Dear friends and members of CBI,
Now that Purim is past, Pesach is only a a month away. In advance of that happy date, I wanted to share some information, and a short pre-Pesach ritual for your home use.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 4, I will be baking matzah in the CBI kitchen. I learned to make matzah from Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser; it is easy and fun (and also contains deep spiritual meaning.) If you are free that afternoon and would like to join me to bake matzah for your home use, please let me know.
On the evening of Thursday, April 5 — the night before the first eve of Passover — it is customary ritually remove chametz (leavening) from your home. This is not just Jewish spring cleaning; it is a spiritual practice that gets the whole family ready for Passover.
I can offer some simple instructions about observing the ritual in a way that is engaging and fun for children — and hopefully meaningful for adults, too. A one-page Bedikat Chametz ritual (featuring one blessing and one poem) is attached in pdf format: BedikatChametz (pdf)
Also, please consider making a donation at this time of year to MAZON: A Jewish Response To Hunger. Any amount you give will help feed the hungry and will help you have a more meaningful Passover.
If you are in need of a haggadah for your seder, CBI has many copies of the haggadah we’ve used in previous years (created by R’ Jeff), available for free on request; you’re also welcome to download the haggadah we’ll be using at CBI this year, which is my own creation and is available online.
Wishing you a sweet journey into the Festival of Freedom — hope to see most of y’all at our second-night seder on April 7 at CBI. (Don’t forget to RSVP by March 30!)
Kosher For Passover: On Chametz
During the seven days of Passover (eight for Conservative and Orthodox Jews outside of Israel), tradition teaches that we should not eat, or even own, any food made with leavening. Such foods are called chametz. They include anything that includes wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt. During Passover, these foods represent the “puffiness” of pride and arrogance that we wish to cleanse from ourselves.
The one exception, of course, is matzah (or anything made from matzah), which is bread that has been baked quickly and at very high temperature to prevent it from rising. During Passover, matzah becomes the food that symbolizes the simple joy of liberation.
In the traditional understanding, in order for food to be “Kosher for Passover,” it must not contain any ingredients that are chametz. When buying processed foods at the supermarket, check the label for ingredients that are chametz — primarily wheat flour. Some people look for symbols from orthodox rabbinic authorities that indicate that the product is Kosher for Passover. (The symbol will include a small “P,” which stands for “Pesach” or “Passover.”) Others maintain less stringent practices: avoiding bread for a week, or avoiding any products made of the five “leaven-able” grains listed above.
Passover foods must be made without any flour (except for Kosher-for-Passover matzah meal). Common items that are chametz include bread, breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies, crackers, pasta, pastries, beer and many types of liquor.
There is an additional category of food, called kitniyot, which some Ashkenazic Jews do not eat during Passover (it’s a long story — if you’re interested, here’s a great blog post about it by Rabbi Paul Kipnes: Can we eat beans, rice, corn, and peas on Passover?) Kitniyot include rice, millet, corn, soy beans, string beans, peas, lentils, mustard, sesame and poppy seeds. Kitniyot do not need to be removed from the house during Passover, even for those who do not eat them. Processed foods containing kitniyot will not bear a Kosher for Passover symbol. Today, most Reform Jews (and many others as well) do eat kitniyot during Pesach.
You may wish to donate unopened food containing chametz to the Berkshire Food Project. (Please, do not donate your chametz at the synagogue — CBI needs to be kosher for Passover, too!). Some people place non-Passover foods in an inaccessible place, like a basement, and make a donation to the synagogue to symbolize their sale.