Spring Cleaning for the Mind

When I was a kid, the holidays felt kind of like a chore. I loved the family togetherness, but like lots of families I knew, our services and rituals lacked creativity and inspiration. They felt somewhat rote, and looking back, there wasn’t a lot of room for making it our own. I don’t remember it being a priority to think big picture or thematically about the holidays, or being encouraged to make the holidays relevant to my current life, or to modern living in general.

Passover was particularly painful. The service – a seder – was long, boring, felt archaic, and made no sense to me. The house had to be completely cleaned of chametz–the Passover-forbidden foods. I now get this as the epitome of spring cleaning, a useful endeavor, but at the time? What a pointless chore! And this was long before the holiday cuisine got elevated, so the food was pretty bad. Matzah, matzah meal – blech (in my opinion).

So I find it pretty amusing that my least favorite holidays as a kid are among my favorites as an adult. Now that I live on the east coast, and not the west or gulf coasts, the alignment of Passover with the beginning of spring puts a literal spring in my step. Spring is about renewal and growth, themes I think the holidays that fall in this season generally share. And the warmer weather means we start to shed physical layers, which gets me thinking about what metaphorical baggage can be dropped as well.

In broad strokes, Passover commemorates the liberation of a people (the Israelites) from slavery in Egypt. In Hebrew, Egypt is called Mitzrayim. According to the text on Jewish mysticism, the name is derived from m’tzarim, meaning “narrow straits” (mi, “from,” tzar, “narrow” or “tight”). So liberation from Mitzrayim can refer to the literal land of Ancient Egypt and also freedom from the place of constricted opportunities, tight control, and narrow-mindedness.

That’s some rich symbolism, and there’s a lot to talk about around the meaning of Passover, like freedom and equality for all–talk about a complicated and layered topic!  One thing I like to be sure to take this annual opportunity to consider are which of my own excess layers I can point some intention towards shedding. What’s MY personal narrow place? Where am I constricting myself with limiting beliefs? With closed-mindedness? With all or nothing thinking? What shifts can happen, what weights can I set down, what barriers and blocks can I remove, so I can free myself from a self-imposed constricted place? How about that for making cleaning the house of chametz relevant, right? I like to say it’s a Spring Cleaning for the Mind.

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