01 April 2012

Kenneth Grahame on Cleaning for Pesach

Every Spring when I face the prospect of cleaning this apartment for Passover, the opening of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows comes to mind:

THE Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said, "Bother!" and "O blow!" and also "Hang spring-cleaning!" and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gravelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged, and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, "Up we go! Up we go!" till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

"This is fine!" he said to himself. "This is better than whitewashing!" The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow....

...but once we crack out the pails of suds and set to work, I take exception to Mole.

The first step to Springtime liberation is to finish the whitewashing -- not only to begin, but also to finish, and then we can toss the buckets in the air, yell Hang Whitewashing! and run out of Egypt. I have been thinking this over, and I believe spring-cleaning is a universal instinct, not to hamper us from getting out into the Spring, but as an integral part of how we participate in it. Spring has got to reach into every corner of this house; it is not enough to fling the brush on the floor and leave it.

Rebbe Nachman miBreslov says to take the troubling feeling of not having quite finished preparing for Pesach and turn it into a yearning for the Divine -- that this, too, is an integral part of Pesach -- nun bau dein Tempel schiere!

So, no fair quitting in the middle of whitewashing.

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