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Pesach Halacha How-Tos

BDJ Family,

Ma Nishtana haPesach Hazeh? Thankfully, this Pesach is indeed different from last year’s, and much more like the days of old. Our Keylim Mikvah is back in use, so please make sure to tovel any new glass or metal implements. Much of the below will look familiar (which is hopefully more comforting and inspiring than stress-inducing!). And specific to this year, there are very important details as to how we handle when erev Pesach falls on Shabbat, so please make sure to review those sections closely.

BDJ Haggadah Companion

Everyone will be receiving a copy by mail of our “BDJ Haggadah Companion” to bring to your seder tables. It features meaningful thoughts on paragraphs of the Haggadah and is written by fellow BDJers! So whether your seder is smaller than usual or missing key guests, friendly BDJ voices will be by your side. 

With gratitude to Danna Shapiro, Jeffrey Rabin, and Alison Weinreb for organizing and to all who submitted divrei Torah!!

May we know health, ease, and joy in our Pesach preparations.

And may our Pesach celebrations bring the beginning of much needed cheirut-- freedom from illness, fear, loss, and distance in 5781,

- Rav Yosef and Rabbanit Alissa

View/Download Here

Kashering For Pesach

Cleaning the House for Pesach:

All of us (I hope) will be completing the Sale of Chametz form, and thereby transferring ownership of our chametz to a righteous non-Jewish person. If that’s the case, why is there a need to clean for Pesach, a cleaning culminating in Bedikat Chametz? The answer is that we clean in order to remove from our house (and office and car) any chametz that we might otherwise accidentally discover and be tempted to eat on Pesach. As such, the rule of thumb is that we need to clean out all the places where we may be over Pesach where chametz might exist in edible form and quantity.

In addition, cleaning also insures the credibility of the "bittul" (the verbal nullification) of our chametz that we recite on Erev Pesach. We will be able to say the “bittul” without any reservation, knowing with confidence that there isn’t a bottle of expensive liquor (for example) in some closet that we neither cleaned out nor included in our Sale of Chametz.

Without a doubt, we have a generations-old custom of giving the house a thorough cleaning before Pesach, and this tradition should be honored. But we should understand what the halakhic objective is, and especially when there are so many other Mitzvot calling to us, to set our priorities and use our time appropriately.

Kashering the Kitchen:

Oven: The oven should be cleaned carefully with oven cleaner, and then turned onto "broil" for as long as you typically broil food in your oven. The cavity of the broiler compartment may be kashered in the same manner as the oven, but the broiler pan itself needs to be covered with heavy-duty foil if you want to use it on Pesach. A self-cleaning oven is self-kashering. Allow 2 hours of self-cleaning for this purpose.

Stove top: The surface, grates and jets should all be cleaned well, and you should vacuum out the area beneath the stovetop. There is a custom to let the jets burn for 10 minutes after they have been cleaned. Any part of the range surface onto which you might place a pot or a food item during Pesach should be covered for Pesach.

Glass stovetop. After a careful cleaning of the surface, the coils should be turned on at their maximum height for 10 minutes (not all of them at the same time as this can damage the stove top surface). Over the course of Pesach do not place anything directly onto the parts of the surface in between the coils.  You should place trivets or the like before placing anything down on those surfaces. (In a situation of great need (i.e. you do have anything to place on the surface) you may rely on the position that the glass stove top is not considered halachikly "absorbent", and therefore not "chametzdik" once it has been thoroughly cleaned.)

Counter tops: If they are of kasherable material (stainless steel or stone including Cesarstone) kasher them by pouring boiling water over them, or by "steaming" them with a steamer. In the latter case, be sure that the steamer is producing a coating of boiling water upon the counter. For non-kasherable counter materials, cover the counters throughout Pesach.

Sinks: If they are stainless steel, kasher by (a) not using hot water and washing dishes in the sink for 24 hours and then (b) pouring boiling water over them. If not, you need either to line the sink (with contact paper) or use a sink insert.  

Cabinets, drawers, fridge, and freezer: that will be used to store Pesach food should be carefully cleaned so that no "chametz" remains. No covering is necessary, though some people do have the custom of lining shelves and drawers.

Table tops: should be carefully cleaned and then covered (with a freshly-laundered tablecloth) throughout the holiday.

Microwave: Assuming that you use your microwave as most of us do, primarily for defrosting and warming as opposed to actual cooking, you may kasher it in the following way: Carefully and thoroughly clean all surfaces. The grate-like area on the inside wall should get special attention. After at least 24 hours have elapsed since the microwave's most recent use, bring a cup of water to boil in the microwave, so that the microwave fills with steam. Then move the cup over several inches, and repeat the process. Finally, cover the surface onto which you place the dishes inside the microwave. Wax paper is good as long as you replace the wax paper should it become wet.

Urn: After cleaning both interior and exterior surfaces, and at least 24 hours after its most recent use, fill the urn, plug it in, and allow it to reach its maximum temperature.  After that,  pour boiling water over the spigot, and you are done!. You can kasher your urn even if during the year you have warmed challah on top of the urn,  as the challah (even if not wrapped in foil) does not generally reach the requisite temperature to impact the urn.

Blenders: Carefully clean the appliance to the point at which you are completely confident that is free of any food particles or residue. If you have used the appliance with hot food, then all detachable metal or glass components should be kashered. Metal can be kashered via "hag'alah" (boiling water), and the glass can be kashered according to the information about glass, below.

Dishwasher: Carefully and thoroughly clean all surfaces (including the drain). After at least 24 hours have elapsed since the dishwasher's most recent use, run the dishwasher - with soap - on the longest, most powerful cycle it has.

Which Utensils to Kasher:

As a general rule, metal implements such as silverware, pots, and most other kitchen implements can be fairly easily kashered for Pesach use. Boiling water is the kashering medium we can use. Metal baking pans, baking sheets or frying pans however (unless you typically use the frying pans with very generous amounts if oil, making them more like pots), are more difficult to kasher, as they require the application of “direct heat” either in the form of a blowtorch or through being heated in the high heat of a self-cleaning oven. Both of these options come with potential hazards, but are theoretically possible. Please be in touch with the clergy if you are in need of kashering such an implement.

How to Kasher:

The basic process is that of immersion in boiling water.

  • To begin, kasher your stove top, or at least the burner you will be using for kashering, FIRST. See “Kashering the Kitchen” below for how that’s done.
  • Next, bring a large pot of water to a bubbling boil. It does not matter what kind of pot this is (Pesach or chametz, dairy or meat) as long as it is completely clean, and has not been used in the prior 24 hours.
  • The items that you will be immersing in this boiling water should also be completely clean and, ideally, also unused in the prior 24 hours.
  • The items should be immersed in the boiling water individually, so that the water touches the entire surface. It is not necessary to immerse the entire object all at once. You can immerse the bottom half, remove the item and then immerse the top half if this is necessary.
  • When immersing a pot, you should first remove any removable handles, which should then be immersed separately. If the handles cannot be removed, extreme care should be used in cleaning the point where the pot and the handle meet. Same is true of the lids.
  • It is customary to rinse the kashered items in cold water to conclude the process. You can cold rinse all the kashered items together, when you are done with the boiling water portion.
  • If you want to kasher a pot that does not fit into your “kashering” pot, here’s the procedure:
    • Fill the pot and bring it to a boil.
    • Simultaneously heat a small object (a stone, a metal implement) on an adjacent burner.
    • When the water in the pot boils, use pliers to gently drop the heated object into the boiling water, causing the water to overflow and thus kasher the outside of the pot as well.
    • This can be a mess, so put towels down in the floor beforehand. Also it may cause the gas flame to extinguish, so be on alert for that.
    • It is not typically possible to kasher the lid of this pot though, as one cannot get the entire lid immersed, even in stages.

Kashering Glass:

  • Glass baking pans cannot be kashered for Pesach.
  • Glass into which hot liquids were poured (i.e. they were never on a stovetop, in a microwave, or in an oven) can be kashered in one of two ways. You can pour boiling water over and into them (at least 24 hours after their most recent "hot" use). Or you can fill them with cold water (again, at least 24 hours after their most recent "hot" use), empty the water after 24 hours, and then repeat that same process two more times. As a practical tip, it might be easiest to simply place the glass into a tub, fill the tub with cold water covering all the glass inside, drain and refill after 24 hours and after 48 hours.
  • Glass that was never used with hot chametz all simply needs to be carefully washed for Pesach use (though the custom is to use the filling/soaking method anyway).

Halacha How-To: When Erev Pesach Falls on Shabbat

Bedikat Chametz and Bittul:

Because both the search for chametz and the destruction of chametz traditionally involve the use of fire, neither is done on Erev Pesach this year. Rather, we back up 24 hours to Thursday night for the search, and Friday morning for the burning. We maintain the usual time parameters for these rituals, i.e. the search should be done as soon as possible after nightfall (7:46 pm) and the burning by the end of the fifth solar hour of the day on Friday (11:56 am). The latter is so even though it is obviously permissible to have chametz in one’s possession well after 11:56 a.m Friday this year, we just don’t want folks to get confused in the future. 

Important! The “bittul” normally recited after the burning (in which we dispossess ourselves of all chametz that we may yet own) should not be recited after the burning this year. Rather, it is recited just prior to the time when we truly can’t possess chametz any longer, namely 11:56 am on Shabbat day. 

"HaMotzi" on Shabbat: 

Friday night there are three options. One is to use challah, but to clear the challah away before any of the “pesachdik” implements are brought to the table. One also needs to take great pains to insure that the challah does not come into contact with any of the Pesach implements and to insure that any remaining crumbs are confined, collected and ultimately gotten out of the house, and “disbursed into the wind”. Many also permit using the commode for this purpose.

Alternatively, we may use matza instead of challah. This could either be regular “kasher l’pesach” matza, or, if you have a custom to not eat matza during the weeks prior to Pesach, this could be “kasher l’pesach” egg matza. (Since egg matza could not be used to fulfill the mitzvah on the nights of the seder, the various customs about not eating matza for some period of time before Pesach do not apply to egg matza.)

Shabbat morning is trickier. This is because regular “kasher l’pesach” matza is prohibited all day, and is thus dropped from the list of options. Challah is still an option, with all of the cautions mentioned above, as long as you are done with it by 10:54 AM. Egg Matza can also certainly be used until 10:54. 

Shabbat morning later than 10:54, as well as Seudah Shlisheet

Is “kasher l’Pesach” egg matza still an option after 10:54?  The short answer is “yes”, though there is some debate around this question.

Egg Matza does not run afoul of the Talmudic rule to refrain from Matza on Erev Pesach, as this rule only applies to Matza with which one could fulfill the mitzvah of Matzah at the Seder. As Egg Matzah is disqualified from use for the mitzvah, it may be eaten on Erev Pesach. And since “kasher l’Pesach” egg matza is, well, kosher for Pesach, what could be the problem? (And indeed, the Shulchan Aruch advises that we use Egg Matzah for Seudah Shlisheet, or for that matter, for a Shabbat lunch that takes place after 10:54).  

Despite the clarity of this argument, there is nonetheless some debate around whether Ashkenazic Jews should use “kasher l’Pesach” Egg Matzah after 10:54AM.

There is some debate however, around what the proper practice should be for Ashkenazic Jews. With regard to egg matza in general, Ashkenazic Jews follow the stringency articulated by Rama, to not consume even “kasher l’pesach” egg mazta during Pesach, unless health concerns necessitate it. This is due to a halachic concern that egg matza may be particularly susceptible to becoming chametz while in its in the kneading stage. The question is, does this Ashkenazi “chumra” (stringency) apply to Pesach only, or does it begin earlier, i.e. at the time when we cease eating chametz on Erev Pesach (i.e. 10:54 this year)?

In the section of the Shulchan Aruch discussing erev Pesach on Shabbat, Rama recommends that “in our communities,  where we don't eat egg matza”, we shoud eat fruit or fish for seudah Shlisheet. Many infer from this comment that Rama holds that the Ashkenazi “chumra” about  egg matza is effective at the time that chametz becomes prohibited on Erev Pesach, i.e. 10:54 AM. This is the basis for the common Ashkenazic practice to daven early on this Shabbat morning, so that folks can say ha-motzi and eat challah or egg matza at “lunch” before 10:54.

But it appears like likely that this is NOT what Rama meant. He wasn’t suggesting that we eat fish or fruit for Seudah Shlisheet because egg matza is forbidden by Shabbat afternoon, rather that since “in our communities we do not eat egg matza” on Pesach, “kasher l’pesach” egg matza tends to simply be unavailable in “our communities”.  Aruch HaShulchan (444:5) understands Rama in exactly this way,  and Rabbi Hershcel Schachter has pointed out in that in Rama’s own “Darkei Moshe Ha-Aruch”, he himself says exactly this.  Thus, using “kasher l’pesach’ egg matza for either or both of Shabbat lunch and Seudah Shlisheet is a fine option. 

 Another possibility for Seudah Shlisheet is the use of “mezonot”, i.e products that contain  matza meal, but are distinctly not “bread-like”, for example matza balls, knaidlach and the like. 

(See Rama 471:2, Mishna Brura 19 & 20, and Sha’ar Hatziyon #16). 

One last note: if we are eating egg matza or “mezonot” at Seudah Shlisheet, we need to begin eating before 4:00 pm. This has nothing to do with the special circumstances of this year. This is a rule that pertains to every Erev Yom Tov and indeed every Erev Shabbat, that we don’t sit down to a meal too late in the day, lest we ruin our appetite for the holy dinner later that night. 

Please remember that no seder preparations may be done on Shabbat. Preparation of maror, haroset, eggs, etc., should all be done before Shabbat (or after Shabbat is over.)


When to begin the Seder?

Thanks to daylight saving time, nightfall will be occurring rather late on the nights of the Sedarim this year. As you may know (and as is indicated on the BDJ Pesach schedule) we generally follow the Halachik opinion that we need to wait until nightfall to begin the Seder. This opinion maintains that all of the mitzvot of the Seder, including the drinking of the 4 cups, can only be performed when it is halachikly “night”. This effectively pushes Kiddush to 7:48 pm this year. (NOTE: Kiddush on the first night this year  includes Havdalah. Your haggadah will have the text.)

This creates a potential problem relative to children’s participation in the Seder. By the time we reach the eating of matza and maror, they may already be asleep. Let me make the following suggestion if none of the more conventional solutions (e.g., afternoon naps) proves successful. Begin the seder at 7:48 pm, but break the Magid section into 2 parts, with one part done before the meal, and the other part after. The pre-meal part should include the sections specified by the Talmud as the bare bones of the Magid. These sections are: • Mah Nishtana • Avadim Hayinu • At first our ancestors were idolaters • The section from “My father was a wandering Aramean,” through the ten plagues • From “Rabban Gamliel” to the end.  If this dividing of the Magid will enable the children to participate in matza and maror, it is well worth doing. If this too won’t do the trick, we would suggest a “model seder” for the kids before the officially appointed hour.

The Last Little Bit of Chametz: 

Some of us may still be eating chametz (in addition to the Challah) on Friday afternoon and evening, i.e. after our black bins have already been emptied by our essential workers in the sanitation department. What is the halacha concerning chametz that may be in our garbage cans as we approach the time on Shabbat morning when it will be forbidden to own chametz (11:56 AM) ? Does it still belong to you? 

The good news is, that this chametz actually doesn’t belong to you. This is both because your act of throwing it away is an expression of disowning it, and because by 11:56 you will have recited the bittul (nullification of chametz).  As a result you cannot violate the prohibition of owning chametz as a result of what is in your garbage can.

HOWEVER, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe O.C. 3:57) points out that the positive mitzvah of destroying our chametz applies to any chametz that is on our property, even if we have disowned it. As such, rather than deposit any chametz into our garbage cans on Friday after pick-up time, we should we either burn it on erev Pesach, or remove it from our property.  

Going Away for Pesach:

Here's a perennial Pre-Pesach question: If I am leaving town before Pesach, what are my obligations relative to Bedikat Chametz (the search for chametz)? The answer is best understood if we first have clarity regarding the purpose of the search.

The Torah applies an unusual degree of stringency to the prohibition of chametz. In addition to not eating chametz, we are also prohibited to own chametz.  By law, we can dispossess ourselves of our chametz and thus avoid the prohibition, merely by "nullifying" the chametz  through the recitation of the familiar formulae that we recite each year. (You can find them in the Siddur, or at the beginning of almost any Haggadah). However, the Talmudic sages obliged us to actually search for (and destroy) our chametz anyway, to address two concerns that they had.

They were concerned that if we failed to actually search our premises: (1) we might find chametz during Pesach and unthinkingly eat it before we remember that it's Pesach, and (2) our nullification might be less than whole-hearted if we suspect that there is actually still some valuable chametz in the house somewhere. Thus, the obligation to search on the night preceding Pesach.

However, given people's (apparently eternal) propensity to not be home for Pesach, the sages formulated the obligation so that it actually devolves upon us 30 days before Pesach. So as long as we are leaving fewer than 30 days before the chag, we are obligated to search, albeit without the bracha, on the night before we leave. This is true even if we will not be home at all over the course of Pesach (see concern #(2) above.)

What’s the procedure if you are leaving town?  On your last night in town, you would use a candle as normal, and you would recite the regular “first ביטול “ (nullification of chametz) afterwards. The only difference is that you would not recite the bracha. You should make sure to burn or dispose of the chametz that you “found”. 

This year, instead of saying the “final bittul” on erev Pesach, you should recite the final ביטול ON SHABBAT MORNING just prior to the time when we truly can’t possess chametz any longer (to check that time wherever you are, see the Pesach zmanim for your location here: https://oukosher.org/passover/passover-guide/). 

Halacha How-To: Pesach Products

Here are the links to two fine publications:

OU Passover Guide: https://oukosher.org/passover/passover-guide/

Rabbi Eidlitz’ Guide: https://kosherquest.org/kosher-conscience-magazine/ 

Please do avail yourself of these Pesach products lists. The most valuable pages are those which list products that can be used WITHOUT any specific Pesach certification.  Here are a few “product” items especially worth review: 

Pet Food: The prohibition of chametz includes a prohibition on feeding chametz to our animals (though we can feed them kitniyot - as long as they weren’t born in Eastern Europe). Rabbi Eidlitz lists non-chametz pet foods.

Because chametz is assur b'hana'ah (we are prohibited to derive benefit from it-- in addition to being forbidden to eat it). 

So what do pet enthusiasts do?

There are several options:

  1. If you are willing to board your pet over Pesach, you can sell him/her to a non-Jewish boarder, who can continue feeding your pet his/her regular pet food. The halachic preference here is that you do not sell the food to the boarder yourself, rather that the boarder purchase the food from the store independently (this prevents the appearance that you've simply made the boarder your agent to serve your chametz to your pet). But this option requires that you don't spend the holiday with your pet, which can be hard for some of us. This leads us to option #2.
  2. If your pet will be celebrating Pesach with you, then you must find a chametz-free food alternative. This can mean finding packaged pet food that is entirely kitniyot (which as we discussed last time is fine even for Ashkenazim to own and benefit from on Pesach). Or you can cook special kitniyot food from scratch for your pet (like plain rice with boiled chicken). Regardless, you will have to wean your pet off of his/her regular food slowly before Pesach to avoid dietary issues and then reintroduce the chametz food slowly after Pesach (the chametz food should absolutely still be sold along with the rest of your chametz). Alternatively, you can keep your pet on a year round kitniyot-only diet. For many, though, this can be monetarily challenging or labor intensive. Which leads us to option #3.
  1. There is an OU-P pet food alternative (only for dogs and cats). For $30 you can get 24 servings (2 per package, and it comes in a case of 12 packages). The only ingredient is chicken, so while it still requires a diet change (with the drawbacks described in #2), it may have fewer consequences. For many, this is worth a try! https://www.kosherpaws.com.
  1. Finally, there is another interesting halachic possibility suggested by Rabbi Chaim Jachter. He points out that it would be permissible to feed your pet food that:

a. was purchased before Pesach,

b. is less than 50% chametz, AND 

c. would be deemed unfit for human consumption.

The third of these requirements is the tricky one, as it is halachicly debated whether dog and cat food (though not fish food) actually meets the criterion of "unfit for human consumption". Therefore Rabbi Jachter hinges this leniency on the severity of dietary discomfort and illness that a change in food would have on a particular pet.

If this seems like the only viable option for you, Rav Yosef and I invite you to read the two articles below from Rabbi Jachter, and to contact us to discuss:

https://www.koltorah.org/halachah/chametz-mixtures-and-pet-food-a-bold-and-controversial-approach-by-rabbi-chaim-jachter

https://www.koltorah.org/halachah/chametz-mixtures-and-pet-food-a-bold-and-controversial-approach-part-ii-by-rabbi-chaim-jachter

Finally, as we work to rid the house of chametz before Pesach, what should we do with our pets' food bowls/containers? Their food receptacles do not need to be kashered, but it is good practice to clean them out of any chametz residue.

Pesach is a time when the home is the center of the ritual experience. We invite guests and celebrate the sedarim with those we love. So it is only natural that we want our pets to feel welcome and a part of the joy of freedom with us. We hope this information makes that a little easier this year! Afterall, the Torah says they were also part of the miracle: וּלְכֹ֣ל בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל לֹ֤א יֶֽחֱרַץ־כֶּ֨לֶב֙ לְשֹׁנ֔וֹ לְמֵאִ֖ישׁ וְעַד־בְּהֵמָ֑ה לְמַ֨עַן֙ תֵּֽדְע֔וּן אֲשֶׁר֙ יַפְלֶ֣ה ה׳ בֵּ֥ין מִצְרַ֖יִם וּבֵ֥ין יִשְׂרָאֵֽל, "But to all the children of Israel, not one dog will whet its tongue against either man or beast, in order that you shall know that the Lord will separate between the Egyptians and between Israel" (Shemot 11:7).

Milk and Eggs: A custom developed long ago to purchase these before Pesach. After all, milk and eggs came from the farm just outside of town where chickens, cows and chametz interacted freely. A minute amount of chametz that had found its way into an egg (not sure how) or into milk BEFORE Pesach was halachikly null and void, but not so if it found its way in ON Pesach. Thus the custom. Rabbi Eidlitz adds that Vitamin D additives in milk create a similar (and more actual) issue. If you run out of milk on Pesach, you should buy at the kosher stores, who will have Pesach-certified milk available.

Cosmetic Items etc.: Though these may contain chametz, because they are inedible they MAY be used on Pesach. Medicines taken in pill form may be used on Pesach without need for an ingredient check, Medicines taken in chewable or liquid form need to be chametz-free for Pesach (with obvious exceptions that can be made for medicines taken for serious medical conditions). Rabbi Eidlitz has good lists on non-chametz medications, and Rav Yosef has a more exhaustive one if you have a question. 

Mon, December 4 2023 21 Kislev 5784