Passover Preparations

And this day will be for you as a memorial and you will celebrate it as a festival for G-d. Throughout your generations you shall keep it a feast for an everlasting statute. Seven days you will eat only matzah, but on the first day you shall have put away your Chametz (leaven) from your houses…” (Exodus 12:14-15)

The Torah teaches that by the beginning of the holiday of Passover, no Chametz should be left in one’s house. To fulfill this directive, the house (and other spaces where one spends significant time, i.e. one’s office or car) is thoroughly cleaned. Many begin their Passover cleaning immediately after Purim, thus giving themselves a month to prepare. The following is a guide to the special actions taken to eliminate chametz from one’s possession:

What is Chametz?

Chametz is defined as leaven and is any product in which wheat, oat, barley, spelt or rye come in contact with water for 18 minutes or longer (without kneading or manipulating).

Kitniyot – Legumes – During the holiday of Passover, Ashekenazim (Jews of Western and Eastern European ancestry) follow the Rabbinic decree to not eat kitniyot, foods such as rice, corn, soy beans, string beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, mustard, sesame seeds and poppy seeds.

Why? – Kitniyot products are often stored together with chametz grains and it is difficult to insure that there is no chametz mixed with the products. Also, when kitniyot are ground into flour, the untrained eye could mistakenly think that this it is real flour and, therefore, accidentally come to use prohibited flour.

In the house – While the decree prohibits one to eat products containing Kitniyot, they do not need to be removed from one’s possession, as does chametz.

Peanut oil and other derivatives — a commonly noted Passover item on the supermarket shelf is peanut oil. There is a difference of opinion about using kitniyot-based oils. Please check with your local rabbi as to whether or not you may use these products.

Please note that while many Sephardim are permitted to eat kitniyot, the food must be thoroughly checked that it is not mixed with chametz.

Getting Rid of Chametz

Cleaning the House

The home and place of business are thoroughly cleaned in an effort to get rid of chametz, which one is forbidden to possess.

It is important to thoroughly clean the kitchen and dining room areas, where food is generally eaten. Be sure to brush or vacuum out crumbs from drawers and cabinets.

In living rooms and other rooms where food, especially snacks, is eaten, be sure to vacuum carpets and couches.

“Turning the House Over” – Perhaps you have heard this phrase uttered by a friend, or you remember your grandmother using such language. “Turning the House Over” means changing the kitchen from Chametz to Pesachdik (ready for Passover) and vice versa after the holiday.

The Removal of Chametz

Any item which contains wheat, wheat, oat, barley, spelt or rye should be consumed before Passover, given away, thrown out or sold (see below).

Any item that does not contain chametz, but is not specifically labeled Kosher for Passover, should be stored in a cabinet and the cabinet should be taped closed.

During the holiday, one should only eat food specifically marked Kosher for Passover. While a product may not appear to contain chametz, according to Jewish law it may still be chametz since the US FDA does not require any ingredient under 2% to be listed on the label. There are also some production techniques that use chametz based oils in packaging or canning products, which would not be listed on the labels.

Selling the leftover Chametz

Bedikat Chametz – The Final Search for Chametz.

The evening before the Seder,* a final search for chametz is conducted using a candle or flashlight and a feather to make sure that the house has been cleared of chametz. Any chametz found should be put in a small bag to be disposed of in the morning.

* When the first Seder is Saturday night, Bedikat Chametz is performed on Thursday night.

When the search for Chametz is complete, a declaration is made stating that any overlooked chametz is null and void of ownership. The text for this declaration can be found in most prayer books.

The following blessing is said before the search begins:

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech Ha-olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzeevanu al Bee’oor chametz.

Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us concerning the removal of chametz.

Burning of Chametz

Prohibition of Eating Matzah