Preparing for Passover

OU Kosher Staff

What Special Preparations Must be Made in the Jewish Home for Passover?

The home must be thoroughly cleaned of all Chametz before Passover. Any Chametz not removed from a Jew’s premises before Passover should be sold. Jewish law forbids the use of any Chametz which remains in a Jew’s possession during Passover, even after the holiday is over.

All cooking and eating utensils must be either set aside exclusively for Passover use, or, in some cases, “made Kosher” in consultation with a rabbi, according to the procedures of Jewish law. All of these preparations must be completed by the morning before Passover.

What Are The Rituals For The Period Before Passover Begins?

The day before Passover is a fast day for Jewish firstborn males, in commemoration of the tenth plague, the slaying of the firstborn male Egyptians, which immediately resulted in the Exodus.

In many congregations, a special celebration Siyum is conducted, following which participating firstborn males are permitted to break their fast. A ritual search for Chametz is conducted the previous night, and the Chametz that is found is burned the next morning.

Preparing for Passover:

For more detailed instructions and guidance, a competent Halachic authority should be consulted.

1. Removing Chametz

A. Prior to Passover, every Jew is required to remove all Chametz from his home, property, and all premises under his or her jurisdiction (i.e. desk, office, locker, car). Even if one will not be on the premises during Passover, as long as one is there within 30 days of Passover, the obligation to remove all Chametz before Passover applies. In such cases, one should consult a competent Halachic authority and make the necessary arrangements.

B. To facilitate the removal of Chametz, each Jew is obligated to conduct a diligent search in all places where Chametz may have been kept or consumed any time during the preceding year. The specified time for this search is the night before Passover, traditionally using a feather and the light of a single candle. However, Passover cleaning in Jewish homes must be started much earlier. The premises should be clean by the time the search begins (approximately 45 minutes after sunset). The blessing is recited before the search begins, and a public disclaimer of ownership of Chametz (Bitul) is recited afterward. These texts can be found in most traditional Haggadahs.

C. It is permissible to sell Chametz to a non-Jew before the restrictions on Chametz go into effect on the day before Passover. To comply with the stringent requirements of Jewish law, the sale is conducted by contract through an Orthodox rabbi, who is empowered to act as an agent by a Power of Attorney Form for the Sale of Chametz. The sold Chametz is the non-Jew’s property until after Passover ends and must be treated accordingly. The Chametz should be locked away until after Passover when the Rabbi repurchases it for the community.

D. Restrictions on the eating, then use, and finally, possession of Chametz normally begin on the morning before Passover. Just before these restrictions begin, the remaining Chametz must be destroyed (usually burned) and a public disclaimer of Chametz ownership (Bitul) recited. The exact times depend on your geographic location. Consult your local Orthodox rabbi for the times when these restrictions go into effect, or see Halachic Times for Passover.

E. Chametz which remains in a Jew’s possession during Passover may not be used by him or any other Jew at any time, and it may not be purchased after Passover. If Chametz is discovered during Passover, it should be disposed of, in accordance with Jewish law, as soon as possible. Consult an Orthodox rabbi immediately for the appropriate procedures.

2. Utensils For Use on Passover

A. Jewish law requires special dishes, cooking utensils, glassware, and silverware for Passover use, with separate meat and dairy sets. They can be made of any material, including plastic or paper. Once these are used for Chametz, they may not be used again on Passover.

B. If it is not possible to maintain a complete set of separate utensils for Passover it may be possible to use some year-round utensils for Passover after a special “kashering” procedure.

“Kashering” should only be done under the guidance of an Orthodox rabbi. Metal and wooden utensils, if they can be thoroughly cleaned, may be “kashered,” but earthenware utensils may not be “kashered”. Procedures for “kashering” depend on how the utensil was used during the year. Consult with your local Orthodox rabbi for details.

C. Shelves, countertops and eating surfaces used year round should be cleaned and covered for Passover use, and special dish racks, sink racks and wash basins should be used. Cooking surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned and covered. Ovens should be thoroughly cleaned, and either “kashered” by being burnt out (consult your rabbi for details) or used with a special insert liner.

3. Foods Which May Not Be Used On Passover

A. Any food or food product containing fermented grain products (Chametz) may not be used or remain in a Jew’s possession on Passover. Even foods with minute amounts of Chametz ingredients, or foods processed on utensils which are used for other Chametz-containing foods, are not permissible for Passover use.

B. Ashkenazic Jews, (Jews of Eastern European descent) also do not eat many legumes (Kitniot) – beans, corn, peas, rice, etc. and products containing them as ingredients throughout Passover, while Sephardic, Yemenite and Oriental Jewish custom varies from one community to another.

C. Because of the large number of food products which contain Chametz or Kitniot ingredients, only food products manufactured under reliable rabbinical supervision should be purchased for Passover use. That includes beverages, condiments, spices, and all processed foods such as fruits and vegetables, fish, meat and dairy products, and especially, baked goods.

D. Grain alcohol is a fermentation product, and is therefore Chametz. Any edible items which normally contain grain alcohol, including whiskey, liquor, and liquid medications (however, see paragraph F for further information on medications), and even those which are not usually taken internally (such as perfumes, cologne, toilet water, hair spray, hair tonic, shaving lotion, mouthwash, liquid and roll-on deodorants) should be treated as Chametz unless specifically approved for Passover use.

E. Totally inedible non-food products which contain grain alcohol such as polish, ink, paint and floor wax, are permissible for Passover use.

F. Any person with a medical condition must consult his or her physician and rabbi to ascertain the medicines that should be taken during the holiday, and any special procedures that should be followed.

G. There are many families which maintain the tradition of additional restrictions to their Passover diet. Some do not eat any food products made of Matzah or Matzah meal mixed with water (Gebrokts) during the first seven days of Passover.