March 30. 2016
With the temperature creeping into the high 30’s and even into the low 40’s and 50’s we can hear the songs of birds and we know that Spring is with us.
Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan which corresponds with the full moon of Nisan. This is the third full moon holiday in a row starting with Tubshvat, Purim and on April 22, 2016, the first seder is held. Passover is a spring holiday, so to ensure that Passover starts with the beginning of spring, careful mathematical calendar formulations needed to be instituted. This is part of the reason that the Hebrew calendar is adjusted 7 out of 19 years to keep Passover at the outset of spring.
Each of us is commanded to tell the story as if we are experiencing this liberation today. We begin by preparing our homes by doing an extensive spring cleaning. We move the stove, clean behind the refrigerator, straighten up drawers that have been stuffed full of stuff. Prior to the holiday we remove chametz from the house. We either give it away or sell it to the Rabbi who will legally take care of it and sell it back to you at the end of the holiday. We can also take chametz and put in a drawer which is taped shut until the end of the festival. My practice when I am cleaning out the house is to think about all the spots within that need righteous cleaning. In that way I clean the inner and the outer house.
On the last night before the holiday a ceremony called bedikat chametz (searching for the chametz) takes place. Using a lighted candle or flashlight, a feather, and a paper bag, strategically placed crumbs of bread are swept into the bags which are then burned in the morning.
I would like to suggest another chametz exercise that we do every year in our home. Chametz is not only the puffy bread products that we sweep out of our house. Chametz is the crumbs in our lives that keep us stuck in the narrow places (mitzrayim). To rid oneself of chametz one must first acknowledge that the crumbs are there. This requires introspection and often takes time.
After the chametz is identified we write down the particular qualities that keep us stuck, put them on small pieces of paper and burn them at the same time we burn our physical crumbs. This symbolic act of burning the internal and external chametz helps us experience the depth of Passover.
As we begin the Passover celebration at our house we announce that the Passover table is the Table that we have prepared for God at a time when we re-tell our sacred story. If you have a kittel, a white flowing gown, we put it on. Four times we put the kittel on. At our wedding, at our death to be buried in, on Yom Kippur and at our sacred seder.
May we all be blessed to experience liberation and may all who are hungry come and share our feast.
Blessings for a meaningful, joyous and kosher Passover.