This morning I got the call that no Jewish woman wants to receive right before Passover. “Your cleaning lady isn’t feeling well and won’t be able to come this week.” (She only comes every other week to start with so this is a dramatic loss!)
“I’m not going to cry,” I bravely told my husband, my shaky voice betraying my resolution. “Please go out and buy rubber gloves for the whole family; we’ve got a lot of scrubbing to do.”
Of course, everyone would be involved in the cleaning anyway. I just wanted some extra help with the stove…and the refrigerator…and the dining room…
But I wouldn’t want to hire a cleaning crew and have them do all my Passover cleaning for me (At least that’s what I tell myself!) I would miss the opportunity of fully immersing myself in Passover preparations.
It’s not that I’m a martyr (whatever my husband may tell you) or a glutton for punishment. It’s just that the more I do ahead of time, the greater sense of accomplishment and connection to the holiday I feel (I’m telling myself that the Almighty really wanted to deepen my connection this year!).
Just as inherited money is not as appreciated as money earned, a Seder without the advance cleaning and cooking doesn’t seem to have the same impact – even if I would be more awake for it!
Although there are moments when I want to throw up my hands in frustration (like when a certain unnamed child was reaching for a container in the closet and broke a one-of-a-kind ceramic bowl that I had just stored there), in general, I enjoy the whole cleaning process.
I like editing out the extraneous and narrowing our home down to its essentials. I like the clean feel and the clear thoughts. I like the sense of starting a fresh and I revel in the struggle to rid ourselves of ego as we eliminate leaven from our homes (not that you’d know that if you look at all the “I” sentences!).
We live in a world that promotes comfort and ease, a world that encourages us not to work too hard and that holds out the constant promise of luxurious vacations. But there are a lot of things lost in that attitude, one of them being the authentic Passover experience.
When we reap the rewards of our hard work at our Passover Seder, when our family oohs and aahs over the experience we’ve created, when our children finish all the food and beg to take one more pan of brownies out of the freezer, when the conversation is meaningful and centers on our development as a people, on how to free ourselves (even today) to serve the Almighty with a full heart, then we know that all the effort – all the cleaning, shopping, cooking, serving – was worth it. (If our eyes are still open!)