This past Sunday wasn’t the usual “funday.”

You see, we decided that we’d clean for Passover as a family. So we pulled out all the drawers, clothes and toys. We shook them out, vacuumed them and wiped them down, all in search of the elusive piece of chametz (leavened foods, including bread, cookies and cereal) that might have accidentally been dropped in the toy room (or was brought downstairs illegally by one of the kids).

After about 30 minutes our enthusiasm started to wane, and as we hit the one-hour marker we were in full-on regret mode. But we tried to stay positive and encouraging, at least until the two-hour ice-cream-break marker.

And then it happened. You got it—at roughly 2 PM in the toy room, under a shelf, I saw it. It stood there in its full, arrogant pomposity, glaring at me for daring to upset it from its comfortable perch. It looked at me and I looked at it, wondering who’d blink first. It was a wayward Cheerio. Honey Nut, I believe. The sheen of its nutty belly gave away its identity.

This was no joking matter. This whole exercise was exactly for this moment. For me to eradicate and destroy, eviscerate and obliterate any vestige of chametz. And here was this pretentious little leavened food brazenly resting at the foot of the toy cabinet. How dare it. The sheer chutzpah! I grabbed my trusty Sears Kenmore vacuum and aimed the wand at the Cheerio. First it wiggled, then it tried to stay in place, but eventually the force of suction and my determination were no match for it, and it was dislodged and sucked into the wand, where it will ultimately meet its maker in General Mills heaven once I throw out the vacuum bag.

And then it hit me. Really? Seriously? Does G‑d really care if a Cheerio lives in my house over Passover? I mean, yes, you gotta spring clean. It’s good for the house, it’s good for the kids to learn some domestic ethics, like the fact that clothing and toys don’t pick themselves up. But really, does G‑d care if there is a wayward piece of cake, cookie, challah, cereal, or any other chametz hidden off in some corner, deep in the recesses of the house?

To paraphrase Tevye, would it spoil some vast eternal plan if a piece of chametz were found, oh goodness gracious, in a corner, in a drawer, in a closet or in any other place?

There are many important answers to this question, but one of the mystical answers resonates deeply with me.

The exodus from Egypt was a journey from physical slavery to physical freedom. The modern Exodus is the journey from personal slavery—be it mental, emotional or spiritual—to personal freedom. The freedom to reach our full potential, to “be all that we can be.”

There are many factors that inhibit us from reaching our fullest self. Fear, anxiety, worry, too much sense of self, too little sense of self, and so on. What is most often at the core of any of these inhibitors is ego. To quote recovery expert Shais Taub, E.G.O. is an acronym for Edging G‑d Out.1

Ego, in its most literal sense, gets us in trouble so often. Why do we get upset at other people? Because they called us a name, made fun of us, didn’t invite us to their party. What is the root of all that upset? Ego. If we didn’t have an inflated sense of self, we wouldn’t be bothered by any of the above.

Why are we so afraid of taking new leaps and striving higher? What is at the core of our fear of failure? Again, ego. If we had an appropriate, accurate sense of ourselves, we wouldn’t think of ourselves as “all that and then some.” If we succeed, great; if not, well, it wasn’t meant to be.

Now, in the real world, we don’t have the luxury to wax poetic and think deep thoughts and theorize and philosophize about profound hypotheticals, because the burdens of life consume us.

Until Passover.

Come Passover, and the weeks that lead up to it, we need to slow it down a bit, however painful that may be. We need to stop to find the Honey Nut Cheerios that may be lurking in the deepest recesses of our soul and psyche. For just as chametz is leavened food, a food that rises, ego points to a puffed-up sense of self.

For one week a year, we must banish any form of chametz from our lives. We need to open all cabinets (our relationship with food), empty all drawers (our sense of self-importance because of our many projects, real or imagined), dump out the toy box (our inner child that may be too immature to make the next move), move the couch from the wall (the part of us that couches laziness in relaxation—pun intended), take books off the bookshelves (our pseudo-philosophical side that hides behind fancy words and philosophies that absolve us, in our minds, from the hard work that must be done), because it is not certain where some inflated sense of self may be hidden.

It is not easy to confront the chametz devil, but we have a rich history of righteous people who have shown us how to do it.

Now we just have to pick up the vacuum cleaner and start. One drawer at a time. One shelf at a time. Because the tendency to edge G‑d out is so harmful that even one petrified Cheerio can be the reason for our lack of progress.

And that, my friends, is my answer. Yes, G‑d does care. Not because of a particular dislike for Cheerios, but for all that they represent.

A parent who loves his child hates anything that can hurt his child. In the case of Passover, chametz (read: ego) hurts G‑d’s children, and He says, “I don’t want it seen, I don’t even want it found on your property, for the seven to eight days of Passover!”

Happy hunting.