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Passover Overreaction
Mom with a View

Passover Overreaction

If I spend the preparation time yelling at my children, am I really getting rid of the chametz?


One of my children (who shall remain nameless but knows perfectly well who she is!) upended a large tray of cookies onto the living room couch the other night. “Pesach is coming!” I shrieked.

“But the room isn't yet cleaned for chametz,” she pleaded. “What's the big deal?”

I polled my friends. Did I overreact?

“I would have been over the edge if it happened in October,” said one. “Definitely nervous breakdown material,” nodded another.

I calmed down but erupted again when the same child (I hope you're reading this!) sat eating crackers (very crumbly ones I might add) in the aforementioned living room.

And yet I know it's irrational. The house will get cleaned -- even if I have to do it myself! (Oh yeah, I do! No wonder I'm frustrated…) The crumbs will be swept or brushed or vacuumed away. We will, please God, sit down to a delicious meal on Passover night in a chametz-free environment.

The only question is: What state I will be in when we get there (and along the way)?

The real couch is our character; the real crumbs, our negative traits.

If I spend the preparation time yelling at my children, am I really getting rid of the chametz? We are taught that the chametz/leaven symbolizes ego. The real clean-up is a spiritual one. The real couch is our character; the real crumbs, our negative traits.

If I am on edge and testy with everyone as we get ready for the holiday, then I've missed the point. If our home is physically clean but spiritually a mess, then my preparations are incomplete. If I don't sit down to the Seder with a smile on my (tired) face, then my home is still full of chametz.

So I'm regrouping. I'm taking a deep breath. I'm taking many deep breaths (I'm hyperventilating!) I'm focusing on the atmosphere I want to create and the person I'd like to be.

I may still get frustrated (who put the Cheerios in my eyeglass case?!). I may be a little tense (What cabinet did that cup come out of?), but I'm trying to be better. I'm really trying to get rid of my chametz. I haven't succeeded yet but I'm asking the Almighty for help. Maybe this is the year I will truly become free.

March 21, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 11

(11) Minnesota Mamaleh, April 6, 2010 3:16 AM

thank you for a lovely post that *truly* gets at the heart of the matter! it saddens me when meaning gets lost within ritual. thanks for the gentle reminder!

(10) Rachel Janashvili, March 29, 2010 1:52 AM

thank you! this was great.

I love reading your articles, witty humor and real life moments that hit home. Thank you & have a happy & kosher Pesach!

(9) , March 28, 2010 10:34 PM

The way I have handled similar situations in the past is express extreme irritation with my child, and then proceed to clean the mess up myself. I few months ago, I saw my friend's five-year-old spontaneously (and gleefully) dump a bowl of Cheerios on the floor one Shabbos morning. My friend, (who is a real Tzadik) calmly and lovingly directed his daughter to clean up the mess, and even comforted his daughter (who was crying because she did not want to pick up the cereal), but still made sure she made a good effort of cleanup. My children are much too old to grind crackers, cookies, and Cheerios into the couch, but if I could do it all over again, I would have followed my friend's example.

(8) Anonymous, March 28, 2010 8:09 PM


Thank you for sharing your human-ness. I identify with the tug-of war between the desire to refine our character traits and rid ourselves of OUR internal chometz and the difficulty overcoming the knee-jerk response (especially when we're overtired) to respond in a less desirable manner. May we all be zocheh to win the battle and escape our personal mitzrayim!! Chag sameach!

(7) No nonsense mom, March 23, 2010 8:12 PM

I know who would be cleaning up that mess

Any child who is old enough to eat real food is old enough to be taught that eating takes place at the table, not on the couch. Further, any child who asked "what's the big deal?" would find out when s/he cleaned it up. Pesach or not, I don't tolerate that sort of behavior.

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