and other toiletries. . .it’s all gotta go!) Carpets are vacuumed . . . repeatedly. Cleaning for Pesach is a long, cumbersome process. Once the chometz is gone, Pesach cooking begins! The seder is prepared. Hard work, yes, but well worth the effort.
Pesach is about much more than house cleaning, however. Just as I must clean the chometz out of my house, this is the time to rid one’s self of inner chometz. As I go through the extensive preparations for Pesach, I also spend time in self-evaluation assessing the things in my life that stand between me and Hashem. Are there unfounded jealousies that eat away at me? Have I spoken unkind or untrue words about someone?
Do I run with alacrity to spend time with Hashem in prayer? Or have I become apathetic in my devotional time with G-d? When giving charity, have I done so with gratitude and a desire to share Hashem’s blessings with those in need? Or have I held back with a spirit of stinginess, not giving what I could? Have I extended hospitality to everyone who entered our home this year? What good is a spotless, chometz-free house if one’s life reflects unholy traits? Perfection is not the goal. If so, I would probably have given up long ago. Rather, this is a time to recognize our shortcomings, our humanness, and to go about the business of “cleaning out the chometz.” As we do, we are not only preparing our homes for the Passover, we are preparing our very souls for Hashem. With that in mind, may we all live to celebrate a chometz-free Pesach, body and soul, next year in Jerusalem!