The Plus of Preparation
Preparation is a significant and integral part of every biblical holiday. The planning during the week prior to each Sabbath usually culminates on Friday in a bustle of cleaning, last minute shopping, food preparation and welcoming guests. Then the candles are lit and the peace of Shabbat is ushered in like a radiant, beautiful Queen. Without some advance planning and preparation, this would not be possible. The same principle applies to the Shabbatot, the set-apart days, of the annual Festival Cycle. Preparations for the annual festival of Pesach, or Passover, begin at least a month before the holiday, with a planned schedule of thorough housecleaning – the model for “spring cleaning”! Invitations are given or received for the Seder meal, which is prepared for in fine detail.
Why this emphasis on preparation in the annual round of festivals? One answer is that the core of each festival is spiritual. If you participate in a biblical Feast and you haven’t grown as a person, and matured a little more spiritually, then you miss the point of the Feast! In the same way that a vacation or trip will be as successful as the preparation made beforehand, so the enormous God-given opportunities afforded in the participation of every Feast of the Lord will only be fully taken advantage of if the appropriate preparations have been made, with conscious, eager anticipation. Even with preparation one may sometimes feel that one is simply “scratching the surface.” But, take heart! Even the surface of each Feast is fertile and rich with possibilities for growing in understanding of our God and His ways. As one enters in and participates in the annual cycle of the Biblical Feasts, one realizes that it is not merely an endless repetition of “same-old, same old.” Each time around is a new and fresh encounter because you are not the same. Each year you “scratch” a little deeper and discover riches not imagined and come to appreciate that, with the necessary preparation, the journey on the “highway to Zion” is exceedingly joyful and rewarding.
Cleanse out the old leaven (chametz) that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Messiah, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:7).
As Passover begins in the evening on April 6th this year, it is a time to consider, in a practical hands-on way as we “spring clean” our homes, that we who were once slaves to the world are now willing servants of God. The extra physical effort involved of thoroughly cleaning the refrigerator and oven, sorting our cabinets and shelves, checking everything for chametz, removing all breadcrumbs, etc. can make us feel rather like slaves!
As one cleans out the crumbs, which seem to multiply and hide in the most unexpected places, one comes to more deeply appreciate the nature of “sin that so easily besets” and the watchful eye needed in order to conquer it and keep it at bay! The cleaning and preparation also imparts the valuable lesson that true freedom requires our effort and participation. God wants us to partner with Him on our journey through life. As we persevere in faith and become more Yeshua-like, we trust that our hearts, as well as our homes at Passover, are becoming chametz-free zones!
A few Passover cleaning and preparation tips:
1. Start with the bedrooms and bathrooms first. Clean out dressers and closets; check all pockets for left over snacks etc.! Once a bedroom is declared chametz-free, no food should be allowed in. Stock up with new toothbrushes and throw out old ones before the Seder. Make sure toothbrush holders are cleaned well.
2. Begin checking pantry shelves and start using up or packing away grain products you won’t be using (such as flour, barley, grain cereals, pastas etc.) Any unopened products can be packed away and stored out of sight until after Passover. Mark the boxes/bags Chametz! so you don’t open them inadvertently. Seal off an area in a closet if necessary and also a section of the freezer for any frozen goods. Remember that whiskey and beer are grain products!
3. The kitchen is the biggest challenge! Storage cabinets and drawers should be cleaned out and wiped with a damp cloth. The week before Passover, refrigerators, freezers, ovens, dishwashers should be carefully cleaned, checking all linings, folds etc. Once cleaned, label e.g., Chametz-free zone! and they should not be used for leavened products until after Passover.
4. The transition to chametz-free products is quite a juggling act and quite an adventure. As well as “Kosher for Passover” matzah, most supermarkets today have a wide variety of products that are so marked, including delicious macaroon cookies, frozen goods and desserts. There certainly is no need to feel deprived! (A few simple and tasty Passover recipes, as well as more details on the Seder meal, will be included in Passover II.)
5. The night before Passover Eve, a thorough search for chametz is undertaken throughout the house. To make this an adventure for children, as well as to clearly imprint the fact that Passover week is beginning, families often turn off the lights and with a candle and/or flashlight search to find any chametz.
A few pieces can be hidden beforehand, in small, sealed plastic bags, in strategic places!
Once found and disposed of a declaration is made:
“All leaven and all chametz which is in my possession, which I have not seen or destroyed, nor have knowledge of shall be null, void, ownerless, and as dust of the earth.”
All that is possible has been done and one is eager and ready for Passover! The Passover activities may seem rather daunting and intimidating to those who are not yet familiar with them. Please rest assured that all that one does if done in faith, even - and maybe especially - taking 'baby steps', is pleasing to the Lord. To whatever degree one chooses to, or is able to, observe the week of Unleavened Bread, it always proves to be a very rewarding and worthwhile spiritual experience. When we accept His invitation to meet with him, the Lord always is faithful to be there!