Removing leaven from our lives


This weekend, our preparations for Pesah kick into high gear, with a special focus on removing hametz (“leaven”) from our homes before the holiday begins.  While this is meant to connect us to the story of the Hebrew slaves who left Egypt with only unleavened bread, there is also a symbolic meaning to ridding ourselves of leaven.  The Torah teaches that only unleavened bread could be offered on the altar as a gift to God (Leviticus 2:11), and the rabbis suggest that leaven represents the overriding concern with the self that prevents us from connecting to the divine.  By removing leaven from our houses, we are trying to refocus ourselves on others, and especially on the plight of those who are oppressed or enslaved in our current moment.  If we can use our experience of cleaning as a spiritual exercise in expanding our circle of concern and overcoming the barriers that may keep us from speaking out for others, we can at the same time prepare both our homes and our souls for Pesah, making it a true Festival of Freedom.