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11 Nissan 5765 - April 20, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly
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Home and Family

It's in the Air
by A. Reader

Why is it that the frenzy attacks us just before or straight after Purim? Could we not begin the Spring cleaning two months earlier, at our leisure? In the winter, we do not have the urge, the motive or the incentive to start the annual cyclone in our homes. Perhaps that is the reason why it is called 'Spring' cleaning. Besides, if it is a household with small children, one could in theory spring clean top cupboards, but only places where the little ones cannot possibly reach. According to the strict letter of the law, it seems that we only need to sweep our floors thoroughly, before Pesach arrives. However the annual flurry is what makes the oncoming yom tov so important in our lives, and engraves the rituals onto the minds of our children for generations to come.

Many years ago, a Jewish man, who was far removed from Yiddishkeit, happened to visit my house during the week before Pesach. He sniffed the air and announced 'it smells of eingemachts. He himself was not too sure of the meaning of the word, but said that when he was a little boy, he used to visit his grandmother before Pesach, and that it was some sort of Pesach food. For this person, the words Erev Pesach conjured up smells of food. These emotive words mean distinct things to different people. Some may think of the endless peeling of potatoes and yet more potatoes. Others rejoice in the team work, exhilaration and cheerfulness which pervade the house, in spite of the pressure to remove chometz. There are some unfortunate people who shrink at the very thought of the pre-Pesach toil, or they might dread all those teenagers at home at the same time, consuming mountains of food, talking loudly, bickering and playing endless tapes.

During the weeks before Pesach, most people seem to attract extra physical and mental strength, as if a constant stream of adrenaline was supporting them. The concentrated effort of cleaning pervades every home. The spirit of cleaning is in the air, and during those frenetic days, it is the rare woman who does not ask at some time or other, how much the neighbor has achieved. Each family has different circumstances, so it is impossible to prescribe one procedure or technique for a successful erev Pesach campaign. Nevertheless, there are some basic rules which are worth adopting, if you have not already done so.

Make lists, the longer the better. Some women 'cheat.' They prepare a list for the day, and then find at the end of the day that they have done a dozen tasks, such as serving lunch, washing dishes, folding that day's laundry, which were not on the list. Then they go to the trouble of adding them to the list, before crossing them out!

Someone once asked the Maggid of Dubno how he always managed to find a suitable parable for every situation. He explained with a parable. "A traveler was passing through a forest clearance and saw a shooting target with concentric circles and several arrows in the exact center. He asked a young boy who was standing nearby how he always managed to shoot a bull's eye. The boy replied that he had indeed shot those arrows onto the trees but that he had drawn the circles round them afterwards! Although you know full well that you cannot possibly do everything from the list in one day, crossing out all those tasks gives a person a great feeling of fulfillment.

Allocate jobs according to the personality of your children. Some love doing errands, and will willingly take the babies to the park each day. There are those whose work is done slowly and meticulously. They are the ones who will sort out all the toys and puzzles and you can be sure that it is done to perfection. Occasionally, someone will complain that she always gets the harder jobs while So and So gets the easy ones. You can suggest that she exchanges jobs, and then you will find that they go back to their original tasks.

It is a good idea to let the children choose their own work from the list. Likewise, it is worth letting the older children suggest a campaign of work. For instance, one of the boys might suggest cleaning all the windows in one day, instead of cleaning one room thoroughly. If it does not suit you for some reason, tell him that it is an excellent idea but ňand explain why it will not work, or why you do not agree this time.

In every house there are some things which nobody likes to do. One woman I know makes lists on pieces of cardboard and puts them into two boxes. One box holds the pleasant jobs, the other contains the less popular tasks. Each child chooses two for the day. Some may not be very time consuming, so the child draws another slip. She does not mind in the least bit if the slips are exchanged, as long as both parties are satisfied.

Some children are slow workers by nature (and it follows them throughout life). Some are incapable, or rather less capable than others. It is kinder and more effective to suggest, "Let's go and help him finish off," instead of delegating someone to help him, i.e. "go and help him finish." The unwilling workers do not always do a satisfactory job, but criticism might evoke the response, "Oh, well, if you are not satisfied, I might as well not help at all." This spoils the team spirit and the mutual satisfaction in preparing for yom tov

Wise mothers do not always have to notice the black mood, although they do have to be alert to hurt feelings. Some children help cheerfully at all times, not only before Pesach. The secret is that Mother thanks them every single time, and shows her appreciation. Why do so many children prefer to help strangers? Because strangers are very grateful for extra help, and thank the helper politely. The snack they receive at a stranger's house during a short break tastes infinitely better than anything they have at home! Do not discourage those children who obviously prefer to help grandmother or a married sister. If you let them go, and they come home starry eyed, feeling good about themselves, you will know that you will have to compliment that child more frequently in future.

As a break from the real hard work, it is fun to sort the photo drawer together. If you sort out the year's handwork which the children have brought from school, do not dispose of their treasures if the owner is around. A middle-aged couple, whose children were all married, moved to smaller premises. They found that they had hoarded children's creations for over 25 years! We do not have much opportunity during the year to enjoy each other's company. If the work is planned in advance, you will find time to do all these things. However, if you are under pressure all the time, old clothes will not get sorted, and nobody will look at the photos. After all, it is not chometz.

To summarize, make lists for each day or for the week. Try to keep everyone cheerful, and supply them with good food, before, or after work! A happy, tension free, kosher Pesach to all readers.

 

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