Opinion: Dirt is Not Chametz, But…


bedikas-chometzBy Professor Dr. Joshua Werblowsky

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 rov a question about checking all the books in her home. The rov answers “Check only the ones you have used this year.” Whereupon she thinks, “but… the rov 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.)

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. Jerusalem,Israel/Life in Israel}

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. I fully admit that I combine spring cleaning with Pesach cleaning. My mother and most of her generation did the same. Who can find fault with a house that is spiffy clean, the furniture and silver polished for Pesach?
    Isn’t it Yom Tov! What better hanaah can a yiddishe mamma and balabusta have than seeing everything in its proper place, books and seforim neatly arrayed on the shelves, drawers and closets cleared out of year-long unused clutter and organized according to size.

    The trick, however, is not to wait till the last minute,not to start too close to Pesach. Start cleaning the closets after chanukah. The real Pesach cleaning is making the dining room and kitchen chometz free. Heavy duty cleaning should start right after Purim. China closets, kitchen cabinets, stoves, microwaves, refrigerators, etc. should be emptied and scrubbed down.

    And then comes the food shopping. It is endless. Scrubbed down refrigerator,cabinets have to be lined. Stoves have to be kashered.

    And then comes the cooking! Big pots are filled with soups and compotes, cakes and kugels are baked and frozen as well as the desserts made with various recipes handed down from friends and relatives.

    And then comes the sleeping accommodations for the arrival of married children and families. Younger siblings have to move out of their own rooms; linen has to be changed and shelves and closets reorganized.

    And then comes Erev Yom Tov. There is Biur Chometz in the morning. The family has to eat during the long day. Even though most of the food has already been cooked, there is much to be done for the Seder. Maror has to be washed and checked, charoses have to be made. The table has to be set up for the Seder. Salads have to be made fresh. Then comes Shulchan Orech. The meal has to be served. After the Seder the dishes have to be cleared away and washed and all the leftovers from the Seder plate and the meal put away. This is work!

    And then come all the rest of the Yom Tov meals. Even if you are a real balabusta and take everything out of the freezer, the constant warming up, serving, clearing, washing, cleaning, etc. is very draining.

    And then there are the toys and games and lego
    and puzzle pieces which are all over the floor and constantly have to be stepped over or picked up.

    And then there are the towels that need to be
    hung up and dried out. After all, we don’t wash on Yom Tov.

    So, to all the men, husbands, and sons who are
    constantly saying that “dirt is not chometz”,
    here is my answer.
    CLEANING THE DIRT IS THE SMALLEST PART OF THE WORK BEFORE PESACH! Spiffing up the house can be taken care of a month or two before Pesach. But there is no getting around the huge work involved in actually cleaning the kitchen for chometz, lining it, shopping, cooking and baking, serving the meals, and having company. TO ME, THE HARDEST WORK IS ON PESACH!

  2. WOW! Good Yiddena, that was an unbelievable response! Please post more often, I don’t recall seeing you here before.

  3. shlomo zalman, maybe if the men would help more and not disparage everything the women do for Pesach as being unnecessary, tired yiddena
    would have nothing to say.

  4. old yiddena does not need “professional” help.

    she needs good old-fashioned elbow grease help
    from her husband, sons, daughters, and in-law
    children. Anyone with an extra pair of hands should pitch in. Pesach should not be a one-man show.