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I Love Cleaning for Passover
Mom with a View

I Love Cleaning for Passover

The physical clean-up leads to spiritual freedom.


Most of the year I attempt to quell my more compulsive side, with mixed results. My family often wonders at the need for garbage cans since I tend to empty them almost instantly. And why I bothered to waste our money purchasing laundry hampers since I tend to remove the dirty clothing to the washing machine at the same pace. I think I was overly influenced by the musical “Camelot” as a child, where the “snow may never slush upon the hillside” and the “autumn leaves are blown away completely – at night, of course.”

Yet I try to keep this nature of mine under control and my home is usually a little messy, and, I like to think, livable (don’t interview my children!). However, there is one time of year where I allow my inner compulsivity to rule, to thrive, to flourish – Passover.

One of my Purim guests tried to intimidate me. Pointing at the beautiful moon, he remarked that the next time we see a moon like that, it will be Passover – alluding to all the work ahead. “You have to try harder than that to scare me!” I laughed. “I love Passover. I love organizing and cleaning.” (Okay, hate me now!)

Well, not every moment. I certainly get tired and frustrated. I definitely run out of steam. It’s a challenge to balance the cleaning with my other responsibilities – like making dinner, parenting and writing for

But it’s a pleasure also. There is a real sense of renewal and opportunity in a freshly cleaned and organized home. There’s a true feeling of “out with the old and in with the new” that doesn’t just apply to our physical existence but our spiritual one as well.

There is something about the physical clean-up that leads to spiritual freedom. We need to un-clutter our lives to make space to learn and grow. We need to get rid of all the “stuff” that stands between us and our relationship with God. (Sorry, kids, books do not count as “stuff”!) We must brush back the cobwebs that block our view of reality.

Passover cleaning is a metaphor for the cleansing of our souls. But it’s not just an intellectual idea. We only accomplish if we are willing to work hard, to get down in the nitty gritty, to strip away all the extraneous trappings, all the built-up layers of “dirt.”

Every year friends and acquaintances ask, “Where are you going to be for Passover?” I’m actually not sure why they bother to keep asking since my answer is always the same – home. Even though on some particularly frustrating and exhausting days (when the garbage disposal and washing machine both break at the same time and people keep pushing in front of me in line on my fifth trip to the grocery store) I can be heard rebuking my husband, “Why didn’t you get us invited to one of those Passover retreats?!” my children always stop me mid-rant. “You wouldn’t go anyway, even if he did.”

And they’re right. Because I love to get rid of the items we no longer need or use and make room for a fresh home and a fresh perspective. It just wouldn’t feel like Passover otherwise.

When the holiday is over, I pack away my Passover dishes and my compulsive nature (mostly) and return to the semi-organized clutter.

But the experience lingers. The lesson remains. The matzah crumbs remind me of the all the hard work and effort that went into creating the holiday. As I continue to find remnants of the Seder throughout the house, I am reminded not to waste the opportunity. And I give my kids warning – those who don’t learn from Passover may be condemned to see my compulsive side rear its ugly head much earlier than expected…

March 2, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 11

(8) Ra'anan, March 10, 2013 9:54 AM

Only I agree w/you???

My wife also works outside the home, though we had less than 5 kids, yet she LOVES to get rid of unneeded things, deep clean & then home cook to be in our home for Pesach. All of her family is the same as well as their hometown. The common denominator that I see is that they all have roots in Yemen. I wonder a lot about different ethnic Jewish attitudes to different experiences & try to embrace the positive ones.

(7) vicki stone, March 7, 2013 11:12 PM

come here!

Please, this is my first year cleaning without ANY help, and I'm now 63. Please come to my house to clean and help!! Vicki

(6) Anonymous, March 7, 2013 6:44 PM

Cleaning is for the birds

Spiritual growth comes with doing cerebral things. I much prefer playing a Beethoven sonata on the piano than dusting or vacuuming. Cleaning is a chore even for Pessach. I much prefer cooking, and baking kosher creations of my own. What you describe as uplifting, is to many of us nothing more than drudgery.

yochevet uziel, March 8, 2013 11:33 PM

I love playing music too but have discovered joy in "mundane" cleaning

I also love playing music. I play violin and paint. I used to call housecleaning and organizing "stupid stuff", a lot because of my Dad's disdain, but now I have started a "Clutterer's Anonymous" group in san Diego, CA and feel honored and soothed by the process of cleaning, giving a way as much stuff as possible. It has helped me find peace in my actual life.

(5) Anonymous, March 7, 2013 4:30 PM

getting rid of chametz

Emuna, you and I do similar things at Pesach--we work at raising the cleaning of the house to an art form. I describe it (to the rolling eyes of friends) as getting rid of the chametz in the house serving as a metaphor for getting rid of the "chametz" in my life--letting go of those things that rise and fester and stand in the way of spiritual fulfillment. It's akin to the process around the High Holidays of letting go of negative thoughts and actions allowing us to be open to doing yeshiva. Truth is, we have to do a lot of mundane things in our lives--like cleaning (or to be honest, shoveling out) the house), cooking, laundry. But if we can look on such efforts as part of the process of creating a peaceful, happy, Jewishly-oriented home. And that's a very spiritual endeavor.

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