A Guide for Pesach
by R. Yonatan Cohen
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 are 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 kitniot.
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 R. Cohen or Maharat Sutton.
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 liquid.
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, a 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.
Those who wish to sell their chametz through CBI should enact a kinyan with R. Cohen.
An online form for the sale of chametz is available here. Alternatively, print out the form here, fill it out, and send a copy/ picture of it to R Cohen.
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 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
BUTTER with coloring added
CANDY and CHOCOLATE
CHEESE — HARD
FISH – GEFILTE, HERRING, SMOKED SALMON, & ALL CANNED
FRUITS – CANNED & FROZEN
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
VEGETABLES — CANNED & FROZEN
WINES & LIQUORS
A full list of foods that DO NOT REQUIRE SPECIAL PESACH SUPERVISION appears at www.kosherquest.org. The list will be available at the CBI office a few weeks before the holiday.
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 such as food banks and homeless shelters.
METHODS OF KASHERING HOUSEWARES 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 R. Cohen or Maharat Sutton.
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 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.
Refrigerator: Should be cleaned.
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.
Glass: According to some positions, glass may be kashered for Pesach by soaking it in water for 72 hours, changing the water every 24 hours. Other Ashkenazic authorities maintain that this is not a valid option. One should follow his or her custom and practice of past years. However, glass utensils used in cooking or baking should not be kashered.
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). However, metal pans that one fries, bakes, or roasts in will need libun (burning). The most readily available libun is placing the utensil in a self-cleaning oven on self-clean.
It seems unlikely that we hold a Communal Ha’galah at CBI this year. We know that many of you have questions and concerns about cleaning & kashering this year. As a refresher for some, and a 101 for others, join Rabbi Cohen this Monday by webinar. The class will also be recorded and shared if you cannot make this time.
Monday, Mar 23, 01:30-2:30 PM
Pesach Prep with R. Cohen
By phone: 669-900-6833, Meeting ID:5108435246#
A recording of the class with be shared with the community. You can also email R. Cohen at email@example.com to set time to receive further guidance. 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.
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, Dishwasher — with an interior of porcelain enamel, 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 M. Sutton 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, Rabbi and or Maharat.
- 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, Erev Pesach falls on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. It begins at 5:17 am and ends at 8:06 pm. 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 an online siyum on Friday morning. Stay tuned for details.
13. BEDIKAT CHAMETZ – SEARCHING FOR CHAMETZ
One of the most beautiful and meaningful ceremonies associated with Passover is bedikat chametz—the search for chametz. The ceremony 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 Tuesday evening, April 7, 2020 immediately at 8:07 pm. Prior to the search, 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
One is only permitted to eat chametz until 10:57 am on the Eve of Passover (Wednesday, April 8, 2020). All chametz must be burned or destroyed by 11:57 am of the same day. This requirement is limited to foods under Jewish ownership. Chametz that has been transferred to a non-Jew need not be destroyed. Kol chamiro is recited at this time (this declaration can be found on page 654 of the Artscroll siddur or in the opening pages of many Passover Haggadahs).
15. CANDLE LIGHTING FOR PESACH
Candle lighting time for the first night of Passover (Wednesday, April 8) is 7:21 pm. A 24-hour candle should be lit at this time as well so that we may light from an existing flame on the second night of Passover. Candle lighting time for the second night of Passover (Thursday night, April 9, 2020) is after 8:20 pm. We light from an existing flame.
16. 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 Haggadah 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 matzah, 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 Maror: One should eat two ke-zayitim (if you are using romaine lettuce, each ke-zayit is one large leaf). One should eat one kezayit after the blessing on maror, and a second portion in the Korach sandwich.
- The drinking of four cups of wine or grape juice. The cup should hold at least 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.
17. SEFIRAT HA’OMER – THE COUNTING OF THE OMER
On the night of the second seder, Thursday night, April 9, 2020, 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.
18. ERUV TAVSHILIN
Please remember to make an Eruv Tavshilin on Wednesday, April 8 in advance of Yom Tov and Shabbat! This includes taking one baked and one cooked food item (e.g., Matzah and a cooked egg) and setting them aside for your Shabbat meal this week. Lift them up and recite the blessing, “Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha’olam asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al mitzvat eruv.” This allows you to cook Friday, April 10 for the Shabbat meals. For more about this, see the Artscroll Siddur P. 654 or this link: https://oukosher.org/passover/articles/eruv-tavshilin-primer/.