Liberate Yourself This Passover

I’m writing this Sunday morning, the day before the night of the seder.

The house has had a more thorough than usual cleaning. The shopping is done. The car has had its pre-Pesach bath. All that remains is switching the kitchen out from chametz to non-chametz status.

A few thoughts, some practical, some more spiritual as we approach the holiday…first the practical.

If you are Ashkenazi and follow the custom of not eating kitniyot (legumes, etc.), consider joining the “Kitniyot Liberation Front.” The Torah forbids chametz (leavened versions of five grains), not kitniyot. The most extreme ultra-Orthodox rabbi will admit that kitniyot are NOT chametz. Your Passover will be much more enjoyable with rice, corn, etc. Rabbi David Golinkin says it’s OK. Liberate yourself from this unnecessary chumrah (stringency).

Speaking of chumrot, you really do NOT need to cover your entire house in aluminum foil. You don’t even need to cover your entire kitchen in aluminum foil. Rabbi David Hartman, z”l, said it took him about half an hour to get ready for Passover (he didn’t say, however, how long it took his wife!). That may be a slight exaggeration, but the truth is dirt is not chametz. There is no need to go ultra-crazy with the cleaning. And if you miss something – like your kid stuffed a cookie into the back of a closet and you missed it – it doesn’t matter. You’re not a sinner, God will not hate you, and you are not going to Hell. We do a ceremony called “bitul chametz,” nullification of chametz. Anything you missed isn’t your chametz anymore. So if you find that cookie, just throw it away and don’t give it a second thought. Similarly, even in your kitchen, there is no such thing as microscopic chametz. Yes, I’ll kasher the pots and silverware, use special Passover dishes, let the oven run at top temperature for a while and splash some boiling water around, but that’s enough. Aluminum foil all over the place, or special counter covers, etc., is not really required.

But in addition to our physical preparations, we should spend time on spiritual preparation for Passover. Such as considering: what’s the holiday about? The usual answer being “Freedom…”

But there are two types of freedom – freedom from and freedom to. Freedom from is the freedom from other people telling you what to do. Freedom to is being free to do something. The Torah tells us both are important. Everyone remembers what Moses tells Pharaoh: “Let my people go!” But mostly they forget the rest of the sentence. God tells Moses, “Tell Pharaoh to let my people go – in order that they may serve me.”

Before thinking about what you want to get free from, you should think about what you want to be free to do. Do you want to be free to have a more meaningful job? Do you want to be free to have more love in your life? Do you want to be free to feel healthier? Do you want to be free to do as the Torah suggests, and do a better job of serving God?

If you know what you want to be free to do, you can then figure out what you need to get free FROM in order to enable that. Do you need to be free from the wrong job? Free from the wrong relationship? Free from the wrong set of beliefs? Free from the wrong circle of friends? Free from an addiction?

Sometimes the hardest thing to get free from is the wrong attitude. “I can’t do it,” “it’s too hard,” “I’m not worth it,” can trap a person far more powerfully than most external situations. The external situation won’t change until we liberate ourselves, by having a clear picture of our situation and the right outlook.

Freedom “from” everything is not the answer. We all voluntarily accept constraints on our freedom. We accept the limitations of a job because we appreciate either the work itself or the money that we receive. We accept the constraints of marriage because we appreciate the deeper love that can flower within those rules. We accept the limitations of a religion because we find meaning in those restrictions.

FIRST figure out what you want to be free to do – the positive side, the goal. Then figure out what you need to get free FROM to be able to get there.

May this Passover be a time when God helps liberate you, enabling you to be free to pursue your dreams.

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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