Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Preparing the kitchen: biur chametz

I just got back from the grocery store and I am unloading our Passover-friendly foods (and some Easter candy) when I notice something. My refrigerator is full. Shamefully full. Sauteed zucchini, an unopened tub of cottage cheese from two months ago, three nearly full tubs of sour cream, take out, deli meat, pizza, peas in mint butter sauce, molded cheese, soured milk, and bowl after bowl of leftovers stare at me under florescent lights. As I toss this food in the trash and down the disposal I feel overwhelming sorrow, guilt, and frustration. I feel like the mom from A Christmas Story who chides her son for not eating his dinner while there are starving children in Africa. How could we be so thoughtless? I feel guilty that I have been so wasteful of our resources: the effort I put into making this food, the gas I used to drive to the store, the time I spent choosing the ingredients, and the monetary value of our waste. How could I be so careless?

To me, Lent and Passover are about three things: food, sacrifice, and remembering important stories. As I stood there watching all that once good food literally going down the drain, I couldn't help but think of how absent-minded I've been about Lent and Passover this year. I'm going through the motions of fasting without setting my intention. If God was trying to get my attention, then God's got it.

Yesterday, I learned about the Passover tradition called biur chametz. It's the tradition of preparing your kitchen for Passover by removing all the chametz (the five forbidden grains) and all the dishes and utensils you use to prepare those foods from your kitchen before Passover. It reminds me of Fat Tuesday. Tonight was my way of preparing the kitchen and my heart. Now that I have cleaned, I can set my intentions without distraction. I set my intention now to be more attuned to the needs of others because I have plenty, I set my intention to talk to God when I feel spiritual hunger, and I set my intention to let the stories of freedom and redemption inspire me to work towards freeing others.

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