With all due respect to exercise enthusiasts, I think the person who coined the expression “No pain, no gain” probably thought of it while preparing for Passover. It may have taken me almost 30 years, but, thank G‑d, the “gain” is finally overtaking the “pain.”

Like everything Jewish, if I view Passover negatively, the failing is mine, not G‑d’s. In my early years of cleaning for Passover, I was told that once upon a time in the shtetl, people simply wiped off their table and chairs, picked up the mats they slept on, swept the cement floor of their humble home, and Passover cleaning was finished. It wasn’t fair to blame G‑d for the fact that my kids took food upstairs.It wasn't fair to blame G‑d

As much as I understood this perspective in my early Passover-making years, I didn’t care. OK, so the failing was mine. I still disliked Passover. The fact was, I had “no life” in the weeks when I was getting ready for Passover, and in the early days, I resented that feeling. The scrupulous elimination of any crusty substance on a toy or table—potential chametz, the leavened grain product forbidden on Passover—seemed beyond my capability. I tried to appreciate the spiritual corollary of Passover cleaning—that I was eliminating my own arrogance (analogous to “puffed up” bread) in order to become humble (like “flat” matzah) to truly appreciate G‑d—but for several years, it backfired. Passover was when I “felt myself” more than ever. And it wasn’t always pretty.

We even named the storage room in our old house, “The Broken Bowl Room,” to immortalize what happened there. I blocked out the details; I just remember that I promised myself I would never get angry at my kids like I did when they broke that expensive bowl (the one we put away so it wouldn't break) while I was trying to clean for Passover.

Still, I knew something had to change, and I knew it had to be me. I was committed to observant Jewish life in its entirety, and the Passover package was part of it, every year, whether I liked it or not. There’s some anxiety surrounding Passover still, but the anger and resentment slowly disappeared and are now long gone.

The other day, there was a different feeling entirely.

It was the first day in a while that was both sunny and warm in Pittsburgh, and I was feeling like I had just been freed from winter’s prison. What could I do outside to celebrate this moment? I realized I could start my Passover cleaning by taking the toys outside to wash them. Adding to my excitement was the fact that I had even gotten my marching orders on what to actually do: My husband, Zev, had recently suggested we finally get rid of the toys that were broken, missing parts or just plain disgusting.

Sorting through the collection, I found a large plastic castle that had been around for years. It was dirty but perfectly intact. I took it outside to give it a thorough cleaning; I wanted to restore whatever dignity I could.

As I carefully wiped each surface, my thoughts began to wander.I felt a lump in my throat

Which child decided to draw on the turrets?

How many kings and queens have been imagined in here?

I felt a lump in my throat as I thanked G‑d for my children.

Then I thought: My children’s toys are now my grandchildren's toys.

I didn’t think about this “gain” when I started cleaning for Passover so many years ago.

Then again, I didn’t think about a lot of things back then. Like how fast the time would go once the kids grew up. And how grateful I would be that I didn’t let the “pain” impede my journey to Torah observance.