It's that time of the year again when participating Jews worldwide start the re-enactment of the exodus from Egypt approximately 3460 years ago. (Note: Do not even think about arguing the math with me. I know that there is more than one theory on the exact date but I don't want to discuss that right now. If you are uncomfortable with my calculation, submit your comments to Wikipedia. They will appreciate them -- I do not.)
We've thrown away lots of old and broken junk that was piling up since last year at this time. My kids have cleaned out their closets -- to their satisfaction, not to mine. We are now entering the below-the-surface, deep cleaning segment of the preparation process.
And once again, in the middle of all this over-the-top preparation, I start wondering the same thing that I wondered last year: What the heck does this have to do with the Exodus?
Let me spare you the few seconds you might have pondered the question. The answer is: nothing; zippo; nada.
While I am not a biblical scholar (Ha. Even the thought of that amuses me.)I do know the basics of the Exodus story. Here's the nutshell version: God speaks to Moses. God tells Moses that he has to free the Israelites who are enslaved in Egypt. Moses is reluctant at best. God doesn't care. Moses agrees to try. Aaron, his brother, agrees to assist him. They ask Pharaoh to free the Israelites. Pharaoh says no. Moses demonstrates the power of his backer (God) with a few plagues. Pharaoh is not impressed. Moses tries a few more plagues. Pharaoh is a little more impressed and looks like he is going to agree. However, he does not. Moses goes bigger and gets Pharaoh's attention. Pharaoh agrees under duress.
And here is where things come back to the preparation issue: Knowing that the last of the plagues are really going to upset Pharaoh, Moses tells the Israelites to get ready quickly because they are going to have to make a fast exit. This turns out to be a very accurate statement.
So, my question is, if you are leaving your hovel in a hurry and you don't have much time to prepare, how thorough a cleaning job can you do or would you do? And why would you clean at all? The whole point was that this was supposed to be a one-way journey. The Israelites were not going on vacation for a few weeks. They were leaving Egypt because life for them there was hell. What would be the point of leaving the place neat and tidy (and free of crumbs)? Were they trying to leave it nice for the next set of slaves who were going to inhabit the ghetto?
It doesn't make any sense. And therefore, neither does the overstated cleaning that many of us undertake in the weeks leading up to Passover/Pesach.
Every year I say "next year I am not going to clean like this." And every following year, I do it again ... and issue the same threat for the upcoming year. The irony is that over the course of many years, I too have become an Israelite slave to the cleaning and preparation for the holiday that celebrates Jewish emancipation.
So next year, I am going to free myself! (Well, every slave has a dream.)