Sunday, March 23, 2008

Puzzling Out Pesach Cleaning

Question: Must a balabosta scrub the driveway as part of making Pesach?

Answer: That depends.

I have come to hate the "that depends" answer mightily. And more and more "that depends" is what you get when you ask a shailoh. It goes hand in hand with the "new chumrahs that no one has ever thought of before and you have to wonder why they thought of them now" that abound this time of the year.

Harav Avrohom Blumenkrantz, a"h, was machmir on many things. He, however, stated in his Pesach book that was published in new editions for each year, that people go well beyond what is required to make a house kosher for Pesach. As he pointed out, there is a difference between spring cleaning and making Pesach.

For the first years that I made Pesach I headed up into my attic as part of making Pesach. This was one of those spring cleaning things that really had nothing to do with Pesach, as I only came to see in later years. I have never kept anything chometzdik in the attic; in fact, no food or chemical items of any kind are kept in the attic. No children have ever played in the attic. It finally dawned on me that I was making work for myself that absolutely did not have to be done for Pesach. Duhhh!

Some types of cleaning are going to depend on whether or not you have small children in the house. It is recommended by mattress manufacturers that you rotate mattresses regularly so that they wear evenly. Pesach was on that scheduled rotation. Once many years ago I asked my husband to help me in picking up the mattresses so I could vacuum between them. His comment as we began was "Right, like there is going to be chometz between the mattresses." Famous last words. When we picked up the first mattress there, between the top and the bottom one, were three crushed pretzels. We looked at each other totally stupefied. Neither one of us is in the habit of storing pretzels between the mattresses. How did those pretzels get there? The answer soon came to us: three little children whose hands when hanging down were exactly at the level of the space between the mattresses. And what better place, in a child's logic, to put pretzels you don't want your siblings getting at then out of sight?

The problem with cleaning for Pesach is further aggravated by the fact that if you touch one part of a room then the rest is going to look bad in comparison if you do nothing to it. Or at least we will think that, even if it isn't true. I can guarantee without looking that there is no chometz of any kind on the blades and housing of the ceiling fan in the living room--it's a physical impossibility. But if I am already cleaning all the furniture in the room where chometz could get into, and everything looks shiny and clean, am I going to leave that fan uncleaned?

I have a friend who washes every one of her chometzik dishes, bowls, trays, silverware, glasses and pots before she locks them away in the cabinets that she is selling as chometz. Another friend keeps special bed linens that she only uses on Pesach because she washes them only with whatever detergent is Pesachdik and puts them away in that attic that she cleans for Pesach. Another woman I know obsesses about whether pillows, even having been washed, don't contain chometz and shouldn't they be changed for Pesach. A friend's friend covers all the counters in the bathroom and the shampoo holders in the showers for Pesach because chometzdike cosmetics and cleansers have been on them. Last I looked, I don't prepare food, cook or serve or eat on my bathroom counters.

I make up a detailed cleaning list which I keep on the computer. The first thing I do when I print it out is tell myself that it simply won't be possible to do all this in the time remaining until Pesach. I start crossing out items. I mark some as "If a miracle happens and I have an extra 100 hours." Half the list ends up crossed out. Why did I put those things on the list to begin with? It's spring--when else do you do spring cleaning?

Men are heard grumbling in the weeks before Pesach. "Are you nuts?" gets asked. And then some of them tell us that we are doing way more than is necessary for a home to be kosher for Pesach. Some helpful men give out the minimum shitahs of cleaning necessary for Pesach.

Here's the thing, though. I have never, ever heard of a man praising his wife by saying "My special balabosta only did the minimum necessary."

Ah well, this needs to get cut short. Washing the ceiling in the laundry room is on the list for this year and it's this morning's job.


Looking Forward said...

to quote the renreb:

"get out of my kitchen before you traif it up with your shulchan aruch!"

(which given the meaning of the name, is an entertaining comment)

Bas~Melech said...

Do the spring cleaning in May. That has been my campaign slogan ever since I realized that my mother was making us all crazy for no reason.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. We make ourselves crazy enough about Pesach, there is no need to add to it unnecessarily.

But I would like to caution everyone about one thing. Recently I have seen pillows for sale that contain shells of some sort of grain or nut. Those pillows could potentially contain chametz and should be sold for Pesach.