In the weeks leading up to Passover, (and sometimes starting right after Purim) my groups on Facebook and WhatsApp are full of jokes, memes, and tales bemoaning the task of cleaning for the holiday.

There are a few reasons for this. Some have to do with feeling overwhelmed; some have to do with taking on more than is strictly necessary according to Jewish law…and some people just don’t like cleaning. 

Confession: I am “some people”. Now, of course I clean my house. But it requires effort to get started. Sometimes I even promise myself a reward when it’s done.

Inevitably though, something interesting happens once I begin…I start to feel better. I might even say I enjoy it. It’s not the act of cleaning, so much as it’s the feeling of renewed lightness; of getting rid of what’s inessential. 

Goodbye speckles of tomato sauce on the stove. Goodbye old papers cluttering up my counter (that I had to recycle, in order to clean the counter). Goodbye crumbs and sticky spots in my fridge.

See, the problem is that we tend to think of cleaning as mundane. Hardly a “meaningful activity”. But the commandment to get rid of the chametz in our homes leads us on a meaningful path.

What is chametz anyway? It’s flour and water that has had time to rise. It’s puffed up. Matzah, on the other hand, is flour and water that’s been baked right away. It’s simpler; it’s pared down; it’s what’s essential. 

When we get rid of our chametz, by necessity, we often end up ridding our homes of excess dirt and clutter. We simplify. We get down to what’s essential. And when we get down to what’s essential, we have more freedom. More freedom to focus – on what truly matters to us. 

Cleaning for Passover is not simply a mundane part of our holiday routine. It is a physical reminder to do a spiritual “cleaning” as well. Just as we get rid of mess, crumbs and other inessential things in the way of preparing for the holiday, we must look inside ourselves and let go of the things that are holding us back. What habits do we have that make our lives more messy, and aren’t helpful? 

For example, if one is in the habit of scrolling through social media on their smartphone for ten minutes upon waking, and this often causes lateness, then this habit is chametz; it is crumbs; it’s in the way of what is important. 

Another type of chametz is limiting beliefs or thought patterns. If you regularly tell yourself “you are not good enough”, that holds you back; that keeps you from being free to pursue your incredible potential.

We all have spiritual chametz in our lives, holding us back from freedom. As we feel the satisfaction (hopefully) in cleaning our houses; in getting rid of what is not essential, remember that we can feel that same sense of freedom in our spiritual lives too…

After you grab a broom, grab a notebook. Reflect on what “spiritual chametz” you may be holding on to. Sweep it into the green bin along the crumbs, and find your freedom.

Wishing everyone a happy, kosher and meaningful Passover!

Shabbat Shalom,

Danielle Altonaga