Time For Spring Cleaning

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

1 Corinthians 5:6-8

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the renewed covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

1 Corinthians 11:23-32

Throughout the Bible, God commands us to do physical works as proof of our faith, and as reminders for us of His Word. This is not just some “Old Testament” thing, as even Christ says, “Do this in remembrance of me.” and Paul says, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus…[said]…‘Do this in remembrance of me.’…For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup…” Establishing that we are still to do outward signs proving our inward faith, not because there is any saving power in those outward signs, but because they are reminders of our faith in Jesus.

Beware the leaven! Removing Sin from Our Lives

Passover is time for a beautiful cleansing and symbolic rebirth. Spiritually, Leaven (Hametz), that is Yeast and Risen Bread, is associated with the ego, puffed-up, stiff-necked, self-righteous pride, from which all sin stems. During Passover we physically remove the leaven from our lives as a sign of our spiritually removing prideful sin from our hearts. Part of our inner work is to find our psychological and spiritual hametz (leaven / sin) and cast it into the fire. Letting go of one’s pride is no small thing, take the time you need to really release, and don’t be afraid to cast it off. The external acts are the fruits of the internal faith, and you shall know someone by their fruits.

Hametz means “leavened grain.” On Passover, it’s not just that we don’t eat hametz, we mustn’t even own it. If a food or drink contains even a trace of wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, or their derivatives, and wasn’t guarded against leavening or fermentation—it’s hametz. After an entire year, our homes are full of this stuff. That’s why we do spring-cleaning during the weeks before Passover.

We clean all areas where food may enter (you don’t have to bother with places where food never comes). Move the furniture, oven and fridge. Clean beneath the sofa cushions; wipe chairs, cupboards and bookshelves clean—don’t forget your office—even if you don’t own your office, you own any food you keep there; plus any lockers or storage places you use at work or at school. Check all the coat pockets in the closet, and that mobile snack bar of yours, the car.

The Sellout

Now you’re thinking, “What about my 30-Year single-malt whiskey and my child’s Cheerio-Man masterpiece?” For these items and anything else you don’t want to dispose of, there’s an alternative: Simply ensure that they do not belong to you during Passover. Gather all the hametz you want to save—food, drinks, etc. Store it all away in a closet or room, lock the area or tape it shut. Now make a legally binding sale, selling all your hametz just before Passover and buy it back as soon as the holiday is over. The night Passover ends, after you have purchased back your hametz, you can already break out that single malt for a l’khaim.

The Day Before Passover

(Or the Day Before the Day Before Passover: on years when Passover begins on Saturday night, make sure you say this when burning the hametz on Friday. )

Bedikath Hametz (The Search For Bread)

Once the house is Passover-tidy, it’s time to do Bedikas Hametz, the search-and-destroy ritual.

If you have children, this can be made into a game. Before the search, carefully wrap ten pieces of bread (representing the ten plagues) in paper and hide them throughout the house. Keep a list of where you hid them.

Members of the family gather and they search every nook and cranny by candle light only (though a flashlight is acceptable), and use a feather and a wooden spoon to collect any crumbs into a paper bag—all to be burned later with the rest of the hametz. The feather is meant for sweeping any hametz you might find into the bag. The spoon is to stick in the bag (with the handle sticking out) when you tie it all up, to help it all burn.

Gather the family, light a candle, and say:

Blessed are You, YHVH our God, King of the universe, who sanctifies us by Your commandments, and has commanded us concerning the removal of hametz.

Thoroughly search your home and car for any hametz that may have been missed in the cleaning (yes, it happens). Bag the evidence and store it away for the hametz-burning ceremony.

Biur Hametz (The Burning Of The Bread)

People keep the Lulav (made from a palm branch, myrtle, and willow) waved during the holiday of Sukkoth, to kindle the fire for the burning of hametz before Pesach. Make a fire and burn the hametz bag and any other leftover hametz that hasn’t been sold. If you cannot burn a fire, it is best to crumble the hametz up and flush it down the toilet. If you just toss it in the trash, it’s still in your possession. After throwing your hametz in the fire (or flushing it down the toilet), say the following:

All leaven and anything leavened that is in my possession—which I have neither seen nor removed, and which I am unaware—shall be considered naught and ownerless as the dust of the earth.

While the hametz is burning, say this prayer:

Let a new desire emerge from within You, YHVH, our God and God of our fathers, that just as I have eradicated hametz from my home and from my possession, so You will eradicate all the forces of evil from Your world and obliterate the spirit of impurity from the earth. Eliminate our wicked impulses from within us and give us a heart of flesh so we may truly serve You. May all the thick disguises that conceal the divine life within, along with all wickedness, go up in smoke as You vanquish villainous dominion from the earth; and may You, with a conquering spirit of justice, vanquish all that oppresses your Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) from flourishing—just as You vanquished Ancient Egypt and its deities in those days at this time. Amen, Selah!

You are now hametz-free—and free to enjoy the liberating Seder experience and the Festival of Freedom.

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