Housework can’t kill you, but why take a chance? Phyllis Diller
The Hebrew word ‘erev’ means evening. You say erev tov when you meet someone walking after the sun has gone down.
Erev also means eve, as in erev Shabbat (the day preceding the Sabbath). In that context, erev can be used to mean the day before any special day.
However, like all things Jewish and/or Israeli, erev has taken on its own special connotation. In traditional Jewish homes, erev means the time it takes to prepare for the special day.
So while erev Shabbat might start on Thursday afternoon, erev Chanuka or erev Purim might start about a week before that holiday, depending on how organized the particular household is, and how many soofganiyot and/or hamentashen one has to bake.
In contrast, Erev Pesach can start anywhere from one month to 363 days before the holiday, depending on how hysterical I feel.
This can be used both positively and negatively.
For example, that kitchen drawer that attracts various fliers, teachers’ notes, charity solicitations, obsolete phone chargers, old x-rays of someone’s broken arm, stamps, bits of colored paper with scribbled unnamed phone numbers, unfinished soduko puzzles, artwork from kindergarten (the artist is now 19), pens with green ink, old calendars from an insurance company, photographs of unknown people in an unknown place, a map of the Maldives, and paperclips need not be organized right now. Its almost Erev Pesach; it can be done then!!
Or – and this is my favorite – “I can’t cook tonight. It’s Erev Pesach”. I’ve been known to say this in January.
On the other hand, jitters have been coming earlier and earlier each year and the house grows bigger and bigger as the holiday approaches faster and faster and I have to face the inevitable truth: There are more cupboards to clean, more furniture to vacuum, and more floor to wash each year. Erev Pesach gets longer and longer.
However, I have it down to a science. Over the years, I have devised a system so that I don’t go into a cleaning-fume-induced delirium by trying to get everything done at the last minute.
There are several stages to preparing for Pesach.
The first stage is mentally preparing myself for what lies ahead. This stage, which can take anywhere from a week to up to six months, comprises staring at walls, muttering, walking in circles, crawling into bed and weeping, and, occasionally, banging my head against the nearest wall and cursing the day I was born.
The next stage is what I call the action stage. Others might call it the list stage, but that’s because they don’t understand the action it takes to make lists. I like to make lists. Lists calm me. Lists anchor me into reality. Making lists leaves me with less time to bang my head against any wall.
First, I make a list of the lists I need to make. This in itself can be quite exhausting, especially if I include the list of the foods my guests don’t eat, a list of gifts I would like to receive, a list of all the stuffed animals we have in the house, a list of books I need to read (by author) and movies I would like to watch but can’t find online, and a list of different ways in which I can procrastinate.
I then list all the rooms of the house by size, and what there is to clean in each room. I look over the lists and cross out half and write ‘dirt isn’t chametz’.
I list all the windows in the house. I hand that list over to someone else. Someone else throws the list in the garbage.
I list all the things I have to buy for the holiday: cleaning supplies, food, wine, clothes, a fridge, new tiles for the bathroom wall, a sheep, and cotton balls.
Listing complete, I begin the next stage of cleaning.
I organize my lists in order of priority. First on my list, obviously, is a trip to the bookstore. Then I can really get down to business.
My problem with Pesach cleaning is that I’ve barely finished preparing, making, and cleaning up for the holiday, when boom, ten months later, it’s Erev Pesach again, and I have to start thinking about it all over again.
I’m going to have a cup of tea.