Progressively Speaking: The real chametz we need to clear is inside ourselves

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Progressively Speaking: The real chametz we need to clear is inside ourselves

Rabbi Charley Baginsky looks at a passage of Jewish text and offers a Liberal Jewish response ahead of Passover

Family cleans the house. Jews have to clear out Chametz ahead of Passover
Family cleans the house. Jews have to clear out Chametz ahead of Passover

“No leaven shall be found in your houses for seven days.” (Exodus 12:19)

Like Jews all over the world, on the evening before Pesach, I will be gathering my kids and searching for chametz.

It’s not something that comes from our Torah – there’s no Biblical commandment or story of such a search – but it has become a firm and fun part of our Passover tradition.

However, it is also much more than a way to prepare for Pesach and spring clean our physical homes – it’s also a time to clear out the internal chametz that has built within us over the last year.

As Liberal Jews, we believe rituals must play a role beyond their literal enactment and we often emphasise the ways in which they take us from one place to another.

After a year of loss and lockdowns, we finally have a roadmap to the way ahead. If all goes well, by the summer, life will have returned to something like what we knew before, even if we have been changed forever. 

Just like the Israelites in the Pesach story, right now we are moving from the wilderness back into the world.

The Torah tells us just how long it took the Israelites to figure out how to be free and it needed a new generation to emerge before they could leave slavery behind. 

Lockdown has not been slavery and, while it may take a generation to deal with some of the impact, for most of us transformation will be faster. 

Nevertheless, there are things we will all have to relearn, including how to have interactions with other people, how to re-engage with our work, social life and faith physically rather than only through screens.

While lockdown has undoubtedly been very difficult, there will also be things people will find hard to let go. With every new beginning, there
is also a sadness at what we are leaving behind, whether that is getting to spend more time with the children – even though we are all thankful they are back at school – or being spared the daily commute.

Getting rid of our physical chametz is the symbol of how we can use this time to move from one type of being into another this Pesach – going from the separation of being locked down to the togetherness of us
all emerging.

  •  Rabbi Charley Baginsky is the chief executive officer of Liberal Judaism 

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