No End to the Matter

We need not be concerned that a weasel may have dragged [chametz] from house to house, or from place to place. For if so, [then let us be concerned] from courtyard to courtyard, and from town to town. There is [then] no end to the matter
(Mishnah Pesachim, Ch 1, Mishnah 2)

I’m not really one to quote Talmud, but you just gotta love a book that has a bunch of Rabbis discussing weasels dragging bread around. It’s like a weird alternate-Jewish-universe version of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

I’m struck by the contrast between the common-sense-ness of this passage and some of the extremes people go to to keep Passover today.

What (I believe) the Rabbis are saying is: “You can’t control the universe. Your dog could hide kibble under the rug. Your kids’ Purim candy stash, long forgotten, might be discovered. Bread-toting weasels could move in with nary a moment’s notice. RELAX. God, The Infinite One, the Source of All Wisdom, has a handle on the dog, and the kids, and the weasels. Just do your best.”

Just before Passover begins, we burn a few crumbs of chametz and say:

“All leaven and anything leavened that is in my possession,whether I have seen it or not, whether I have observed it or not, whether I have removed it or not, shall be considered nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.”

Once again, a reminder that if weasels move in with a box of wheat-thins, we are off the hook.

Taking it another step, as the chametz burns, we say another prayer:

“May it be Your will, Lord, our G-d and G-d of our fathers, that just as I remove the chametz from my house and from my possession, so shall You remove all the extraneous forces. Remove the spirit of impurity from the earth, remove our evil inclination from us, and grant us a heart of flesh to serve You in truth.”

Rabbi Moshe Adler has commented about the Yetzer HaRa, the inclination to unrestrained passion. Not only does this inclination cause us to do out and out harm, it also feeds off our pride and causes us to take holy acts to extremes. “You think THAT’S clean enough for Passover?!?” shouts the Yetzer HaRa in our head, “I can still see flour in the corners. You better get cleaning!”

In cleaning the chametz (a word which, as I’ve mentioned before, is linked to “pride”), we are reminded to keep it real, to acknowledge that there is a point at which enough is enough. To realize that our desire to “keep the mitzvot” must not go so far that there would be No End to the Matter.