By: Elan Babchuck
By now, those terrible Manischewitz Tam Tam crackers are but a distant memory. If you’re anything like me, you have already indulged in many of the Passover-forbidden foods and have been wrist-deep in pizza and pasta since 8:19 pm on Tuesday night. But before I’m ready to move on from Passover 2014 (or 5774, depending on how you keep count), I’m still dwelling on the deeper meaning(s) of chametz – the leavened products denied us during the eight days of Passover.
During the annual purging of unneeded goods and unnoticed crumbs, I tend to let my mind wander on what it is that I’m really looking for in these frantic moments of spring cleaning. While my actions are directed at vacuuming every last morsel out of the living room carpet and the trunk of my car (how did I get crumbs there in the first place??), my mind veers off into thoughts of existential chametz – the stuff in my life that leaves my spirit bloated, takes up more space than it should, and has long overstayed its welcome.
Recently, Rabbi David Ingber declared the eight days of Passover to be free of the Ultimate Chametz, email. In his eloquent and thoughtful letter, he invited his congregation to take part in freeing themselves from the bonds of email for that period, and they joined him in droves.
Years earlier, my teacher Rabbi Shmuel Lewis reimagined chametz as those items in our possession that have turned the tables and begun to own us.
For me, chametz is both of these things and so much more. It’s the nutrition-less food I don’t need that wastes away on my shelves or in my stomach. It’s half the things that live in my attic and in my basement, all of which would be better served in the hands of the needy than collecting dust in my storage space. It’s the 90 minutes a day that I spend on emails when my soul would so prefer to converse in person, hands cupped around a hot Seven Stars coffee, sitting face-to-face with my fellow emailer.
For all of these reasons, the Jewish calendar gifts us this opportunity of a mid-year evaluation to check in with our souls on the work we promised we would do on Yom Kippur. Like it or not, our souls are vulnerable to all kinds of clutter – those undigested emotions and unprocessed experiences that leave behind a residue too stubborn for a quick once over.
As you stand in front of your refrigerator tonight trying to decide what to eat, I want to invite you to consider all of the other things that you consume daily (articles, television, conversations, information, products, snacks, etc.) as well as those things that might consume you (regret, anger, love, obsession, addiction, etc.). With all of those in mind, I want to offer us the closing blessing from Tefilat Tal, the prayer for dew that we introduce at the beginning of Passover each year.
May all of these consumptions be:
For a blessing, not for curse; Amen.
For life, not for death; Amen.
For abundance, not for famine; Amen.