Last Sunday was a great day, a really productive day, a day that gave me a lot of pleasure. My husband and oldest son went away skiing for a few days (No, that wasn't the pleasurable part!) and I was left home with the rest of the gang.
"Do we have any plans today?" one of them asked. "Yes," I replied enthusiastically, "we are going to clean the bedrooms for Pesach!"
There was a lot of moaning and groaning. I think I heard a mumbled, "Do we have to?" and I confess to offering one child a Slurpee as a bribe. But after the initial grumbling, everyone took garbage bag in hand and got to work.
And we all worked and worked and worked. Hour after hour after hour. Garbage bag after garbage bag after garbage bag. It's not that my house was such a mess (!) but we made a wedding last year right before Passover and skipped the non-obligatory but oh-so-satisfying spring cleaning.
This year we made up for lost time.
We had a pile of clothing to give to a local charitable organization. We amassed bags of books for the corner thrift shop. And we got rid of all extraneous "junk." There is neither a sentimental nor "pack-rat" bone in my body and my kids are the same.
I'm not sure if it's nature or nurture but they also don't want to save anything unnecessarily. I once helped someone move and in the process convinced her that it was finally time to throw out or give away that watch and those earrings from 4th grade! And when would you reread all those old report cards anyway? (Why relive that aggravation?!) My husband says that if he hasn't worn something in a week, I've given it away. How else can a large family function in a relatively small space?
At the end of the day we all felt lighter -- even the house -- and that satisfying kind of exhaustion you only feel after a day of physical exertion. And ready to tackle the rest of the house. Tomorrow.
Of course, this was only the beginning of the Passover preparations. And while I don't find every aspect equally rewarding, I do enjoy the process.
I recognize that it is through this effort that I am preparing myself and my family for the holiday.
There is a sense of freedom in having a clean house. (I'm thinking of hiring a maid to help me get there!) There is a sense of freedom (paradoxically enough) in following the prescribed rules for ridding our homes of leaven. There is a sense of freedom in having completed all preparations appropriately – in having kashered our kitchens and purchased all the matzah and cooked all the food and set the Seder table.
All these activities culminate in the reading of the Hagaddah and the experience of the freeing of the Jews from Egypt. Without the preparation we wouldn't understand what we are experiencing. With it we get just a taste of this precious gift.
The Almighty told Moses to say these words to Pharaoh: "The Almighty, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to you saying: Release My people that they may serve Me..." It is not an abstract freedom. We crave the ability to worship the Almighty, to connect with Him in unrestricted fashion.
We may not get that freedom through spring cleaning. But each step brings us a little closer...