Friday, April 18, 2008

Soul Scrubbing

[Published here two years ago ]

My right arm is officially a hundred times stronger than my left, still burning and smelling of bleach.

The home where I am living and studying this year, Machon Alte, had a day of cleaning yesterday, in honor of the approaching holiday of Passover. Every student was given a job around the "campus."

My job? To scrub. To scrub the floor. To scrub all thirty refrigerator racks. To scrub the counters. To scrub the dishes.

As I was removing layers of grime, mold, and rotting food from the surfaces of all the items I encountered, I struggled to use my overly-exposed-to-fumes brain to tap into the meaning and purpose of all the cleaning. Learning in Tzfat, the city where the study of Kabbalah originated in Northern Israel, has taught me enough to expect more from the seemingly mundane in this world.
Learning in Tzfat has taught me enough to expect more from the seemingly mundane in this world

The Alter Rebbe is known to have spent an enormous amount of time intensely cleaning his one room house. The commandment of checking for chametz, and leavened product, (after the house is already cleaned) takes about twenty minutes, but he went all through the night - carefully guiding his candle along the floor in search of crumbs.

Clearly, there is something here that goes beyond spring cleaning.

The Alter Rebbe wasn't only searching his house. He was searching his soul. He was identifying what a person's motives should be when cleaning for Passover - checking for the crumbs and layers of dirt that could possibly be covering our soul, stopping it from shining its full light.

There are many explanations for the much dreaded Passover cleaning. But for me, the Alter Rebbe's approach stands out.

So here I am scrubbing and scrubbing. I've got my soul on my mind. And I'm talking to myself. I'm saying, "Mimi, scrub it away."

Scrub away negativity. Let your soul shine. Scrub away the suggestive powers of society. Let your soul shine. Scrub away the barriers between your brothers and sisters. Let your soul shine. Scrub away your silly insecurities. Let your soul shine. Scrub away your ego. Let your soul shine. Scrub away laziness. Let your soul shine. Scrub away meaningless distractions. Let your soul shine.

Scrub away all the layers. Reveal the light, the shine. Reveal your mission. Reveal your powers. Reveal the meaning. Reveal the light inherit in the dark. Reveal the G-dliness. Reveal redemption.

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. And the whole world, too, is with me. It is Nissan, the month of redemption, and Jews of every type and affiliation are cleaning away. Soul scrubbing and world scrubbing.

The world is starting to freshen and sparkle.

Passover is on its way.

I'll see you in Jerusalem.


Der Shygetz said...

Nice analogy, but our way is of course not to scrub too hard or chas vesholom use hazardous, scarring, dehydrating, fume-generating ekonomika on our precious neshomos.

Maybe because I am just back from the first non-insurance related bonfire I have lit since last Lag Beoimer, I prefer the image of burning, of the fire of the nefesh haeloikis burning away the chometz that has accumulated because we fell victim to the yetzer.

Still, as usual, this is a wonderful article. A kasher un freilichen Pesach, and whatever else you may do with bleach, remember that it is NOT proper to use it for the arba koissos!

Anonymous said...

i personally havent done much cleaning this year being that im not home for pesach. ur post put pesach cleaning into a whole new category (and changed my perspective). and i thought pesach away from home was a pleasure leaving me with nothing to do but sit and relax....
with only a few hours left till shabbos when we're going to be "chometz free" (or at least the house will be neways) i think im going to do some much needed personal pesach cleaning. thanks for the last minute wake up call. kosher and freilichen pesach. l'shana haba'a b'yerushalaim!

Der Shygetz said...

Mimi, has your hand recovered sufficiently from all that cleaning 2 years ago that perhaps you can post again? Hope you had a great Pesach!

Rabbi Lars Shalom said...
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Mimi said...