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Preparing your house for Passover

Preparing for Passover -

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Getting your house ready

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Passover TimelineClimax

A time for Spring Cleaning

Preparing for Passover usually begins a full month before the holiday arrives, just after the festival of Purim. Since no leavened bread may be eaten during all seven days of Passover, we make a special effort to remove leaven entirely from our homes, in obedience to the Torah's command (see Exod. 12:15). This means we clean every room of the house so that all "chametz," or leavened products, are removed. We search for bread crumbs under the cushions of our sofas and chairs,

in the pockets of our coats and pants, on closet floors, and remove every trace. We also thoroughly clean our stove, oven, refrigerator, and freezer. It is a big job to clean the house so thoroughly, but doing so provides an important "object lesson" about the need to separate ourselves from corrupting influences in our lives. The traditional spring cleaning also helps us spiritually prepare for the coming new year.

Removing Chametz

The process for removing chametz from your house is very involved, and frankly very few people have the time and energy to perform a thorough cleaning in the traditionally prescribed manner. Nonetheless, the traditional steps include:
 

  1. Cleaning all possible locations where chametz might have been eaten or might be found in the house. This means searching for crumbs under the cushions of your sofa or stuffed chairs, in the pockets of your coats and pants, on closet floors, and so on. After a room is entirely cleaned and declared chametz-free, it is called "Pesachdik" and no further eating in that room is allowed until after Passover.
  2. Emptying and scrubing down the entire refrigerator to remove all traces of chametz. This includes washing out the freezer as well.
  3. "Kashering" your stove and oven. This involves a thorough scrubbing of the entire oven, stove top, and racks and then turning the stove (and stove tops) on for over one hour at the highest temperature. A microwave oven can be kashered by boiling a bowl of water inside it for more than 20 minutes.
  4. Putting away all dishes, silverware, pots, utensils, etc. that are normally used during the year. Only dishes, silverware, pots, utensils, etc. that are dedicated for Passover may be used during Passover Week.
  5. "Kashering" your dining room and kitchen tables by pouring boiling water over them and then thoroughly scrubbing them down with soap and water. After kashering, the tables are covered until Passover.
  6. Scouring the sink, counters, and all other appliances with boiling water.
  7. Scrubbing down the floors, windows, and all other parts of the house.
     

Once the house is thoroughly cleaned, chametz may still be eaten up until the morning of the day before Passover. That evening, however, the Bedikat Chametz ritual is performed to finally dispose of any remaing chametz. Only after this may the house be considered chametz-free and ready for Passover.

Why are we commanded to remove chametz? Because it represents a corrupting influence, a hidden uncleanness that manipulates purer elements. Like the influence of a small lump of leaven in a batch of dough, "spiritual" leaven functions as an evil impulse within us (i.e., yetzer ra: יֵצֶר רָע) that corrupts and "sours" our inner life.  This "yeast in the soul" is essentially pride that manifests itself in idolatrous desires and lusts. For more information about this, see the Bedikat Chametz pages.

Kosher for Passover

To celebrate a kosher Passover, you will need to ensure that you eat nothing with chametz during the entire seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (i.e., from Nisan 15 through Nisan 22). According to the rabbis, if you intentionally eat even one molecule of chametz during the week of Passover, you are breaking a Torah prohibition.

Okay then, what to eat during the week of Pesach? Obviously enough you won't be eating doughnuts or pastries! What should you eat for the seven days of Passover?

Each year the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UOJCA) publishes a list of approved and permitted foods. I recommend checking with them or a Rabbinic authority for Passover dietary restrictions.

Chametz-Free Clothing

Any clothing that you are going to wear to the Passover table must likewise be entirely free from any trace of chametz. Many people buy new outfits or send their clothing out to the dry-cleaners in time for the Seder.

Clean Haggadot

Finally, any book at the Seder table must be "chametz-free." Since this is difficult to accomplish, many Orthodox Jews will wrap their Haggadah (i.e., the liturgical book containing the story of the Passover that is read during the Seder) in plastic and put it away all year long so that it is completely clean for the Seder table (if you want to study the Haggadah before Passover, you must read from a different one than the one you will bring to the Seder table).


Let us then "keep the feast," chaverim, for the Messiah our Passover Lamb has indeed been sacrificed for us! (1 Cor. 5:7-8)

Search me, O God...

The search for chametz is not unlike the soul searching we do before the fall High Holidays, when we perform chesbon hanefesh (חֶשְׁבּוֹן הַנֶּפֶשׁ) by taking inventory of our spiritual condition before the LORD. In other words, we are commanded to search and remove sources of inner impurity so that we might experience the truth that we area "new lump" - that is, a new substance that is untainted by the sour and rotting influences of our past lives. Since Yeshua has been sacrificed as your Passover Lamb, you are indeed a new creation (בְּרִיָּה חֲדָשָׁה) and are made "unleavened" by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 5:17). Therefore we are likewise commanded put away the "old nature" - the yetzer ha'ra - and purge from your life the old influences that inwardly canker you and make you sick. Walk without hypocrisy in the truth of the love of God for your soul.
 

חָקְרֵנִי אֵל וְדַע לְבָבִי
בְּחָנֵנִי וְדַע שַׂרְעַפָּי
וּרְאֵה אִם־דֶּרֶךְ־עצֶב בִּי
וּנְחֵנִי בְּדֶרֶךְ עוֹלָם

chok·rei·ni · el · ve'da · le·va·vi
be·cha·nei·ni · ve'da · sar·a·pai
u·reh · im · de·rekh · o·tzev · bi
u'ne·chei·ni · be·de·rekh · o·lam
 

"Search me, O God, and know my heart!
 Test me and know my thoughts.
 And see if there be any idolatrous way in me,
 and lead me in the way everlasting!"
(Psalm 139:23-24)

Bedikat Chametz
 
Hebrew Study Card
 

Note: On the night before Passover, a final "ceremonial search" for chametz is performed by candlelight by the entire family. You can learn more about this here.



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