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Passover: Preparing for Passover

On Passover Jews are required to destroy all chametz.

Destroying Chametz

Important chametz must be removed from homes. Closets, rooms, cars, and pockets must be checked for chametz. Foods containing chametz should be placed into rooms that will be inaccessible for Passover.

The house should be cleaned thoroughly to remove all crumbs and small pieces of chametz.

Shopping for Passover

We must make sure that all items bought for Passover are kosher-for-Passover and have reliable rabbinical supervision.

All fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and meats are kosher for Passover as long as they have not come into contact with chametz.

There is a custom among Ashkenzim not to eat legumes or foods made with legumes.


Many cosmetics and medicines contain chametz. Check with a rabbi to ask which items are permissible to use on Passover.

Pet Food

Only certain pet foods are allowed during Passover. Many contain chametz.

Preparing the Kitchen

Dishes and Utensils: It is preferable to have a separate set of dishes and utensils just for the holiday. Under certain circumstances, however, certain utensils can be kashered for Passover. A rabbi should be consulted on the exact procedures.

Stove: The stove must be carefully cleaned. It should be heated to the hottest temperature for 1-2 hours. The grates and iron parts of the stove should have a red-hot glow. The oven and stove-top should be covered with aluminum foil.

Microwave Ovens: The oven should be cleaned thoroughly and a clean cup of water should be placed in the oven. Let the water steam up the microwave. Wipe the oven out afterwards. During Passover a piece of styrofoam or other object should be used in the oven to separate the bottom of the oven and the cooking dish. Food should be covered inside the oven to prevent spillage.

Sink: The sink should be cleaned and not used for 24 hours prior to the kashering. Hot water should be poured into every part of the sink 3 times. Do not forget the drain stopper. Remember to use a clean pot which was not used for 24 hours for the boiling of the water.

Refrigerator, Freezer Cupboards, Closets, Tables and Counters: Clean them to remove residue. Cover these surfaces that come into contact with hot food or utensils with a heavy covering.

Tablecloths and Napkins: Run through the washing machine.

Searching for Chametz

A formal search for chametz is made the night before Passover. The custom is to disperse ten pieces of chametz around the home. A blessing is made:

Bo-ruch A-toh Adon-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olam A-sher Kid-de-sh-nu Be-mitz-vo-sov Vi-tzi-vo-nu Al Be-or Cho-metz.

(Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sancitified us by His commandments, and has commanded us to remove the leaven.)

A candle is customarily used (a flashlight is fine also) to search in every room for chametz. All chametz found should be put in one area to be burned the next morning. Also look for chametz at the office.

After the search, a small paragraph is recited to nullify any additional chametz which could not be found:

All leaven or anything leavened with is in my possession, which I have niether seen nor removed, and about which I am unaware, shall be considered naught and ownerless as the dust of the earth.

Burning of chametz

The morning before Passover chametz found from the search the night before is burned. The same paragraph is recited as the one recited after the search for chametz.

Fast of the Firstborn

It is customary for the first-born male of every family to fast the day before Passover, since the first-born were killed in the last of the Ten Plagues. Many men do not fast on this day because they attend a celebration of the completion of the Talmud instead. Attendance at this celebration allows the fast to be broken.

Preparation for the Seder

There are five main mitzvot for the Seder:

1) Eating matzah.
2) Relating the story of the Exodus.
3) Drinking four cups of wine.
4) Recitation of Hallel.

Main Foods of the Seder:


Matzah is eaten at three points during the Seder. Two ounces are eaten after the story of the Exodus is told. This is called Motzi Matzah.

One ounce of matzah is used for the Hillel sandwich (korech) of maror and matzah.

An additional 1 1/2 ounce of matzah is used to partake of the afikomen at the end of the meal.

One particular type of matzah is called Shmurah Matzah. This matzah is carefully guarded (the name comes from the Hebrew word lishmor, meaning to guard) and water is watched to ensure it does not come into contact with the wheat. This matzah is guarded from the time of harvest until the end of baking. The matzot are round and made by hand rather than on a machine. It is recommended to use Shmurah matzah on the Seder nights for the three matzot of the Seder plate.


It is preferable to drink wine rather than grape juice, unless one is unable to drink wine. It is also preferable to drink an entire cup - an amount of at least 3 1/2 fluid ounces.

Wine is mandatory at four points of the Seder. It is used for Kiddush at the beginning of the Seder. After the story of the Exodus is told, the second cup of wine is drunk before eating the Motzi Matzah. The third cup is after the Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals). The fourth cup is drunk after the Hallel.

The four cups of wine represent the four promises given by God to the Children of Israel: "...and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm........and I will take you to me for a people..." (Ex 6:6, 7)

Another reason given for the four cups is that the Children of Israel had four actions that merited their redeption. First, they continued using their Hebrew names. They also continued using the Hebrew language and they remained highly moral. Lastly, they remained loyal to one another.

The Maror

Maror is eaten after the matzah and then again later in the Hillel sandwich (korech). At least 3/4 of an ounce should be eaten. Traditionally, horseradish and romaine lettuce are two main sources of morer. Romaine lettuce stalks should be used rather than leafs because of the difficulty in removing insects from the leafs.

The Seder Plate

The three matzahs on the table symbolize the three types of Jews: Kohen, Levi, and Yisrael. When we break the middle matzah (which becomes the afikomen), we are left with two loaves similar to Sabbaths and Festivals.

1. Z'roah - roasted chicken neck

The z'roah is symbolic of the pascal lamb offering brought to the Temple in Jerusalem the day before Passover. Preparation includes removal of the meat from the neck and roasting the meat on all sides.

2. Baytzah - the hard boiled egg

The egg symbolizes the festival sacrifice brought to the Temple, as does the roasted chicken neck.

3. Marer- bitter herbs

Bitter herbs symbolize the suffering of the Children of Israel in Egypt.

4. Charoset - mixture of sliced apples, walnuts and wine

Charoset reminds us of the mortar the Israelites used to make bricks during their enslavement in Egypt.

5. Karpas - cooked potato or raw onion

6. Chahzeret - more bitter herbs

These bitter herbs are used in the Hillel sandwich (Korech).

Sources: Telushkin, Joseph. Biblical Literacy: The Most Important People, Events, and Ideas of the Hebrew Bible. NY: William Morrow and Co., 1997.