liat collins 58.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I’m coming clean: I have gradually moved from planning to get ready for Pessah
to actually doing something about it – nothing particularly necessary, but
nonetheless I found myself at 1 a.m. scrubbing the bathroom tiles with a
It might have been the fumes, or maybe it was the
tiredness, but somehow it didn’t occur to me at the time that if, by chance,
some kind of leavened food product had been introduced into the bathroom, it was
unlikely to have ended up on the walls that I was close to climbing.
I have a dirty secret: There were some shelves in the cupboard which I hadn’t
cleaned since last year. So I started on those, too. Then I got that sinking
feeling, or at least the inexplicable urge to clean around the faucets. From
there you can imagine what was down the pipeline – by 2 a.m., I was clearly
going around the U-bend so I decided to call it a night.
this was before the clocks went forward. I’m not sure how I would have coped
with a full day’s work following all my closet cleaning operations had I lost an
hour. Even the thought that time is running out is as much a sign that Pessah is
coming as the clocks changing.
Only in Israel is spring cleaning a
religious experience, and only here could the start and finish of daylight
saving time be related to religious holidays (and hence the hot topic of
But I don’t have time to discuss that now. Pessah is
I HAVE friends and neighbors who go crazy way before me, and far
more thoroughly. Heaven knows I’m no cleanliness freak, but part of the
collective Pessah experience is the cleaning.
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Even secular friends admit
they’re bitten by the bug this time of year.
Every year, too, I try to
figure out the answer to one of life’s riddles: How is it that if you take all
the books off a shelf, dust them down, return the ones you borrowed and give
away the ones you no longer want, the remainder will not fit back into the
bookcase? (I know I’ve shared this conundrum before but it’s also traditionally
the time to ask questions.) For those of us who’ve turned pagan spring cleaning
into a Jewish experience, there are lots of rules.
The Talmud says that
something so bad that even a dog wouldn’t eat it is not a problem on Passover.
My dog, however, eats almost anything. She also sheds more hairs than both my
cats put together. This makes the cleaning even harder – although if there’s one
holiday when dogs come into their own, it’s this one. Part of the miracle of the
Exodus was that the dogs did not bark and give the Israelites away (a miracle I,
indeed, can appreciate).
I ONCE interviewed a psychologist about
Pessah-related problems and it turns out an obsession with cleanliness is only
one of them. There is apparently a dramatic rise in stress and mental
health-related issues resulting from the typical Israeli question: “Where are
you for Seder night?” Apparently, this question can affect singles (who
particularly feel their unmarried status at this family-oriented time); couples
(who have to decide which family to go to); the divorced and widowed (who feel
their loss more keenly); the childless and those worried about how their kids
will behave – in short, almost everyone.
Nonetheless, as the saying goes:
Avarnu et Paro, na’avor gam et zeh – we got through Pharaoh, we’ll survive this
too. Just keep repeating: The gift of freedom is the most precious Passover
present we ever received; no wonder it came with strings attached.
OUR neighbors in the Arab world appear to be spring cleaning, throwing out
rulers who refuse to make a clean break – or at least trying to. Anti-corruption
clean-up campaigns are known in Hebrew as biur hametz, a truly cultural
reference reflecting the practice of burning leavened products before
The flames in places like Syria, Libya and Yemen, unfortunately,
could be getting out of control.
True, the image of our Knesset does not
easily spring to mind when discussing either cleanliness or order, but when we
see what’s going on elsewhere, we can count our blessings this holiday
And the very fact that Jews everywhere continue to celebrate
Pessah after three millennia proves that miracles happen.The writer is
The International Jerusalem Post
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