What to do with all that Chametz
The history of selling our chametz before Pesach is layered with Jewish creativity, Jewish history, Halachic innovation and the financial challenges of completely emptying our pantries to refill them with Pesach goods, only to then have to refill them again the following week.
There is no question that when this ‘cleansing’ of the cupboards and double-filling becomes a financial hardship, one should consider selling the chametz and reclaiming it afterwards. But fortunately, many of us are not facing financial hardship with our food – we sell it because it is convenient.
In that case, Jewish environmentalism would speak loudly inviting us to use the mitzvah of ‘burning the chametz’ as an opportunity to fulfill other mitzvot.
Unopened food packages should be taken to city food banks and donated. In that way, the food is not wasted and the mitzvah of supporting and sustaining those less fortunate is engaged. It is sad that in our day we cannot donate opened food goods because of health and safety concerns (sad but completely understandable). In that case, we must always remember that our responsibility toward those less fortunate includes all creatures and not just other people.
Opened food packages can be cooked and then left outside for animals. It is springtime and many of the returning and awakening animals are hungry. Cookies, breads, baked goods can be taken to ponds and fed to birds directly. Invite family and friends to join you and now the Jewish value of community building is part of the day. On the other hand, perhaps you prefer a moment of solitude while you do this before the family gathers for Pesach celebrations.
Getting rid of our chametz is not just a stripping away of something but speaks directly to the Jewish environmental commitments to nurture and nourish our fellow creatures. Through the craziness of Pesach prep, it’s lovely to take a few moments of peace and solitude outside with the smells and colours of spring and the sharing of our food.
Each mitzvah should bring opportunity for another mitzvah!