We are just a week away from Pesach, and for many of us that means one thing: cleaning our homes.
It is the tradition that in the days and weeks leading up to this festival of unleavened bread that we take the time to clear our homes of chametz, the food products that have risen, even looking for the smallest of crumbs to be taken away. Think of this as Jewish spring cleaning.
But to clean out the chametz, we must truly understand what it is. Chametz is any food that has risen or been leavened and is forbidden on Pesach because, as our Torah teaches us, our ancestors did not have time for their bread to rise as they were leaving Egypt.
And yet there is another type of chametz in our lives: the spiritual chametz. This chametz is that which causes our egos to inflate and our sense of self-worth and self-importance to rise to unhealthy levels.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow refers to this type of chametz as “the swollen sourness in our lives.” It is the chametz that keeps us enslaved spiritually to the material trappings of our lives and prevents us from being free to encounter the world in a spiritual manner.
And just as we clean our home to rid ourselves of bread, cake and other leavened food, it is through this process of removing the spiritual chametz that we have the ability at our Passover seder to open up to those around us, appreciate the gifts we have and truly understand the meaning of the matzah, the bread of affliction, which reminds us each year to flatten ourselves and our egos as we attempt to encounter the world in a holy way and celebrate our freedom.
Rabbi Jordan M. Ottenstein is the senior rabbi of Congregation Dor Tamid in Johns Creek.