Every year the ritual is the same. A few days before Pesah, I remove all of our hametz (leavened products) from our pantry, fridge and freezer. I discard opened yet barely used perishable items that have been in the pantry for a year without being touched. I donate sealed items. I create a separate space where I keep open, usable hametz to be used after Passover. I clean our kitchen thoroughly and then I conclude this preparation by pulling out our Passover dishes and utensils, ready for another holiday season.
I do a lot of work to make our home comfortable for our family. While our standard of kashrut and Pesah prep may not pass inspection from modern Orthodox authorities, it is the appropriate ritual preparation for us.
For us, it’s less about what remains in the pantry and what doesn’t; rather it is more about making conscious, deliberate choices that enhance our appreciation of this festival. This is part of my spiritual preparation for Passover, which is just as if not more important than the physical preparation.
The practice of cleaning my kitchen for Passover also helps me cleanse my soul. There is much that I need to remove from the pantry of my mind. I need to discard my feelings of frustration, arrogance, even anger, all of which are spiritual forms of hametz. When I clean out my mental pantry, I am better prepared to face months ahead with a feeling of renewal.
As you prepare for Passover, I encourage you to clean out the pantry of your mind and make spiritual space for yourself. Additionally, even if it is not your custom to clean out your food pantry, or avoid all forms of hametz (bread, crackers, pastries, etc.) I suggest taking one item of hametz that you enjoy daily and remove it from your home and your diet for the week. Make a conscious effort to have Passover permeate beyond the Seder table and add to your appreciation of our Festival of Freedom.
I wish you a joyous Festival of Freedom. May your Seders be filled with joy, blessing, learning and gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy.
Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameah
Rabbi Charles Briskin