March 10, 2003 – Number 5
Preparing for Pesach
Preparations for Pesach begin as soon as Purim is finished. The commandment is threefold, to not eat Hametz, to remove Hametz from our homes and to remove all ownership that we may have over Hametz for the duration of the eight day festival. The Bible is clear: “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the very first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day to the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. …. In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. No leaven shall be found in our houses fro seven days. For whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a citizen of the county. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your settlements you shall eat unleavened bread.” [Exodus 12:15,18-20]
Matza (Unleavened bread) has two different meanings for the Pesach Festival. On the one hand Matza is called “Lechem Oni” or “the poor person’s bread”. This is because when our ancestors were slaves in Egypt (Mitzrayim) they did not have the time to bake ordinary bread. They were always at the beck and call of their taskmasters. They ate this special bread because it could be baked quickly and they would then be able to get back to their work.
The other meaning for Matza is the “the bread of redemption.” Our ancestors, after the final plague, were to quickly leave Mitzrayim. There was no time to properly provision themselves for a long journey. They baked unleavened bread because there just was not enough time to let the bread rise properly. This was a reminder of how quickly the redemption came upon us and so Matza became the symbol of the redemption of our ancestors. We will examine the difference between these two understandings when we look into the nature of the Pesach Seder
Beginning with Purim, we begin to use up all the Hametz that we have in our homes that will not be able to be stored away for the eight days of Pesach. We should use up the items in the freezer, in the refrigerator, and on the shelves that we can not use or own on Pesach. There is an old custom that even if we can store it, we should not have “pure Hametz” in our homes for Pesach. This would mean that bread, crackers, cereal and grains should not be found in our homes for the eight days of the festival. Hametz that we do not use up will have to be removed in a different way that we will describe later.
Even as we use up our Hametz, we need to begin to clean our homes of all traces of Hametz. To do this one should divide the house into two parts. The Kitchen, and everywhere else. Everywhere else is the easiest to do but it covers a lot of ground. One should go through drawers and pockets of clothing to insure that food items have not been stored there long ago. Beds, sofas, and chairs need to be cleaned of all residual crumbs. Furniture in rooms where food is regularly eater needs to be moved and the floor vacumed. Counter tops are cleaned, floors are vacuumed and anyone caught eating in a room that has already be “de-hametized” should be condemned to re-clean the room by themselves.
Next week: Cleaning the Kitchen.