For the week ending 26 March 2011 / 19 Adar II 5771

Cleaning Up the Country

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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It is not often that a government minister in Israel begins a letter with a quote from the Midrash. This is what caught my attention when I saw the "invitation to join the effort to clean up Israel" issued by the Environment Protection Ministry Gilad Erdan.

Citing the Midrash (Kohelet 7:28) about G-d declaring that everything was created for man and he must avoid corrupting the world, the Minister announced a new project called "National Cleanup Day." On March 29th a nationwide effort will be made by soldiers, youth organizations, pupils and municipal employees to clean up the rubbish in open areas and engage in the promotion of care for the environment.

The initiative of Minister Erdan is certainly to be applauded. If a Talmudic Sage is reported to have removed rocks from a public thoroughfare so that no one could have complaints about the Holy Land, the concern for environmental beauty should certainly be viewed as a facet of our love of the land.

But why is cleanliness limited to the elimination of exposed garbage?

What about the filth which permeates the media and the entertainment world? Scattered garbage may offend the eyes – and sometimes the noses – of passersby, but the garbage that is so widespread in radio, television, internet and cinema offend the eyes and ears and pollute the mind and soul.

How wonderful it would be to receive a letter from another government minister, the one in charge of communication, announcing a "National Cleanup Day" of these media menaces.

How fitting it is to reflect on this in this pre-Pesach period of cleaning up our homes. Despite the "spring cleaning" element which Jewish housewives add to their Pesach cleaning, the basic purpose of such cleaning is to eliminate the chametz which endangers the soul. This should send a message to the organizers and participants of Erdan's National Cleanup Day to eliminate the chametz which threatens the soul of the nation throughout the year.

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