The purpose of this essay is to briefly present some of the mitzvot and practices relating to Passover. Since Pesach falls out on Saturday Night this year there are a number of differences in the Halachot related to Pesach. The outline below should serve as a guide for you in your Pesach preparations. Please do not hesitate to contact CBI’s clergy should any question arise.
1. THE PROHIBITION OF CHAMETZ
The Torah outlines three types of foods that are prohibited during Pesach: Chametz (leavened bread), Seor (leavening agent, e.g., yeast), and Machmetzet, a mixture of other foods with chametz.
The Prohibition of chametz during Pesach is Threefold:
- One is forbidden to eat chametz (including any amount of chametz mixed into other foods).
- One is forbidden to derive any benefit from chametz (sell it, give it to someone, feed it to one’s animal, make ink from it, etc.).
- One is forbidden to own any chametz or have any visible chametz on one’s property.
The only exception to this rule is chametz that is no longer in a state fit to be eaten by a dog (chametz sh’nifsal me’achilat kelev).
The practical application of this exception is found in household products that contain grain, starches or grain alcohol. According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, toothpaste — even if unsupervised — can be used because it is nifsal me’achilat kelev. Similarly, soap may be used even if it contains chametz. Medicine in tablet form, which is swallowed whole, also is not a problem. However, liquid medicine such as cough syrup is problematic because it many contain grain alcohol, which is pure chametz. Throat lozenges also are a problem. In case of need, please feel free to consult with me personally.
The consumption of rice, peas, beans, corn, and legumes (kitniot) was prohibited by rabbis in medieval Europe. The origins of this practice is not clear, though two common theories are that these items are often made into products resembling chametz (e.g. cornbread), or that these items were normally stored in the same sacks as the five grains and people worried that they might become contaminated with chametz. It is also possible that crop rotation would result in the forbidden chametz grains growing in the same fields, and being mixed in with the kitniyot.
Jews of European origin have maintained this tradition. In the Talmud, we are instructed Minhag Avoteinu B’yadeinu, to heed the customs of our ancestors. As these foods are not biblical chametz, one may benefit from and possess kitniot during Pesach. Yemenite and some Sephardic Jews do not hold by this custom. If you have any questions, please contact Rabbi Yonatan Cohen.
3. STRINGENCIES OF CHAMETZ VIS-A-VIS OTHER PROHIBITED FOODS
The eating of chametz during Pesach is punishable by karet, eternal excommunication – it is a more severe transgression than other prohibited foods.
One may derive benefit from many other prohibited foods – sell them, feed them to the dog, etc. – but not chametz. Furthermore, chametz that is in the possession of a Jew during Pesach is forever prohibited to any Jew and must be destroyed. (Giving it away to a non-Jew is considered a benefit, as it gains good will). chametz that is found in one’s possession during Chol Hamoed (intermediate days of Pesach) must be destroyed immediately. If it is found during Yom Tov or Shabbat, it must be covered up, and destroyed immediately after the end of Yom Tov or Shabbat.
Finally, most other prohibited foods are, under certain circumstances, “cancelled out” if there is a preponderance of permitted food that “overwhelms” the prohibited food (as, for example, one part in sixty parts in many cases). chametz that gets mixed with permitted foods during Pesach is never “cancelled out” in such a manner, and any bit of chametz makes the entire pot of food prohibited.
It is therefore advisable to buy foods like milk, pure fruit juices and eggs before Pesach when any added vitamins can be “canceled out” (me’vutal ) in sixty parts of milk.
4. THE SALE OF CHAMETZ
Sale of chametz to a non-Jew is a legally effective way to rid oneself of chametz. Such a transfer of chametz, through a legal and binding sale with a properly executed contract, gives the non-Jew full title to all foods listed. This transfer may be carried out through appointing an agent, with power of attorney, to sell the chametz through kinyan, formal transfer act and contract.
For this sale to be binding, there are several necessary criteria: The seller must truly believe that he or she is in fact selling something and that he or she views these goods as no longer theirs. The lack of this mental state invalidates any bill of sale, including this one. There must be access for the buyer to the chametz during Pesach. Accordingly, if a person plans to be out of town during the holiday, then he or she must leave keys with a neighbor or with the agent performing the sale, with proper instruction. Please note, the significant act of kinyan should take place between each individual and the agent.
We realize that due to the shelter-in-place, many of our homes might be stocked up with chametz items. All these items can be sold and included in the Sale of chametz form.
Chametz that has been sold must be put in a completely sealed-off place, not readily accessible to the seller during Pesach. Any chametz held over Pesach under Jewish ownership may not ever be used, eaten, or sold after Pesach. Selling one’s chametz before Pesach to a non-Jew avoids Jewish ownership during Pesach and therefore it is not subject to this injunction.
5. STORE-BOUGHT FOODS
Even while we are careful all year long to consume only food with appropriate supervision, during the week of Pesach there is a need to be more vigilant.
Below is a partial list of food that REQUIRE SPECIAL PESACH SUPERVISION:
(Please note, this list only includes items one might otherwise assume did not require special Pesach supervision, but in fact do.)
BAKING POWDER and SODA
CANDY and CHOCOLATE
CHEESE — HARD
COFFEE — UNLESS ON LIST BELOW
FISH – GEFILTE, HERRING, SMOKED SALMON, & ALL CANNED
FRUITS – CANNED
HORSERADISH (RED AND WHITE)
JAMS AND JELLIES
JUICES — WITH ANY ADDITIVES, OR IF NOT BOUGHT BEFORE PESACH
MILK — IF NOT BOUGHT BEFORE PESACH
OILS & SHORTENINGS — EVEN PURE
SPICES & SEASONINGS
TEAS — FLAVORED
VEGETABLES — CANNED & FROZEN
WINES & LIQUORS
A full list of foods that DO NOT REQUIRE SPECIAL PESACH SUPERVISION appears at:
In addition the following items DO NOT REQUIRE SPECIAL PESACH SUPERVISION:
MEAT: Fresh packaged meat (non-processed) and chicken purchased at our local kosher supermarkets prior to Passover is Kosher for Passover even without specific KFP labeling.
MILK & LACTAID MILK: May be used on Passover if purchased before Passover. Lactaid Non-Chewable Pills are permissible for use on Passover as well.
6. CLEANING OF HOMES/PROPERTIES
It is important to note that dirt is not considered chametz (although it is strongly advisable to maintain high standards of hygiene!). The obligation to remove chametz applies strictly to chametz, and not anything else. One must remove chametz from all owned properties, including offices, cars, boats, and so forth.
Please note, while cleaning, the ideal manner in which to dispose of chametz foodstuffs is to donate them to non-Jews in need for example food banks and homeless shelters.
7. METHODS OF KASHERING HOUSEWARE FOR PESACH
Once one has bought Kosher for Pesach food, one must prepare this food in a kosher for Pesach manner. Jewish Law dictates that utensils and location used in food preparations affects their tastes and halakhic status. These laws are complex and, in cases of even the slightest doubt, do not hesitate to contact CBI’s clergy.
Here are some basic principles for Pesach:
Sinks: If stainless steel or metal, should be cleaned with cleaning substance, followed with boiling water poured over the entire surface. Porcelain sinks cannot be kashered in this way and one should use a sink insert.
Stovetop Burners: Should be cleaned with a cleaning substance and not used for 24 hours (one may kasher different burners at different times). Turn to the highest temperature setting for 20 minutes. The base of the stovetop should be covered with tinfoil.
Ovens: Self-cleaning ovens should be set to a full self-cleaning cycle. Others should be cleaned well with a strong cleaning substance, not used for 24 hours, then turned to the highest temperature for a longer-than-usual cooking period.
Microwaves: To kasher a microwave oven, clean thoroughly until absolutely no debris is left. Special attention must be given to the internal vent of the microwave. After you are satisfied that there is no debris, the following steps need to be taken. After 24 hours of non-use, place a mug of water inside and turn the microwave on and allow the microwave to be filled with steam. Repeat the same procedure with the mug in a different spot.
Countertops and Tables: Should be cleaned and covered. More information on which countertops can be kashered: https://www.crcweb.org/kosher_articles/Kashering_in_the_Kitchen.php#countertops
Refrigerator: Should be cleaned.
Dishwasher: empty filter and remove food residue. Clean the racks. Run 1 heavy cycle with soap. Don’t use for 24 hours, then run 3 consecutive short cycles.
Plata: clean well and cover with tinfoil.
Urn: if only used for water, then just clean the spigot that comes in contact with food.
8. METHODS OF KASHERING UTENSILS FOR PESACH
This area of practice has many complex details and nuances. It is therefore certainly preferable and admirable to maintain separate utensils for Pesach. That being said, before kashering a utensil, one needs to clean it thoroughly and be certain there is no food on it. At this point it must be put aside for a full 24 hours. After this step the paths diverge, depending upon the substance and usage.
Metals: Metal utensils that come in direct contact with a heat source or that are only used for boiling, may be kashered by using ha’galah (placing them in boiling water). One may do his or her own ha’galah at home, by kashering a burner, filling a pot with water, making sure the water is in a full boil, then fully immersing the utensil, and rinsing in cool water.
Metal pans that one fries, bakes or roasts in will need libun (burning). The most readily available libun is placing the utensil in an oven on the highest temperature setting for one hour.
9. KITCHEN ITEMS THAT CANNOT BE KASHERED FOR PESACH
The following kitchen items and or materials cannot be kashered for Pesach:
Ceramic, China, Colanders, Corning Ware, Crockpots, Grater (any), Knives with loose wood or loose plastic handles, Porcelain, Porcelain Enameled Pots, Pyrex, Teflon, Toaster/Toaster Oven, Stoneware, Wood.
10. THE STATUS OF MEDICINES DURING PESACH (ACCORDING TO THE CRC)
- All pill medication (with or without chametz) that one swallows is permitted without special supervision (including Lactaid pills). Vitamins and food supplements do not necessarily fall into this category. Please consult Rabbi Cohen regarding your specific situation.
- Liquid and chewable medications that may contain chametz should only be used under the direction of a Doctor and Rabbi, who will judge the severity of the illness, the likelihood that the medicine contains chametz, and the possibility of substituting a swallowable pill. Important: Do not discontinue use of liquid, chewable or any other medicine without consulting with your Doctor and Rabbi.
- Liquid and chewable medications that contain kitniot may be consumed by someone who is ill. An otherwise healthy person, who would like to consume a liquid or chewable medicine to relieve a minor discomfort, should only do so if the product is known to be free of kitniot.
11. THE STATUS OF COSMETICS AND TOILETRIES DURING PESACH (ACCORDING TO THE CRC)
- All varieties of body soaps, shampoos, and stick deodorants are permitted for use on Pesach regardless of their ingredients.
- All types of ointments, creams, nail polish, hand lotions, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, blush, foot and face powders, ink or paint may be used regardless of their ingredients.
- Colognes, perfumes, hairspray, shaving lotions and deodorants that have denatured alcohol (listed as SD, SDA, [or with a number or letter i.e. SD29C or SD40], SD Alcohol, Alcohol, Denatured Alcohol or Ethyl Alcohol) cannot be used on Pesach unless they appear on a reliable list. This only applies to products in a pure liquid state.
- Lipsticks and mouthwash that contain chametz should not be used.
12. FAST OF THE FIRSTBORN
The “fast of the firstborn” is usually held on Passover eve. This year, it is moved to Thursday, March 25. It begins at 5:45 AM. Those obligated to fast include a firstborn son, and the father of a firstborn son who is too young to fast (according to custom).
A person is permitted to break this fast by attending a Seudat Mitzvah — such as a Bris Milah or Pidyon Haben. It has become customary to schedule the completion of a Talmudic tractate (siyum) on this day, since those who join in the accompanying meal are exempted from fasting. We will be leading a siyum on Thursday, March 25th at 7:30 AM via Zoom.
13. BEDIKAT CHAMETZ – SEARCHING FOR CHAMETZ
The ceremony of Bedikat Chametz is composed of five parts:
- Reciting a special blessing over the mitzvah of the removal of chametz.
- The search of the house by the light of a candle or flashlight to find vestiges of chametz.
- The reciting of the formula of nullification of chametz.
- The burning or disposal of any chametz found during the search.
- The reciting of a final, more inclusive formula of nullification.
This year, the search for chametz is held on Thursday evening, March 25 at 7:54 PM. Beforehand, we make the blessing of “Al biyur chametz,” and after the checking we declare the nullification of chametz (bitul). The texts for the bedikat chametz can be found on page 654 of the Artscroll siddur or in the opening pages of many Passover Haggadahs.
14. BIYUR CHAMETZ – DESTROYING THE CHAMETZ
Chametz that will not be needed for Shabbat should be burned on Friday, March 26th by 12:03 PM. This requirement is limited to foods under Jewish ownership. chametz that has been transferred to a non-Jew need not be destroyed. Kol chamira is not to be recited at this time since chametz may be eaten all day Friday and early Shabbat morning.
In the event that chametz was not burned prior to the time indicated, it may be burned at any time prior to the onset of Shabbat.
15. PREPARATIONS FOR THE SEDER
One should prepare all necessary items for the Seder before Shabbat, such as the roasted shank bone (Ziro’ah), the salt water, washing and checking maror and Charoset. The candles should be set up for Yom Tov in their holders (besides the ones needed for Shabbat). A 24-hour candle should be lit prior to Shabbat, for the purpose of kindling the Yom Tov and Havdallah candles, as well as for cooking needs, at the end of Shabbat.
Horseradish should be ground on the Seder night after the conclusion of Shabbat and not before Shabbat, so that it’s sharpness won’t dissipate. The grinding on Yom Tov should be done with a minor shinui, e.g. cutting it in a bowl rather than on a cutting board. If one did grind it before Shabbat, it should be kept in a closed container.
One may not prepare on Shabbat for events occurring after Shabbat. One may nap with the intent that this will help him or her at the Seder, though, because that is a normal part of Shabbat activity. One should not state that the purpose of his nap is to prepare for that night.
After Shabbat is over (8:07 PM), one may prepare for the Seder.
Before beginning the preparations, one should recite the Maariv prayer, or recite this abbreviated version of Havdalah, in Hebrew or English: Baruch haMavdil Bein Kodesh leKodesh (Blessed is the One who distinguishes between one type of sanctity and another).
16. EATING CHAMETZ ON THE FRIDAY AND SHABBAT THAT PRECEDE PESACH
Challah or bread should be eaten as part of one’s celebration of Shabbat, on Friday evening and Shabbat morning. chametz however may only be eaten on Shabbat morning prior to the expiration of the first four hours of the day. This year, it is forbidden to eat chametz past 11:05 AM on Shabbat morning.
In order that the chametz not be scattered, one must designate a place to eat it on Friday and Shabbat, and restrict it to that place. Not doing so violates the bedikat chametz.
One should only buy the amount of Shabbat challah which one thinks will be totally consumed. To fulfil the custom of using two loaves (Lechem Mishneh), one may use a small roll. Matzah should not be eaten either Friday evening or Shabbat.
Other than challah and bread, no food containing dough or flour should be prepared for this Shabbat.
Since chametz is used at these meals, the dishes, cutlery, and drinking utensils cannot be ones which will be used during Pesach. To simplify matters, compostable plates and cutlery may be used. One can wash inside and then eat their chametz in an outdoor space if they have in mind to continue the rest of the meal inside.
Shabbat meals not containing chametz may be cooked in an oven or stove that was koshered for Pesach using Pesach pots or pans. Thus the cooking areas of the kitchen may be completely “pesachdig” before Shabbat.
In order to allow for our community to fulfil the Mitzvah of the second Shabbat meal in the preferred manner which is with challah, we will employ the following procedure on Shabbat morning:.
Shabbat Morning Services will begin at 8:00 AM. There will be only one Shabbat morning service.
If for any reason it is feared that the use of chametz on Shabbat will in any way lead to inadvertent transgression of the laws of Pesach, egg matzah should be substituted for challah or bread.
Chametz left over from the meal and all crumbs must be carefully removed from all dishes, tablecloths, dishtowels, etc. Dishes and tablecloths may be wiped with a paper towel. These tablecloths and dishes should then be placed among the chametz utensils.
The remaining chametz, bread crumbs and paper towel may be disposed of in the bathroom.
All chametz must be completely disposed of before five hours of the day have elapsed. After all chametz has been cleared away Kol Chamira is recited as on every Erev Pesach, by 12:03 PM.
17. SEUDAH SHLISHIT ON THE EVE OF PESACH
On this special Shabbat a person can fulfil the obligation of Seudah Shlishit with foods other than bread, such as meat, fish, and fruit. One should do so in moderation so as to enter the Seder with a feeling of hunger for the mitzvah of eating matzah.
18. CANDLE LIGHTING FOR PESACH
When Yom Tov begins on a Saturday night, we wait to light candles until Shabbat is over (after 8:07 PM). Even then, we light from an existing flame: We light a 24-hour or 7-day candle before Shabbat, which we then use to transfer a flame for the Yom Tov candles. We also light a second 24-hour candle on the first day of Yom Tov, and use that candle to transfer a flame for the candles on the second night of Yom Tov, after the first day has ended (8:08 PM).
19. HAVDALLAH FOR SHABBAT ON PESACH
Havdalah is recited as part of Kiddush at the Seder, before the “Shehechiyyanu” blessing. The Yom Tov candles are used for the Havdalah candle. Some people remove two Yom Tov candles from the candlesticks and place them side-by-side, to simulate a multi-wicked Havdalah candle. Others simply leave the candles in the candlesticks. People should follow their normal custom.
20. THE SEDER NIGHT
There are five primary mitzvot of the seder night:
- The essence of the seder is the recounting, learning, and delving into the experience of the Exodus. The Haggada is filled with many words and ideas. Our challenge over the evening is to make them come alive, to internalize the teachings, and inspire thought and open discourse. The ma nishtana questions are meant to allow us to understand the importance of asking questions in this process of re-telling.
- The eating of Matzah, the bread of liberation. To fully fulfill this mitzvah one needs to eat four ke-zayitim of Matzah (kezayit literally means an olive’s worth of flour – often understood to be 1/2 of a machine made matza, or a 1/3 of a hand made matzah for each ke-zayit). One should eat two ke-zayitim right after the hand washing, the 3rd as the Korach sandwich, and the 4th as the Afikoman. All of these eatings of Matzah should be done while leaning on your left side as an expression of luxury and freedom.
- The Eating of Marror: One should eat two ke-zayitim (if you are using romaine lettuce, each ke-zayit is one large leaf). One should eat one ke-zayit after the blessing on marror, and a second portion in the Korach
- The drinking of four cups of wine or grape juice. The cup should hold at lest a rivi’it (which is 3.3 ounces). One should drink most of each of these cups. While drinking, we lean to the left as an expression of luxury and freedom.
- Praise and Hallel: Thanksgiving is the final and ultimate element of the Seder. One should strive to genuinely experience this fundamental sensation of gratitude.
21. SEFIRAT HAOMER
On the night of the second seder, March 28, we begin counting the 49 days towards the festival of Shavuot. The count takes place each night after dark. It was initially intended as a joyous period leading up to the holiday of Shavuot, however, subsequent developments in Jewish history mark parts of this time as one of mourning. One of the tragedies that occurred in this time was the death of 12,000 pairs of Torah students who did not treat each other with proper respect.
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