It's just a couple days before Passover, and no time to have a crisis of faith.
Most people I know are too busy pouring pots-full of boiling water on their counters, perhaps with towels on the floor below waiting for the overflow. They're taking blowtorches designed for creme brulee to their stovetops. They're boiling pans of water in their microwaves. They're taping pieces of tin foil on the grates inside their refrigerators, being sure to poke holes for air circulation. They're cutting pieces of thick plastic or aluminum and using lots of sticky shelf paper. And they're wrapping up all their cereal, flour, cookies, and just about all their regular food--and completing a contract selling it to a non-Jew.
Is this crazy, or what? Hours and hours taking a toothbrush to the grout. Sorting through toys for a stray stub of granola bar. Flipping through the pages of books, shaking them upside down combing for crumbs. This is indeed insanity. Is this really what God wants us to be doing? I thought learning Torah was the most important thing--or maybe praying, or doing kindnesses for others, or visiting someone alone and sick. No, for a week--or several--Jews are overcome with a fear of specks of leavened products.
And the job falls almost exclusively to women. Unless a guy lives alone, in which case he'll only attack this job if he's too poor to hire somebody else to do it, men have women to obsess about this. How many guys do you know who are diligent and compulsive about Pesach cleaning?
The bottom line for me is that--I will confess--my faith is shaken. Frankly, I am of the privileged few who are spared this entire weirdness as I am hired as a staff person at a lovely and luxurious Passover hotel getaway, and I have no right to complain about the work that once again, I need not do.
Still, enough of my friends ARE doing it, and my memory of the process is fresh enough that I do wonder how any clever God would come up with this as something beneficial to His creations. A test of faith, you may say--God provides this so He can reward our loyalty and our effort. Then why threaten us with being "cut off" from our people, ie the end of our eternal souls--if we snatch a slice of pizza over Passover's eight days? Or if we sell all our chumetz except the bag of tortilla chips?
We're taught that the inflation of flour by yeast represents the puffiness of our egos--i.e. arrogance. Arrogance is one of the two characteristics--midos--that we're told to eliminate from our personalities. And here, for eight days, is a means to symbolically eliminate this puffiness, both spiritually, as we relive Jews' transition from earthly bondage to spiritual bondage to the only worthy master, God--and physically by never taking any leavened products into our bodies.
This doesn't wash for me. (I'll skip the Urchatz pun). Why didn't God say we could eat non-leavened stuff like cookies? We can have cookies, but they have to be matza meal or potato starch based--I know, I know, you'll give me the stuff about flour having the potential to be leavened. But it's not about flour--or else we couldn't have matza, which is--flour and water. We know that the already-baked matza can't rise; it's had no more than 18 minutes to combine its ingredients. But the pre-baked cookies can't rise either.
All the permutations of this chumetz-restriction are so way out there as to make Jews look primitive and brainless. Gentiles who enter a Pesach-dik kitchen think we've gone to the moon. I don't really care what gentiles think; I want to do what God wants, and I trust He knows better than I do how to maximize my spiritual potential. But when you spend hundreds--usually THOUSANDS of dollars, and days, WEEKS of work to very indirectly and obliquely tamp down our egos--well, first off, I don't think it works any better than less intrusive means, and it just plain doesn't make sense. I know that God MADE "sense;" if He made everything, He can do whatever He likes. Still the "fences" around avoiding chumetz, and the complexities of it, and the potential punishment for NOT doing it, or doing it incompletely--is just too bizarre.
Tell me where I'm wrong. And in the meantime, have a Pesach kasher v sameach--if you ever get THROUGH kashering.