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Spring-Cleaning The Soul For Passover

Considering the thoroughness of some people’s Passover housecleaning it is possible that they will find no stray crumbs when they perform bidikat chametz, the ritual pre-Passover feather-and-candle-light examination for leaven. But for all of us—whether we be fastidious or lackluster Passover cleaners—when we turn inwards and examine our souls for Passover, we are bound to discover ample "chametz of the soul"—evidence of ways we oppress and have been oppressed.



May my examination for "chametz of the soul" permit me to discover paths toward true freedom, allowing me to attend to those that are oppressed or made invisible or voiceless. Allow me to look beyond the narrow confines of myself and toward others, as we clean away hardness from our hearts, so true human freedom prevails.



A spring cleaning of the soul permits us to interpret "chametz" as all evidence of oppression that we are commanded to ferret out of our social environment. Oppression, of course, is not easy to discern, as it is rarely obvious. The mitzvah of bidikat chametz teaches that the work of liberation begins with careful attention to the barely audible groans of the oppressed among us. And we look inside ourselves as well: we search for hidden sins, petty pride, and stubborn self-importance. Each of us, in our own way, can remove that which blocks our fullest freedom.



You bless us with the commandment to remove all chametz from our homes; may it be your will that we find the way to remove the chametz of our souls, finding freedom.



We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt and the Eternal our God brought us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm…and now we are free. (Haggadah)

In an expansion of the metaphor, chametz became a symbol of what is allowed to stand around. Chametz signified staleness and deadening routine; getting rid of it became the symbol of freshness and life growth. Since Passover occurs in the spring, the total cleaning of the house to eliminate leaven was easily expanded to a comprehensive spring-cleaning. Throwing out accumulated staleness and the dead hand of winter…became a psychological backdrop for reenacting emancipation. Thus, the housecleaning became part of a cosmic process. (Yitz Greenberg, The Jewish Way)

Most of us think of freedom as a lack of obstacles in our way. Doing what we want would seem to define freedom. But it appears that the Rabbis take a different perspective: The teach that while Passover celebrates the freedom from external oppressors, it also marks a freedom from the kind of self-centered arrogance typified by Pharaoh and symbolized by leavened bread. Freedom is an inward movement, urging the self out of its narrow concerns (mitzra’im) and onto the great plains of sand toward a new Promised Land. (Steve Greenberg)

Kasher l’pesach

Kosher for Passover

(CLAL Faculty)



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