In our home on Chanukah, we were publicizing the miracle of Purim. Now why would we be doing that you might wonder? Well, really we were celebrating Purim because I was cleaning for Pesach. And why in the world would I be doing that in Kislev?
Innocently, I’d called a friend to inquire whether or not she would like to meet us at the Botanical Garden for a fun outing with our kids. She responded that actually she was hoping to utilize the opportunity of having all her girls’ home from school to go through their closets and “sort of” get a jump start on Pesach.
Admittedly, I could feel myself start to tremble. What a smart, efficient way to spend vacation. How could I possibly have entertained the thought of romping carefree with my kids, spending quality time together outdoors, as though we had no other pressing concerns that needed attention? Maybe I too should organize those upper closets, go through the accumulated stuff and send some to the neighborhood gemach? Wouldn’t that be fun? Wouldn’t I have a satisfying feeling of accomplishment at such a feat?
So the morning after Shabbos, there I was in the boy’s room, pulling down piles of too small children’s outfits that had seen better days. My four year old wasn’t interested in any of these cute dresses her three sisters before her had happily worn, so those nostalgic pieces all were relegated to a large, purple plastic bag. Then there was the basket of “socks:” perfectly good except for the threadbare heels and toes. I called in the crew and announced that they should choose which ones they wanted. No takers. So into the purple bag they went!
Then there were the sweaters. How many sweaters does a child need anyway? One for Shabbos, one for weekdays, and perhaps they need an extra one for wearing when the first one is in the wash? There were a lot of good condition hand-me-downs to choose from that were all rejected, even the one with pink and yellow flowers, the one with beige and green stripes and the blue one with pretty woven, peaceful cottage scene!
We were really making progress, already filling the third bursting purple, plastic bag, when the girls decided to help out by bringing down the boxes from their upper closet as well. That’s how they discovered the Purim costumes. So now we had a policeman, a bride, a clown and a queen running madly about underfoot, with wigs and crowns, scepters and whistles. They put on Rebbe Alter’s Purim tape, sang about Mordecai, Esther and Achashverus instead of Antiochus and the Maccabeus and we were really in the festive, joyous swing of things, if not in quite the right season!
This activity lasted for several days during the week of Chanukah and brought much simchah into the hearts of our brood. Usually I don’t let them touch the stuff, for fear of the costume outfits getting dirty and requiring washing before the actual Purim holiday arrives in Adar. I must have been in a good mood. Or maybe there just seemed no point in arguing, as I was clearly outnumbered. And what alternative plan did I have arranged to keep them as busy on a cold, overcast day when the wind-chill factor made braving the elements a daunting affair? So much for an outing to the Botanical Garden!
Though at first it seemed slightly ridiculous to be doing spring cleaning in the beginning of the winter that light happy feeling that accompanies the discarding of clutter is beneficial any time of year. And as we’ve all been told dozens of times, Pesach cleaning is for removing the chametz from our households, and it’s best to do sorting and sifting of stuff at other, less pressured times. It’s just that for some reason the Torah portions about Yosef and his brothers going down into Mitzaryim always occur two or three months before Pesach. Reading in January or February about the beginning of our bondage and our eventual triumphant redemption sort of serves as some kind of reminder that our homes will soon need scouring, even though we’d prefer not to think about it yet!
Now don’t groan when you read this, or worse, start panicking, the rest of Chanukah we were busy making and eating latkes and sufganiyot, visiting friends and admiring the brightly burning lights of the hundreds of menorahs in the windowsills of our neighborhood. And we still had Tu b’Shvat, Purim, and at least four months of Shabbosim to commemorate with joy and gladness before we reached the momentous occasion of Pesach!
Just remember if you can, that each season has its special flavor, and it really comes back to one basic theme: Hashem loves us, redeemed us and will redeem us in the future. So there’s nothing wrong with celebrating Purim at Chanukah time, while cleaning for Pesach!