Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rabbi Spolter's Updated Top Ten Pesach Questions

1. Can I kasher my glasstop stove for Pesach?

Not really. Although this is a matter of some debate among rabbinic circles, all rabbis agree that one can only kasher the burner areas of the stove, and would have to cover the areas between the burners with foil. Then, if a liquid leaked under the foil, not only would you have a mess on your hands, but it could potentially carry the non-kosher-for Pesach taste back to your pots. So it’s best to stay away from glass-tops.

2. Do I have to move my stove to clean behind it?

Yes, but you don’t have to unscrew anything to get to chametz. Anything that’s out of reach, even if you know about it is not considered accessible chametz, and can be ignored. So you don’t have to unscrew the bottom of the freezer to get the crumbs underneath. That being said, Pesach cleaning is not spring cleaning! Don’t dust under every dresser and wipe down the walls. Clean for chametz, not dirt. They’re not the same.

3. Is it enough to put my oven on self-clean for Pesach?

Generally, yes. But first make sure to thoroughly clean the rubberized area that serves as the gasket for the oven. Then run the self-clean and wipe away the ash that remains. Remember your mother cleaning the oven with thick gloves and caustic oven cleaner? And who says God doesn’t send small gifts like self-cleaning ovens?

4. What can I eat on erev-Pesach?

Erev Pesach is usually the hungriest day of the year. After the fourth hour, bread is out, of course. In addition, though, we don’t eat matzoh on the day before Pesach, and most Ashkenazi Jews don’t eat matzoh from Rosh Chodesh Nissan. In addition, those who don’t eat matzoh also don’t eat any baked items derived from matzoh meal, farfel or the like. So matzoh rolls, pizza, lasagna – are all out on erev Pesach. Yet, one may eat boiled foods made with matzoh products, like gefilte fish, kneidels (matzoh balls), etc, as well as fish, produce, and poultry.

6. How do I kasher braces?

Rinse your mouth with boiling water. Repeat. Call an ambulance.

7. If I’m leaving for Pesach, do I have to clean my house?

Even if you’re “selling” your whole house for Pesach, a person should clean at least one room and make a search (bedikah) on that room the night before you leave. If you’re leaving after Thursday night, you make a brachah on that search as well. In addition, often people who leave for Pesach allow guests to use their homes over the holiday. In that case, one may not sell the entire home. This is simply because you can’t sell something that you’re going to be using – or at least lending to someone else. So, you must clean and search any areas that will be open and used during Pesach, and close off all other areas that will be sold. So, if you’re letting your neighbor’s cousins sleep in your house, you must clean at the very least the front entranceway, the hallway that leads to the bedrooms, the bathroom and the bedrooms themselves, and close off access to all other rooms that you don’t want to clean.

11. Does milk need a hechsher for Pesach?

(This answer is for the United States. Gotta check on Israel.) If you buy your milk before Pesach, it does not require a special hechsher. If you buy your milk on Pesach, it must be Kosher for Passover.

12. Why are all the foods on Pesach triple the regular price?

There’s actually a good reason for that. First of all, companies make money when the use a factory for a long period of time to produce the same item. A great deal of expense goes into changeover – recalibrating a factory to produce a new item. Pesach products, due to their limited demand, cannot justify whole factories dedicated only to their production, so they must be made on special limited runs at existing factories, which can cost a great deal. That’s why Grape Juice need not be more expensive than it is year-round, but Toasty-O’s cost a fortune. In addition, Pesach hashgachah requires dedicated supervision which can significantly increase the cost of the food. Moreover, every plant must be koshered, which can also be a laborious, involved and expensive endeavor. Yes, someone’s making money on this food, but it really does cost a lot more.

This is also a good opportunity to remind you about the mitzvah of Maos Chittim, “money for wheat,” which is a special tzedakah dedicated to helping others afford the additional Pesach expenses. In light of the sluggish Michigan economy and rising food prices, the need this year will be that much greater, so if you can, I encourage you to give generously for Maos Chittim to Yad Ezra, Matan B’seter, or through the YIOP Charity Fund.

13. How can I make my Pesach seder more interactive for both children and adults?

Listen to this shiur. And prepare beforehand. And please, please don't read aloud from English haggadot at the table. Nothing says "boooorrrrinnnng. Please fall asleep now more than someone opening up Artscroll's "The Amshinover's Hagaddah" and beginning to quote freely from the prosaic prose. Hagadah means "to tell." Not "to read".

14. That’s not ten questions?

It’s to encourage the children to ask.

15. Do I have to vacuum out the pockets in my coat?

It depends. Do you put food in your pockets? If yes – as we do, then you must at least check the pockets for wrappers, leftover food and the like. If there are small random particles, that’s not chametz that you have to worry about. The general rule is, if it’s smaller than a Cheerio, don’t worry about it. If not, get rid of it.

16. If I don’t allow food upstairs in my house, do I still have to clean for Pesach?

Do you have grandchildren? Do they listen to you? If you have any reason to suspect that chametz did make its way to a given room during the year (the cat dragged a hamentashen, for example), then the room must be cleaned. But if you’re certain that the room remained clean, then one need not clean it for Pesach.

17. Do paper plates need to be kosher for Pesach?

Are you eating the plates?

Addendum: I recently noticed that the CRC Pesach Guide (page 3) states that "Paper plates shouldn't be used with hot foods unless specifically certified for Pesach." Would you then feel comfortable using them with cold food? But the OU Guide for Pesach lists "Paper cups, plates and towels" as a "Non Food Item" where "The consensus of the OU’s Poskim is that the [it] may be used on Pesach without certification." I guess it's a machloket ha-websites.

18. What’s the deal with cosmetics and toiletries?

Any inedible cosmetic or toiletry does not require special supervision or need not be put away, and can be used during Pesach.

20. What are some good Pesach resources for Kashrus and preparing for Pesach?

The OU has a wonderful website set up for Pesach, and the CRC (Chicago Rabbinical Council also has a great Pesach site. There are a zillion others, including YUTorah for great Pesach shiurim, and of course, the Spolter family website.

21. How do I get rid of all my shalach manos before Pesach? Do I have to?

I would rate the following methods in order of preference:

1. Give them to a needy (or just hungry) soldier, or to Table to Table. They always take food donations.

2. Throw them away

3. Feed them to your dog

4. Eat them

Rena and I wish you a happy, healthy and Kosher Pesach!

Rabbi Reuven Spolter