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November 30, 2015 / 18 Kislev, 5776
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Gone Amiss – Thoughts For Pesach Cleaning

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The deeper message behind our vigilant search and removal of chometz for Pesach is the need to remove any vestige of spiritual chometz from our beings and personalities.

The differing ingredients between bread and matza are not very significant – each is made from flour and water. The only central ingredient missing from the matza is the yeast, and the air which causes it to rise.

Chassidic masters explain that spiritually, this air represents an unhealthy self-awareness and a bloated sense of self, which throughout our Pesach preparations, we are vigilantly removing from ourselves and our surroundings.

Each day of Sefirat Haomer between Pesach and Shavuot, on the other hand, reflects a different midah (character trait) that we are working to refine in our personalities. Finally, on Shavuot, we bring an offering of “Shtei Halechem”? real Chometz bread.

Only after an initial scourging of ourselves from our unhealthy sense of self prior to Pesach, and our intense work on personality refinement during Sefirat Haomer, are we able to use our talents and capabilities and our healthy, rectified sense of self for a G-dly offering.

Below are some thoughts on this process, as well as some thoughts to reflect on during your pre-Pesach cleaning.

Last year, on the first day of Pesach as I reached into the top right corner of my jewelry box to fetch my special pair of earrings, my hand returned empty. I rummaged around the back of the jewelry box in case my earrings had dropped into a concealed crevice. I ran my fingers over every small compartment in the box. I scrutinized the top surface of my dresser as well as every small container near my jewelry box, and I groped inside all the drawers throughout my bedroom – all to no avail. My earrings had vanished.

Of course I was upset. After all, this was my favorite pair of earrings, worn solely on special occasions. Moreover, these earrings had personal sentimental value. They were presented to me by my husband commemorating our anniversary. I noticed the tender care in how he chose this pair – delicate white gold shapes, with tiny clasps of yellow gold, surrounded by linear, perfectly aligned square diamonds. Understated and refined elegance.

Almost equally disturbing was the unrest it caused within. My belongings are usually well organized, especially now, after an intense Pre-Pesach clean-up. This threw my calm order out of balance. I couldn’t help but question what else was out of order? Why hadn’t I noticed my misplaced earrings in the immense clean up? Had I neglected some other area of my home?

My initial response to my predicament was, of course, to blame myself. I had been careless and not vigilant enough. Mentally, I went over the times that I had worn these earrings and I hunted inside the pockets of possible outfits where I might have accidentally misplaced them. I checked my desktop if perhaps I had haphazardly taken them off while on the phone.

My next reaction was to blame those around me. Maybe one of my children had thought it would be fun to play with Mommy’s precious present. Or maybe I had instructed one of my youngsters to put the earrings away and the child had gotten sidetracked in the process. I searched through my children’s rooms. I looked through their dressers, their boxes and their toy containers – with no success.

Disconcerting, too, was that over the last several days, I had many workers coming through my home. One polished the wooden floors, another installed a new countertop, and then there was the carpet cleaner. I admit to secretly suspecting that my earrings may have been pocketed by some lucky worker, even though, rationally, I knew that none had even come close to my bedroom.

Finally, after retracing all possible places and a conducting a thorough search of any possible location, lots of mental blaming, an acceptance finally set in. It really wasn’t a tragedy, and it was simply meant to be.

This insignificant incident was small enough for me to apply to the many bigger situations in life, when we have a dream or goal that is “lost”, or goes “missing”. It upsets our plan of organization, of how we feel our life and world “ought” to be. It upsets our careful clean up, our careful plotting and arranging of what goes where and how neatly organized our life should be. Suddenly, this uncalled for change of direction makes us realize that we are not in charge.

Our reaction to these sudden losses of dreams, goals or plans is manifold. First, we usually search our ways, to determine if all is in order. This is healthy self-evaluation and productive reorganization.

But then, we sometimes progress to the next unconstructive step, becoming obsessed with the loss, blaming ourselves irrationally, and incriminating others accusatorially.

There comes a time when we have to reach an acceptance, that for reasons beyond our control, the situation was simply meant to be.

And sometimes, unexpectedly, with that acceptance, may come the solution to our missing goal or dream.

For example, a few days later, when I opened up my jewelry box, I found my special earrings in their proper spot. “Hey, I am so happy! Who found my lost earrings?” I jubilantly exclaimed to my children.

Apparently, my oldest daughter spotted my missing earrings in my youngest child’s room, where they were nestling on his bookshelf and, knowing how distraught I was, she was pleased to return them to their rightful location.

The exact path that my earrings journeyed en route to my son’s room still remains a mystery – one which I don’t care to unravel. Mystifying, as well, is the fact that I checked my son’s room, as well as this bookshelf several times. How this obvious spot missed my vigilant search still eludes me.

But the case of my missing earrings did teach me that, despite careful plotting of goals, aspirations and dreams, there are times when we need to let go, and let things be. Furthermore, once we reach the acceptance that it is just meant to be – often the solution is at hand.

Chana Weisberg is the author of The Crown of Creation and The Feminine Soul. She is the dean of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Toronto and is a scholar in residence for www.askmoses.com. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org’s Weekly Magazine. Mrs. Weisberg lectures regularly on issues relating to women, relationships and mysticism and welcomes your comments or inquiries at: weisberg@sympatico.ca. 

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