I love Pesach. Really, I do. Even with the stress and preparation associated with March Madness (I still have no idea why my father thinks it has anything to do with basketball), I enjoy it. Maybe it’s because of my mother’s spinach kugel, or the way I still love actively searching for the afikoman. Maybe it’s the Manischewitz brownie mix that gets more expensive every year. Maybe it’s singing “Who Knows One” as fast as possible, or maybe it’s the way my brother sneaks extra wine into the charoset when he thinks my mother isn’t looking. Maybe it’s the way you can find the entire Jewish population of Columbus in Graeter’s ice cream an hour after Pesach ends. Whatever the reason, I love Pesach.
I also love cleaning for Pesach. (Yes, you read that right). Every year some newsletter always addresses the fact that Pesach cleaning does not have to be spring cleaning, and every year almost everyone ignores it. I love the lack of clutter as much as the next girl, but believe me, I’ve seen households take it to a whole other level and not only wash the mattresses, but the walls too. I think it should be simple. Putting things back in their place. Donating the toys and clothes no longer used. Finding a drivers license from years past. The dust is gone, the whole house smells fresh, and you can now start to deal with the chametz.
But, in this case, the chametz isn’t the last stale cookie crumbs in your sock drawer or the M&M’s wedged in your sofa cushions. It’s your limitations. Chametz can be anything that prevents us from being the person that we know we can be. And during the year, it is so easy to become so enthralled with our own ego that we actually lose ourselves. We forget that the real present is not the wrapping paper at all, but the neshama inside.
This is where the matzah comes in. Matzah is more that just a cracker that we wave around at the seder (although, even I admit that after the first couple of bites, it really does become the “bread of affliction”). While yeast causes chametz to rise with it’s own self-importance, matzah remains flat and humble.
In order to achieve this level of humility, we need to take away the distractions. We can’t focus solely on our outside. We must cultivate our minds and perfect our souls. A person with this level of humility is not in constant competition with others, and although they realize that physical attributes and goals are important, they also know that they need to constantly work on their inner attributes, for it is those that make them truly unrivaled.
During the weeks leading up to Pesach, we must try to work on ourselves as well as our households, for in order to establish and maintain a good relationship with G-d, we must first establish one with ourselves. That’s why we have Pesach. By eliminating the chametz and making room for the matzah, we have the opportunity to recreate ourselves. Pesach is known as Chag HaAviv (The Holiday of Spring) for a reason. Think about it. Spring is a beautiful season. Everything that’s gloomy and lifeless during winter is renewed. From barren trees cherry blossoms begin to bloom. Daffodils shyly start to open their buds. And we, too, are given the chance to renew ourselves. Pesach breathes new life into us. We can recreate. Refresh. Renovate. Repair. And if once a year I had that opportunity, I would take it. Wouldn’t you?
Wishing you a chag kasher v’sameach!Donyel Meese