My Good Enough Pesach

My Good Enough Pesach

Yesterday, by the late afternoon, I was literally crying from pre-Pesach exhaustion. Snapping at my family members. Cursing my fate as a JewishMOM. Thinking inspirational thoughts such as “I can’t take this aaaanymoooore” and “Wouldn’t it be nice to fall asleep like a Jewish Sleeping Beauty, until, like, Shavuos.”

And then, after an embittered evening, I fell asleep early, crying into my pillow.

After many hours of sleep, the world looked so much brighter this morning.

But still, I realized, as my mother is fond of saying, ENOUGH!

The week before Pesach is the most challenging week of the year for a JewishMOM, and I need to do what I can to make it easier for myself.

At 7:40 this morning I sent an SMS to the woman making a pre-Pesach camp down the street to find out if there was still room for my kids (in Israeli schools, Passover Vacation starts 10 days before Pesach). Yes, the camp costs money. Yes, I was hoping not to spend that money. But I did it anyway.

And then, after all my little kids were out of the house, I thought about all the things remaining on my to-do list that I really don’t have to do…

And I realized that instead of cleaning them, I can sell the linen closet, the laundry porch, all the upper cabinets in my kitchen, the two drawers for disposables.

It’s not ideal. A little voice inside me screams, “If not now, when, Chana Jenny?! Your disposable forks, knives, and spoons as well as your pillow cases and fitted sheets will be hopelessly mixed up for perpetuity!”

But I’m trying to remind that nervous little voice inside of me of something I heard…

In the Hagaddah, every year we read “ולבן ביקש לעקור את הכל,” Lavan wanted to destroy everything.

At least one Chassidic commentary explains that “Lavan” literally means “White.” Lavan represents our tendency to perfectionism, that everything in our homes should be clean and white and perfect.

And that is what destroys everything. Our families. Us.

So I, for one, am aiming for less perfection this year.

A good-enough Pesach.

Good enough for me.

And good enough, I pray, for Hashem, too.

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29 comments

  1. Yesterday i did a great tyoul to the zoo with my kids instead of the endless day cleaning and screaming! Did you read rav aviner s explanation on fb on how to prepare for pessah? For him sell as much as you can concentrate on the kitchen and have a good time with your family this is pessah! Certainly not a slavery period!!

  2. That’s what I am doing and I have absolutely no guilt!

  3. What a beautiful interpretation of the passuk
    We all tend to be perfectionists in some areas or others and literally it ruins everything. I just hung up a painting of yerushalayim that I was “in the middle of” which I could really spend the next 10 years saying it’s still not finished, this has to be fixed and that doesn’t look right. Instead I decided to hang it up with all its imperfections and enjoy it as is. Should I have the time I can make touch ups with it hanging on the wall!

  4. Chana jenny i dont know how to send you the link but on facebook go to the page הרב שלמה אבינר and its a few posts down its called איך לנקות לפסח!! Enjoy!!

  5. I feel so much more normal knowing I was not the only one to have a full-on pre-Pesach meltdown last night after I had taken on WAY too much for the evening. I was trying to “perfectly” complete my to-do list before I went to bed, and I hit a wall of exhaustion/anxiety/panic with the clock ticking until my alarm would go off very early for work this morning. “I NEED MORE HELP!” and “I CAN’T DO THIS!” were the thoughts I would not let go of (and unfortunately also sent my husband’s way :(…) in my distraught state. I think the main anectdote to this not happening for me is to GO TO SLEEP earlier – I even will set my alarm for extra early to do things, I’m much more efficient and happier after hours of sleep are behind me. I need to also take an earnest look at my to-do list and recognize what is necessary and what is extra. This is SO hard to do, but bli neder, I will do it! Thanks for this normalcy check and reality check! 🙂

  6. Less is more.
    Sorry you had such a hard day but glad to hear that you found ways to make things better.

  7. Guess it was one of those days yesterday!!!

    this is just perfect for me.
    thank you!!!

  8. I was talking to a mother who said she was planning on turning over her kitchen Monday and doing all the cooking Tuesday so that come Wednesday she can start doing fun things with the kids. And when those kids grow up they will connect Pesach with fun, love and warmth! I think selling more and cleaning less means a saner mother and happier kids. We are molding their memories every second of the day.

  9. Pesach vacation 10 days before pesach? wow that is hard. Not possible for me to get anything done with any of the children around. My trick is getting lots of cleaning help. But it is still a time full of a lot of pressure and it really seems like a ginormous and impossible task ahead. With Hashems help we will manage!
    Thanks for this article!

  10. Nechama Koren

    Way to go Chana Jenny for getting the help you need! We all feel the same way and have that voice that says it’s not enough. You are a great mom. I hope the rest of the week is easier.

  11. Thanks for your sharing, Chana Jenny – just what I needed to hear. That’s exactly how I was feeling last night = so worn down, and anxious and feeling tremendous pressure. Wondering how I could possibly get everything done and having two tasks come up that I hadn’t planned for at all. It is so comforting to have this community of Jewish women and know I am not alone. Feeling the collective wanting to do Hashem’s will for Pesach and sending good wishes for a Ziessen Pesach!

  12. dear jenny,
    this article hit the spot for me, as it offeres such a nice and comforting approach to that (usually) unsatisfied eccomplishing side of mine..
    just the realization that by “not doing” whatever it is I gave up on doing,in exchange for doing Hashems will,is real freedom!
    I loved the idea so much, and hope to use it all year long.
    thank you!
    best wishes to all of us,for a happy,kashern Pesach!

    • JewishMom

      wow, what an honor that you read my article! chag kasher v’sameach!

  13. After many years of pre-Pesach meltdown, I discovered that I had it all wrong. Ask your chosen Rav, but according to what I learned a few years down the track,I believe the laws are:
    1.You may not have a k’zayis of chometz (that would be edible to a dog) in your possession, and you may not have even a crumb in your food.(So don’t waste your time cleaning the corners of your sox drawers with a toothpick, put your best effort into cleaning the kitchen).
    2.The house should be neat and orderly for bedikas chometz, so that you can check for chometz.(Expect it to become an un-orderly mess by the time your husband has finished searching!)
    3.Any place where chometz is never brought, does not need cleaning. Heavy furniture which is not going to be moved on Pesach does not have to be moved for cleaning before Pesach. (No need to give yourself a bad back, trying to move the bookcases away from the wall).
    4.Being happy on Yomtov is a mitzvah obligation for both men and women.
    When the Jewish people brought the components of the mishkan to Moshe Rabbeinu, he could not put it up until he asked Hashem Yisborach for help. We, too, have to put in our best effort, and at the same time, ask Hashem to bless the work of our hands, and make our efforts bear fruit.
    And most important- it is not a competition. When you see or hear of someone else’s accomplishments let yourself feel inspired, not threatened.
    Have a JOYOUS and KOSHER Pesach.

  14. I’m so glad you had the strength to stop at that.

    I am including a well-researched guide to cleaning for Pesach, the actual halachos which are very clear and easy to understand.

    Diminishing Pre-Pesach stress begins with
    knowledge of this basic principle: The Halochos
    of eating Chometz are very stringent, but the
    Halochos of OWNING chometz are much less so.
    Below are Torah scholars’ directives regarding
    owning chometz and cleaning for Pesach.
    (Notes in parenthesis and brackets are explanatory
    comments. Also, italics and bold are added for emphasis.)
    RAV CHAIM PINCHOS SCHEINBERG Zatzal,
    Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Ohr in Yerushalayim,
    taught the following:
    • If, during the year, chometz is not brought into
    a place, that place does not have to be cleaned
    out or checked for chometz.
    • The general obligation to check for & get rid
    of crumbs does not apply if the crumbs are less
    than the size of a k’zayis [an olive] and are dirty
    or spoiled enough to deter a person from eating
    them. (A kzayis is around 1/2 – 1 ounce.)
    • The cleaning product (regular household
    cleanser) must spoil the crumbs (only) slightly,
    to the extent that people would refrain from
    eating them.
    Rabbi Barclay and Rabbi Jaeger, authors of the
    Guideline Halacha Series, write that there are
    two mitzvos connected to the possession of
    chometz:
    • Not to see chometz or find it in one’s
    possessions (Lo Yeraeh and Lo Yemotzei)
    • To dispose of it. (Tashbisu)
    According to Torah law, it is enough to either get
    rid of the chometz, or to declare it null and void.
    Our sages required both for three reasons:
    • Our declaration should be sincere.
    • We shouldn’t accidentally eat chometz (that’s
    lying around)
    • In order that overlooked chometz be included.
    “If the chometz is dirty, then only a piece that is
    the size of a k’zayis (or larger) must be removed.”
    “If the chometz is edible, then even a smaller
    [than a k’zayis] piece that one may be tempted to
    eat must be removed.”
    “Therefore, when cleaning for Pesach one must
    remove small pieces of edible chometz and large
    pieces of inedible chometz.”
    Books: Rabbi Barclay and Rabbi Jaeger also write
    that there is no need to check books, except for
    books that will be brought to the table. Those
    books should be either new or well cleaned.
    Bentchers used the whole year should not be
    used on Pesach; they should be put away with
    the chometz because they often contain crumbs
    and are difficult to clean. (Nowhere is it mentioned
    that the chometz crumbs have to be removed or that the
    bentchers and zemiros books have to be sold, even though
    chometz crumbs remain in them. The only rule is that
    they should be put away so that they are not accidentally
    brought to the table on Pesach.)
    Toys that will be used on Pesach should be
    cleaned with soapy water and checked. Other
    toys should be put away. Special toys for Pesach
    are recommended.
    Clothing that won’t be worn on Pesach needs
    only a quick check. “Since they are not going to
    be worn, there is no concern that one may eat
    any crumbs that are there. Small crumbs do not
    have to be removed since there is no prohibition
    to own them during Pesach.”
    Light switches and door handles should be
    cleaned when necessary (After we touch them,
    we may touch Pesach food, and the laws forbidding
    eating chometz are most stringent, as mentioned.
    Pens, pencils, combs, and hair brushes which might
    have some sticky residue might also be in the same
    category.). Carpets: Vacuuming a carpet cleans it
    בס״ד
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    sufficiently, since any remaining crumbs are not
    fit for eating.
    Toaster: Since a toaster will not be used on
    Pesach, it is sufficient to remove loose crumbs
    by shaking the toaster well and putting it away
    with the chometz utensils. The chometz pots do
    not have to be scrubbed. Some have the custom
    to check the pots for chometz.
    Rabbi Yaakov Zev Smith, a maggid shiur for
    Irgun Shiurei Torah, explains: “The Gemara
    says that after bedikas chometz one still needs
    to annul the chometz. This requirement is not
    because of crumbs which may be scattered in
    the house; rather, it is a protection against a big
    piece of chometz. The reason we do not worry
    about crumbs is that since they are on the floor
    they have no importance to us and are “selfannulled”
    (Pesachim 6b).”
    He explains further that the Chayei Adam (119:6)
    is of the opinion that one must clean crevices of
    crumbs within hand’s reach. This is not because
    of the prohibition to see or have chometz in one’s
    possession – but because we are concerned that
    one might inadvertently eat them”.1
    The Pri Chadash (444-4) and the Igros Moshe (1-
    145) disagree with this stringency.
    However, the commonly held custom is to follow
    the Chayei Adam’s ruling and clean out all easily
    accessible places where crumbs might be found.
    The Chazon Ish (122:8) cites the Gra in stating
    that crumbs caught between the floorboards do
    not have to be removed. Even if there are many
    crumbs that add up collectively to a k’zayis, they
    are not a problem halachically, because they are
    dried out and unappetizing.
    “The requirement for chometz to actually be unfit
    for canine consumption (inedible to a dog) only
    applies to a k’zayis.” (Magen Avraham; Mishnah
    Berurah).
    Rabbi Smith continues: What about chometz
    that is bigger than a crumb yet smaller than a
    k’zayis? An example might be a pretzel, or half
    a cookie. “While small crumbs are insignificant
    and are automatically nullified, these bits of food
    (which are identifiable things) are in a category
    of their own.”
    These pieces of chometz (larger than a crumb
    yet smaller than a k’zayis) should be removed.
    (Shulchan Aruch Harav; Mishnah Berurah)
    Extra effort in cleaning away chometz is part of a
    heilige minhag. In practice, we give the greatest
    energy to areas that our Pesach food and our
    hands will touch/contact on Pesach2
    . (This helps
    prevent the possibility of eating any chometz on
    Pesach. And while this is true, give careful note to
    the following paragraph.)
    This minhag must be practiced according to
    each person’s strength and energy. And only up
    to where it does not take away from health,
    safety, and joy in the Heilige Yom Tov.
    Anything written above should not be used
    by husbands and children as an excuse for not
    helping make the house clean and shining, as
    well as kosher for Pesach. It is indeed part of the
    signature of Pesach to have a home that is extraspecial
    clean. The wholehearted participation—
    without criticism—of husband and children,
    makes a big difference and brings much joy to
    the Yom Tov.
    May we all be zocheh to clean and prepare for
    the Yom Tov of Pesach without excessive strain
    or fear, but with anticipation and happiness.
    And, may our cleaning and preparation find
    chein Above and help bring the Geulah Shleimah
    closer.
    A truly kosher and freilichen Pesach to all.
    The information above was reviewed and approved
    by Rabbi Elozor Barclay and Rabbi Yitzchok Jaeger, the
    authors of Guidelines – Over Five Hundred of the Most
    Commonly Asked Questions About Pesach (Targum Press)
    and by Rabbi Zev Smith of Irgun Shiurei Torah.
    L’aliyas nishmas Zeesl bas R’ Tzvi, a”h
    1 (cf. Radvaz 1:135; Machaneh Yisrael 10:)
    תקנת בדקת חמץ אחר שביטלו אינה אלא משום גזירה שמא יבוא לאכלו בפסח … 2
    …עיקר
    “The main reason for the establishment of bedikas chometz after one nullifies
    the chometz is only to prevent the possibility of eating chometz on Pesach”
    Shulchan Aruch Harav (433:19)

  15. Wow when I read the article, and all the amazing responses from amazing jewish mothers! All trying do hard to serve HaShem, with any resources we can …I say HaShem we are ready! We want another yetzias mitrayim, right here and now PLEASE!!!
    You promised bezechus noshim tzidkoniot-look at all of us trying so hard to do Your will! And to do it right all the way!
    We are ready for the Geulah Sheleima!
    Thanks for Chana Jenny for inspiring us continuously with your great articles and such realness and sweetness and thanks all you jewish MOMS for being AMAZING!
    May you all each on an individual level have a yetzias mitzroim wherever you need it and may we all continue learning about our individual redemption and where we need to grow larger to allow more and more of the shechina into our hearts and homes and have the wisdom to make the right choices. For some its more for others less very individual. ..chag kasher vesameach dear sisters and get ready since we are at the last stretch..the ultimate redemption is almost here because of all of US!!

  16. Devorah Saban

    I’m with Mina above. I spend more time reading Pesach cleaning PDFs than I actually do cleaning. If you know the halacha well, the cleaning can be kept to a minimum. I don’t go anywhere near my linen closet and I don’t sell it. I have no fear of going into it to get sheets on Pesach. The only items that go in there are folded clean sheets. My toddlers don’t climb into it, and they don’t fold my sheets! Yes, it’s not neatly refolded, but it doesn’t need to be sold.

    Jewish guilt can go out the door so we can just all enjoy a Kosher Pesach. And if it makes you feel any better, have not cleaned ONE cabinet anywhere in my house for Pesach. One. Anywhere. Yet 🙂

    • JewishMom

      it makes sense that you don’t sell your linen closet, i am selling my linen closet because my kids hide treats. in my house, chametz could be absolutely anywhere

  17. Jenny, selling the contents of your linen closet is a mitzvah! (Carefully guard your health- just realized we use the term Nafshoteichem- your nefesh- your soul is your health. A healthy mother is one that can pass on traditions, teach Torat Imemcha, and be the role model and loving leader in the home, not sparkling linen closets!
    Money spent on camp to give you serenity comes under the category of Chinuch we are promised to be paid back for.
    So all of the tools that you used are really spot on, not a “cheat”. Not one of your children will remember a locked up closet, but a mother in meltdown every child remembers.
    Rav Sheinberg, of blessed memory put out a letter to women long ago that changed my life, lock up whatever possible, use “fantastic” on places you must clean and RELAX.
    As a mother of 11 grown children and grandmother of 19 I can honestly say it will get easier, but until it does, Sell as much as possible, and enjoy!

  18. okay, so we’re now at the erev pesach final hurdle
    standing and cooking and organizing the meals for the first days of yomtov (how i wish i were in Eretz Yisrael–just for one day yomtov alone i’d rather be there than here…
    about 10 years ago, my son introduced me to the concept of blasting music while cooking. he started playing Chaim Israel’s Milim Shel Tefilla.
    to say that it lifted up my spirits and let me virtually dance through 10 hours of cooking would be an understatement.

    ever since then, i play that album on the day before yomtov. just to keep me dancing while i cook. lately i’ve resorted to listening on my mp3 player with earphones. so my kids get to hear my solos singing along….off key and loud!

    chana jenny, maybe next year you can have a pre-pesach contest requesting people to nominate their favorite cleaning/cooking music….

    have a wonderful pesach, full of blessings and love!

    • JewishMom

      that’s a great idea! I will also keep my eyes out for that cd, never heard of it

      • once you’ve heard it, you’ll go running for everything Chaim Yisrael.
        he’s got another one, Asafti Regaim, which makes me sing, dance, and cry…

        powerful stuff!
        enjoy!

  19. I had a good laugh today because both my son and my husband vacuumed.my car and today I.found half a breadstick in the door pocket! Not even under the seat or some other obscure area…. Did I think to myself “oh my gosh now I have to check the wgike car what else did they miss?” No. I just figured Hashem wanted me to do my part since it was my car and put that grissini right where I could see it….. I am anti guilt and pro human mishaps…..

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