With Purim behind us and a sense of Spring in the air, we find ourselves less than a month to go until Pesach. The kosher supermarkets have already taken down the bags of nash and bottles of wine from their shelves and are starting to replace them with ‘Kosher for Passover’ cleaning products, sprays of all colours and sizes and rolls upon rolls of aluminium foil. We’re getting ready to start Pesach cleaning!
The age-old custom is to begin cleaning as early as possible in order to make certain that by the time Pesach arrives, not even a single crumb of Chametz (leaven) remains anywhere in our property (sometimes it can be lurking in the most unsuspecting of places, like underneath the Seder plate or inside the Matzah pouch!) Not only that, but we even try to get our houses ready for Pesach by dry-cleaning the curtains, waxing the floors and painting the walls. The famous pre-Pesach axioms in our house are ‘what doesn’t pay rent has gotta go’ and ‘don’t put it down, put it away!’
But while we are ridding our houses of Chametz (and ourselves of our sanity), let us not forget the message behind all of these antics.
What is the difference between bread and Matzah? Bread is made of flour and water and so is Matzah. The only ingredient added is…..time. Left long enough, any unleavened dough would turn into leaven; if yeast is added, it just serves as a catalyst to speed up the process.
The yeast in the bread, that substance which helps it to rise, is analogous to the yetzer hara, the evil inclination within us. This is the part of us which wants to drag us down, limiting our potential and turning us into leaven. The main weapon in its arsenal? Time.
When the Torah warns us to ‘guard the Matzos‘, the word for Matzos has the same letters and can also be read as Mitzvos (מִצְוֹת – מַצוֹת). How should we guard the Mitzvos? In the same way that we guard the Matzos. ‘If a Mitzvah comes to your hand, don’t let it become Chametz‘.
We often have opportunities to make tremendous accomplishments in our lives, but have things holding us back. It’s usually a little voice inside of us saying ‘you’ll never be able to do it’, ‘you’re not smart enough’, ‘such a big project will take you forever’.
The same is true with spiritual endeavors too. Have you ever found that you wanted to connect more to your rich Jewish heritage and family traditions but just felt like it’s too late in life to start doing these things or maybe you feel like it’s not really you to start getting involved in religion? How about prayer? ‘Sorry God, I’m too busy today. Lets take a rain-check’.
Know that this is the voice of the Chametz within, slowing you down and preventing you from growing and reaching your potential. The solution? JUST DO IT! Go for it, full steam ahead! Don’t let that Mitzvah or opportunity become Chametz and melt away into the past tense. Keep it present and real, because it may very well be a chance for you to achieve your greatness.
This year when we clean our houses, let’s give our souls a little Pesach clean and try to find those crumbs of spiritual Chametz and chuck ’em out, thereby enabling us to have a truly liberating Pesach.