Passover 2018/5778

What is Chametz?

Chametz, literally “leavened”, is any product made with grain that has become wet long enough that fermentation is possible. Chametz includes not only bread, cake, and cookies, but also beer, whiskey, and processed foods with even trace amounts of flour or other grain content. For this reason, one cannot rely on simply looking at the ingredients to determine whether an item is fit for Passover use, but should only buy products with reliable Passover supervision.

For a wealth of information about chametz, foods that do/do not require special Passover supervision, as well as general Passover information, visit the OU’s Passover page.  You can also find very helpful Passover information from the Chicago Rabbinical Council and the Star-K of Baltimore.

The following info was adapted with permission from Congregation Beth Jacob in Atlanta, Georgia to aid in your Passover Preparations.

Mechirat Chametz (Selling Chametz)

Chametz owned by a Jew during Passover may never be eaten. If, therefore, one cannot dispose of all chametz before the holiday, one arranges a formal mechirat chametz, or sale of chametz, to a non-Jew. Kol BeRamah has the necessary document for you to sign, authorizing Rabbi Ron Wittenstein to act as agent for those who request it (see form). This applies also to chametz in a store belonging to a Jew. Before buying chametz after Passover, one must ascertain that the store conformed with this regulation.

Mechirat chametz, sale of chametz, is a legal transaction giving a non-Jew all rights of ownership over the chametz sold to him. After the conclusion of the festival, your agent, Rabbi Wittenstein, may repurchase the chametz. None of the chametz sold to the non-Jew may be touched until it has been repurchased. Therefore, you must give Rabbi Wittenstein your name and address when appointing him your agent, and wait until about an hour after Passover ends (see schedule), before using the chametz. (If you will be in a different time zone during Passover, please let Rabbi Wittenstein know!)

All chametz in your possession should be collected and placed in a spare room, closet, or trunk, and locked away by mid-day of Erev Pesach (see the schedule for the exact time). All chametz dishes and utensils should be cleaned and placed in a special closet or room until after Passover. If the closet or room has no lock, fasten the door with twine or tape so that no one will inadvertently enter.

To Sell Your Chametz

Download this form. Fill it out and email Rabbi Ron to arrange a time to discuss the agreement no later than Wednesday, March 28!

Bedikat Chametz (Search for Chametz)

Bedikat Chametz will take place on a half hour after sunset of Erev Pesach, the night before the Seder. The procedure is as follows:

  • 10 small pieces of bread are placed on napkins (so that no crumbs may be lost) in the various rooms to be searched and are gathered during the bedika (search).
  • The head of the household or a representative conducts the search and says the bracha of “al biur chametz.” (See a Haggadah for full text.)
  • One then proceeds from room to room, searches for chametz by the light of a single-wick candle and gathers the crumbs in a receptacle for burning the following morning.
  • Closets, cupboards, pockets of clothes, etc. should be inspected. Mere gathering of the crumbs is not enough, but a comprehensive search of any spot where any bit of chametz may have fallen.
  • In a language one understands, recite “kol chamira” renouncing ownership of chametz not found during bedika (See a Haggadah).
  • Chametz found during the bedika, including the gathered crumbs and the chametz to be eaten the next morning, should be put away to prevent its spreading.

Biur Chametz (Burning Chametz)

The morning of Erev Pesach/Passover Eve, all chametz that is not to be sold or eaten must be destroyed, traditionally through burning.

Ta’anit B’chorot (Fast of the Firstborn)

The firstborn Israelite sons were spared when the Egyptian firstborn were smitten in the 10th plague. Thus, all firstborn Jewish males fast on Erev Pesach, the day before Passover. However, if one attends a Seudat Mitzvah, a festive meal held in honor of the performance of a mitzvah, one need not fast. It is customary that a Siyum (conclusion of a unit of Torah learning) and meal follow Shacharit.

Latest Chametz Meal

The latest time to eat chametz is mid-morning of Erev Pesach/Passover Eve (see the schedule for an exact time). During the remainder of Erev Pesach, one may eat fruits, vegetables, meat, or fish – but no bread or matzah.

Passover

Now that you and your home are prepared for Passover, let the holiday begin! The Seder can begin no earlier nightfall, and we should try to eat the Afikomen by the midpoint of the night  (see the schedule for exact times). The second Seder is held on the Second Night of Passover, with candle lighting for the second night of Yom Tov and preparations for the second Seder beginning no earlier than nightfall. Again, the Afikomen should be eaten before the middle of night. During the intermediate days of Passover, we refrain from eating chametz, and enjoy these special festive days. The last two days of Pesach are also yom tov. After Passover has ended, one may again eat chametz.