Pesach cleaning kind of feels like a farce, sometimes..
You dust, wash, scrub and bleach until you’re left with raw fingertips, disintegrated nostril membranes and a shattered back.. and you STILL find more chametz.
It’s absolutely impossible to get rid of every last crumb.
Those who haven’t had the pleasure have no idea what I’m referring to. They tell you not to stress over it, reminding you to ‘just clean’ – while rolling their eyes at your unwarranated zeal.
But when you work so hard at something, you expect results!
We’re not told to get rid of “most”chametz –we have to get rid of it all.. to the point that the night before pesach we go on a scavenger hunt with a candle and a feather to find every last crumb..
But what about the teeny crumbs behind the fridge that’s too heavy to move?
What about the year old oily sticky stuff stuck in the crevices between the oven and the counter?
What about the moldy scraps of leftovers pasted into the most concealed cracks in your cupboards?
You can shake the rug 100 times – and you'll STILL find bits and pieces on the 101st time.
So really.. it kind of feels a little bit like a charade – but who are we fooling?
G-d doesn’t ask any more of us than what we can do – he cant possibly expect us to actually get rid of every speck of teeny weeny potentially leavened substance..
G-d makes sense.. this doesn’t!
So it got me thinking - as I found yet another sticky unknown substance buried in the crack of the formica, as I was about to pour the scalding hot water on the counter top which had been cleaned and bleached and scrubbed and re-cleaned and re-bleached and re-scrubbed - that this cant possibly be the right attitude. G-d expects a loyal worshipper out of me but I don’t think He expects an obsessive-compulsive, neurotic, worn out, fed up Jew!
G-d is logical and caring and understanding and balanced all year long but on this holiday he expects perfection beyond human capabilities??? Can’t be!
As I was about to reach out one more time for the bottle of bleach, I stopped and tried to reframe.
What does G-d want from me?
He wants me to try my best, of course!
But there’s no 1/60 nullification rule.. so really.. He doesn’t want my best, He wants my ALL. He wants perfection
There must be something I’m not understanding..
All year long G-d says – do your best, try your hardest, give me the opening of a needle. We're told that there is no direct link between cause and effect, between effort and result. We put the effort in, but in the end G-d is master of the results on this earth. The real results, those that count are much deeper.
I can pull an allnighter studying for an exam, I can go on 900 dates, I can work like a dog, I can pray with all the kavana I can find in myself, but in the end I'll get what’s in my best interest. The only thing that matters is how much effort I put and where my intentions are directed - towards or away from hashem. I plan, I try, I put the effort in – but He is in charge of results. My focus is only to build a healthy, happy, loving relationship with Hashem.. the rest is details. MY efforts bring me closer to him, regardless of whether I pass the exam, or get married to the guy I want, or get a high from my davening.
Once I accept that, I don’t worry that I'll never find my husband, or that I'll never pay off debts, or that I'll never manage to get my bad midot under control. I dont even worry when I finish praying and realize I didnt "feel" anything. I realize and trust that whatever results I get are independent of the effort I put in - and that my efforts weren't wasted.
In a way, it’s no different here.
Even without the 1/60th loophole. G-d says ‘do you’re absolute best, try your hardest “play the part as best you can” show me how much you care, show me how seriously you want to get rid of that yester hara/chametz.. but in the end.. throw your hands up, with a smile, and accept that I am in charge.. not you!’
I can't expect specific results. Even spiritually speaking - I can pray until I am blue in the face, I can try and be happy until it hurts to smile, I can be meticulous in mitzvah observance, but I cannot expect and demand to feel "spiritually uplifted" or to "feel" closer to hashem. There will always be another crumb of yetzer hara to deal with, another aspect of my being that wants to keep me far away from the truth, another challenge I need to get through. Most important, I can't give up - even after I've exhasuted all my resources at bettering myself, and I relapse into unproductive behavior. I have to remind myself that my job is to do my absolute best, nullify every bit of chametz I can and at some point, to throw my hands up. I have to realize that I'm not doing it for the satisfaction of having done a good job, or for the spiritual high, or for the reward, or even for a completely chametz free home - I'm working this hard at it - just because I know its the truth, and this is what I'm asked to do, regardless of the results.
I think part of being able to throw our hands up and realize we arent perfect beings, is first realizing that we tend to blow things out of proportion, and make up stringencies which havent been imposed upon us. Not every little morsel we come across is chametz, we panic at the slightest semblance of chametz, drive ourselves crazy, feeling insecure and unsure of our capabilities - all in the name of being really careful in our observance. But isn’t this also a great trick of the yetser hara, making us feel as if we aren’t doing enough, making us feel small and incapable.. until we give up all the great things we are fully capable of accomplishing. i think as much as pesach cleaning is about being meticulous about the tiniest details, it can also be a great lesson in learning to differentiate between what's real and what’s imaginary - between what we are doing well, and what we imagine we arent accomplishing. The year-old bleached out moldy popcorn behind the sofa is not chametz! Sure we get rid of it, we clean up, we don’t eat it (ew), but when we come across it we don’t need to fall apart. We didn’t fail at our chametz cleaning. We just need perspective.
The sticky icky chametz might still be visible to the physical eye - if I force myself to look for it - but the real chametz has been nullified with my effort - and thats really what counts.
So...I try to remind myself to keep a smile on my face – once I start yelling at family, feeling despair, being rude with salespeople, treating those around me in a nasty way because they aren’t doing their job 'well enough', because they are getting in the way, because they aren’t helping enough – I’ve missed the point – at that point it's obvious that all the hot air I’m so desperate to find is right where I want to avoid looking!
...and on that note - I run back to my kitchen.. and wish you all a beautiful, spiritually uplifting, and liberating pesach!