Saturday, September 23, 2006

Thoughts on Cleaning

Our newest rabbi Toby in her Rosh Hashanah sermon talked about the therapy of cleaning as a reaction to a world which puts increasing demands on us to be afraid. Her thesis was that cleaning is one way in which we can add order to our otherwise chaotic lives. She presented 3 examples of her recent summer cleaning frenzy:

The lesson of the dishes: She has reduced her 4 sets of dishes down to 2, discarding the K-Mart starter set and another set which was intended for the unknowing person who attempted to bring meat into her kosher vegetarian home. She cited Ecclesiastes 3, “to everything there is a season”, saying that in our larger lives, the challenge of Rosh Hashanah is deciding what to keep and what to cast away.

The moral of the tee shirts: She talked about coming across old beat up things of little worth – a holey tee shirt that was once her brother’s, a picture drawn by her niece when she was 8. Things like these are keepers because they serves as reminders that we are not alone in the world, we are part of a larger community.

The message of the Mason jars: She still has numerous Mason jars, originally intended to contain the makings for chocolate chip cookies to be given as gifts. Even though the jars have simply been taking up space, they could be reused for another purpose, much as Judaism teaches us to see things in a new light. Psalm 126 talks about sowing in tears, and reaping in joy.

After a summer of cleaning, her cupboards and her life have taken on a new order. Everything that is left is there for a reason. There has been plenty of time to contemplate the words of Rabbi Nacham of Bratslav, who said, "The world is a narrow bridge. The key to the crossing is not to be afraid."

Along with making me realize how long it has been since I did a major cleaning, she presented the idea of using the physical act of cleaning to restore control to our lives which are constantly bombarded with the struggles all around us. She invariably has such sage advice.

Thank you, Toby!


Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Wow! These days are very successful in attendance and quality of events, largely thanks to you. That must make it all the more rewarding and worth the effort when they are so appreciated. I like all the music involved as well as the symbolism you can carry into present day life. Again, I can so relate to this, especially at this time in my life when I'm simplifying and trying to keep just what I need and/or really want for a reason.

Have got my attic under control, now if I could get started on "The Dungeon" (my basement!) My soul would really be cleansed then!!

5:54 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

I like this quote about possessions by Rabindranath Tagore:

"Love gives beauty to everything it touches. Not greed and utility; they produce offices, but not dwelling houses. To be able to love material things, to clothe them with tender grace, and yet not be attached to them, this is a great service."

8:32 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MOI -- The basement sounds like a good winter project.

Pauline -- I have difficulty loving things and not getting attached to them. I have read this quote over several times in an attempt to fully comprehend it. It's quite powerful.

I'm so glad to have found you because you seem to be a kindred spirit!

9:56 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

I, too, have the same trouble. I clothe things with tender grace but then I want to keep them! For instance, I know there are more teapots in the world than anyone can imagine, yet the ordinary green china one that was my mother's is a treasured possession. I love it so it's beautiful to me. Have you read The Holy Man by Susan Trott? There's a passage in it about not becoming too attached to particular things, how it leads to suffering. I have not yet achielved detachment.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

My rule is, if I'm really attached to them, there's no reason to throw them out. But if they're just stuck in the closet, doing no one any good, or if I think I love them but I never even look at them because they're packed in a box somewhere, then it won't hurt to get rid of them.

You know me and cleaning frenzies. I never save that activity just for fall. Every season demands it! At least, this is true for me.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

I have my work cut out for me!

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Inspired by Toby, I did a major basement cleaning yesterday . . . lots left to go, but I've got several boxes ready for the Sukkot Yard Sale!

6:34 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Reya -- I can't say I've ever really missed anything I threw out.

OL -- I'm with you. I'm now seeing piles of things everywhere. Before I was somewhat blind to the clutter.

Robin -- Thanks for the reminder about the Sukkot yard sale. Maybe that will get me motivated. I'm so goal-oriented! We can thank Toby if it's a success. Ha!

I was so happy to finally meet you on Saturday.

10:40 PM  

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