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 aish.com.
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…