Not Home During Pesach? Not a Problem

Rabbi Eli Gersten


I will be travelling on Chol Hamoed Pesach and staying at an Airbnb. Is it possible to use the kitchen (sink, oven, stove top, refrigerator, ice maker, coffee maker, table, drinking glasses) on Pesach?

Sink: Generally speaking, kashering with boiling water is not acceptable on Pesach. Therefore, the sink cannot be kashered. Instead, one should clean the sink very well, and then place an insert/tub in the sink. Since the faucet was also not kashered, one should only use the cold-water tap (or lukewarm) but not wash dishes using hot water from the faucet.

Ovens: If the oven is a self-cleaning oven, it may be kashered on Pesach. Although one cannot kasher with boiling water on Pesach, one may kasher with fire if it reaches very high temperatures as do self-cleaning ovens (but not auto-clean ovens). The oven should first be cleaned, since the self-clean cycle is not as effective on a very dirty oven. It is also recommended that one wait 24 hours (until one knows the oven has not been used in 24 hours) before kashering the oven. Although technically speaking, a proper self-cleaning may be done immediately without waiting 24 hours, since it is possible the self- cleaning oven is not working the way it should, it is best to be careful and only kasher it after first waiting 24 hours. If the oven is not a self- cleaning oven, it cannot be kashered on Pesach. Food may be double wrapped and placed in the oven.

Stove tops: Gas stove tops can be kashered on Pesach. The stove grates can be kashered by placing a metal pan on top of the grates and turning on the burners for a few minutes. If one can use a blech (place a metal sheet under the pots when cooking) that is an even better system. Electric stove tops can be kashered by turning them on until they glow red. Glasstop stoves cannot be kashered. Instead, a blech should be used.

Refrigerator/ Ice Maker/ Coffee Maker/ Table/ Glasses: One may take a rag and clean the surfaces of the refrigerator on Pesach, Alternatively, one may place paper or foil down on the refrigerator shelves. An ice maker may be used on Pesach. A coffee maker that was not kashered before Pesach may not be used on Pesach, as one may not kasher with boiling water on Pesach. A table should be covered with a plastic non-porous tablecloth. One may not use chametz glasses on Pesach if they were not kashered. Since glasses today are also used hot, they may not be used even if one is planning on only using them cold.


I share a dorm room with a non-Jew (or with a not-yet- observant Jew) and will be on campus over Pesach. Are there any special restrictions or requirements that I need to be aware of?

Having a non-Jewish roommate presents unique Pesach challenges. Even if one thoroughly cleans their part of the room and rids themselves of all their chametz, there is still going to be chametz that belongs to the non-Jew in the room. The halacha is that one is not permitted to live in a room that has chametz, even if the chametz belongs to a non-Jew, and even if one did not give him permission to leave it there. Although, on Chol Ha’moed Pesach you may walk down the aisle of a supermarket that contains chametz, and we are not concerned that you will pull a box of crackers off the shelf and eat them, this is because a supermarket is not a place where you spend time or sit down to eat. You are merely passing through. However, when you are at home in your dorm room, there is an ongoing concern that you might forget that it is Pesach and partake from the chametz (even though it is not yours). The Mishnah Berurah writes that this applies to all forms of chametz, even to chametz that requires preparation (such as cooking). For example, one may not remain in a room that contains raw pasta or oatmeal packets. This is despite the fact that it will take time to prepare the chametz, and that, during that time span, you would likely remember that it is Pesach before consuming the chametz. Still, the halacha remains the same. However, the Mishnah Berurah indicates that if the chametz is not kosher, such that all year round you would never eat this type of food, then this type of chametz may remain in your surroundings. So, for example, if the only chametz in the room is a hamburger in a bun that your roommate placed on his desk, there is no issue remaining in the room.

So, what is the solution for remaining in a dorm room with a non-Jewish roommate who brings chametz into the room? The halacha is that one must erect a mechitza (partition) between you and the chametz. The partition must extend downward to within 3 tefachim (about 10.5 inches) of the floor and must extend upwards to a height of ten tefachim (approximately 3 feet) and must separate between you and the chametz. During the day, if you stand your mattress on its side (a standard twin mattress is 39 inches wide) this could serve as a partition. At night, before going to bed, you should ask your roommate to cover his chametz. The Halacha is that if you find chametz in your room on Yom tov, since chametz on Yom tov is muktza and cannot be removed, Chazal permit as a short-term solution to cover the chametz. The same would apply even to chametz that belongs to your roommate that he will not agree to remove. If the chametz is in a closed box, it is already covered, but if the chametz is out in the open or in a bowl, you should ask him to cover it with a towel.

I have a kitchenette in my dorm room with a sink, table and counters. I share this area with non-Jews. Is there any way that I can use these items on Pesach?

Even if you were to kasher the sink before Pesach, it will quickly become chametz again and a sink cannot be kashered on Pesach. Although you must consider the sink as chametz, you may still use the sink for drinking or washing dishes, so long as you only use the cold water.

You should not place food or dishes directly on the chametz counters or tables. Instead, you should put down a plastic mat or tablecloth to act as a separation. You may not eat at the table together with your roommate who is eating chametz, out of concern that chametz particles may get dispersed across the table. Therefore, it will not help even if you and your roommate eat on separate placemats or place a divider in-between, since regarding chametz we are concerned even for tiny specks of chametz that can inadvertently scatter across the table.


I will be staying with a relative who is in the hospital over Pesach. Can I get a coffee from the hospital cafeteria on Chol Hamoed Pesach?

It is generally assumed that year- round one can buy unflavored coffee in coffee shops, cafeterias, convenience stores etc. What about on Pesach?

One should certainly not order a decaf coffee. The decaffeination process can involve the use of alcohol which can be real chametz. Therefore, decaffeinated coffee, whether it be instant or roasted beans, should only be purchased with a reliable Pesach certification. The same holds true for flavored coffee. Flavors are complex chemicals that often comprise dozens of components, and each of these components must be reviewed to make sure that they are free from chametz. One should not assume that a flavored coffee is acceptable unless it is specifically certified for Pesach.

What about plain black brewed coffee? Can it be purchased anywhere, even from a hospital cafeteria? The two ingredients in plain black coffee, water and roasted coffee beans, are both acceptable for Pesach. However, there is still a concern regarding the coffee machines and dispensers. Although these machines are only used with coffee, it is certainly possible that at some point the machines were used for decaffeinated or flavored coffees and there are any number of other possible concerns (when it comes to chametz, we tend to assume the worst). If these machines would be in our kitchens and we had any doubt about their acceptability, we certainly would kasher them before using them for Pesach, but unfortunately for those who must be in a hospital this is not an option. Must one assume the worst? May one be lenient? There is no clear answer. Since each individual situation is unique, it is best to consult to your rabbi for guidance.


Rabbi Eli Gersten
Rabbi Eli Gersten serves as OU rabbinic coordinator and recorder of OU policy.

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