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The Ancient and Modern Practice to Free Your Soul

Illustration of girl with wings

Glasswing by Julianna Swaney

One of the commandments associated with Passover is to remove chametz, leaven, from one’s domain. In contemporary practice, this requires not only getting rid of pasta and cookies from the cupboard, but also cleaning everything thoroughly (most especially the kitchen), covering up countertops on which leaven has been prepared, taking out dishes on which leaven has never been eaten, and making a lot of other changes. It’s a rigorous, physically demanding process of wiping, boiling, and sorting, but at the end of it, as Passover starts, there’s often a gorgeous feeling of purification.The act of preparing for Passover also invites us to ask whether we’re removing the spiritual leaven from our lives as well as the physical stuff. Many traditional commentators describe leaven as puffy and swollen—think of bread rising. They talk about spiritual chametz as the puffy, overextended parts of our ego—the way we try to posture and preen, to be someone in the world (or in the room) rather than just existing as we are; we are encouraged to be gentle and modest, a mere humble matzah.In order to do the work …

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