Laws Of Pessach
Important points for the Passover Consumer
- Know what is Chamess – Any foods or food products, which contain ingredients, derived from one of the following fermented cereal grains: wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye are forbidden on Passover. Even foods that contain minute amounts of Chamess , or foods which are processed on utensils which are used for other Chamess -containing foods, are not permissible for Passover use. Many Sepharadim have the custom of eating different legumes or kitniyot and foods that are derived from them.
- Read Product labels carefully – Make sure a reliable Kosher for Passover certification appears on the package. Take this guide with you to the store! Remember that ‘reading the labels’ is impossible on Pesach; too many chemicals may have Chamess ingredients. Alcohol, Ascorbic Acid, citric acid, Dextrose, Glucose, Malt dextrin, PolySorbates, Sodium Citrate, Sodium, Erythrobate, Xantham Gum & Sorbitol (outside U.S.) are among the list of common ingredients that can be derived from both grain and legume sources. Even if the label says 100% natural, American law allows use of some agents which may be Chamess ; DO NOT ASSUME AN ITEM IS OK UNLESS IT’S APPROVED BY A RELIABLE LIST OR AGENCY.
- Beware of Look alikes – Often Kosher for Passover and non-Kosher for Passover products have identical packaging.
- Do not buy any product simply since it is in the “Passover Aisle”! Some stores do not remove the Chamess matzot and other “year round kosher” foods from the shelf before restocking for the holiday. (Like marshmallows!)
- Prepare and learn. Check with the people who will partake of your meals and see what they prefer- ask your family custom pertaining to corn, rice, beans. Even within the community there are different family customs to take into account. This advance planning will save heartache and promote shalom.
- Look before you cook! – Non-Kosher for Passover item could be purchased inadvertently.
- Do not assume – Ask! If you have a doubt about a product being Kosher for Passover, clarify the question with your Rabbi.
- Do not purchase a product just because it was good last year. – Discard old lists – they will confuse you; some things change.
- Enjoy the spirit of the Holiday! May the merit of our care in observing the commandments of the holiday bring us all closer to Avinu She’beShamayim, our Loving Father in Heaven that we may merit His redemption!
WHAT CONSITUTES KOSHER FOR PASSOVER?
Most processed foods and beverages require special rabbinical supervision for Passover use. They must also be kosher for year-round use, and prepared in accordance with all of the regular Jewish dietary laws. Jewish consumers are urged to look for the “P” or the “Kosher for Passover” designations as an integral part of the product label, and to be familiar with the Rabbi or organization giving the Passover endorsement. The mere mention of Kosher for Passover on the label is not a sufficient guarantee of the product’s acceptability for Passover use.
FOODS WHICH MAY NOT BE USED ON PASSOVER
- Any food or food product containing fermented grain products (Chamess) may not be used or remain in a Jew’s possession on Passover. Even foods with minute amounts of Chamess ingredients, or foods processed on utensils which are used for other Chamess-containing foods, are not permissible for Passover use.
- 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.
- Because of the large number of food products which contain Chamess 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.
A brief guide for the preparation of the kitchen for Pesach, based on excerpts from Gateway to Halacha by Rabbi Eliezer Toledano and Rabbi Shmuel Choueka. Please consult your Rabbi for further guidance and instruction.
Just as it is forbidden to eat Chamess on Pesach, it is forbidden to cook with utensils which have been used for cooking Chamess, since the cooking process transfers the Chamess status to the utensils. Of course, the simplest thing to do is to have a set of Pesach utensils which were never used with Chamess . However, where this is not possible, certain types of utensils may be rendered usable for Pesach within the following guidelines.
Koshering the kitchen
- Ovens – should be cleaned thoroughly so that no tangible Chamess remains on its floors, walls or the oven door. Preferably wait 24 hours and set the oven for its highest temperature and burn for one hour. If you have self clean, run full cycle.
- Stove top – clean very well, giving special attention to burner wells and edges. Wait 24 hours without using prior to koshering. Burners, grates and the area between may be koshered in two ways. #1 by hagalah, pour boiling water over them: or #2 inserting them in the oven to be koshered together with the oven.
- Microwave – clean thoroughly, and then place a vessel of water in the oven. The microwave is operated until the oven is filled with steam. ( many authorities do not recommend Koshering a microwave oven)
- Sink– thoroughly clean especially around the drain and faucet. Do not use for hot Chamess for 24 hours. Boil water on the stove and pour over all the parts of the sink. Some recommend using a rack.
- Counters and table tops– clean thoroughly, taking extra care in cracks and crevices. These areas may then be koshered by Hagalah, pouring boiling water over all areas of the counter top or table. Or alternatively, they may simply be covered.
- Dishwasher– (many authorities do not recommend Koshering a Dishwasher) clean away any tangible Chamess and run through one cycle empty. Some recommend replacing the racks for Pesach.
- High chairs – Should be cleaned very carefully and then either covered or pour boiling water to kosher
- Coffee makers and urns should be koshered by filling with water and turning on so that the water boils over. (Care should be taken to clean well the exterior before hand.)
- Mixers, food processors and kitchen aids which were used to mix dough, should be cleaned well and put away with the rest of the Chamess utensils.
- Refrigerators should be cleaned thoroughly, taking extra care to remove crumbs in the cracks and crevices.
Types of Utensils
- Earthenware utensils which were used with Chamess at high temperatures cannot be koshered at all. These include porcelain, enamel, stoneware, corning ware and china. These should all be washed from any visible Chamess and should be put into a sealed closet until after Pesach.
- Glass utensils need only be washed both inside and outside ( Need to remove all stains), and then they may be used for Pesach.
- Utensils made of wood, stone, metal, natural rubber or plastic, which are used in or with water may be made usable for Pesach by hagalah (immersion in boiling water) in the manner described below. Metal utensils which were used directly on the fire, without water in them, require Libun (koshering by fire) as will be described later, to render them usable on Pesach.
All utensils must be cleaned thoroughly as koshering removes the taste of Chamess, not pieces of food. Items that are cracked, rusted or difficult to clean should be put away for the holiday. Handles should be removed and extra care should be taken to scrub the edges where food may accumulate.
Utensils are koshered in the manner in which they are used. Thus, the same level of heat must then be used to accomplish the koshering. There are 4 levels:
- Libun – Direct flame or heat. For utensils that come in direct contact with Chamess over an open flame. Utensils are either put in the self-clean cycle of the oven or are ‘torched’ by a blowtorch (not for everyone to attempt).
- Hagalah – A pot of hot liquids on the fire- Primary vessel: For pots used for cooking Chamess with water. After proper cleaning (see above) + 24 hours waiting, utensils may be immersed in a large, clean pot which was not used for 24 hours that water has been brought to a full, rolling boil. Either completely cover the utensil for several seconds, or if not possible, do it in stages, so that the entire utensil passes through the boiling water. Rinse with cold water. When multiple utensils are to be koshered, allow the water to return to full bubbling boil between items. If the pot will not fit inside another pot, the pot itself should be filled to the top and allowed to boil. Meanwhile heat a stone or large piece of metal until it is red hot. Using tongs, pliers, or another tool, place the heated item in the boiling pot, causing the water to overflow, thus koshering the rim. Empty and rinse with cold water.
- Iyrui Kli Rishon– A flow of hot liquids from the primary vessel. Utensils which have boiling hot liquid poured into them may be koshered by a flow of boiling water. (i.e. serving trays that the food is poured into them)
- Kli Sheni– a vessel containing hot liquids poured from a primary vessel. Spoons and forks which are used in a secondary vessel, such as for serving may be koshered this way.
Note: A utensil which requires a lower level of heat to be koshered may surely be koshered at a more intense heat level.
In summary, we must all review the laws of koshering our kitchens in order to make sure that we do things properly. The best thing is to attend a class given by your Rabbi to obtain a full explanation. This short review is by no means a full detailed guide. Many items may not be included. When in doubt, ask.
PREPARING FOR PASSOVER
- Prior to Passover, every Jew is required to remove all Chamess from his home, property, and all premises under his or her jurisdiction (e.g. desk, office, locker, and 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 Chamess before Passover applies. In such cases, one should consult a competent Halachic authority and make the necessary arrangements.
- To facilitate the removal of Chamess, each Jew is obligated to conduct a diligent search in all places where Chamess may have been kept or consumed any time during the preceding year. The specified time for this search is Thursday night, April 2nd at nightfall, traditionally using the light of a single candle. If using a candle is impractical, a flashlight can be used. If using a candle would create a fire hazard, it is strongly suggested that one use a flashlight. However, Passover cleaning in Jewish homes must be started much earlier. The premises should be clean by the time the search begins (approximately 40 minutes after sunset 8:09 PM L.A. time). The following blessing is recited before the search begins:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה‘ אֱלֹ-הֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל בִּעוּר חָמֵץ:
The following public disclaimer of ownership of Chamess (bitul) is recited after the search
כָּל חֲמִירָא דְאִיכָּא בִרְשׁוּתִי.דְּלָא חֲזִיתֵיהּ וּדְלָא בִיעַרְתֵּיהּ לִבְטִיל וְלֶהֱוֵי [הֶפְקֵר] כְּעַפְרָא דְאַרְעָא:
Any Chamess or leaven that is in my possession which I have not seen, have not removed, (and don’t know about )should be annulled and become [ownerless] like dust of earth.
Restrictions on the eating, then use, and finally, possession of Chamess normally begin on the morning before Passover which occurs this year on Friday, April 3rd. Just before these restrictions begin, the remaining Chamess must be destroyed (usually burned) and a public disclaimer of Chamess ownership (bitul) recited.
כָּל חֲמִירָא דְאִיכָּא בִרְשׁוּתִי.דַּחֲזִיתֵיהּ וּדְלָא חֲזִיתֵיהּ.דְּבִיעַרְתֵּיהּ וּדְלָא בִיעַרְתֵּיהּ.
לִבְטִיל וְלֶהֱוֵי [הֶפְקֵר] כְּעַפְרָא דְאַרְעָא:
Any Chamess or leaven that is in my possession whether I have seen it or not, whether I have removed it or not should be annulled and become [ownerless] like dust of earth.
The exact times depend on your geographic location.
- Chamess 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 Chamess 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.
BRIEF GUIDE TO THE PASSOVER SEDER
A special Seder plate is displayed during the Seder, containing the key elements of Passover. The plate is carefully prepared and placed before the head of the household, or the one conducting the Seder, who dispenses the Seder foods to each of the participants. The following items appear on the Seder plate:
- Three whole Massot – (either on the plate or next to it);
- Maror – bitter herbs, usually romaine lettuce;
- Charoset – special mixture of apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon symbolizing mortar;
- Karpas – a vegetable, preferably parsley or celery;
- Zeroah – a piece of roasted or boiled meat or poultry, preferably a shank bone, recalling the Paschal sacrifice of the original Exodus. Before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple the Paschal sacrifice was the central feature of the Seder;
- Betzah – a roasted or boiled egg, commemorating the festival sacrifice that was brought at the Jerusalem Temple. An egg is used because it is a traditional food for mourners, reminding us of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem;
- There are other items that can be placed on Seder plates depending on the customs followed by the family.
BASIC SEDER OBLIGATIONS
There are five basic obligations (Misvot) performed by each Jew, in the course of the Seder conducted according to the traditional Haggadah:
1) Eating Massot
2) Drinking four cups of wine (Arbah Kosot)
1) Eating bitter herbs (Maror)
2) Relating the story of the exodus (Haggadah or Magid)
3) Reciting Psalms of praise (Hallel)
- There are three times during the course of the Seder when Massa must be eaten at the beginning of the Seder meal: 1) when the special blessing over Massa is made, 2) for Korech (Hillel sandwich) together with the maror, 3) and at the end of the meal for the afikoman.
- For the appropriate minimum quantities of Massa, and the time period in which it must be consumed, please refer to the following section on Shiurim.
- Three unbroken Matzot are required for the Seder plate for each Seder. Each individual must consume the minimum specified quantity of Massa during the course of the Seder. If the Matzot from the Seder plate are insufficient, they should be supplemented by additional Matzot.
- The Massa is eaten while reclining on the left side as a symbol of freedom. The piece of Massa called afikoman should be eaten before midnight, and no solid food should be eaten thereafter.
- To fulfill the Misvot of the Seder, one must use shmurah matzot, which are produced under a special standard of supervision, beginning with the harvest of the grain (rather than with its milling into flour, as with regular Matzot for Passover).
- Massa made with fruit juice or eggs, including egg Massa, chocolate covered egg Massa, and white grape Massa cannot be eaten to fulfill the Misvoth of the Seder.
FOUR CUPS OF WINE
Each Jew is obligated to drink four cups of wine at these specific times during each Seder: the first at the start of the Seder, following Kiddush; the second before the meal, after reciting the Haggadah story; the third following the grace after the meal; and the last after completing psalms of praise (Hallel).
- Please see the following section on Shiurim for minimum volumes necessary to be consumed and time limits for each of the four cups.
- Red wine is the preferred beverage for use during the Seder. If a person has difficulty drinking wine, it may be diluted with kosher grape juice. If one can not drink any wine he should use grape juice.
BITTER HERBS (MAROR)- Romaine Lettuce
- Everyone is obligated to eat bitter herbs twice at each Seder. According to most authorities, romaine lettuce should be used for the mitzvah of Marror.
- When using romaine lettuce, one may use the stalks or leaves for maror. It is recommended to use the stalks only so to be sure that no insects are consumed. Cooked or preserved vegetables are not suitable for maror; therefore commercially prepared grated horseradish, which is packed in vinegar, may not be used for the mitzvah.
- The Maror is dipped in Charoset, a specially prepared mixture of wine, nuts, cinnamon, and apples, symbolizing the bricks and mortar of ancient Egypt.
- Immediately thereafter, a second, smaller volume of maror is eaten with Massa in Korech (Hillel sandwich).
- When lettuce is used, it must be cleaned and inspected very carefully to remove the small insects which often are present in its leaves. One recommended way to clean lettuce of insects is to soak it for not more than half an hour in salt water, and rinse it in fresh water before inspection.
- See the following section on Shiurim for the minimum volume of maror to be consumed each time and the time limits.
RELATING THE STORY OF THE EXODUS AND HALLEL
- Most of the unique Seder practices are designed to stimulate interest and arouse curiosity in the exodus story. The central theme for the Haggadah is the discussion of the exodus, a timeless event which has forged countless generations of Jews into an unbroken chain through history, with each year’s Seder another link of that chain.
- The Seder is a symbolic reenactment of the exodus, with a compelling message for young and old alike. Seder participants are encouraged to discuss the various aspects of the exodus in detail, beyond the text of the Haggadah.
- Young children are encouraged to participate in the Seder to the extent of their ability. In addition to the Four Questions at the start of the Seder, they are encouraged to drink the Four Cups, eat the maror and Massa, and ask as many questions as they wish.
- In addition to relating the story of the exodus, each Jew at the Seder is obligated to discuss three central elements of the Seder ritual – the Paschal sacrifice, the Massa and the maror, as explained in the Haggadah. The Seder is a miniature recreation of the exodus, and participants should imagine themselves as leaving Egypt.
- The formal part of the Seder closes with special psalms known as Hallel, which praise the Almighty and His special relationship with the people of Israel.
- The Seder traditionally concludes with the singing of several lively songs celebrating the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people.
MEASURES AND MINIMUMS (SHIURIM)
When Torah commands us to partake in certain food, that eating must be minimally significant. In order to fulfill the Misvot of the Passover Seder, it is necessary to consume a minimum quantity (Shiur) of the four cups of wine, Massa and Maror. For wine, the volume of most of a Revi’it should be consumed. For Massa and Maror, a K’zayit is the minimum volume.
- Minimum Volume For Wine:
86 cc (3.0 fluid ounces). This should be the minimum size of wine cups used during the Passover Seder for drinking the four cups. Each Seder participant must drink more than half this volume for each of the four cups to fulfill the mitzvah.
- Minimum Amount Of Massa:
The minimum quantity of Massa is approximately at least two-fifths of an average, machine-made Massa or about 20 grams. Please note, however, that machine made matzot vary in size. Optimally (l’chatchila) one should consume substantially higher minimum quantities both for the initial mitzvah of Achilat Massa and for the Afikoman.
- Minimum Volume Of Maror (Bitter Herb):
27 grams (1 fluid ounce). This volume can be estimated as follows: Leaves: enough to cover an area of110 square inches Stalks: enough to cover an area of 22 square inches.
The eating of the Massa and maror, and the drinking of each of the four cups of wine should be done, if possible, in one or two swallows. In any event, the drinking of each cup of wine and the eating of the Massa and maror should be completed within four minutes. In the event this might not be possible, a competent halachic authority should be consulted.
CHAMESS AFTER PESSAH חמץ שעבר עליו הפסח
Any Chamess held over Passover under Jewish ownership may not be used or sold after Passover, as a penalty for failure to perform the Misvot of bedikah and biur properly. Selling the Chamess before Passover to a non-Jew avoids Jewish ownership during Passover. The Misvot of bedikah and biur have therefore not been violated, and the injunction of Chamess she’avar alav ha’Pesach is avoided.
Pessach and Medicines
- Creams, non-chewable pills and injections may be owned, used and consumed on Pesach even if they contain Chamess or kitniot, since they are inedible. This covers most medicines used by adults. (There is a difference of opinion as to whether this leniency applies to vitamins or is limited to medicines). It is permissible to grind non-chewable pills and mix the powder into food items so that a child can take medicine on Pesach. However, a doctor must be consulted to make sure that the child is getting the correct dosage and that the potency of the pill is not compromised by grinding it up.
- Liquid medicines, chewable pills, and pills coated with a flavored glaze are edible and may contain Chamess; a Rabbi should be consulted. He may be able to determine that the medicine does not contain Chamess, or he may decide that the medicine may be consumed due to the seriousness of the patient’s condition.
- You should exercise extreme caution and consult with your Rabbi before making a decision not to take a medicine.