Passover is a physically strenuous and challenging holiday for women. In our community it is tremulously referred to as the "P" word. The prospect of purging every corner, nook and cranny of the house of all chametz foods, crumbs and residue -- in addition to the chores for which we are already responsible -- can be overwhelming.

The good news is that when it’s all done and we sit down, thoroughly exhausted, to the Seder table, surrounded by family and friends, we do indeed feel exhilarated and liberated.

Passover, the historical event, and the Spring season in which it occurs, not only commemorate renewal and freedom, but bring with it the special spiritual energy that allows for us, here and now, to achieve our own personal liberation.

As I clean my house of the chametz products, I realize that there is an even greater summons in all of this -- that is, to purify my inner abode -- my inner self -- of any inclination which is spiritually undesirable.

Physical chametz is generally defined as leavened dough. As such, it implies a process of fermentation and distension that is out of proportion to its ingredients. Similarly, spiritual chametz signifies the kind of aggrandizement and distortion which impedes one’s freedom to become the very best person that one can be.


A JOURNEY OF REDEMPTION

Annually, the Hagaddah reminds us that "in every generation each person should see themselves as though they had been liberated from Egypt." This is a mandate to each of us to embark on a personal journey of redemption. Clearly, each of us has our own unique prisons and our own individual Egypt.

We can understand this even better when we realize that, the Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzraim, and that the root word of Mitzraim means "constriction" or "limitation."

Our limitations tie us up in knots and disable us from addressing the real things in life.

Upon reflection, we discover that some of our limitations come from influences outside of ourselves -- the environment we were raised, the people in our lives who impacted us adversely. Moreover, there are the "pharaohs" we deal with daily -- those who undermine us or attempt to dominate us. In some instances, the tyranny comes from within -- self-absorption, hedonism, distorted needs, skewed values.

All of the above have the capacity to tie us up in knots and disable us from addressing the real things in life -- relationships, family, community, and the yearnings of the soul.

Perhaps, most distressingly, our inner "pharaohs" keep us safely incarcerated by convincing us that the patterns of our lives cannot be altered, that we are too far gone to be redeemed. The voices within us whisper, "too much bad history," "too much water under the dam," "too much damage that can't be undone." We are intimidated into believing that we are a lost cause.

But it need not be that way.


GREATNESS OF POTENTIAL

Three times a day, every single day, Jewish tradition exhorts us to remember the "going out" of Egypt. Our sages explain that the attention given to this event over any other event in our history is mandated as a response to the taskmaster within us who is determined to keep us enslaved forever.

It is supremely important to bear in mind that Jews in Egypt, preceding their redemption, had fallen into the deepest abyss of inner defilement, one degree short of total spiritual obliteration. Despite their personal despair, the Almighty knew that they were redeemable. He knew that their essence and core was incorruptible. He, the author of their majestic souls, understood the greatness that was their potential.

Three times a day we evoke the remembrance of God taking us out of that unforgiving abyss.

Three times a day we evoke the remembrance of God taking us out of that unforgiving abyss, so that we might know that no matter how lost we may consider ourselves to be, we dare not lose faith in our ability to lift ourselves to freedom.

This year as I ask God for the strength to appropriately clean and prepare my house for Passover, I entreat Him even more urgently for special assistance to help me identify my personal "pharaohs" so that I might set myself free of the shackles which inhibit my growth.

As I move closer, room-by-room, to the Passover celebration, I will hopefully, simultaneously, move step-by-step closer to putting my spiritual house in order. Then, and only then, will I know that I am truly free.

Good luck, and happy Passover to all.