There are many ways to make Pesach. None of them have to involve tears, extreme fatigue, or a week of pizza bagels. In this column we’ll meet women with vastly different methods, but who all share the goal of reaching Pesach calmly and happily.
Name: Laya Appelbaum*
From: Cleveland, OH
Been making Pesach for: 34 years
Motto: Windex — it’s all about happy Jews and Windex.
Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg a”h gave a yearly shiur about Pesach cleaning that became very famous; I used to go listen to it every year when we lived in Eretz Yisrael. His philosophy was that you could do all of your Pesach cleaning in a few hours. The stuff people make themselves crazy with has nothing to do with Pesach! You can close things off, you don’t have to clean your entire house — why make yourself crazy right before Pesach, when you’ll become resentful and fall asleep at the Seder?
I’d say we clean the house in two to three hours on the day of bedikas chometz. This sounds foreign, maybe even irresponsible, but we want to enjoy Yom Tov. We’re coming out of shi’abud Mitzrayim, we should love Pesach — and my kids do.
We have a large family, ka”h, and the kids are all very positive about Yiddishkeit and very shtark. My older kids come for Yom Tov, and I want us all to enjoy Pesach together and not be stressed out! Just take a Windex, shpritz it, it’s going to be fine. Give us a couple hours… it’ll be good.
A month before Pesach I switch to kitniyos snacks for the kids — rice cakes, bamba…. There’s a lot of nosh that’s kitniyos! This way, I can assume that any crumbs I later find on the floor or in toys are kitniyos. The toys that we will play with on Pesach I run through the washing machine, in a mesh bag or a pillowcase. Some years I had the kids clean them in the bathtub with toothbrushes. Some years my kids had more toys, some years less toys.
I have my regular cleaning help, so at around the same time, we pull out the couches and clean behind them to get rid of the initial dirt. I don’t clean the bedrooms for Pesach — I don’t allow food there, so my regular weekly cleanup is enough. When the kids were little I had them dump out their drawers but I didn’t do it right before Pesach, I did it a month before when we switched clothing for the new season. Again, if I find crumbs later, I know it must be kitniyos since we made that switch. My kids clean out the pockets of their clothing and anything we don’t have time to clean I just throw into the washing machine — whatever goes through a wash is not ra’uy l’achilas kelev.
In the living room and dining room, I spray the chairs with Windex. When the cleaning lady comes, she does the same sweep and mop as she always does. We use a cleanser that will ensure that anything that comes into contact with it will no longer be ra’uy l’achilas kelev. After Purim we clean the couches (just as I do every couple of months). As we get closer to Pesach, I don’t let my kids run around with challah, and we eat mostly gluten-free meals.
When it comes to the kitchen, some years I clean the cabinets, some years I tape them off and just keep everything on the counters. But when I clean a cabinet, it doesn’t take any time — it’s not like we live in total squalor the rest of the year! I just empty the cabinet, put everything in a box, then take some Windex and wipe it down.
Keeping them fed
I grew up starving the month before Pesach. I therefore make sure to keep my house well-stocked with food. There’s no reason you can’t cook up pots of rice and other kitniyos in the weeks leading up to Pesach, and have a few potato kugels ready once you switch over. The morning of bi’ur chometz we sit on a table cloth on the floor, picnic style, and eat a chometzdig breakfast cereal — then we roll up the tablecloth and throw it out. We do watch the little ones closely and clean up very carefully afterward, but it’s a fun picnic and they love participating.
Everyone knows that they can always come to me for a good meal Erev Yom Tov — my father comes regularly. When I was a kid, the whole house was ready early but we couldn’t move, walk, eat, breathe… maybe my whole system is just a reaction to that! I don’t make the kids eat in the garage — we eat in our house, we live in our house, we’re happy in our house.
Prepping the kitchen
Rav Scheinberg said you can literally spray everything with Windex and then it won’t be ra’uy l’achilas kelev. Obviously, the things you use on Pesach you want to clean more, but do you know how many plumbers and repairmen are called before Pesach because ladies took apart their sinks and fridges? It’s completely unnecessary!
At some point during the week before, I get the fridge, counters, and surfaces clean — not spring clean, kosher clean. We’re talking Windex and a wipe down. Anything that I’m not using during Pesach I tape up.
My kids make these cute signs that show what’s Pesachdig and what’s sold. I do put chometz in plastic bags for bedikas chometz — does that sound neurotic enough?
I turn over the kitchen the day of bedikas chometz… It takes me two to three hours. (Well, technically, I guess I start 24 hours before, when I stop using my sink so that I can kasher the next day.)
I put my oven on self-clean after the last time I use it for chometz and put the stovetop grates in, so they’re already kosher l’Pesach. I wash down my counters, floor, and fridge. Then I cover my counters and oven. We bring out all the Pesach boxes and put the stuff on the counters (or the cabinets, if we cleaned them that year). I make charoses, roast, and soup right away. My boys check the romaine lettuce and I put the maror in the food processor.
I don’t make fancy stuff — no cake with 3,000 eggs. I don’t want to spend hours and hours cooking, I want to enjoy Yom Tov! We’re talking minimal ingredients with minimal time. I make huge pots of potatoes, which I’ll serve with fried onions. (Kugel takes too much time). I make a lot of hard-boiled eggs to snack on. If I have extra time I’ll make a carrot salad. You’re allowed to cook on Yom Tov.
Making it memorable
We want it to be a fun Yom Tov for the kids and grandchildren. We decorate the house and do a lot of shtick. I make a Kri’as Yam Suf on the table with mentchies (remember, they were washed in the bathtub!) The kids all look forward to Pesach.
(Originally featured in Family First Issue 488)
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