The Pesach Cleaning Competition

The Pesach Cleaning Competition

This is how I clean for Passover. Starting the day after Purim, I clean for an hour every day, except on Fridays and Saturdays. And I feel fine with that. I’m not a natural balabusta, so an hour a day feels like a good balance– enough time to make steady progress but not such a fast pace that I hit the wall miles before seder night.

That is, I felt fine with it until yesterday when I sat down at the playground next to a French mother who IS a natural balabusta. She literally bakes brioche for her kids’ school lunches and brings freshly-sauteed shnitzels and rice pilaf to feed her kids at the playground. She looked a bit more tired than usual when she told me that she had just spent four hours cleaning her bedroom. But, b”H, she had gotten it all done.

And I felt, well…bad. Mrs. Brioche was really cleaning for Pesach, unlike me. The Passover-prep faker.

And then today, I sat down at the playground next to a different mother who has, hands down, the most demanding schedule I have ever seen a person have. She works full-time, generally night shifts, and then spends her entire day caring for a house-full of young children. “When does she sleep?” you ask. She doesn’t.

Mrs. full-time career plus full-time mother will not be able to start cleaning for Pesach anytime soon. And there will be no scouring the bedroom closets for her. She will focus nearly all of her cleaning energies on the kitchen and living room when her older children are out of school and can help out.

And today, on the park bench, I told her what I tried to tell myself the day before after feeling like a Passover-prep faker.

4 hours.
1 hour.
Or just focus on the kitchen and living room the week before Passover…

By seder night, believe me JewishMOM, everything will be b’seder.

By seder night, each and every one of us will be leaving Egypt behind with the rest of Am Yisrael. A queen at her very own seder table, IY”H.


  1. Anonymous

    I queen? More like a servant

    • JewishMom

      maybe you feel that way now, but on seder night every jewish woman is a queen!

  2. Anonymous

    No, I don’t feel that way now, I didn’t start cleaning yet. I am talking about Seder night. Serving, cutting, cleaning, taking care of little ones. It’s not the spiritual experience I felt before.

    • A little while ago, while reading some history of European royal families, I came to realize that being a QUEEN doesn’t mean being rich and having servants. We have it all wrong, and that makes us bitter when we’re changing diapers and scrubbing ovens.
      European nobility were often very poor. They lived in castles that were handed down, but they often couldn’t afford to maintain.
      There were wars and rebellions that sometimes uprooted them. When in hiding, they had to live like fugitives.
      Kings often had to go into battle for years at a time.
      Their lives weren’t easy.
      But that didn’t take away their sense of being NOBLE BY BIRTH.
      This is something we have no concept of nowadays.
      We live in the age of democracy, of freedom of opportunity, of equality.
      We have no concept of being noble by birth.
      But that’s what a Jew is.
      So even when you’re knee-deep in bleach, remember that you are a queen, even if you’re golus from your palace right now.

      • rena goldzweig

        love this!

        also – we need to constantly try to keep in mind to rid ourselves of the spiritual chametz – haughtiness & envy, just like that felt in this pre pesach competition with your neighbors. The only one you really should compete with is your own self.

      • JewishMom

        wow, thank you for sharing this

      • I love this too. I am going to try contemplate this, so I can remember it. I want this to be my reality.

    • JewishMom

      yes, I hear what you are saying. What really helps me feel like a queen and not a servant even when I am serving and washing dishes etc. is something that I learned from Rabbanit Yemima many years ago in a class she gave before a Chag. She was talking about feeling like a queen, feeling that royalty within myself, that we aren’t serving other people, we are serving HASHEM with our hard work! That table clearing and dish washing is like bringing a sacrifice to Him in the Temple. And she taught me to internalize that feeling, to walk with my head high (on my way to the kitchen with a stack of dishes). For me, it’s really changed the way I feel about things.

    • Not sure if this is possible but perhaps you can consider making the meals simpler and paying for a little help on seder night. If this isn’t an option then depending on where you are maybe there are some single people who need a place for a seder and would be more than happy to help out with serving, kids etc.

  3. All our challenge and test is to find meaning and dveikut in cleaning cutting caring!! We must repeat ourselves that we are queens and preserve our sanity by knowing our limits: i am with 6 kids and two little ones so i dont invite tol much people and i also put the emphasis on doing maximum one closet, or shelf a day like you chana! This allows me to arrive at the seder in a state of zen! Two days ago i tried to do more but afterwards i was so upset i yelled on the kids so my husband told me stop!!!! I donnt think your french friend is a model 4 hours for an adult bedroom shows that for her dust is hametz which is WRONG!!!

    • I tihnk the point is that each person has their own way of dong things and you need to know what works for you. If the French lady is happy doing 4 hours on a bedroom, good for her. And if Chana is good doing 1 hour a day, good for her too.

  4. Chana, I like the way you accept each person’s approach to preparing for Pesach. It is definitely a challenge for most of us, and we should focus on the parameters of Halacha, not on what our neighbors are up to.
    In seforim it is explained that mitzvos, especially the mitzvos of Pesach, which are so ‘hands on’, require a lot of physical involvement, because action makes a deep imprint on a person’s mind. Furthermore, the Jewish Nation was given Mitzvos in order to draw the spiritual into the material world, lift up the physical to a higher plane,etc.
    So get your kids involved in helping, keep your cool; anger, frustration,self-criticism are all chometz!Ask Hakadosh Boruch Hu for help, and play some inspiring music while you clean/cook.

    • Susan SAMET

      One year the night before Pesach we found out that the program that were supposed to attend that year was cancelled. First 2 hours after hearing it insatiable literally in shock trying to comprehend this nightmare. Then reality hit and I started designating “jobs” to my husband and only teenage daughter, while I called a good friend and asked him to drive me to pick up whatever was left in the local stores. Btw u also invited him and is family of 5 to join us for the whole 8 days in order to return the vast favor which he was doing for me. I quickly learned the lesson that immediately after Purim I start cleaning the kitchen which is where most of the xhometz is. I also set rules that there is NO food outside the kitchen or dining room ANYTIME. THIS MINIMIZES THE PESACH CLEANING FOREVER!!! BTW this turned out to be one of our most memorable and beautiful PESACH ever. Happy cleaning and happy kosher Pesach to all

  5. Hi Chana,
    I agree that the Pesach cleaning is a big job, no matter how one does it. My main gripe about the month before Pesach is that all we women talk about is cleaning. Could you post one or two thoughts about women’s spiritual preparation for Pesach?

    • JewishMom

      hi debi, I’ll tell you the truth– i see cleaning and other “physical” prep for the holiday as my spiritual preparation for pesach. Based on various things I’ve learned, I feel that this physical “avoda” prepares me spiritually for the holiday. But your comment is an important reminder that not everyone feels that way–and I will try to keep that in mind…

      • I one time heard from a pretty chashuv and meyuchas rebbetzin that after all these years she still hasn’t figured out how to do the spiritual preparation she wants before chagim. I don’t claim to have figured it out either but I think one thing that can help is to try to feel the simcha shel mitzva as much as you can.

  6. What works for me:
    Give a week for cleaning and couple days for cooking.
    More than that just adds extra stress of worrying about kids making things chometzdik again, its just not worth it.

  7. I am consistently appalled at this time every year. I was raised in a home where we anticipated every Yom Tov with joy and happiness. Seeing everyone’s trepidation and hearing all the complaints makes me want to cry. I am so grateful that I was raised by a happy, positive mother who didn’t feel the the need to complain. As my grandmother used to say, “isn’t it wonderful that we get to clean out house so thoroughly? When else would we ever do this? And we get multiple mitzvos for it!” Granted, it’s easier to have this attitude when it’s been inculcated in you from the time you are a a young child. But as adults, we should have the emotional maturity to create this reality. What kind of legacy are we leaving our children by kvetching and complaining about remembering how we became the chosen nation? There is hired cleaning help, chessed organizations and family to help us so that we’re not martyring ourselves on the alter of religion. Here’s my bracha to every Jewish Mom: may we be zoche to sit at our seder table with the knowledge that we did the best we can, and now we will enjoy the fruits of our labour. Focus on the positive and it will be wonderful! Like an ffb friend of mine told me last night, she’s going to be a bt, and not panic…… Because she will just do what the Rabbi said…… And be satisfied with a job well done. Btw, Em, you said it the best!

  8. Getting Rid Of Chometz

    By Bracha Goetz

    I’m up to the kitchen,
    And everywhere I look,
    It seems I’m uncovering,
    More and more gook.

    I’m climbing inside cupboards,
    Scrubbing every crack,
    Just please don’t ask,
    What I find in the back.

    I get changed by this work..
    You know how I can tell?
    I start feeling so “crumby,”
    My head doesn’t swell.

    While scouring chometz,
    Caked into hidden places,
    The process itself,
    Lets me see concealed traces…

    Of arrogance,
    Which is just as widespread.
    I discover I’m more puffed up,
    Than Wonder Bread.

    It’s a humbling experience.
    That is for sure.
    Pesach cleaning –
    A big ego’s best cure.

    Bracha Goetz is the author of more than 30 children’s books, including Let’s Stay Safe, The Invisible Book, and Hashem’s Candy Store that can be found in Jewish bookstores and online here:

  9. Chana Jenny I’d really appreciate if you’d post more of the teachings that have helped inculcate in you a sense, a knowledge, that your physical avodah IS your spiritual preparation.

  10. A tool that has served me well is imagery- going back to favorite memories of Pesach as a child. (Before I started being the cleaner). There was so much excitement and joy to see the Pesach dishes, how I remember my mothers green dishes, egg cups, glasses with autumn leaves,I could go on and on.
    Then I think what memories will my children have? Will it be the excitement or my complaints and anger? It’s my job to pass on the traditions and beauty of our Nation.
    Now that my children have grown and married they retell the stories of excitement- our minhag of eating hard-boiled eggs in Salt water, they remember my mock granola cookies, the fun of baking our own Matzot in our house, and yes, unpacking the dishes and looking at my mother’s green dishes which she gave me. When the last autumn leaves glass broke a part of me was left bereft.
    If we are able to find a 5 minute memory that feeds us strength it erases hours of resentment and physical aches in pains. It is a free vacation and you can take it every few hours.
    Our facial expressions the children will remember, if you grouch and complain so will they. If you can dance around the mess and laugh they will all love Pesach as we all can.
    Easy to say, harder to do, for sure.This is after 41 years of making Pesach.
    I sneaked a peak into the Pesach boxes today and sure enough, the excitement came back!

  11. You know what? I don’t see why we need any posts at all about pesach cleaning. I’d be happy with your usual unique thoughts and observations that will give us a few minutes pause and joy while we take a break from whatever it is we may be doing.

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