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“She probably has a cleaning lady at home,” they said in Hebrew thinking that I wouldn’t understand.

Carpeting,” I replied in Hebrew with indignation.


“We don’t do sponga in America,” I continued.

Have you ever cleaned your windows at the gas station? If so, picture using that squeegee with a dirty rag wrapped around. Then picture cleaning every surface of your life with that squeegee and rag combination. This process is what Israelis do three times a day, and refer to it as “sponga.”

Picture giving an American girl, a squeegee and a rag and expecting her to clean a floor with them. You will find yourself laughing as this absurdity begins to take shape in your mind’s eye.

I hadn’t signed up for it – but my time in yeshiva included mandatory cleaning. When it came time for Passover, the Israeli dorm counselors really pushed the girls. I remember scrubbing the sides of the old stone walls with a broom that had been soaked in soap and water.

Rolling up your sleeves and scrubbing – it truly makes you a better person. I am the last person to sign up for that type of thing….

There are times that the mess simply comes your way and you have no option other than to deal with it, head on. It’s hard, it’s annoying, but it makes you a better person.

You learn to put things where they belong, discard the trash, give away that which others could use and move forward with less baggage.

On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we are like angels beginning again – our cleaning is spiritual.

By the time Pesach rolls around on the calendar, we’ve already been through some. We’ve endured slavery, built the golden calf, and begged for water in the desert. Our practical day to day has not always been easy – our cleaning is practical.

I would definitely choose meditating on a mountain top and refining my inner character over washing dishes…but life does not always afford us such choices. Also, I would probably get distracted on the mountain top and forgo the whole inner character thing anyway.

So here’s where it gets amazing. R’ Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev tells us that if the shofar blasts during the High Holy days did not pierce the heavens as we had wished they would – we can make up for the spiritual loss in four simple, yet difficult ways;

  1. Kashering
  2. Rubbing
  3. Shining
  4. Scratching

Meant to be understood in Yiddish, it works in English as well. The TeKiyah can be uplifted through Kashering. TeRuah, via Rubbing; SHevarim via SHining and TeKiyah Gedolah via Krystin (Yiddish for scratching).

It’s not surfing waves of spirituality, but the fact that we can connect to the upcoming holiday of Pesach in such a simple and practical way, does not cease to amaze me. I can tap into spirituality in a way that’s so tangible and down to earth.

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Tzipah Wertheimer has been running Chabad at Queens College since 2004 alongside her husband and five children. Her role includes teaching, mentoring, programming and of course cratering. Tzipah is also a certified Kallah (bridal) teacher and can be reached at [email protected]