These weeks, Jews all over the world clean their houses scrupulously, ridding them of any trace of chametz. The Torah commands us to make sure we don’t see or find chametz in our houses, but this mitzvah has much to it that seemingly has nothing to do with Pesach. Upon reflection, though, we will see how preparing for Pesach is part of our Avodas Hashem, and how through it we can grow closer to Hashem.
Step 1: Don’t clean mechanically. When a person begins to clean his house for Pesach, he first has to get rid of the “melumadah” – the tendency to do things by rote. We are not simply cleaning “because we have to clean.” Why are you cleaning for Pesach? Because you did last year and the year before? That’s not the reason! We all know that cleaning the house for Pesach is a mitzvah, but what are our thoughts as we fulfill it? If a person doesn’t stop to think, he is only bothered by questions such as: What’s the best way to clean the house? What needs to be cleaned and how much? The whole relationship with Hashem is lost with all these questions. The first step is: Don’t clean like a robot.
Step 2: Know why you’re cleaning. Before one begins to clean the house, one should talk to Hashem and say, “Ribono Shel Olam, for what purpose am I cleaning my house? I have other things to do; I can be learning or relaxing. The reason I’m cleaning my house now is because You, the Ribono Shel Olam, commanded me to rid my house of chametz. Since I want to give You nachas ruach, I will exert myself to clean.”
We are speaking about something very basic and simple that anyone can do. And if one does, in addition to the physical exercise one gets out of cleaning the house, one’s entire day is filled with pure Avodas Hashem. In this way, a person never leaves his state of ruchniyus – even while involved in this mundane world.
A person may wonder: Why did Hashem require people to work so hard on Erev Pesach? Doesn’t it deprive us of opportunities to grow spiritually? And if we have to work so hard cleaning up, how do we prepare for Yom Tov?
But if you think about it, these days before Pesach contain tremendous opportunity for growth. If Hashem wanted us to clean and organize our houses, then that is how we are supposed to grow. But we must keep that in mind. Otherwise we will enter Pesach exhausted and stressed. Our preparation for Pesach should not simply be a physical preparation; although we do exert our body to prepare for Pesach, really there is an inner depth to what we are doing. It is really a preparation of our soul for the coming days. By preparing the right way, a person comes into Yom Tov the way he should.
May Hashem help us prepare properly for Pesach during these weeks, doing so out of a sincere desire to give pleasure to our Creator. In these days before Pesach, all of us can merit to increase our closeness to, and love for, Hashem.