#blogExodus – Cleaning

#blogExodus prompts

Rabbi Phyllis Sommer’s #blogExodus prompts

I have to confess that house cleaning is not one of my favourite activities at the best of times. I have friends who find catharsis and calm in cleaning, but so far I have not been able to get into that zone.

The commandment to rid our houses of leaven has been interpreted by many as a call for a full spring cleaning. Fortunately, not everyone sees it that way. My favourite quote on that is from Rav Aviner, not a halachic authority I normally follow, but his statement that “Dirt is not Chametz and Children are not the Passover Sacrifice!” appeals to me very much. While obviously we don’t want to live in a dirty house, and we need to clean well all the parts of our house that might contain chametz (such as the kitchen, dining room, couch cushions, etc.), it doesn’t mean we have to go crazy. To quote from Rav Aviner’s article linked above,

If you want to do a spring cleaning, this is certainly possible, but not before Pesach – this is not the appropriate time.  Pesach vacation is for taking trips, playing with the kids, being happy, dancing and preparing stories for the Seder.  A woman works hard all year long: “They enslaved the Jewish women with back-breaking work” (play on Shemot 1:13).  If the husband is on vacation too, this may be a good time to leave him with the kids, and give the wife a vacation!  That is what vacation is for – not for working like a donkey and scraping floors.  You can take trips, enjoy yourself, and arrive at the Seder rested in order to make a beautiful Seder and inspire the children.  If a woman wants to work like a donkey, and be a kind of slave, she is permitted to do so, but it is not good educationally.  She should be free in order to play with the kids.  We left the slavery of Egypt, and it was not to enter into our own slavery!  We do not have anything against house cleaning, but you should spread it out over the course of the year – each few months clean another room.  This is not the time for projects of cleaning and arranging.  In any event, when the Seder arrives there will still be disorder and cleaning that has not been completed.

So yes, I will clean my fridge, kasher my stove and sink and cover my counters with contact paper. I will vacuum the living room and even give the kitchen floor a decent scrub. But all the cupboards and pantry will be closed, sealed with this adorable Pesach tape and all their contents sold to a non-Jew. Luckily for me, every year this obliging person has been willing to sell them back to me!

So don’t forget – dirt is not chametz!!

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