Opinion: Dirt is Not Chametz, But…

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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}

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  1. Why is this author all hyped up over the Aishes Chayil who wishes to go lfnim meshmuras hadin? It is HER perogitive. Why does this writer feel the need to criticize her over it? She certainly isn’t violating any halacha by “over” cleaning. And she is also certainly enhancing Pesach by it!

  2. of course, its all the women’s fault, they’re the ones that seek new chumras and frumer-than-thou, in-your-face showing off. after all they have the most at stake in this religion
    Find a way to make the shidduch crisis and all the Jewish infighting their fault too

  3. To the Rov:
    Your words are clear and harmonious, much like the delicious fruit jellies served after a Pesach meal. As the Rav, I can tell you that many women make themselves sick cleaning for Pesach and secretly resent it. They yell at their husbands and children and create an unpleasant atmosphere in the home, often leading to their children strongly disliking Pesach. As always, we should look to the words of the gedolim (see MB 442:17; most of the “meshuras hadin cleaning relates to this type of chometz).

  4. The Rav-
    Also realize many husbands make their wives and families crazy by insisting on outlandish cleaning related practices on Pesach that don’t have to be done. If a chumra will put undue pressure on your wife and children, don’t take it on unless they want it, too.

  5. Maybe the males in the household should help more. They should do as asked and not criticize. That would really alleviate a lot of the pressure the women feel.

  6. #3 is 100% right. Most women get obsessed with Pesach cleaning which leads to flaring tempers, stress, anger, ruined relationships with the kids and husband…If chometz is = to averos then obsessive Pesach cleaning creates more Aveiros so the more you clean the more Chometz you have.
    The fact is 99% of women are NOT cleaning their house from Chometz. They are doing a Spring Cleaning. Agav the Chametz gets cleaned up as well. There’s no Kedusha in todays cleaning the house for Chometz. Its all obsessive cleanliness.

  7. To Duh
    You’re absolutely right, if there were no such thing as women, there wouldn’t be any shidduch crisis in the first place

  8. If the cleaning us women do is so extreme, and perhaps not necessary, then why dont big rabunim come out against it? and we must bare in mind that chumitz does enter into all sorts of places. And so most of the cleaning us women do, is for the mitzva and so kids may resent pesach if we loose sight of the point to all this, and if men will carry on calling this spring cleaning, well then of course the pressure will amount at home but if all men cooperate, and realise that we are cleaning out our chumitz which could end up anywhere, well then we will succeed in getting rid of our aveiris too which is compared to the chumitz.

  9. He is right. I made myself sick and crazy “doing it all” Just to keep up with the neighbors, whom maybe have goyters or pesach kitchens, whereas I kashered my kitchen single handedly and did over 6 weeks worth of deridding the house of chametz Alone! Ok I didn’t go as far as having a window cleaner wash my windows though.


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