BEDIKAT & BIUR CHAMETZ
On the night before Pesach, every Jew is required to conduct a thorough search and destroy all chametz remaining in his/her possession. It is customary to begin this search with a candle and to transition to a flashlight in order to illuminate small areas. Particular attention should be given to those places that chametz can be left forgotten such as: behind couches, children’s playsets, briefcases, glove compartments and other crevices. One need not check the entire property on his own; he may delegate different areas to family members to assist him.
All areas of personal property, such as office spaces, lockers and hotel rooms (if applicable) must be searched. If it is not feasible to search a particular location on the night before Pesach, the search should be conducted on a previous night.
It is customary to place (non-crumbly) pieces of bread around the house to be “found” during the search. Accepted practice, following the Ari z”l, is to place 10 pieces of bread around the house. A list of their locations should be held by a member of the family not participating in the search to ensure all the pieces are retrieved. If after an exhaustive search one of the pieces is still not found, one need not check further, but should ensure to include it in his thoughts during the recital of Kol Chamira, the nullification of all chametz.
On the morning of erev Pesach, the chametz that was found during the search, and anything that was left over from breakfast and not stored with the chametz that is being sold to the non-Jew, should be burned and followed by a second and final version of Kol Chamira.
One is forbidden to own chametz during Pesach regardless of its location. Any chametz in one’s possession that is not intended for consumption or to be destroyed before Pesach must be sold to a non-Jew (prior to approximately midday on erev Pesach at the owner’s location). This applies to any edible product containing chametz such as bread-like products, pasta, and beer and whiskey derived from the five grains. Flour should also be sold as the wheat is tempered with water before milling. Cosmetics, lotions and inedible items such as non-chewable pills and Play-Doh need not be sold. Shareholders in companies owning chametz should sell their shares as well. Due to various intricacies involved in the laws of selling chametz, some people prefer not to rely on Mechirat Chametz for products containing bona fide chametz – instead they completely remove from their homes. However, American-made products containing alcohol or vinegar are typically not chametz-based and can be sold according to all positions.
It is customary to appoint one’s rabbi as an agent to sell the chametz on their behalf. The sold chametz should be placed in a designated and easily identified location into which no one will enter during Pesach.
EATING ON EREV PESACH – THE DAY BEFORE PESACH
It is forbidden to eat kosher for Passover matza on erev Pesach in order to distinguish the matza we will eat that night at the Seder as matza eaten for the sake of the mitzvah. However, cooked matza, and according to some, fried matza, may be eaten on erev Pesach before the tenth hour of the day. Those persons permitted to eat egg matza (and other types of matza ashira – matza baked with other liquids besides water) during Pesach may also eat ashira until the tenth hour on erev Pesach. After the tenth hour no grain products may be consumed lest a person become satiated and have no desire to eat matza at the Seder. Meat, poultry and fruits may be eaten the entire day as long as one does not eat his fill and will have “no room” left for the mitzvot of the evening.
Firstborn males of either parent (whether a Kohein, Levi or Yisrael) must fast on erev Pesach in commemoration of the miracle that the Jewish firstborn were saved in Egypt. It is the widespread custom that all firstborn males participate in a siyum, which permits them to partake in some food to celebrate the occasion. Once one has eaten, it is not necessary to fast the remainder of the day.
CHECKING & CLEANING ROMAINE LETTUCE
Since Romaine lettuce is an open leaf variety of lettuce that only closes around its stalk at the end of its growth cycle, it is prone to infestation. The insects most commonly found in open leaf lettuce are small and black or green — easily camouflaged by the vegetable — and may be found between the innermost leaves of an infested head. Therefore, each leaf must be washed and checked individually, with great care. Use this helpful checklist for best results:
- Cut off the lettuce base and separate the leaves from one another.
- Soak leaves in a solution of cold water and a small amount of soap.
- Agitate the leaves in the soapy solution.
- Spread each leaf, taking care to expose all its curls and crevices. Using a heavy stream of water, remove all foreign matter and soap from both sides. A vegetable brush can also be used on both sides of the leaf.
- Leaves must be checked over a light box or against strong overhead lighting. Pay careful attention to the folds and crevices where insects have been known to hold tightly through several washings.
Occasionally, worms may be found in burrows within the body of the leaf. Look for a narrow translucent burrow speckled with black dots breaking up the deep green color of the leaf. These burrows will often trap the worm within the leaf. It is essential to discard this part of the leaf.
According to the strictest letter of the law, once matza is baked it can no longer become chametz and it is permitted to be ground and kneaded with any liquid. Over the course of history, certain communities, particularly Chasidic communities, adopted a stringency not to consume matza that has been in contact with liquid even after it has been baked. Any products consumed in this fashion are called ‘gebrokts’. The concern was that perhaps some of the flour within the matza was not properly mixed with water, and the leavening process, although temporarily halted due to baking, will be rejuvenated when the matza comes into contact with water again.
The degree to which this custom is practiced varies; some will avoid mixing matza only with water, others will avoid mixing matza with any liquid, and others will even avoid the utensil used to prepare gebrokts. Everyone agrees, however, that this is merely an additional stringency that need only be exercised by those who have such a custom. To this end, even those who abstain from gebrokts will partake on the last day of Pesach (which is only rabbinically mandated as yom tov).
In addition to the Biblical prohibition against eating chametz, the widespread Ashkenazic custom is to refrain from consuming foods known as ‘kitniyot’, items from the legume/seed family. This custom was instituted because of the similarities between legumes and chametz — which may cause confusion and/or because chametz grains may be mixed in with legume seeds as these items were typically grown in close proximity of each other. Kitniyot is only prohibited to consume; owning or deriving benefit from kitniyot is permitted.
The precise species included under this prohibition is subject to custom, but the generally accepted position is to restrict the following items: rice, buckwheat, millet, lentils, peas, sesame seeds, mustard seeds, corn, green beans, snow peas, chickpeas, sunflower and poppy seeds. Coffee, tea, garlic, radish, nuts, potatoes and spices are not considered kitniyot. There are different views regarding the status of peanuts. The OU does not certify peanuts or peanut-based products. Oils derived from kitniyot are also prohibited under this custom. This includes corn, soybean and canola (rapeseed) oil. Cottonseed oil presents a difference of opinion between poskim in America and Israel, the latter being stringent. The OU does not regard cottonseed oil as kitniyot.
Because the prohibition of kitniyot is not of Biblical origin, several leniencies are given to kitniyot that are not given to chametz, most notably that children and the infirm may consume kitniyot. This is especially relevant to infant formulas which contain kitniyot. When kitniyot foods are used on Pesach they should not be prepared in or with the Pesach utensils used by other family members and should be washed separately. Care should be taken when purchasing kitniyot for consumption to ensure they are indeed chametz-free. One should only purchase certified kosher for Passover kitniyot food or contact the OU for guidance.
When the second day of a holiday falls on the Sabbath (as the last day of Pesach does this year) or if the Sabbath falls immediately after a holiday, it is rabbinically forbidden to cook or bake on the holiday in preparation of the Sabbath. Eruv tavshilin is a ritual that, when performed, permits the preparation for the Sabbath during a holiday.
On the eve of a holiday two types of food are set aside; one cooked and one baked. The cooked item may not be smaller than the size of a large olive (approximately half the size of a chicken’s egg) and the baked item should be at least the size of a chicken’s egg. The selected items are held aloft while the blessing and subsequent Aramaic text is recited.
Only one eruv tavshilin is required per household — it covers all household members as well as houseguests.
Eruv tavshilin extends permission to prepare for the Sabbath up until candle lighting time on Friday. Every effort must be made to complete the preparations early enough on Friday afternoon that the food will be edible well before the Sabbath. Nevertheless, if the preparations were left until late Friday afternoon, they may still be done. The food items utilized in the performance of eruv tavshilin must remain intact as long as preparations are being made for the Sabbath. It is therefore advisable to preserve their freshness by placing one or both of the items into the refrigerator as needed. If a challah or matza is used as the baked item, it is customary to then use it as one of the two loaves at the third Sabbath meal.
It would be permissible to rely on the personal eruv tavshilin performed by the rabbi of one’s city as it is customary for him to have his community in mind when performing the ritual. This can only be relied upon provided that eruv tavshilin was not forgotten due to negligence. Another option is to have someone who did make an eruv tavshilin cook for you in his or her home, or even in your home, if ownership ofz ingredients has been transferred to that person.
CHAMETZ AFTER PESACH
Chametz that belonged to any Jew over Pesach is forbidden for consumption after Pesach. However, chametz that was halachically sold, even if the owner fails to abide by the sale, utilizing or selling on Pesach the chametz that he sold before Pesach, is nonetheless permitted.
Many large chain stores are supplied by Jewish-owned distributors who either do not sell their chametz or may purchase chametz during Pesach. Chametz found at these stores after Pesach may have been in the possession of the distributor during Pesach and is possibly forbidden. It is recommended to wait approximately one month after Pesach before purchasing chametz from such a store. A list of worry-free stores can be obtained from the OU.