Before the Seder

So far, we have reviewed the original Pesach/Passover, the commandment to remember that event, and some of the historical development of the celebration. Now, it is time for us to start preparing for our own home commemoration of God’s deliverance of his people.

The Origin of Spring Cleaning

Before we ever get to the first night of Pesach, and the retelling of the Exodus story, we must do our best to rid our homes of leaven (another word for “leaven” is “yeast”). It has been said that the custom of “Spring cleaning” has its origins in the tradition of removing leaven from our homes for Pesach/Passover.

Get the Leaven Out!

No Leavened Products!As we prepare for Pesach, a serious attempt must be made to remove from the home and workplace all products containing yeast. This imperative comes both from the commandments associated with the original Pesach (Shemot/Exodus 12:14,15; 13:3-10). Over the centuries, leaven has come to be associated with the presence of sin in one’s life, so we seek to disassociate from even the most minute evidence of its existence.

For most of us, this effort will focus on the main area of the house where bread products can be found—the kitchen. We start by going through the bread drawers, the kitchen closet, and the refrigerator. It is obvious that we will want to remove bread from our home—Wonderbread, bagels, etc. But you will also find yeast in a dizzying array of products where you may never expect to see it, including soups, salad dressings, and seasonings. Last year, I found enough products with yeast in my kitchen to over-fill a box that was 2’x3’x4’ in size!

What do you do with all this leaven? That depends. Some will actually throw it all in the trash, starting over after Pesach week ends. Some will give it away, so others who are not observant may receive a benefit. Some follow the practice of temporarily “selling” the leavened products to a neighbor who will hold it until after the holiday. Once the holiday is over, then the leavened products can simply be bought back. Some will simply throw all the leavened products in a box, and place the box in an area of the house where it can be forgotten for the week of Pesach.

Whichever procedure you follow, it is important to remember that the dual focus of Pesach week is to

  1. avoid leaven
  2. eat matzah

Both of these aspects help us to remember the rushed deliverance from Egypt, and how Hashem’s rescue often comes “just in time”… even when we have been waiting for centuries.

There is always more that could be said about these preparations. After all, whole books have been written, and techniques have been detailed for literally millennia, providing detailed information on the Pesach! So, this year, we will stop here with our pre-Pesach preparations. If you need more information, there are numerous resources, including Barney Kasdan’s excellent work, “God’s Appointed Times”.

So, now we have reviewed the original Pesach, the commandment to remember the Pesach, and some of the preparations we do to prepare for our Pesach seder. Next up, we will start getting into the actual seder celebration, as we learn about something called a “haggadah”. Buckle up your seatbelts, because we are about to start accelerating our pace, and we really get into the Pesach memorial.

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