Every year at this time I hear about people deciding to clean: clearing old files, cleaning out the garage, and so on. Perhaps early spring (yes, it's spring) evokes a cleaning impulse. Such an impulse is especially appropriate for Jews, as cleaning is our primary task as we approach Passover. God commands us to remove all the chametz/leavening from our dwellings. The source of this commandment is in Parshat Bo in the book of Exodus (Ex. 12:15). And so we embark on a thorough cleaning of our homes -- in drawers, between couch cushions, even our cars -- with a final candlelight search -- bedikat chametz -- the night before the first seder.
It may seem like a lot of work, but it is well worth it. In addition to satisfying our cleaning impulse, the removal of chametz ought to inspire us to excise all the unwanted, accumulated "stuff" in our own souls. Besides our physical chametz, we are also puffed up and clogged up by psychic and spiritual chametz, which diverts us from our best selves. These are the chronic pharaohs within. The work of physical cleaning helps direct us toward a cleaning of our n'fashot, our souls, as well.
Ancient Israelites could only offer the Pesach sacrifice in a state of ritual purity. May we try to approach our seders this year in a state of purity as well -- the purity that accompanies a thorough cleaning, physically and spiritually.
Rabbi Jeffrey Weill