This is the time of year when practicing Jews the world over are preparing for the upcoming holiday of Passover. Among Jews who are strict in their observance, one of the major things we do to get ready is to rid our house of all leavened products. Lest you think this is as straightforward as merely going through the food in the house and getting rid of those containing yeast or other rising agents, let me assure you that it is quite, uh, not that.
In order to be super extra careful that we don’t own so much as a stray Cheerio, we go from room to room searching in drawers and under beds, in pockets and at the backs of closets, in cabinets and behind books on shelves. We vacuum and spray and wipe, and if this sounds funny to you I will assure you that there are few things less funny than finding what you think is a several weeks old peanut butter and jelly sandwich in your husband’s unused briefcase, only to discover upon closer inspection that it is in fact a several months old grilled cheese sandwich. Ya, that really happened.
When my kids were of the putting-toys-in-mouths age, I used to clean each bigger toy individually, but put lego and smaller toys in mesh lingerie bags and throw them in the washing machine (#Jewishlifehacks. You’re welcome.)
The bigger issue, though, is this: because many of us have large-ish families and don’t get a ton of time to do deep cleaning like this, Passover is a wonderful time to really deep clean. As long as there is a religious mandate to pretty much touch every single object you own, it seems like a great time to simultaneously spring clean. So while you are moving the items in your closet to vacuum it out, why not sort things for Goodwill? As long as you are opening the blinds on every window to wipe down the sills, why not scrub those pesky windows too? And once the cleaning products are out it is certainly a fantastic time to clean each crystal on your chandelier, right?
Believe it or not, the time when you are already busy with your normal packed day full of responsibilities, and then you are adding the more-than-full-time job of more-than-OCD-level cleaning in preparation for the upcoming holiday is NOT the best time to add extra tasks to your to-do list like sort, label, and catalog every piece of spare electronic equipment that has been hanging around your house since the early 90’s. Sure it sounds like fun to watch those random DVDs and then take any that are scratched to the cute little store you passed once on your way home from somewhere only 28 miles away that repairs scratched DVDs. But maybe you could do that, say… during summer vacation?
A famous Rabbi once said, “Dirt is not chometz (leavening) and your family is not the korban Pesach (the Passover sacrifice).” That’s a great thing to remember. Your walls might be filthy, but unless that dirt is made out of flour and water, you are good to go as far as Passover. Your toilet bowl might be dirty, but if you have limited energy (and unlike me you don’t consider cleaning to be a leisure activity) then your time for Passover cleaning is better spent scrubbing a kitchen cabinet than taking a toothbrush to the hardware that attaches the underside of the toilet seat to the rim (okay, yes, I’m guilty of this, but not for Passover, and not a toothbrush that we use for mouths, obviously!).
The to-do list for Passover cleaning is already so exhaustive that when I tried to make up things to be tongue-in-cheek I actually couldn’t think of things that were outlandish enough without running up against things that people actually do. Short of saying things like re-roofing your house (and truthfully it wouldn’t surprise me too much if someone posted a comment on here and said, nope, my in-laws do this!), one can find people who go to almost any lengths to be Pesach-Perfect.
You’ve gotta give them credit for trying. They have the right spirit. They want to do the right thing. The commandment is to get rid of leavened products, and by golly by gosh, they are darn well going to do just that. The things is, at a certain point, we have to ask ourselves how much of what we do is about fulfilling the commandment and how much about fulfilling other people’s expectations or our own egos. If my neighbors see my walls are dirty (Well, not MY walls, said with 8 trillion degrees of haughty arrogance, please, and a whole lot of laughter!), will they think that means I slacked off on cleaning properly? Will they think I’m lazy about other important religious tasks? In a religious-based community that can have far-reaching negative consequences, so that is not to be taken lightly. And then there is straight ego. If my neighbor, who teaches school full time and has 34 kids, can still find time to clean 9 hours a day and have a shining sparkling home, then why should I do the bare minimum? Just because I don’t have to wash the windows in my shed, does that really mean I shouldn’t? And we drive ourselves into the ground by shoulding on ourselves (ya, read those last few words out loud, okay?). I should do more. I should be better organized. I should stay up later. I should work harder. I should be everything I think everyone around me is, which is funny because they think the same about me. So everyone loses equally.
Well here’s a news flash: my toilet is still cleaner.
So now you can all rest easy.
You have no hope of ever competing, so just go to bed early.
You can thank me another time.