The eight day festival of Pesach (or Passover) takes place every year on the 15th of Nissan in the northern hemisphere’s spring. The festival is anticipated with stress and frantic activity as Jews the world over prepare their homes for a kosher Pesach.
Many Jews that are not particularly observant for the remainder of the year feel compelled to comply (at least in part) with the stringent requirements of this festival. Pesach is based on the biblical commandments to commemorate the exodus from Egypt, to eat Matzah and eliminate chametz (leaven) from your home during the eight days. No Jew may own or possess chametz in any form for the duration of the festival.
Translated into practical terms this means that the orthodox observation of Pesach is the most demanding of all Judaic religious practices.
The key requirement is to ensure that your home is free from chametz or raising agents including yeast. A Jew is not allowed to own or to have any chametz in his or her possession throughout the eight days. To ensure compliance there are a number of activities that precede the actual festival.
Preparations begin with a thorough cleaning of the home. Particular attention should be placed on areas where food is stored, prepared, cooked and consumed. If you enjoy the occasional snack in the bedroom, then you will need to clean here as well.
All manufactured products must be certified as Kosher for Passover. This includes commonly available drinks, coffee and tea, milk and cheese. All products that are not certified as Kosher for Passover should be separated. You will need a cupboard (or two!) to store any consumables that you will sell for the duration of the festival. All surfaces used for food must be kashered. Table tops and work surfaces can be kashered by covering with boiling water.
The microwave oven must be clean and unused for 24 hours and can then be kashered by placing a glass of cold water in the microwave and running the oven on full until the machine has steamed up. The stove is more difficult. The simplest is to clean thoroughly, leave for 24 hours then turned onto maximum heat for at least an hour. The same will apply to the hot plates.
Don’t forget the refrigerator. Clean thoroughly and immerse the shelves in boiling water.
Covering some surfaced may be what is required to ensure that every surface is kosher.
Metal objects such as pots and cutlery may be submerged in boiling water if perfectly clean and not used for the previous 24 hours. Glassware (not Pyrex, Corning Ware or ceramic utensils) may be cleaned and soaked for three days changing the water daily.
Cutlery and crockery with ceramic or plastic parts or handles cannot be kashered. It is best to have a separate Pesach set wherever possible.
Stoneware and china may be kashered by firing in a kiln, and a blowtorch may be used to kasher a roasting dish. Keeping separate Pesach dinner services and pots and pans is far simpler! Some go as far as a separate Pesach fridge and oven!
Other common items such as table cloths should be replaced. Again, you could keep a special set for Pesach.
It is important to sell your chametz before Pesach. This is a real sale and any items included in the sale must be stored in a clearly separate place. Once everything has been done, the festival is one that is rewarding.
On the eve of Pesach a search of the house takes place to find any hidden chametz. It is customary to hide a few pieces of bread around the house before the search. The tools used for the search are a feather and candle. The search usually takes place at night. The following morning, the chametz or bread that was found is burned. A blessing is recited to nullify any chametz that may unknowingly remain in the house.
Once all this has been done, the home is ready for Pesach. The customary greeting is chag kasher ve-sameach – have a kosher and joyful festival.