To be honest, I normally do not like cleaning for Passover. It’s not that I mind the cleaning, it’s that for Passover it becomes very fastidious, since you have to make sure there is no chametz in the house, to the best of your ability. It’s that last part that we sometimes took too far, and ended up over-cleaning; it’s very nice to have a very clean house at the end, but during the already stressful time before Pesach, it’s just killer.
This year I’ve consciously striven to do better, to do the cleaning in a good mood. It’s been a bit of a struggle at times, I admit, but that fact that I’ve had my mind occupied with other, much more worrisome thoughts (like Mom being in the hospital) has made the cleaning and preparation almost therapeutic.
Today I had to brave the supermarket and the kosher market to get the last of our provisions for the holiday. This is an excercise in patience, let me tell you, and I am blessed that G-d granted me a good amount of it, but there are times when… Still, I went to the market, and I endured the craziness, but by the time I returned to my car with the groceries I was already close to going full-on grumpy. That’s when it dawned on me, like the proverbial ton of bricks.
In Exodus 12:6 (scroll down), it says, “And you shall keep it for inspection until the fourteenth day of this month, and the entire congregation of the community of Israel shall slaughter it in the afternoon.” This is in relation to the paschal lamb G-d commanded the Israelites to prepare for a sacrifice. But the Israelites had been ordered to take the lamb for themselves on the 10th, so why keep it around for 4 days? Rashi explains that G-d gave them these four days so that the Israelites would occupy themselves with the mitzvah (commandment) of examining the lamb for ritual perfection. In the merit of them occupying themselves this way, G-d could bring the redemption.
We don’t have the paschal sacrifice today, but I suddenly realized that this process of cleaning and buying and preparing for Pesach, with all the headaches and frustrations and so on, these are our equivalent of those 4 days, these our mitzvot through which we merit our redemption. Even if we aren’t up to par on our good deeds (and we all lack one way or another), this process gives us what we need to enter Passover with our heads held high and ready to be redeemed from Egypt.
It doesn’t make the cleaning go any faster, but it does give it meaning beyond having a clean house.