The intensive physical and emotional preparations for Passover come from one seemingly simple commandment: “Seven days you will eat only matzah, but on the first day you shall have put away chametz from your houses…” (Exodus 12:15). Therefore, by the beginning of the holiday of Passover, no chametz whatsoever may be in one’s possession.
What is chametz? Chametz is defined as leaven, any product in which wheat, oat, barley, spelt or rye come in contact with water for 18 minutes or longer (without kneading or manipulating). To be considered chametz, the food must be edible (defined as something that a dog would eat).
To eliminate chametz, it is necessary to clean one’s home, office and even one’s car (any personal place where chametz may have been brought). It is especially important to be particularly thorough when cleaning the kitchen and dining room areas, where food is generally found.
Once the house has been cleaned, it may be “turned over “–the kitchen converted from chametz status to “ready-for-Passover” use. “Turning over the kitchen” includes changing dishes and cookware to those reserved for Passover use and covering counters and table tops, which come in direct contact with chametz.
All food items that are actually chametz must be consumed before Passover, given away, thrown out or otherwise removed. In instances of significant monetary loss (e.g. economy size boxes of cereal or bottles of scotch), it is customary to sell chametz through a rabbi to a non-Jew. For more details, please consult your local rabbi.
Any item that does not contain chametz, but is not specifically labeled Kosher for Passover, should be stored in a cabinet for the duration of the Passover holiday, and the cabinet taped closed.
Please note that this is a very brief overview. For more detailed information on Passover preparations, including the search for and burning of chametz, please visit NJOP’s Passover Preparations page.
This Treat was published on March 31, 2014.
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