Winter is coming to an end. Even those of us living in warmer climates are able to sense the changes. The long, dark nights that lead to dismal, gray days are fading. Daytime hours are warming up; trees are beginning to bloom; and new sounds and smells are filling the air.
Globally, it is time for spring-cleaning. Traditionally, it is time to clean for Passover. Ultimately, it is an opportunity to cleanse spiritually.
Passover celebrates our physical liberation from slavery and our arduous journey out of Egypt. It is a time of rebirth and reawakening for the Jewish people. The Torah tells us not to eat chametz, not to own chametz and not to have chametz in our homes. Chametz is leavened bread. This includes wheat, barley, oats, spelt, or rye that has been mixed with water for eighteen minutes.
Prior to the holiday actually beginning, we spend considerable time in preparation. Cleaning our homes is the first step. Here are some suggestions to help you plan ahead and stay organized:
1. Clean one room at a time. Make a calendar and clean one room a day. Put a “clean for “Passover” sign on the door when you are through.. Use this cleaning opportunity to get rid of old clothes or toys your children don’t use anymore. Go through the clutter on your desk and get rid of it once and for all. Dust and vacuum in all those hard to reach places you rarely get to.
2. Take inventory. A few weeks before Passover, make a list of what is in your freezer and pantry. What needs to be “used up” before Passover? Prepare weekly meal plans to ensure you consume the chametz you don’t want leftover.
3. Make a plan. If you’re hosting a Seder, it is wise to plan your menu in advance. Not only will you know what food items to buy, but you can also create a cooking schedule to ensure it all gets done in time.
4. Write it out. Things seem to run more smoothly when you have a written plan you are able to refer to. Print out an April calendar, and use it to record when you will be cleaning each room, when you will do your Passover shopping and when you will cook and prepare your Seder meals.
5. Involve everyone. When it comes to cleaning, the entire family should be included. Assign children tasks they are capable of taking responsibility for. Sharing the chore of cleaning makes it much more manageable.
Once we are rid of the chametz, the bread that represents “ego”, we can make room for Matzo, “the spiritual bread”. Unlike the puffed up bread we typically eat, matzo is deflated and humble. We can further prepare ourselves for Passover by going through a spiritual cleansing. The steps for this process mimic the steps we utilized to clean our homes:
1. Clean one area of your life at a time. Use the life wheel* and focus on one segment of your life each night. Take some time to journal. Are you where you want it to be? What changes would you like to make?
2. Take inventory. Whenever we spend time evaluating ourselves, it is essential to take note of the positive things. Take time to create an account of all the things you have accomplished in the past year. Give yourself credit for all of the changes and improvements you have made.
3. Make a plan. Each time we set out to achieve a new goal, it is crucial to create a plan. For each “change” you would like to make in your life, create a written plan. Break your goals down into small, manageable steps you know you can achieve.
4. Involve everyone. Create a support network around you who will encourage you, hold you to task and cheer you on as you make progress toward your goal. Pick a team of people you know will help propel you toward achievement.
“Cleaning house” (no matter which one) provides us the opportunity for deeper contemplation. What is it that you seek liberation from (aside from housework)? Which of your habits are enslaving you? What “rooms” need to be cleaned out?
Seize the moment and embrace your Passover cleaning.
* Life wheel includes: spiritual, mental, physical, social, financial, self-care, professional, intimacy (You may use any combination of these or you may create your own.)