12 Apr Chometz! Again?
The annual seek and destroy mission for all kinds of chometz has begun! For many, there is an attitude of same ole, same ole, here we go again. We’ll be opening up the suitcases to get rid of cookies before going on Pesach trips, looking in the front pockets of our jackets near the lapels to ferret out crumbs, cleaning out the couch, vacuuming the children’s knapsacks from leftover lunches, scouring the hood of the stove for traces of residual chometz, and all of the scores of other chometz pursuits that we do from year to year. It has become almost a spiritual drudgery, a painful rite of passage to get to the seder finish line.
Yet other people have managed to almost completely rid themselves from the manacles of cleaning nearly all together. They get a cleaning service and four women come in for six hours while they go for a manicure and pedicure. Then, the husbands tell them, “That’s enough, I’ll take care of the rest with the saying of bitul(the nullification of the chometz) and as a backup I’ll also empower the rabbi to sell any chometz that we might have missed.” And with that, PRESTO, thousands of years of sacred minhag, whence holy women, world over, have toiled to seek out every crumb, is threatened with extinction.
We must understand that this annual occupation is in no way an example of been-there-done-that! Most of us are familiar with the fact that chometz, leaven, symbolizes the yeitzer hara, the evil inclination for just as the leaven agitates the dough to rise so too the yeitzer hara agitates us to rise up against our Creator. And, it is because of this very symbolism that the symbolic search for chometz takes on, for every individual, a different meaning each and every year for it is of the utmost importance for one to realize that every year there are new and different yeitzer haras that challenge each of us.
This should be obvious as we go through different life changes. Before a bar mitzvah, a boy doesn’t even have a yeitzer hara so after bar mitzvah his cleaning for chometz is altogether more meaningful. When one becomes of marriageable age, there are new yeitzer haras galore. How they treat the people they date, how they interact with their shadchan, if what they are looking for is Torahdig– are just some of their new challenges. When they get married, the chometz becomes even more complex. How do they treat their spouse, their in-laws, and the plot just thickens when children come along. Then, the children become teenagers and there’s a veritable mountain of chometz to deal with. Then come daughters in-law, sons in-law, weddings – all of the stuff that the yeitzer hara has so much fun with. Later on in life, how one adjusts to one’s spouse in an empty nest or in the sickness of advanced age might occur. The varieties of chometz never stop. So, as you can see, for the thinking person, the chometz experience is never just humdrum. It’s always changing as we mature.
The truth of the matter is that Chaza”l assures us that as long as we live there will be new tests thrown in our paths by the yeitzer hara. As the Mishnah in PirkeiAvos says, “Al ta’amin b’atzm’cha ad yom mos,cha – Do not trust yourself until the day you die,” for one of the major purposes of life is to exercise widely our bechirah, our freewill. It is in this area that we are more than the animals who have no freewill. But, in order to have bechirah, we always need to have challenging choices – so it should come as no surprise to us that, as we advance in our character perfection and religious conviction, Hashem will up the ante and provide us with new tests along our journey through life. As we are taught, “Kol hagodol mei’chaveiro yitzro godol heimenu – Whoever is greater than his fellow has a bigger evil inclination than his companion.” This is because when he is on a higher spiritual level, his tests must be grander in order for him to be at least tempted to make the wrong decision. That’s why the great generation of the Dor Dei’ah, the generation of the Jews in the desert was confronted with such great challenges like going three days without water, for after seeing the ten plagues and the miracle of the Red Sea, for them to be tested at all, it needed to be a whopper of a test.
So, as we clean for chometz this year, let’s ponder what new challenges we have in life. Is it the beginnings of a middle aged crisis? Is our marriage becoming a bit stale? Are we too busy for our parents? Are we becoming disconnected from our children? Are we starting to cut some shady corners in our business? Are we becoming too busy to learn and is our davening just a burden? Are we losing touch with Hashem? Are we misbehaving with the internet? When we finally get to the finish line of biur chometz, burning or destroying our chometz, let’s pray to Hashem that we can rid ourselves of these new temptations and in that merit may He bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.