A man comes to work a week before Pesach and finds his boss. He says to him, “my wife is planning a heavy Pesach cleaning day all over the entire house tomorrow and says I need to stay home to help her.” “Sorry, we’re short-staffed already,” the boss replies, “I can’t just give you the day off.” The man looks at his boss and exclaims, “thanks!! I knew I could count on you!”
In all seriousness, Pesach cleaning is absolutely crazy in many ways…what Jewish people are obligated to do, where, why and how. It’s an amazing thing. The other joke is that one may know Judaism to be true because who in their right mind would invent a holiday like Pesach. When I was young, I developed a real special appreciation for cleaning. However, I am new to being religious, having grown up in a household that generally had little to do with Judaism, so nothing could have prepared me for the chaos and obsessiveness that is a standard chametz expulsion cleaning.
My first Pesach was beginning to approach, and I started seeing signs of cleaning services looking to hire extra help for Pesach cleaning jobs everywhere. I thought to myself, heck, I’m good at cleaning, I enjoy it, and I’m short on cash, so this seems perfect. But within the first day, I learned all about cleaning ovens and fridges, using a toothbrush to get deep in-between the tiles, moving every piece of furniture to get underneath, behind, and all sides of it, and finally boxing everything else up to put them into storage and bring down an entirely different set of everything, and I had had enough. Unfortunately, I was scheduled every day for the next 2 weeks still.
However, as bad as the preparation is, the entirety of it is actually amazing. I believe holidays have a special way of bringing people together. And what better than a holiday we all spent days (if not weeks) of painstaking labor meticulously preparing for, and then to reap the comfortable and special rewards for an entire week where no one has work or school. Truly, it is an opportunity of unity we experience.
At this point, it is necessary to bring into the unity an important group of people. Obviously, Jerusalem and Tzvat are cleaning their entire abodes with a toothbrush, and we all know Haifa and Ashdod and Netanaya are at least using bleach and a rag on all surfaces, but I think we tend to forget the heart of Israel, the Jews holding down the fort in the West Bank. You know who’s living out there? People who understand the importance that land is to the Jewish people, despite all of the complications and difficulties of simply living there. So, I am impressed. Because not only are these people succeeding against the day-to-day struggles that exist for those that put themselves on the front lines, but we know these people are also flipping their entire homes upside down looking for every scrap and crumb of leavened wheat products. Because who is more likely to be following the laws of the Jewish people than people who already sacrificed safety and security to stand tall against the opponents of Jewish ideology.
But let’s zoom out. What’s even more amazing about this, is that this special group of Jewish “settlers” are really doing (slowly but surely) to the Jewish home, Israel, what each of the Jewish people are doing to their own individual homes. If a family’s Jewish home is a small-scale version of Israel, then its easy to see how the West Bank dwellers are the most important Pesach cleaners Jews have. Simply preparing the home for that special time.
Cleaning in general may not be that bad, it depends on who you are. But Pesach cleaning will probably seem a bit overboard, but Jews put up with it anyways. We each clean to our own standard. But despite our diversity, we do it together, and then we enjoy the success of a completed goal together as well. What unity it is. Let’s honor the backbone of our unity – those that are doing so much more, those that risk so much for others while still cleaning out the oven and fridge. This Pesach, let’s get all our Pesach cleaning complaining out in the open before Pesach itself comes around, and go into Pesach with heads held high, remembering those who have put their lives on the line to ensure the entirety of Israel is prepared and readied for the special days to come so that the heart of Israel may flourish.