Large Enough to Serve You
Small Enough to Know You

Beri Schwitzer

Emotional and Spiritual Passover Cleaning

“When we clean for Pesach, we are not simply preparing to leave Egypt. Rather, we are committing to leave all the things that constrict us emotionally and spiritually and open ourselves to new possibilities.” —Lisa Silverstein Tzur

As soon as Purim ended and the last hamantashen crumb was on my lips, my bubbie began her frenzied Passover cleaning. Every cabinet got scrubbed, every wall got wiped, every corner of our home was shaken, cleaned, and given a onceover. It was easy for my childhood self to vividly imagine an Egyptian task master yelling orders and making demands. The only difference is my task master was a little over five feet tall, wore a house dress and Jean Nate bath splash, and barked her commands in Yiddish.

My grandmother saw Passover as a spring awakening—an opportunity, much like the High Holidays, in which to spiritually check in, clean up, and take your emotional pulse. For her, the ritual of Passover began with organizing and prepping the house. It was all about developing a rhythm of order and tradition.

These days as I feel sandwiched between work and home and caught stuck between generations (caregiver to my children and my parents) it is a wonder that I can remember to take out the trash much less all of the scrubbing and deep cleaning my grandmother would do this time of year. I use the build up to Passover as a time to journal and reflect on the clutter that surrounds my life. I try to make this time a moment in the year that I can rid myself of difficult habits and objects that I find I’m a slave to. I make it a point to ask what are some of the other things we can clean out of our homes, our heads, and our hearts, that will make this celebration meaningful.

Our Congregational Learning Center students have spent the last few weeks learning about Passover in some distinctive and exciting new ways. Our youth, on Wednesday’s Walk Through the Siddur program, have been focused on exploring various stories that are in the Haggadah but that are frequently skipped over or ignored to provide a deeper look at the Seder. They have studied about the five super sages (the rabbis of B’nai B’rak), learned the meaning of Hallel, and discovered the historical significance of Shefoch Chamatcha (Pour Out Your Wrath).

Our adult learners are also discovering new ways to connect to the Passover story through history. Starting during Chol HaMoed, we will begin our first session of Living the Legacy: Exploring the Roles of American Jews in the Civil Rights and Labor Movements. In four weeks, students will grapple with questions about identity, society, and social justice through a distinctly Jewish lens. Our first lesson gives us the opportunity to discover and question the identification between Jews and African-Americans against the backdrop of the Passover Seder.