I was recently scanning the front page of a reputable newspaper when I came across this headline: “Brazilian Officials Searching for Stolen Items Find Two Tanks.” Yes, we’re talking about real tanks – you know, the kind that have steel treads and shoot at people. After clearing my head, my first thought was, “This country could really use a good Pesach cleaning.” I mean, I’ve come across some crazy things, but this was tantamount to saying, “I was cleaning the den for Pesach and I stumbled upon an elephant. Correction: make that two elephants.”
But putting elephants and tanks aside, the article did help me to gain perspective. See, most people grumble and groan about the pre-Pesach shenanigans that are called “preparation.” The cleaning, scrubbing, organizing, and rerouting of kitchen items tends to throw many a household into a cyclone-like environment. The dirt swirls around, furniture gets upended, and food is scarce (despite the cauldron-sized pots filled with food that are boiling away day and night). Many an unsuspecting husband has been seen wandering around in a confused state mumbling, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”
For many of us, however, the real test of Pesach can be summed up by the phrase; “hide-n’-go-seek.” The game begins when the supermarkets start preparing their shelves for the upcoming holiday. For the unsuspecting consumer, this results in frantically looking up and down the aisles for that one type of granola bar that your kids will actually eat. Finding them on the bottom shelf next to the organic noodles, you surreptitiously toss the last eight boxes into your cart. This represents a major coup, since, for some of us, just finding the items we need to get through the next few weeks constitutes a major part of “Pesach preparations.”
Pleased with yourself, at least momentarily, you continue along until you bump into a friend (you call this a friend?) who, as she looks askance at your cart, says, “I just finished cleaning my upstairs for Pesach.” You feel your previous sense of accomplishment begin to fade.
“What?” screams the voice inside your head, “It’s February and I still haven’t even figured out my Purim costume.” As you grit your teeth and smile, you feel the overwhelming urge to secretly sneak into her house and crumble your granola bars all over her carpet. Luckily, the sensible side of you realizes that if you do that your children would have to go without their favorite snack for the next few weeks, because, let’s face it, you have insider information that your supermarket doesn’t have any more of them on the shelves.
With the wind knocked out of your sails, you now realize that your chometz-laden cart represents your Pesach-cleaning status, which as we all know, isn’t good. As you proceed, you hunker down over your cart hoping no one else will glance your way. In an attempt to mitigate the damage, you haphazardly toss a few large bags of Pesachdike potato chips in as you push your guilt-offering toward the front of the store. What started out as a productive chometz-finding mission has now turned into an ego-deflator. Hopefully, things will get better from here on out, but we all know that’s just wishful thinking.
Fast-forward through the cleaning, cooking, and eating frenzy, and you eventually come out of your potato-induced coma only to wake up to the post-holiday “hide-n’-go-seek” games. This restoration phase involves trying to locate all the items that got misplaced prior to Pesach. Although many of us have a cleaning system or an organizational strategy, we all face the problem of where the odds and ends go - you know, like when you put all your spices in a box, but the “parsley and sage” don’t fit. What do you do? You shove them in a drawer and make a mental note that if you find any “rosemary and thyme,” you’ll write a song about it. Then you promptly forget they exist.
And let’s not forget the silverware. Just when you’ve sealed all the milchig utensils in a box, someone finds a lone spoon under the couch (along with some other items we won’t mention.) What to do? Toss it into a random box and hope for the best. But the real problem lies with the unaffiliated items that have no group with whom they can spend an entire week outside their natural environment. These are things like the can-opener, the crepe-maker (for those appliance-challenged households) or that lone challah board that dutifully serves the family every Shabbos.
Every year it seems it’s the same items that take an inordinate amount of time to resurface. Despite the sincere promises to myself over the years, I have yet to come up with a reliable method for putting everything away. My lack of organization has personally rendered me the not-so-proud owner of four can-openers, three challah boards and numerous containers of spices that are really just there to impress others. However, this no longer makes me feel incompetent. After all, if a country can misplace a few tanks, I think I’m entitled to an extra can-opener or three. So, to all those who spend their weekends in February furiously cleaning away, I say, “No tanks!” I figure as long as I don’t come across an elephant in my den, I’m ahead of the game.
By the way, if anyone needs an extra can-opener, feel free to call me.