Pesach Practices for You and Your Family

Pesach Observances—a week of mindful eating

Pesach is a time for renewal. As the sun comes out and spring brings new blooms, we clean out our homes and our souls. Whether you are hosting a seder or sharing with friends and families, there are many ways to prepare for the holiday. For those who find the Passover preparations complicated and confusing, here are some guidelines for making this holiday different from all other nights.

Each individual family observes the eight (some follow only seven) days of Pesach in unique and compelling ways. For example, some families find the week of Passover a time for paying closer attention to the food we eat. Some enjoy the variety of prepared kosher-for-Passover foods available in many supermarkets today. Others avoid all the pre-packaged mixes and heavy egg dishes, and aim for a simpler menu of fresh vegetables and fruit, dairy, fish and fowl. Pesach may be the time to try a low-carb diet! For all of us, each year can be an opportunity to learn more, to try a new ritual, to be more hametz-free. 

Use mindful eating on Pesach to think about simplifying your life. Look at the suggestions below. What do you do now? What would you like to do differently?

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the rabbi, rabbi@templehbt.org

I.          Level 1—refrain from eating grain products that are not matzah

Hametz includes any product made of the following five grains: wheat, barley, oats, rye or spelt or any derivatives of them. These grains become hametz when they come into contact with moisture for more than eighteen minutes. Thus, not only flour and bread products, but cereals, pasta, beer, and all alcohol fermented from grain is hametz.

Matzah is not hametz because it is mixed, kneaded and baked in a very hot oven within the eighteen minute time limit. Matzah meal is simply finely ground matzah. Matzah does not need to be made from wheat for those who have special dietary needs, look for kosher for Passover spelt or other matzah.

Beans, legumes and rice, known as kitniyot, are considered hametz by the Ashkenazic community because of an old concern that they might be confused with flour. Corn and peanuts once fell into this category as well; however, recent rabbinic rulings have permitted Ashkenazim to use their derivatives, including corn and peanut oil and corn syrup. The Sephardic community and others who have adopted their Pesach rules, particularly vegetarians, do not follow this strict observance. Recently, the Conservative movement in Israel issued a rabbinic statement permitting these foods.

Some people use this time to clean out cabinets of out-dated products, such as herbs and spices, and replacing them.

There are enough Pesach products on the market to keep you satisfied for a whole eight days, though it is also possible to eat healthy and nearly normal meals without buying the mixes and kosher-for-Passover treats. Fresh fish, meat, fruits and vegetables need no kosher-for-Passover certification.

II.        Level  2—clean hametz products out of your house

First, consider donating all sealed packages to your local food bank.

Next, place non-perishable open packages in a box or cabinet, out of use. Frozen food may be stored in the freezer, as long as you separate it from food you will use during the holiday.

The pre-Pesach “spring cleaning” is intended to rid your home of all crumbs. Think of all the places in your home where people eat, and start there. Beautify your home. Plant flowers in window boxes, if it’s not too cold.

III.       Level  3—make your kitchen kosher for Passover

Once you have removed or stored away hametz, try setting up your kitchen differently from the rest of the year. If you don’t have separate Pesach dishes and pots (dishes which have never touched hametz), you can kasher flatware and metal pots by immersing them in a pot of boiling water. Instead of everyday dishes, buy inexpensive glass or plastic, or use disposable plates for the week. Speak to the rabbi for additional help and ideas.

IV.       Level 4—symbolically release yourself of ownership of all hametz

Selling the rest of your hametz (mehirat hametz) is done symbolically, through the rabbi as your power of attorney. The Torah stipulates that we should not eat or own any hametz, so we symbolically sell the products to someone who is not Jewish for the duration of the holiday.

HBT provides a form for the sale of the hametz in your house. Whatever products you keep that are not kosher for Passover should be stored away for the holiday; they do not belong to you until ownership reverts at the end of the eight days. Please return the form to the temple by Sunday, April 9. All hametz will be sold Monday morning, April 10, and will remain sold until it is released after Havdalah, Tuesday night, April 18, at 8:12 p.m.