The Significance of Passover Cleaning
The sounds of birds chirping in the morning and children playing outside in the afternoon sun is a sure sign that spring has arrived. This pleasant season brings with it the inevitable chore of spring cleaning.
Some Jews associate spring cleaning with cleaning for Passover. While others, concerning Passover cleaning, state emphatically, "All I have to do is get rid of the chametz (leavened products). I don't need to wash my Venetian blinds and wax my floors!"
It is true that cleaning for Passover doesn't have to include major spring cleaning. Though for some of us, the smells of Murphy's Oil Soap or Lestoil are just as bound up with Passover as say, matza ball soup and horseradish.
But, whichever way you do it, the cleaning itself -- getting down on hands and knees or climbing up on top of ladders -- is closely tied to the theme of the Passover holiday itself.
According to Chasidic philosophy, bread and chametz symbolize the egotism and haughtiness within each of us. Chametz puffs up like a haughty person's chest, swells like an egotistical person's head. Matza, on the other hand, is flat, low, humble. Even the fact that its flavor is bland, nearly tasteless, attests to its modesty.
Before Passover, when we are checking cracks and corners, looking behind bookcases and inside briefcases for chametz, we are laboring at a job that doesn't require much thought. That gives us plenty of time to be introspective about whether we've been behaving like chametz or matza for the past year. And if we find that we are full of chametz, then pre-Passover cleaning time is the perfect opportunity to check the cracks and corners of our own personalities and dig out these dreadful traits.
There are probably some people out there who can manage to do all the introspection necessary while doing just Passover cleaning and not spring cleaning. But, more likely than not, most of us need to do a bit of spring cleaning in order to make sure that our homes, and ourselves, are truly clean and ready for Passover.
One final thought on Passover cleaning! Throughout the year, we somehow get by without this all-encompassing super-thorough cleaning. If there are guests coming there's always a closet or junk drawer to throw everything into at the last minute. And who out there hasn't read one of those articles giving tips about what to do if guests are coming in five minutes flat (freshen up the bathroom, clear off the dining room table, make the beds)?
But that's not good enough for Passover. For Passover we have to really get down to the nitty-gritty. There's no hiding when it comes to Passover.
Passover is the holiday when we celebrate and relive the Redemption of the Jewish people from our first exile in Egypt. That first Redemption is the prototype of all future Redemptions, including the final Redemption that we all await so eagerly.
As we clean for Passover this year, ridding our homes and ourselves of chametz/ego, let's get ready for the greatest guest of all, Moshiach. We've had a lot longer than five minutes flat to prepare for him and plenty of advance notice, so let's make sure we don't get stuck throwing things in junk drawers or clearing off the table at the last moment.