The cleaning process in anticipation of Passover has us removing leavened foods from our pantries. We also find items other than breads and cereals which need to be discarded. And it is not just the jar of mayonnaise left over from last Passover. Are we supposed to only get rid of “leavening” or can we get also get rid of those internal things that weigh us down?
The cleaning process is incomplete without some internal scrubbing. To prepare for the sense of freedom recalled during the seder, we also rid ourselves of whatever keeps us from rising up to be our best selves - like stale indulgences and past due date luxuries. Passover rituals serve as a reminder to refocus our lives toward valuing freedom and we can begin by emptying out unnecessary distractions.
In Marie Kondo's book The Life Changing Magic of Tyding Up, we read of the virtues of discarding unneeded possessions and organizing your home. Ultimately, the book is not about throwing out old checkbooks and rolling up socks in a drawer. The author is offering "correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective." The similarity to Passover cleaning is in the focus on transforming one's life more than eliminating crumbs. Clutter and material pursuits weigh us down. Start by seeing what is really important for you in your life. Passover cleaning should remind us to stop puffing ourselves up with possessions. (Shopping therapy? really?). This is an invitation to re-prioritize our interests and give space to our best intentions.
We can elevate the Passover preparation process by giving to charities which represent the true focus of this holiday. As we obsess about the size of our briskets or the texture of our matzah balls, we can remember our neighbors burdened by worry about the status of their next meal. Give to food pantries and support organizations like Mazon. Or perhaps as you set out the Matzah which represents our freedom, you can add a cocoa bean to the seder plate to recall the widespread use of child labor and slavery on cacao farms. Incorporating tzedakah (truly charity as justice) will certainly help make this Passover a holiday of transformation and freedom for you.
Passover cleaning is a time to raise ourselves and our world by laying claim to less and offering up more. We hope on this Passover, your seders take flight and your holiday soars.
JoHanna Potts and R' Evan J. Krame