person in a white hazmat suit and gear

Chametz Abatement Time!

Image: Person in Hazmat gear by MetsikGarden from Pixabay.com.

Passover is SOON, coming at sundown on April 15, 2022. If you haven’t started preparations, it’s time. If you are not sure what that means, or if it makes your hair stand on end, read this: We Begin in Egypt.

It’s a little different at Beit Adar/Burnett this year: we are preparing for Passover by getting rid of a different kind of chametz. Where usually the definition of chametz is “grain + water = chametz,” one can also look at anything in life that really, really needs to go as a kind of chametz.

This year we tried to replace the kitchen floor by laying a new floor on top of the old. It failed, partly because I use a chair in the kitchen and the wheels on the chair tore up the new nylon tile. The only fix was to remove all the old flooring, then install a sheet vinyl. But: this house was built in 1961. It was highly likely there was asbestos in at least one layer of old flooring. When we got it tested, the verdict was clear: we needed to have asbestos abatement, meaning a three-day sealing of the kitchen and people with hazmat suits cleaning out all the old flooring, plus cleaning the air. Otherwise, somebody might get cancer.

Going deeper: asbestos is like slavery in that it may seem to make life safe and predictable (“fire safety!”) but in fact it does the exact opposite. It’s a horrible poison that takes life in horrible ways. It is hidden in my kitchen floor, and if we want to do something about it, we’re going to have to make a mess.

So we are going to drag all the appliances out, eat, toss, or give away the food, empty the kitchen of dishes and pans, and seal it in plastic for the people to work. We won’t be moving back into the kitchen until the floor can be installed. Let’s hope that doesn’t actually take 40 years, but it still sounds like wilderness (and camping!) to me.

In some ways, this simplifies Passover prep — the actual grain chametz will certainly go — so it’s a good time to do this. At the same time, it’s a nuisance.

Passover is a nuisance. People won’t usually say that so plainly, but the nuisancy part of it is key to the Passover experience. The goal of Passover is for each of us to feel like we’ve personally experienced the Exodus. Leaving Egypt was a lot of trouble, and some of the people who left never stopped complaining that they hated the freedom of the wilderness.

The lesson of Passover is that freedom is hard work, and boring, and icky, and dangerous. Like asbestos abatement, acquiring freedom is a major mess, a major inconvenience, and it is expensive, too.

I wish you a good preparation for Passover, whatever that will mean in your heart and your house.

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rabbiadar

Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at https://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

One thought on “Chametz Abatement Time!”

  1. I enjoy the reading about real life experiences , The Abesto floor made me think of the contrast of life , uprooting your kitchen and surely this was a big nuance but also a gift of relief of the duties of preparation for the up coming passover. Renewal happens in many ways, Thank You for sharing this story. Gave me many things to ponder on.

    Like

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