I soaked my rag in detergent for the hundredth time that morning and bent down to reach into the back corners of my bottom kitchen cabinet. My back protested. So did my knees. As I backed out and straightened up, I banged my head on the edge of the counter.

Generally, I love Passover cleaning: the sorting out and throwing out of bits and pieces I've forgotten about over the last year, the fresh smell of detergent, the almost spiritual satisfaction that I savor going back in the evening to admire the tidy corners my work produced that day.

I didn't want to clean like a slave; I wanted my freedomBut that sunny morning last week, I didn't want to clean for Passover. I wanted to take a long walk along the nearly deserted road that boarders our neighborhood. The one that faces the hills of our Israeli town that are a vibrant green the months before Passover, bursting with life after the winter rains. I didn't want to clean like a slave. I wanted my freedom to roam in the soft spring sun.

A glance at the clock made me sullenly rub my head: soon I would need to prepare lunch. I rummaged in the back of one of the hardest to reach cabinets for my stash of chocolate. The milk chocolate was gone; I opened a bar of bitter-sweet chocolate and sucked on a square as I soaked my rag once again.

I rubbed, scrubbed and mused: Life is like bitter-sweet chocolate. Like chocolate, life is magnificent. Yet most experiences in life have a bitter-sweet flavor. They are a medley of pleasure and pain. Maybe Passover cleaning was one of them. After all, the dichotomy of Passover, remembering our slavery while celebrating our exodus, seems to be a paradox.

I gave permission to my mind to meander further and soon the rubbing and scrubbing were doing themselves and I was back in time a few weeks earlier at a performance that my eldest daughters had put on for all the mothers. I had lived through the rehearsals with them: heard the songs, seen snatches of the dances and witnessed the chaos surrounding costume preparation.

At the show, I too was privileged to absorb the double message they dramatized through dance and song: Both a rich person and a poor person can serve our Creator with happiness because wealth is in the spirit and not the pocket.

Suddenly unfettered by my rag and detergent, my spirit was free to soar further into my past and I relived different incidents in my life when I felt rich, when I felt poor, and when I experienced the bitter-sweet flavor of a mixture of both.

I thought of the dance of the rich in my daughters' performance: twenty girls flowed over the stage in a river of blue waist coats and long black skirts. They pantomimed a range of musical instruments, flutes, violins and pianos, expressing the idea that each one of us has a different tune to play in the symphony of life.

I went back in time to the silent symphony I had heard at Crater Lake, a tiny emerald pool of still water that hugs Lake Naivasha in Kenya. Sunk deep in the recess of a long extinct crater, the tiny pool was a favorite haunt of mine. The first time I visited the spot, it was totally deserted, even the Maasai who would sometimes bring their sick cattle to drink the healing waters were absent.

I tried to reframe my thoughtsFrom the lip of the crater, the silence of the pool called to me. I followed what I hoped was a path, but very soon, I was crawling through the thick undergrowth to make my way to the water. Finally I broke through and stood on the grey sand at the edge of the pool. It was eerily silent. No bird song, no wind to rustle the thick bushes.

I sat down and gazed at the thick water. This spot of paradise had been waiting for my visit since the beginning of creation. I had nothing of monetary value around me. I was alone with my Creator and I felt so rich.

Pushing closed the drawer I had finished cleaning, I contrasted that idyllic and spiritual moment with my mundane cleaning work. Here too I was alone with G‑d, yet I was full of resentment. These days, I could no longer listen to a symphony of silence, and the sole beat I would follow over the next few weeks was the percussion of the carpet beater. I started on the next drawer and with each streak of dirt that I scrubbed away, I tried to reframe my thoughts.

I looked at the comfort of my home that surrounded me and as I focused on the riches I have, sparks of happiness began to vie for place with the gloom in my heart. I wanted to be happy not in spite of my workload, but because of it. That was when I began to feel rich.

As I started on the large food cabinet that I had been sure would take me an entire morning, I thought of the song of the poor. Pure voices, fused together as one rose into the dim light. A fragile soprano pleaded for the angles of mercy to intercede and to beg G‑d to have mercy on all paupers, to have compassion on all those abandoned.

And I remembered when I too had felt the searing pain of standing alone. It was in 1987 when Klaus Barbie, The Butcher of Lyons, was standing trial in France for his numerous war crimes against Jews, Jewish children and members of the French Resistance. At school, in a debate forum, we discussed the upcoming trial. The panel in defense of Barbie insisted that under France's Statute of Limitations, Barbie was no longer accountable for his past crimes and could not be punished for them. The logic behind this law is that, if twenty years passes between when a person is convicted for something and when he is punished for it, there have been so many changes in the political environment and the individual's life that punishment would be futile.

Shocked, I watched the speakers throwing words back and forth. What about the fifty-two Jewish children that Barbie arrested and deported from the pastoral village of Izieu? Fifty-two children the world never saw again. My soul shuddered and I wanted to call out, but my lips remained sealed in face of this blasé debate: I was the only Jew in the school.

Years later, scrubbing my drawers, I relived those terrible feelings of utter abandonment. For those few moments, my feeling of aloneness meshed with the terrible appeals for charity that have been endlessly pouring into our mail box. As I felt the searing pain of poverty and it morphed into a weight that crushed my heart.

Ensconced in my home, I had to pull myself out of the mire and as I scrubbed harder, my feelings of resentment over my work load began to dissolve in the soap suds. I watched a bubble rise and float briefly above my bucket before it popped, whisking away some of the pain.

I lived a medley of richness and povertyLater that evening, as I dressed the children for the dancing and musical procession in celebration of a new Torah scroll, a Hachnasat Sefer Torah, I lived a medley of richness and poverty. The procession came closer and closer to our street, the music got louder and louder, and I still had not found my toddler's shoe. The Velcro on the strap had worn out and the shoe kept falling off. Now I sent out a search party through the house. Once we had found the elusive shoe in a corner of the bathroom, my ten-year-old proclaimed that he could not wear his shoes because the soles were torn and the shoes were soaking after he had jumped in the puddles. I convinced him to wear a pair of old sneakers and we left the house.

Rainbow lights, adoring a large crown, flashed and flickered from the top of the large van that led the procession. Strips of multi-colored lights covered the roof and the sides of the van. Lively music blared from speakers mounted on the sides of the van. A hundred young boys clad in white shirts held flaming torches and formed two rows behind the van. Behind them the chuppah canopy, surrounded by dancing, made slow progress forward. In the center stood the rabbi with the Torah scroll resting on his shoulder. He hugged it tight and danced two steps forward, then one back, accompanying the scroll to its new home as if it were a bride.

I looked at the crowds around me and wondered if anyone else was thinking of worn and torn shoes. Perhaps somewhere in the crowd another mother was worrying over which child would get new shoes first. And as I peered at all those faces, I saw pure joy and much excitement. We were accompanying our heritage down the street with tunes that had been ringing out for centuries.

We were forming a link in a chain of generations that stretch back to Mount Sinai. And I was part of this all. My children, with torn shoes, were striding into the future of a new scroll. I lifted up my toddler so she could see the flickering lights and she wriggled with delight. With my heritage surrounding me, I forgot about the shoes.

Hours later, when my children, their little faces stained by the candy that had been given out at the procession, were tucked in bed, I wandered into my quiet kitchen. I opened the drawers I had cleaned that morning and inhaled the sharp smell of pine detergent. Surveying the ordered contents, I felt the stirrings of an almost spiritual pleasure.

I thought again of my daughter's performance and the theme rang loudly in my mind: Riches and consequently happiness are in the mind, not the pocket. I sat down to plan my cleaning schedule for the following day and that was when I realized that perhaps, like wealth, slavery is in the mind and the freedom of the Exodus is available for all.