Passover: Spring Cleaning for the Soul

Bedikas Chometz Set

Passover can be viewed as an opportunity for a spring cleaning for the soul. The ritual of Passover spring cleaning can involve both the scouring of our kitchen and a careful examination of our souls.

  • What do you want to cleanse or remove from your life this Passover?
  • What do you want to make space for in your life?

Every year we clean our homes, removing all leavened products from our midst, replacing them with matzo and other Kosher-for-Passover foods. Matzo is the most basic of foods, with none of the extra ingredients in most breads, cakes, and cookies.

  • What are the basics in our lives?
  • What are the extras?

Passover is a spring holiday celebrating the renewal of the natural world and the rebirth of the Israelites as a free people. Both of these processes of transformation include the shedding of different elements from the past in order to prepare for a better future.

The annual ritual of “spring cleaning” associated with Passover offers us a unique opportunity to examine our physical surroundings and our inner selves. Passover has a fun tradition that embodies this idea: it is called “the search for chametz.” Chametz means leavened bread. During Passover, we give up all leavened products, eating matzo instead of these “puffy” foods. The word matzo derives from the Hebrew term for “drain out,” and consists of just flour, salt, and oil. Chametz, however, includes all of the extras—yeast, sugar, eggs, etc. Giving up chametz and eating matzo helps us focus on the basics in our lives and reflect on our ongoing journeys from slavery to freedom.

  • What are the “extras” in our lives?
  • What can we give up or clean out to help us be more present to the true gifts in our lives?
    • For example, Are we chained to our personal electronic devices, enslaved by our professional ambitions, or embittered by unhealthy eating habits?

If we can focus on the basics—on what truly matters to us—we can begin to live more unencumbered in the present. This is the promise of Passover and the ritual of spring cleaning in preparation for this festival of liberation and renewal.

The Ritual Search for Chametz:

The search for chametz takes place the night before the first Seder. Following the outlines of the traditional practice, I hide ten pieces of bread (chametz) in the kitchen (you might want to wrap them in a napkin or saran wrap). My children each have different roles in this sacred game of hide-and-seek: One child uses a candle to shine light on the pieces of chametz, while the other uses a feather to brush the pieces of chametz onto a wooden spoon. After collecting all ten pieces of bread in a paper bag, the search is complete!

The next morning, we burn the 10 pieces of chametz to symbolically articulate our readiness to give up eating chametz for the 8 Days of the Passover holiday. 

Prayers for the Chametz Rituals:

Before the search and burning, we recite the following:

Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who sanctified us by commanding us to remove all chametz

After the search and burning, we recite the following:

All chametz in my possession, whether I have seen it or not and whether I have removed it or not, shall be nullified and ownerless as the dust on the earth.