Passover and the Cleansing of the Soul

Table Set for SederHappy Passover.

It is that time again. Families are gathering and the stories will flow as we sit around the seder table.



We are struck, as I will be this year, by the absence of certain people. This is the first Pesach since my mom died.

We are also filled with joy as to the presence of new faces.  This is first seder with my new grandson.

The “cycle” of life?

Passover has, as you know, it own set of rituals and customs. For an increasing number of Jews, the tradition of cleaning the home of chametz is proving to have meaning. Chametz are those foods that are not acceptable for Passover. These are the breads and flour and cereals and such that are so much a part of our daily life. The custom is to spend the days and night before Passover in cleaning out these elements. As we complete the task, we are asked to say a special blessing that honors the commandment to remove the chametz.

I was thinking about this ritual in recent days. I was reminded of it when looking at the Torah portion that precedes Passover (Portion Tzav) that mentions the cleaning of the alter after certain sacrifices.

There is a link between the notion of removing the unclean or unfit from the alter and our homes. That linkage, I suggest, is the ideal of removing that which is unclean or dangerous from our own souls.

Passover is a unique moment in the Jewish year. It is a time when all the images of the Exodus story can be brought to bear as a metaphor for each of our lives.

We are all trying to shed from our souls that which enslave us. We are all, in a way, in a long trek through the wilderness seeking meaning. And, we are all able to use this festival as a means of cleansing from our own souls that which is not in our best interests.

Each of us has a certain amount of chametz in our lives. Perhaps this idea of cleaning the house from the non Passover foods is really an invitation to cleanse our own souls of that which inhibits our own freedom. In that way, we are given another invitation by Jewish tradition and ritual to free ourselves of the past and to embrace a sacred future.

For us baby boomers, this image rings very true. Many of us are in various stages of transition. It is good to know that our own faith tradition encourages us, even commands us, to not be afraid to cleanse that which inhibits and enslaves our own salvation, growth and dreams.

I hope that the holiday has brought you peace and inspiration.

Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min


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