Every year when I’m about to get overwhelmed by the mess, the expense, the cleaning of Pesach, I ask myself: ‘isn’t there some sort of short-cut I could do, to just get the fun stuff out of this experience and leave all the yuck behind?’
Because Pesach routinely comes along with SO MUCH yuck. Even when you’re working on yourself. Even when you’re trying your hardest to just have emuna, and to just let God get on with running the world.
I’ve had Pesachs when I tried so hard to clean everything just so, and even a week earlier than usual, so I could take my girls away for a short break with the neighbor’s girls up the road. That was a disaster. Pesach seemed to last for three months that year, the ‘break’ was a stressful fight-fest, and then on seder night my husband got completely knocked out by the first glass of wine and was practically comatose.
Recently, my Pesachs have gone in the other direction, where it’s been hard to muster up the energy required to actually clean. Anything. The first couple of years this happened, I just kind of pushed through the weariness and fatigue, because I had enough OCD going on about chametz that it gave me the energy required to actually do something about it.
But this year, my chametz OCD has receded considerably (which is probably a good thing…) but it also means the ‘panic button’ has been disconnected from cleaning for Pesach. Add to this a very nice article in Hamodia a couple of weeks’ ago making it clear that most of what we consider ‘essential’ in cleaning for Pesach is actually OCD-induced chumras, and voila! I really haven’t felt like doing much.
So then, I started exploring other shortcuts to getting Pesach done, like:
a) paying someone else to do it or
b) expecting my kids to act like the adults in the house.
I know many, many mothers manage to off-load all their household chores onto their children, and that the children even don’t mind it (OK, I made that last bit up, but the first part of the sentence is definitely true.) But in my house, I’ve never quite managed to pull that off. The more I expect of my kids, the less they do.
The less I’m in their face about cleaning and helping, the more they actually start volunteering to do all sorts of things around the house. But when it comes to Pesach, I forget this rule and start to expect things from them - and this is where the problem really begins, because we are just talking a completely different language.
To me, ‘morning’ means sometime before 11am. To them, ‘morning’ means ‘some time after I wake up’ - which could be 2pm in the afternoon. So I’ll ask them to clean something, or arrange something in the morning, and because it’s Pesach, each chore is carefully nested and stacked within 15 others, so choreography is key.
So I CAN’T cook, however much I want to, until the kitchen counters have been cleaned and covered. If the person assigned to do that job doesn’t wake up on time, doesn’t feel good, can’t figure out how the sponge works - there are millions of obstacles, you simply wouldn’t believe what can happen - then I get stuck having to do it myself.
I can just completely let go, and let things happen in their own sweet time.
And I’m not there yet, although each year it gets closer and closer. I know this is just a test from God. I know the real cleaning for Pesach is all my bad middot and Pharoah-nic tendencies to slam around the house muttering about how ‘lazy, lazy’ my kids-cum-slaves are.
Don’t they know this is the whole point of having children?!? So I won’t have to do the chores myself?!?
So in the meantime, I get stuck with some huge bad middot issues that I know is the real work to be done, because honestly apart from Pesach, my kids are actually really sweet, and really lovely, and would really put themselves out tremendously to help me.
There’s just something about this time of year that makes all that goodwill evaporate, and that seems to pit me against them in a really ucky way that no-one ever comes out of happily.
Last year, we had people putting their feet through bathroom doors in a rage because no-one had set the seder table (and no, that wasn’t a kid.) I understand they also have bad middot to ‘find’ and dispose of. I understand that just as my mini-Pharoah is waking up in me, it’s doing that inside of them, too.
We all think that someone else should be the ‘slave’, and we’re all upset that the ‘slave’ isn’t working hard enough….
I so want geula. I’m really sick of cleaning for Pesach. Not just this year, but every year, because I don’t have a cleaner, and my kids-cum-slaves apparently always get liberated BEFORE Pesach, and because sometimes, I really can’t understand why I have to work so hard to get to that tiny bit of ancient pretzel that’s down the back of my couch.
I know, all this stuff is achieving wonderful spiritual rectifications that I can only guess at, because I certainly can’t grasp them in the here and now. I don’t want my bad middot anymore. I don’t want to have unreasonable expectations anymore. I don’t want to be lazy and apathetic, and I also don’t want to be enslaved and worked to the bone.
So what’s the answer? What’s the shortcut to the joy of the festival without all this back-breaking work and grumpy power struggles?
Maybe this Pesach, I’ll finally find out.