Nicole Barchilon Frank: Spring Cleaning With A Spiritual Purpose – April 27, 2011
I’m taking an hour or two from scrubbing pans and cleaning my home for Passover to share why I bother spending a solid month of every year deep in massive cleansing.
Several folks have asked me to share about why so much time and energy is spent getting my home free of all dirt and Chametz (leavening or products made out of wheat, barley, rye, spelt, oats, buckwheat or other grains).
I do this process every year to greater or lesser degrees depending on various factors. This year, in honor of my daughter, who is very observant and who will be coming from DC, there is no corner cutting.
I want to clarify that while what I do in my home is in honor of my daughter, it is not for my daughter. It is a practice I engage in that brightens and enlivens my soul.
If you don’t believe that you have a soul, then it’s unlikely you will care or probably bother with any of the more rigorous religious practices on this planet that all the world’s religions have.
Having a soul isn’t a belief for me, it’s an experience. This is true also for my relationship with the Holy One.
As far as seemingly strange rituals that require a huge amount of time and effort, I won’t speak for any other tradition than my own. I will just point out that Jews are not unique in having rituals and actions in this world designed to create change, and make real goodness in the world that perhaps will only bear fruit in a way unseen and unknowable by current scientific practice.
Note, the emphasis here is on “current.” Just because you can’t see the effects of kindness, ritual observances, goodness and spiritual practice does not mean those results aren’t real.
What am I preparing my home and my body for? I am preparing myself for the Exodus, for leaving behind all that enslaves me and others on this planet in order to receive the Torah.
The story we tell on Passover/Pesach is always told in the present tense. It is not something that happened to others, it is something that is happening as I speak it and share it and remember it.
This year, at my seder table, foods from Egypt will be prepared and served, consciously using the recipes and flavors to honor the people of Egypt themselves who have gone through a liberation this year.
Liberation is never a done deal, until everyone is free. It’s a constant process, requiring incredible effort and attention; attention to detail and to the heart of what we are all striving for on this planet.
This year, while reclining at my dinner table for our Seders, (ritual ordered meals) I will wear my Japanese kimono. While I am delighting in the company of my family and friends and our abundance, I am also recognizing that there is death, fear, pain and mourning on this planet at the same time as my celebrating.
How these things exist simultaneously is not for me to understand. It’s very Jewish to have a broken heart and still be engaged in joyful acknowledgement of the Sabbath or the wonder in the universe.
I cannot fix the world or mend every broken heart. I still wish I could. I can attend to my home, the words I speak, the foods I eat, the way I walk on this planet.
Passover preparation and kashrut (the practice of keeping kosher) is at an energetic, molecular level. I was trying to think of a metaphor that might work to help make it more understandable. We all get into cars and airplanes and get where we want to go without too much trouble, in general.
If any particular part or piece of equipment on my car or yours or on the plane we were flying in or our family was flying in to get to us, was marred or hairline cracked or not properly aligned, we or those we love could or would be dead due to a lack of effort, caution and awareness. Not an acceptable scenario.
We demand and expect excellence and proper functioning and attention to detail for the industries that produce and create the tools we use in our lives.
You can extrapolate this out to the cooling system not working in a nuclear power plant due to power outages from a tsunami and see that the results of something not working properly, as it was or is intended to, can and will lead to consequences of immense magnitude.
Spiritually, no one will die, if I don’t get behind my fridge with some rags and a mop. On the other hand, as I attend to the unseen corners and areas of my life, I am re-committing myself to the Divine and to my community. Each time I wipe a surface I am offering a caress to a very battered planet.
You may think I am crazy or fanciful and romantic and equating cleaning with caressing seems really far-fetched. I am telling you how I feel as I work and that it is real for me. I imbue my actions with meaning. I recognize that I make mistakes, create grime, dirt, disruption and hurt.
When I attend to the physical reality in my home, I attend to the internal reality of who I am and all the times I’ve missed the mark of where I was aiming myself. All of this makes me a better person.
My goal is not to be perfect. My goal is to be excellently attuned to what the Creator wants to move through the vessel of my body. If there are cracks and flaws in my vessel, it will not hold the flow of energy and love that is being constantly poured into and offered to and through me.
The more clear and aware I am, the more energy, healing, love and joy will be able to fit in my body/being. And this vessel is open, it flows out of me into you. Why wouldn’t I want it to be really sparkly, clear, ever larger and very well aligned?
One of my favorite parts of this process is the blessing I get to say the day before Passover, when I have inspected my home with a feather and a candle to gather up any last crumbs that are hiding. I say a blessing that reaffirms that I did my best.
I worked hard to get my home dirt, dust, and chametz-free. If there is any of that stuff left in my home during the holiday that I am not aware of, can’t see or don’t know where it could be, guess what it doesn’t even exist! It gets rendered void.
This is the wonder of religious practice, the Holiness in the puzzle. You can’t put this puzzle together without the Holiness box cover. Of course the crumb will still exist, but it won’t really have any real power or meaning, because my efforts and my prayers are recognized and they count for some serious cosmic credit.
I could go on for hours more and give lots more details and explanations. Maybe some day or year when I am not actually having to attend to the doing of the Mitzvot (good deeds or Holy commitments) I’ll find the time. Until then, you’ll have to go and study for yourselves if you want to understand any of this better.
Nicole writes to you from her home in Bayside, with her fingers moving at supersonic speed on the keyboard so she can get to the many, many places in her home that she still needs to clean, and she wishes you all a deep Spring Cleaning that will bring you into real alignment with the universe enabling you to be better vessels of love, justice and kindness.