Cleaning for Passover

It’s that time of year when Jews get a little crazy. We clean our homes, scrub everything out, and get ready for Passover. We work quite hard to make sure that not even the merest smidge of chametz remains. That external work parallels an inner process. That is, the cleaning itself points towards a deeply spiritual practice.

Hametz, the combination of water + one of the five grains + more than 18 minutes sitting, is both forbidden at Pesach and never offered on the altar. This led the Rabbis to notice something uncouth, unclean, slightly wrong, about the bubbling and frothing of chametz yeasting. They saw the hametz as symbolic of the evil urge, meaning that our process of cleaning the house is also a process of working through our own problematic behavior.

Some sources identify hametz even more specifically as the bubbling up of ego. Some amount of ego is needed. We cannot live the whole year without a sense of self, without taking up the space we need in the world to share our gifts and blessings. By the same token, as Alan Morinis teaches, there is a “right amount of space.” We need to create room for others, create space to let go of our ego needs and appreciate blessing and goodness.

The more we compare ourselves to others, the unhappier we get. When people spend too long on social media, imagining how much better other’s lives are, they get progressively unhappier. By contrast, face to face social interactions almost always increase health and wellbeing because we are interacting rather than comparing.

While it may be impossible to totally let go of such damaging comparisons, perhaps Passover can create an opportunity to eliminate such hametz for one week.

During Passover, any time a thought of jealousy or even comparison with someone else arises, take a breath. Notice the thought. Then, think of something positive or for which you are grateful ABOUT THAT PERSON. It can be even the most trivial of things. 

In this way, for one week, we can clean out the chametz of our ego, stop the needless comparisons we make with others that only serve to obstruct our spiritual growth. I suspect this will unlock some extra joy and so add to the celebration of Passover.

I wish you a joyous Passover filled with redemption, gratitude and joy.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi David Booth

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