September 30, 2023
September 30, 2023

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Everyone always wants advice before Pesach. Something about the holiday makes people want to send each other questions.

Dear Mordechai,

What’s wrong with my vacuum cleaner?


Dear A,

It’s probably broken. This is a Pesach tradition. There are a lot of Pesach traditions, and one of the first is the annual breaking of the vacuum cleaner.

In our house, every Pesach cleaning begins with replacing the belt on ours. You’d think we would get a better vacuum, but we don’t have a lot of carpets in our house, so 95 percent of our yearly vacuuming is done right before Pesach. And not even on carpets. We vacuum everything, once we have it out. We vacuum the floors, we vacuum the ceilings, we vacuum to pick up big things that we don’t feel like bending down for, we vacuum the long string at the edge of the carpet, and we vacuum up the old belt that’s still lying on the floor for some reason. I’ve even vacuumed hair out of the bathtub drain. I think the belts are committing suicide.

On that note, another thing to check is to see if the bag is full. The vacuum cleaner bag is always full. It’s smaller than any of your garbage cans, and you’re using it to pick up all the garbage in your entire house, plus innocent spiders who are living on your ceiling and not hurting anyone except when they come down on an invisible string and scare you off your tuffet. Plus, think of how full your garbage gets before you put your foot in there to push everything down. Are you sticking your foot in your vacuum cleaner?

Oh. Maybe that’s why it’s broken.

Dear Mordechai,

Do I have to clean my bathroom for Pesach?


Dear S.,

Well, we do. Despite the fact that we don’t bring food in there. We don’t even have a medicine cabinet in there. There is a discoloration on the wall of where a medicine cabinet used to be, but someone who lived in the house before us asked himself, “Why on earth would someone keep medicine in the bathroom?” And he was right. After all, what’s the first thing you do after you get a pill? You look around for a drink. And what’s the one room of the house where you can’t drink? Are you downing the pill with a swig of mouthwash? So we keep our medicine in the kitchen, which is where we keep the drinks.

But I’d still advise you to clean the bathroom before Pesach, because if this is the kind of question that you’re asking, I’m starting to worry that this is the only time of the year that you consider cleaning the bathroom at all.

Dear Mordechai,

Why, before Pesach, do we teach our kids what will happen at the seder? They know every step better than the adults… and then we expect them to ask their parents what’s happening?


Dear Y.,

I’ve been wondering about this for many years myself. Why don’t we just let Pesach totally surprise them? Say absolutely nothing about it in school the whole month, give them a full day of school on erev Pesach, and suddenly they come home from school and, “Hey! What’s going on here?”

On the other hand, that’s a lot of new material to teach your kid in one night when he’s tired and you’re drunk. Especially in the old days, when their wine was really strong, and just the first cup could give you a headache until Shavuot.

But here’s the thing: Even if we didn’t teach this stuff in school, wouldn’t they remember it from last year anyway? Are we supposed to knock them on the heads once a year and give them amnesia?

But the truth is that, in true Pesach tradition, I can probably answer your question with a question: Every year, your children’s rebbeim teach them a million divrei Torah on Ha Lachma Anya and the five rabbis and the one with the weird facial hair and the four sons, but there’s a massive gap in Maggid between Tzey Ul’mad and the makkot where the rebbeim say nothing. And then they give divrei Torah on bentching. Why don’t they teach Tzey Ul’mad? Isn’t that the main story section of the Haggadah?

And the answer is your question.

Dear Mordechai,

What should I do for Chol Hamoed?


Dear A.,

Go somewhere indoors, especially if you don’t eat gebrokts. Because it might rain. In fact, some people might be rooting for it to rain. I know I was last year.

I know this is the most selfish thing to root for, but hear me out: Last year, on the first day of Chol Hamoed, I looked out my window and noticed two thick white lines running around the side of my neighbor’s house, down their front walk, up their sidewalk to our driveway and out to the middle of the street, where it stopped. And I said to myself, “It looks like they got some kind of delivery. What on earth did they drag out of a car and into their house? Two oversized pieces of chalk?”

And then my wife said, “Oh. It was the flour.”

It turns out that the night before Pesach we still had a big plastic container of flour and nothing to do with it, because our oven was Pesadik. So I went to shul, and my wife was supposed to be hiding chometz, and she went out to the backyard and dumped all the flour into the outside garbage can. With no bag. And she didn’t know that all our outdoor garbage cans have holes on the bottom, though this usually doesn’t bother me because it means that my cans don’t fill up with water when it rains. Anyway, the next morning, I brought the cans to the curb, and the garbage collectors brought it to the middle of the street and dumped it into their trucks, and I never looked back. Until Chol Hamoed.

I spent the next couple of days seeing these two big lines of flour running up and down my neighbor’s property that we could not do anything about, and we were wondering if our neighbors were wondering what it was, but we didn’t want to do anything to draw attention to the fact that we’d made the mess because then they would ask us to clean it up with our Pesach broom or our constantly-malfunctioning vacuum cleaner, and we’d have to say something like, “Sure. Next week.” This would not be great for anti-Semitism. Especially if we don’t explain that it’s flour.

So we spent all of Chol Hamoed davening that it would rain, so our flour would wash off our neighbor’s property, even though everyone else was saying Morid Hatal. Finally we won, and it did rain on Chol Hamoed, as it always does, but it didn’t rain hard enough, so the flour was still there. But now it was more of a dough.

Point is, it always rains on Chol Hamoed, and I think this is why. There’s probably always someone somewhere in this situation. Don’t laugh, or it will happen to you.

Have a question for Mordechai? Don’t schlep it to the garbage through your neighbor’s property.

By Mordechai Schmutter

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