I’ve talked about Pesach (Passover) a bit before, and these thoughts about chametz (leaven) have been rattling around my mind ever since, well, ever since I packed up and left. As I said before, when I was packing up and leaving was the time when I would normally be preparing the house for Pesach. Said like that, one doesn’t really get the significance of the task. Suffice it to say, there are many jokes made about going back into slavery in the days and weeks before Pesach in order to get our homes ready to celebrate our freedom from slavery. Ha, ha, ha. Jendeis has a good description of her what her Pesach prep entails. Pesach prep in my house with Mr. X was generally a little more intense than her list portrays, and every year he would change what level of cleaning he was comfortable with (so some years were definitely harder than others), but her post should give you an idea if you are interested. Basically–clean everything really well, use different dishes, kasher (make kosher–often means boiling) utensils or other items that are able to be kashered. Clean entire house of any crumbs of food, etc.
This year, around the time that I would normally start planning out the cleaning schedule, I was figuring out if I was going to leave my husband or not, so my regular Pesach concerns were kind of out the window. At the same time, I was aware of the time of year and that I wasn’t making those plans. So during the time that I would normally be vacuuming under the couch cushions for crumbs, and scrubbing out the cabinets, and ridding the house of all foods with chametz in them, I was instead deciding what items I was going to take with me in my Great Escape.
I already made the connections to the journey out of Egypt elsewhere. The actual preparation for the journey, however…as I said above, I was very aware of the time frame in the Jewish calendar, and somewhere between the subconscious and the conscious I knew that this packing, this preparing to leave, this was my Pesach preparation.
So what is chametz? Chametz is leavened bread, bread (or bread products) that have been allowed to rise. Spiritually, chametz has been likened to pride, anger, even death. Traditionally, one is to literally burn the last bit of chametz in possession before Pesach begins.
After I knew I would have to leave, in the few days before X left for his out of town trip that would give me the opportunity to escape, I found myself looking at all of the things around the house, and I realized I could leave them all. I realized it didn’t matter at all, all of this accumulation that had seemed so important just a few months before. If I had to, I could have walked away with nothing.
I didn’t walk away with nothing, but I took very little. Just today I spoke with my homeowners’ insurance company. I almost laughed when they asked about my possessions at my current residence. The things I took fit in my car’s trunk and the back of my mom’s truck (cover closed), with room to spare. If I hadn’t brought the dog and her varied necessities, my trunk would have been empty.
I hadn’t realized how cathartic it would be to go through my things and say, “No, no, no.” No, I’m in too many photos with X in that outfit, no, I’ve always hated that shirt. No, I’m not bringing any of this, any of that, thank you, but no. And it felt like with every item I left behind, I was freeing myself a little more, stripping off the chains one link at a time.
And it didn’t stop with the physical items. It seemed in those days that I was literally breathing him out of my body, sweating him out, crying him out. All of those years that I was pushed into a smaller and smaller space with fewer and fewer choices, all of those insinuating sighs and cruel words–I sloughed them off with my skin. This was my chametz: the daily dying that comes with needs deferred too, too long, the deep wound of a love returned by hate, the exhaustion of avoiding unavoidable landmines. This was the year I started truly seeking out and burning the chametz.