I love Pesach. (Usually.)
Ever since I was a little girl, Pesach has been one of my favorite holidays. I loved the food, the special plates, the Seder, the coconut-covered marshmallows, the fancy chocolates, salted butter spread on matzah (yes, I even love matzah)—everything.
When I got married, I was determined to make Pesach prep fun. I wanted my family to look forward to Pesach, not dread it.
So I made myself hum and sing as I cleaned. I also liked the impetus to do a thorough spring cleaning, throwing out clutter and having everything clean, clean, clean. (Spring cleaning isn’t religiously necessary, but it is something most Orthodox housewives do or hire someone else to do. Or convince their kids to do.)
And sure, pregnancies, births, and young children threw a wrench into things, but mostly I was okay and did my best to foster a positive Pesach attitude.
An Israeli friend used to call me a month before Pesach to transmit the latest tips she received from her Superwoman sister-in-law.
“Clean whatever you can in the kitchen first,” she said.
“The kitchen?” I said.
“Yes,” she insisted. “You usually save it for last, right? We all do. But by the time you get to the kitchen, you’re usually exhausted from having cleaned the rest of the house first. Yet the kitchen is the most important part! It’s important to do a thorough job in the kitchen—much more important than cleaning the rest of the house.”
“How can I do anything in the kitchen first?”
“The upper cabinets,” she suggested. “Lower drawers and shelves can also be done if you cover it with foil after, then just peel that off and apply new foil later.”
Now, that’s advice you don’t often hear. And you know what? It’s pretty good advice.
But last year, my Pesach prep went splat.
I’d been proudly counting on my kids who’d been so helpful the year before.
But one broke his hand, another sprained his wrist and his ankle, another ended up working all-nighters, and so on. The past three years have seen me growing weaker physically. I’ve gotten some of my oomph back, but not all of it. So last Pesach, with my weakened state and my debilitated or very small kids, there wasn’t the pleasure of a really clean home. I ended up merely nullifying the chametz by wiping bleach over exposed surfaces, taping my oven and kitchen cabinets shut, and relying on the only child available enough, old enough, and fit enough to do anything: the eleven-year-old.
(If you are wondering, my husband also helps for Pesach, but he ended up with more work than usual that year, so he wasn’t home much.)
We can’t manage cleaning help, either.
I felt miserable about it, but later, I realized the Pre-Pesach Splat was a huge gift.
- First of all, the whole point of cleaning chametz is to clean out arrogance to make room for humility. What better way to do that than to NOT be a Prideful Pesach Prep Princess? There was nothing for me to be proud of—although there was a lot to be grateful for.
- I got to tackle some unhealthy thinking I never realized I had. For example, I felt like a failure. Why? Because I didn’t have the shining home Jews traditionally have had for Pesach? If only I’d been frum from birth, I’d have somehow managed despite my weakness, just like that mysterious entity: “Everybody Else”? “'Everybody Else'” is managing—it’s just me who’s not." This is very wrong and unhealthy thinking.
- Before last Pesach, I let my eleven-year-old get out of doing a lot. He was always little and so cute and a blithe spirit who was enjoyable, but not necessarily reliable. But guess what? There was no one else to help and he managed to shoulder things well enough. So after last Pesach, we started expecting him to do more. And he has been great (and not just with Pesach), capable of a lot more than we were giving him credit for. He’s more mature now for it. We (him and I) joke about it that Pesach having been a turning point for him.
- Finally and most important: I was relying on myself and external factors instead of Hashem. Like, “Well, I have fabulous children (bli ayin hara!), so everything is going to be okay.” Nope, wrong again. Sure, I can be grateful for fabulous children. (Yours are fabulous, too, by the way.) But I can only rely on Hashem.
And so far, so good!
So these are my two big Pesach tips:
- Do whatever you can in the kitchen first.
- Praise, thank, and lean on God.