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Aha, I Found the Cheerio!

Wednesday, 1 April, 2015 - 8:05 pm

Lessons of the wayward piece of cereal 
by Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman Peabody, Mass

This past Sunday wasn't the usual funday.

You see, we decided that we'd do Passover cleaning as a family. Yup, we pulled out all the drawers, cabinets, clothes, toys etc. We shook them out, vacuumed them and on and on, in search for the elusive piece of chametz (leavened foods, including bread, cookies, cereal etc.) that might have somehow fallen in, or, been smuggled in, (or been brought downstairs illegally by one of the kids).

After about 30 minutes, our enthusiasm was waning and as we hit the hour marker, we were in full regret mode. But we tried to stay positive and upbeateven if it was just for ourselves, at least until the two hour ice cream break mark.

AND THEN IT HAPPENED. You got it. At roughly 14:00 o'clock in the toy room, under a toy shelf, I saw it. It stood there in its full arrogant pomposity, glaring at me for daring to upset it from its comfortable perch. It looked at me, I looked at it, wondering who'd blink first. It was a wayward cheerio. Honey nut, I believe. The glint off the sheen of its nutty belly gave away its identity.

This was no joking matter. This whole day's exercise was exactly for this moment. For me to eradicate and destroy, eviscerate and obliterate, any vestige of chametz. And here was this pretentious mini-bread/leaven brazenly resting at the foot of the toy cabinet. How dare it. The sheer chutzpah! I grabbed my trusty Sears Kenmore vac and aimed the wand at the cheerio. I neared it. At first it wiggled, then it tried to stay in place, but eventually the force of suction and my determination got the upper, and it was dislodged and sucked into the vacuum bag where it will ultimately meet its maker in General Mills heaven when I put the vacuum bag to its final rest in a dumpster nearby.

And then it hit me. Really? Seriously? Does G-d really care if a Cheerio lives in my house over Pesach? I mean, yes, you gotta spring clean. It's good for the house, good for the kids to learn some domestic ethics, like the fact that clothing and toys don't pick themselves up. But really, does G-d really care if there is a wayward piece of cake, cookie, challah, cereal or any chametz hidden off in some corner, deep in the recesses of the house somewhere?

To paraphrase Tevyah, would it spoil some vast eternal plan, if a piece of chametz were found, oh goodness gracious, in a corner, in a drawer, in a closet or in any other place?                         (More on this at the upcoming JLI Course details here)

There are many important answers to this question, but it is one of the mystical answers that resonates deeply with me.

The Exodus from the original Egypt was a journey from physical slavery to physical freedom. The modern day Exodus is a person's journey from personal slavery-be it mental, emotional, spiritual or any matter that doesn't allow you to reach your full potential-to freedom, to "be all that you can be."

There are many factors that may inhibit us from reaching our fullest self. Fear, fear of failure, anxiety, worry, too much sense of self, too little sense of self and so on. What is most often at the core of any of these inhibitors is the ego. To quote recovery expert ShaisTaub, E.G.O. is an acronym for Edging G-d Out - (www.Harfordchabad.org/1761300).

Ego, in its most literal sense, gets us into trouble so often. Why do we get upset at other people? Because they called us a name, made fun of us, didn't invite us to..., etc. What is the root of all that? Ego. If we didn't have an inflated sense of self, we wouldn't be bothered by any of the above. 

Why do we cower in fear of taking new leaps and striving for higher? Is it because we fear failure? What is at the core of that? Again, ego. If we had an appropriate and accurate sense of self, we wouldn't think of ourselves as "all that and then some". If we succeed, great, if not, well, it wasn't meant to be. 

Now, in the real world, we don't have the luxury of waxing poetic as I am doing right now, and we don't take the time to think deep thoughts and theorize and philosophize about deep hypotheticals, because the burdens of the journey of life consume us.

Until Pesach comes along.

Come Pesach, and the preparatory weeks leading up to it, we need (, even it is painful,) to slow it down a bit and search for the Honey nut Cheerio that may be lurking in the deepest recesses of our soul and psyche. 

For one week a year, we must banish any form of chametz, ego, the edging of G-d out, from our lives. We need to open all cabinets (read - food), empty all drawers (read - projects of importance, real or imagined), dump out the toy box (our inner child that may be too immature to make the next move), move the couch from the wall (read - our lazy side that couches relaxation in laziness -pun intended), take books off the bookshelves (read - our pseudo-philosophical side that hides behind fancy words and philosophies that absolve us, in our minds, from that hard work that must be done) , because it is not certain where some misplaced sense of inflated self may be hidden. 

It is not easy to confront the chametz devil, but we have the time now and a rich history of righteous people before us who have shown us how to do it. 

Now, we just have to pick up the vacuum cleaner and start. One drawer at time, one shelf at a time, because the tendency to edge G-d out is so harmful, that even one petrified Cheerio can be the reason for our lack of progress.

And that, my friends, is my answer. Yes, G-d does care. Not because of a particular dislike for Cheerios, but for all that it represents. A parent who loves their child, hates anything that can hurt their child.

In the case of Pesach, chametz (read - ego) wherever it may be found, hurts G-d's children, and He says, I don't want it seen, I don't even want it found on your property, for the 7-8 days of Pesach!

Happy hunting. 

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