Mar 23, 2010

Dirt is not Chametz, But…

A Guest Post by Professor Dr. Joshua Werblowsky
The writer is a clinical psychiatrist living and practicing in Jerusalem.

How is it that despite the fact that the Aishes Chayil of the home has been told and understands cognitively about the laws of Pesach, she continues to follow what she “knows-feels ” to be correct. A common answer begins with the words,” I know, BUT…”

Some of the other responses heard include “I know. Pesach cleaning is not spring cleaning , but…

I know dirt is not chametz and dust is not chametz, but…

I only want to get rid of the chametz, but… I need the house to look nice for Pesach.

But…”we always did it that way.”

The classic story is told of the woman who asks her Rav a question about checking all the books in her home. The Rav answers “Check only the ones you have used this year.” Whereupon she thinks, ”but… the Rav does not know the halacha” and decides that she will not be asking him any more halachic questions.

In my opinion “BUT” relates to the deepest desires and feelings, which transcend any cognition. (Cognitive therapy will not work in this instance J.)

The woman of the Jewish home feels responsible for everything that transpires there. This sense of responsibility becomes especially relevant around Pesach,because of all the holidays, Pesach is the holiday of the family. The korban Pesach was eaten within the family. The Torah tells us “a lamb for the house of our fathers “but emphasizes “a lamb for the home.”(Shmos 12:3)

However the explanation goes deeper than that. Our rabbis associate chametz with sin .Therefore if there is any chametz in the home (even if it is halachically allowed to remain there) it is as if the home has not been cleansed of any wrongdoing. How then can we celebrate our freedom from Mitzrayim, and as the Nesivos Shalom states, how do we free ourselves from our own and our familys’ ”Matzar “ or distress, so that we can celebrate our freedom and lead us to getting the Torah at Har Sinai?

This responsibility or burden is taken on by the woman of the home. Therefore, in the deepest recesses of the mind, the deepest feelings of the Aishes Chayil of the home, believes that all this depends on her and” I better make sure it is done the right way, the way “I know.”

Josh Werblowsky M.D.


  1. Basically, people are ruled by fear of doing something wrong. It's not just the desire to be sin-free; it's the fear of what will happen if one is not.

  2. I think it's something else. Each season, each holiday has its own energy - we are given special spiritual resources to grow in certain ways. This time of year it's breaking free of the past - cleaning out to start anew. This energy is very strong, so that many of us do feel like now is the only time to clean out the machsan (even if it's too close to the chag to justify spending time on it) - we know now is the time to latch on to that energy and use it in many ways that advance our goals.

  3. people like to feel frummer and holier than the other!
    What could be a posotive experience ends up makeing the entire family into a korban pesach.

    Dr. it's also called ocd!


  5. OCD is when it occurs throughout the year -
    Not just Pesach time.


Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...