By Liza Moskowitz, MHWOW Program Manager
I have been recently fascinated by everyone’s obsession with the Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” Instagram stories of beautifully folded t-shirt drawers and Kondo-isms on letter boards have been everywhere. If you don’t know what I’m talking about (have you been living under a rock?), watch this and read this. I haven’t gone through the process myself as my closet and bookshelves are still overflowing, but my love of pop culture and Judaism collided when I realized the similarities between the recent trend and Judaism’s thousands-year old Passover tradition of bedikat chametz and be’ur chametz, finding and burning of chametz.
Rabbi Benjamin Shalva had the same thoughts in his April 2015 Wall Street Journal article, “What Passover can teach you about getting rid of clutter and finding joy.” (You feel pretty smart when you have the same idea as a WSJ-published rabbi.) Shalva writes that Jews approach the art of spring cleaning with the same methodicalness and intent as Kondo.
Whether we realize it or not, we ask every year, “Does chametz spark joy?” We transport ourselves back to Egypt, fleeing to freedom. Freedom sparked joy. Leaving enough time for the bread to leaven did not. By ridding ourselves and our homes of chametz, we bring ourselves into our own exodus, closer to our ancestors, and the joyful miracle of freedom from thousands of years ago.
Other than removing all my favorite carbs, Passover is also a time to tidy up our calendars, freeing ourselves from the enslavement of multitasking and complicated lives. Passover freedom should not only be defined as freedom from Pharoah but also freedom from oppressive schedules. There is a reason why the seder is a long elaborate meal filled with 4 cups of wine, a food-induced coma, and a pillow to lean on. We tell the story of being freed from Egypt while we are present in the moment, dinging cell phones, and the 24-hour news cycle. Can you say #relaxationstation?
This Passover, extend that feeling beyond the table and free yourself from being the burnout generation. Ask yourself, “Does this meeting/e-mail/appointment/extra extracurricular activity spark joy?” If the answer is no, you know what to do. Burn the chametz and those unnecessary obligations. You might find that you didn’t even know you were in your own personal Egypt.
Passover comes once a year because we need it. We need the reminder to clean up our homes and lives to fill our space with as much joy as Miriam breaking into song upon crossing the Red Sea. What sparks joy is different for each of us, and as we collectively move towards a more joyful world, we bring freedom to all.