I feel bad admitting it, but Passover is most certainly not my favorite holiday. Ironically, I can’t even blame it on the cleaning and preparing, as I haven’t had to do it for the last number of years (thanks, Mom!). We have been blessed to spend Passover with my parents since we moved back to the States over six years ago, and if I can get away with not having to make it myself for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t mind at all!

To be fair, I have prepared and cooked for Passover before. For the nine years that we lived in Israel, I made Passover in our home each and every year. One of those years, we had guests staying with us as well. And I had given birth two weeks prior. So before you feel I am spoiled rotten with this getting-out-of-Passover-cleaning card, I have put in my time.

There is something about simplicity that is hard for meI think for me, though, my fear of Passover is more than the grunge work of cleaning. Yes, it is hard, and takes hours upon hours that I don’t ever feel I have. But I think it is more than that. I think I really fear needing to go through everything, to sort through things and re-evaluate what is necessary and what is not.

More so, cleaning for Passover is not just a spring cleaning. (But hey, who are we kidding? If I am going to clean, I might as well go through everything!) But really, cleaning for Passover is about finding the chametz, finding what is leavened. And the idea of something leavened is that it rises, it has air . . . basically, it has ego.

So, when we prepare for Passover, we have to go through everything and look and see if there is anything leavened. Once we are sure that there isn’t, we then cover and protect, so that anything that could possibly have remained is no longer accessible. And then, for the week of Passover, we go back to basics. No bread, crackers, pasta; just fruits, vegetables and meat. Nice and simple.

But there is something about simplicity that is hard for me. There is something about stripping down to the bare basics that makes things more revealed. The more complex something is, the easier it is to hide behind or within. For when there is nothing left, you just are what you are, for everyone to see.

I find it interesting that right after we finish Purim, the holiday of concealment and masking, we go straight into a search mission, leaving nothing unturned. We cannot mask the chametz. It certainly isn’t good enough to rely on the idea that if I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Because it does. If it is there, whether or not I see it, whether or not it bothers me, I need to find it and remove it. It cannot remain.

Generally in Jewish law there is the concept of what we call bitul b’shishim, nullification by 1/60th. Practically, this means that if I have a big pot of chicken soup and a few drops of milk accidentally spill inside, as long as there is sixty times more soup than milk, the soup is still kosher. Yet when it comes to Passover, nothing is nullified. No crumbs can be left behind, no matter how small, if visible and removable. No matter how hidden, we are responsible to move that fridge, to check that drawer, to look under the couch. And what is amazing is that when we look, we somehow always find a pretzel where we never would have expected it!

We need to find that part of our ego that keeps us from being real, being true and being freeBut if the leavened products represent our ego, and it is our home, our private domain, that we must clean, not the places that don’t belong to us, then what that means is that what prevents us from truly being free—is ourselves. We are both slave and slavemaster simultaneously, where our inability to attain freedom is coming from within.

It is up to us to search our surroundings, to search ourselves, our minds, hearts and souls, and see what is there that cannot be nullified and therefore must be removed and destroyed. We need to find that part of our ego that keeps us from being real, being true and being free. And it will take time, it will take effort and it will take work. But it is only through this process that we can sit down at the Passover Seder and find our voice, the voice that has been silenced, and tell our story. It is our story of miracles, our story of redemption, our story of freedom.

And this is why we call it a Seder, which means “order.” Everything seems so out of the ordinary. Everything is so different from the rest of the year. But this is the true order. Going back to the basics. Being who we really are and who we are meant to be. And most importantly, being free.