By Rabbi Michael Kushnick
Preparing for Pesach requires an incredible amount of time and energy. Shopping, cleaning, kashering and cooking are just a few of the tasks that must be completed before the holiday begins. There is a significant concern for ridding every part of our home of chametz (leavening) during the preparation. The different methods of removing chametz from our homes might be tedious, but the work needed to accomplish this makes a lot of sense. We become obsessed with removing physical chametz. In fact we rid ourselves of chametz in three ways: By selling it by searching for and burning it; and finally, by declaring that anything left is no longer ours. By following this process, we not only remove chametz from our homes, we also gain a spiritual insight into our lives.
The rabbis suggest that chametz transcends the physical world. Chametz also symbolizes the puffiness of the self; an inflated personality and an enlarged ego. To some degree, everyone has these traits. It is human nature to experience these feelings, but it is not good; it harms others as well as ourselves. What if, during the preparation, we were as obsessed with ridding our own bodies of chametz as we are with removing it from our homes? Just like in the home, when we find one crumb of chametz and quickly search for the next, so too in your soul, when you find one instance of chametz — of inflated ego — quickly search for the next instance. Try to dig deep inside your soul by focusing on your conduct since the previous Passover. Isolate the occasions during which you might have acted with an inflated ego, and make a list of those occasions. The list should help you understand a pattern, know if you’ve wronged someone else, and how to repair that wrongdoing. It is hard work, but it is necessary work.
Let’s not lose sight of what Pesach is truly about: Ridding all chametz — both spiritual and physical — from the world. When we do this, we can be the holy people that God brought out of Egypt.
Next year, may we be free from all forms of an inflated self and ego, and truly live as free people.
Rabbi Michael Kushnick has served at Congregation Anshai Torah in Plano since 2013.