Have Questions or Comments?
Leave us some feedback and we'll reply back!

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)

    Phone Number)

    In Reference to

    Your Message

    Pesach Cleaning

    The world over, Jews will soon be wrapped-up in the annual search for chometz. Most of us are also aware that this is not simply spring-cleaning. Rather, cleaning for Pesach is a profound symbolism for the soul-searching that is supposed to accompany us during this time of year, for the Gemora in Pesachim teaches us that leaven is a symbol for the evil inclination: Just as yeast agitates the dough, so too the Yeitzer Hara agitates the soul of man trying to get him to sin.

    With this in mind we can better understand the four steps we take to rid ourselves of chometz before Pesach. First we do the bedika, searching for the chometz, which signifies our duty to make a cheshbon hanefesh, a spiritual accounting, and seek out the imperfections in our daily life. Then we do the bittul ceremony stating that any leaven that we might be unaware of should be rendered ownerless like the very dust of the earth. This ritual symbolizes the effort we take to mentally establish in our minds that the sins the Yeitzer Hara tempts us to do are really meaningless, neither worthy of our attention nor our pursuit. The next step is biur chometz where we actually burn the leaven symbolizing that it is not sufficient for us to put aside our temptations. We must try to eradicate their desire from our very being for, if not, they will likely come back to hurt us over and over.

    We also sell any chometz that we have to a gentile. This step is to remind us that many of our temptations are due to the influence we have absorbed from our gentile neighbors. Thus, we symbolically give them back to the non-Jew to drive home the message that we will try to divest of ourselves of the dangerous practices such as fashion, speech, music, and others that we might have picked up from them.

    Rav Shach, Zt”l, Zy”a, cited in the fabulous ArtScroll Rav Shach Haggadah, explains another angle to the chometz–Yeitzer Hara symbolism. He reveals that when one hands out the little balls of dough to the persons rolling the matzahs at the matzah bakery, we are cautioned never to allow the dough sit idly for even a moment. Thus, concludes Rav Shach, the evil of chometz is caused by the absence of work and action. Similarly, he asks, when the slithering serpent swindled Chava into committing the sin of eating from the Eitz Hadas in the Garden of Eden, where was Adam HaRishon? Why wasn’t he around to protect her and guide her? The Medrash answers that Adam was sleeping at the time. So, the first sin, the one that brought death to all of mankind, was made possible by Adam’s inaction. Rav Shach concludes that in the battle with the Yeitzer Hara we must constantly strive to spiritually improve and better ourselves for staying static in life leads to victory for the Yeitzer Hara.

    Two things that must be avoided at all costs when preparing kosher matzahs: water and heat. Thus, if the wheat became damp in the attic, it is disqualified. The flour should not be stored anywhere near the water. As to heat, we are taught that the flour shouldn’t be handled too often by humans for the heat of hands causes it to leaven. The sacks of wheat should not be kept directly on the backs of animals so as not to be warmed from the heat of the animal, or incidentally to be moistened by the sweat of the animal. There are numerous other Halachic guidelines to avoid water and heat when it comes to making matzah.

    On a symbolic level, there are powerful homiletic messages here. If we want to stay away from the chometz that represents the evil inclination, we have to beware of heat, which represents the powerful passions that can lead a person to sin, such as forbidden lust, sinful jealousy, and a pursuit of pride and glory. Perhaps the water in this case represents one of the names of water, geshem, rain, which is metaphorical for gashmius, materialism, and is a warning that if a person steeps himself single-mindedly into the pursuit of hedonism he will become totally enslaved to the Yeitzer Hara.

    As we labor with the arduous task of cleaning our entire houses from even a minuscule amount of chometz, let’s remember that this is a powerful protection for the Jewish people. On the verse, “Shomer mitzvah lo yeida davar ra – One who heeds a mitzvah will not know from any evil,” the Medrash gives a startling example. Esther HaMalka destroyed the chometz herself before Pesach and was saved from the plot of Haman. From this Medrash, the Chida dramatically points out that our search for chometz creates a powerful protection for the Jewish people against the forces of evil in the world. This Chida brings to mind the valorous Jews of the Warsaw ghetto who diligently cleaned their houses before Pesach on the eve of their deportations to the death camps. Imagine cleaning for a Pesach that you might not live to see! But, perhaps many of those same Jews survived the inferno in the zechus of their cleaning.

    So too, in our times, our searching for chometz is not merely heavy labor and tough times with the ElectroLux and the oven cleaners. It is a mighty powerful protection during these times of danger. May Hashem bless us with much spiritual improvement and in that merit may we be zoche to long life, good health, and the final redemption speedily in our days.

    Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss