Park Avenue Synagogue Pesach Guide 5779/2019

Beyond freedom, the central message of Pesach is one of empathy and compassion. We are told again and again to “be kind to the stranger for we were strangers in the land of Egypt.” If this is the main point, why is Pesach the holiday with so many laws and restrictions? Perhaps the mass of minutiae is meant to teach us that we cannot build a compassionate world without a great deal of work and attention to detail and without self-sacrifice and restriction. The Haggadah gives us a vision of the world we want to live in; the laws of the holiday give us an idea of how to get there.

Kashering 101
The Basics
The Role of Potted Plants

Preparing the Home
Selling of Hametz
Searching for Hametz & Destroying It

Preparing the Kitchen
Prohibited Foods
Permitted Foods
Baby Food

Fast of the Firstborn

Kashering 101

Kashering is the process of making dishes and utensils kosher. The process is the same whether one is making year-round equipment kosher for Pesach or making a newly acquired vintage item fit for use in a kosher kitchen or restoring the kosher status of an item involved in a kitchen mix-up, like a dairy spoon accidentally used to stir chicken soup.

The Basics

The fundamental principle in kashering is that the way a utensil absorbs food is the way it can be cleansed of that food: כי בולעו כך פולטו, ki vol’o kakh polto. It’s clear from the ancient rabbis’ application of this principle that they understood enough physics and chemistry to recognize the role of heat in absorption.

• Dishes and utensils used only with cold food do not absorb any food. They may be kashered by rinsing in cold water. With regard to food, the rabbinic definition of “cold” is not “chilled.” Rabbinic “cold” includes warm, up to the point that something is so warm that you could not comfortably keep your bare hand in it for two minutes, approximately 120º F.

• Pots used on a stovetop absorb food by boiling. They can be kashered by immersion in boiling water, a process called הגעלה, hag’alah. If a food prep surface is too large to immerse, like a stove top, one pours boiling water over it, a process called עירוי, iruy.

• Utensils used in an oven or over an open fire absorb food by fire. They can be kashered by exposure to high heat as in a self-cleaning oven or by application of a blowtorch. Since most utensils would be destroyed by this process, baking pans and cookie sheets can be kashered in theory, but not in practice. The process is called ליבון, libbun.

The principle of ki vol’o kakh polto applies only to glass and metal. Earthenware dishes and and other items made of porous materials cannot be kashered by any process, because they absorb food so completely.

The Role of Potted Plants

It is a common misconception that cutlery can be kashered by sticking it into a flowerpot and leaving it there for a day. Where did that come from? Before a utensil is kashered, it must be cleaned and then left unused for 24 hours. In pre-modern homes, a good way to take a utensil out of circulation was to stick it into the ground (or the dirt floor) near the cooking fire. Once kitchens had stoves and finished floors, a potted plant took the place of the dirt floor. Sticking a fork or spoon into a flowerpot may be part of the preparation for kashering, but it doesn’t make the item kosher. (There is a procedure for kashering a knife – only a smooth-bladed knife, and only in very limited circumstances – that involves plunging the blade into hard-packed earth a dozen times, but not leaving it stuck in the ground. The flowerpot misconception may also be a distortion of this procedure.)

Preparing the Home

Many people begin active preparation for Pesach the moment Purim is over, cleaning the house room by room, holding back from buying hametz foods, and using up what is in the pantry. While it is wonderful to enter Pesach with a clean home, it is also important to remember that all schmutz is not hametz. Better to miss a dustball than to take no joy in the approach of the holiday.

Selling of Hametz (mekhirat hametz)

Recognizing that not everyone can eat, remove, or destroy all leavened products, the rabbinic sages provided a legal remedy. Through mekhirat hametz, the selling of hametz, we arrange technically not to own whatever hametz food and utensils are stored away in our homes. We accomplish this by authorizing a qualified agent to sell our hametz and hametz utensils to a non-Jew. (At PAS, as at most synagogues, the designated agent is usually one of the clergy.) In other sales, the seller receives money, but in this one, the seller accompanies the sale authorization with a donation, called ma’ot hittin, “money for wheat.” At PAS, this donation supports the Welfare Fund, used to provide needy Jews with Passover packages, kosher food, and social services at Pesach and throughout the year.

The sale of hametz is a valid legal transaction. At the end of Pesach, the agent will arrange to buy back the items on behalf of the owners, since hametz is once again permitted. Hametz owned by a Jew for which ownership is not transferred before Pesach is forbidden for use after the holiday; it is called hametz sheh-avar alav ha-Pesach.

This year, Rabbi Salston will be negotiating the sale of hametz. To authorize her as your agent, use the online form for the Authorization to Sell Hametz or download a print version and return it to PAS no later than 7:00 am on Friday April 19, or stop by the reception desk at the Eli M. Black Lifelong Learning Center at 11 E. 89th Street, or at the reception desk at 4 E. 90th Street, and sign the form there.

Searching for Hametz & Destroying It
B’dikat hametz and Bi’ur hametz

The tradition ensures that even if we’ve overlooked a corner, the house will be ready. The night before Pesach, even though the house has been cleaned from top to bottom, we make a formal, ritual search for hametz. The next morning we burn any remnants we’ve found. Both at the search and at the disposal, we declare any hametz we’ve missed to be ownerless; that is, it’s as if it isn’t there.

The procedure for the search, including the declaration that nullifies the hametz, is printed in many haggadot. Before doing the search, set aside the hametz you plan to eat the next morning. Then, to make certain the search is successful, place a few pieces of bread or crackers where they are sure to be seen.

Before searching, recite:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ
אֱלֹהֵֽינו מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו
וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל בִּעוּר חָמֵץ

Barukh atah Adonai
eloheinu melekh ha-olam
asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav
v’tzivanu al bi’ur hametz.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has commanded us concerning the removal of hametz.

Re-enacting the search of Mishnaic times, search by the light of a candle (or small flashlight). It is traditional to use a feather to brush the hametz into a large wooden spoon, but you can use any brush and container. Some people save the lulav from Sukkot to use as a sweeper. Look everywhere that food may have been brought, including storage areas.

After the search say, “All leaven and all hametz that is in my possession that I did not see and did not destroy, let it be null and ownerless as the dust of the earth.”

The following morning, take the hametz from the search, plus whatever is left from breakfast, and burn it. Throw it into an incinerator, or burn it in a charcoal grill. After the hametz is in the fire, say: “All leaven and all hametz that is in my possession that I have seen or not seen, that I have destroyed or have not destroyed, let it be null and ownerless as the dust of the earth.”


Preparing the Kitchen

This section is based on material prepared by the Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Jewish Law & Standards (CJLS). The Rabbinical Assembly Guide has been revised for 2019 to reflect changes in food production, as well as decisions of the CJLS since last year. If you have saved a copy of the Guide with your Passover lists and recipes, be sure to replace it with the 2019 version. If you have questions regarding Pesach practice, contact the rabbis’ office at 212-369-2600, x120.


The Torah states that one may not eat any hametz during Pesach. Since many prepared foods may contain some admixture of hametz, special care is necessary when shopping and preparing for Pesach. All kosher for Pesach items must have a label indicating the name of a recognizable living supervising rabbi or kosher supervision agency.

Prohibited Foods

Foods except matzah made from the five grains which the Torah forbids on Pesach: wheat, oats, barley, rye, spelt. For example: bread, cakes, cookies, cereal. Paradoxically, matzah may only be made from the five grains. All foods containing derivatives of the five grains, such as coffees containing cereal derivatives, grain vinegar (used in pickles and mustard), foods containing ingredients or flavors made from grain alcohol (e.g., vanilla extract) are prohibited.

Permitted Foods

1. Foods that require Kosher lePesach certification
• All baked products (including matzah and all products containing matzah, such as farfel, matzah meal, matzah cake flour)
• Candy
• Canned or bottled fruit juice
• Canned tuna
• Dairy products, including butter, flavored milk, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, and ice cream
• Decaf coffee and tea
• Dried fruits
• Frozen uncooked vegetables
• Ground spices
• Herbal tea
• Jam
• Pickled herring
• Soda drinks
• Oils (other than olive oil)
• Vinegar
• Wine and other alcoholic beverages
• Any processed foods bought during Pesah

2. Foods that require no Kosher lePesach label if bought before Pesach, but do require a Kosher lePesach label if bought during Pesach
• White milk
• Frozen uncooked fruit with no additives
• Honey
• Quinoa (with nothing mixed in)
• Salt (non-iodized)
• White sugar (except confectioner’s sugar, which contains cornstarch; see Kitniyot)
• Equal Exchange fairly traded organic chocolate

3. Foods that require no Kosher lePesach label whether purchased before or during Pesach
• Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
• Coffee – regular, not decaf, without flavoring and without additives
• Eggs
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Fresh fish
• Fresh fruits and vegetables that have not been coated (The supermarket is required by the FDA to have a list of such products.)
• Fresh or frozen, raw hekhshered meat except ground products (Ground products could be prepared on the same equipment as meat with prohibited materials.)
• Pure black, green or white tea (incl. tea bags)
• Whole (unground) spices and tree nuts (including halves, but not pieces)

Note About Permitted Foods: During the eight days of Pesach, hametz does not lose its identity in a mixture. On these eight days, even the minutest amount of hametz in a food makes the entire food hametz. During the rest of the year, however, hametz follows the normal rabbinic rule of admixture (batel ba-shishim); that is, it loses its identity in a mixture of one part hametz and 59 parts non-hametz. It is this distinction that allows us to differentiate between foods purchased before Pesach and foods purchased during the holiday.

Suppose that a 5-lb. bag of sugar contains an infinitesimal amount of hametz. Before Pesach, the hametz is nullified according to the rule of batel ba-shishim, and all the sugar is considered non-hametz. One can buy it before Pesah and use it during the holiday. During Pesach, however, the tiny quantity of hametz makes all the sugar in the bag hametz; one can’t acquire it and use it during the holiday. If one buys a package of sugar during the week of Pesach, it must have Kosher lePesach certification.

Non Foods
Medicine: Prescription medicines are permitted. Non-prescription pills and capsules are permitted; for liquids, check with our rabbis.
Toiletries & Cosmetics: It is not necessary to dispose of or sell non-food items such as shampoo or cologne, and they may be used on Pesach. One should use a new toothbrush and tube of toothpaste.
Detergents & Cleansers: Detergent and soap do not need a Kosher lePesach label.
Pet Food: The issue of feeding pets on Pesach is complicated. To read about the options, see the Rabbinical Assembly Pesach Guide.


Kitniyot, literally "little things," are beans and seeds that look like the five prohibited grains or that may be ground into flour that resembles grain flour, including lentils, chickpeas, rice, corn, buckwheat, millet, soybeans, and sesame seeds. Until recently, Ashkenazic authorities did not allow these foods on Pesach. In the fall of 2015, the CJLS passed two responsa which permit consumption of kitniyot by Ashkenazim. This permission is not a directive to eat kitniyot during Pesach, rather a halakhic basis and guidelines for those who choose to do so. The responsa include instructions as to which kitniyot products require Kosher lePesach certification and which may be bought before the holiday without KLP certification. To read the responsa, see the Rabbinical Assembly Guide.

The PAS clergy have ruled that on our campus, Park Avenue Synagogue will keep the tradition of not eating kitniyot on Pesach. The clergy encourages individuals to make their own decisions on whether or not to eat kitniyot and whether or not to serve them in their homes; as an institution, PAS does not serve kitniyot. Note that those who maintain the custom of not eating kitniyot may eat from Pesach dishes, utensils, and cooking vessels that have come into contact with kitniyot.

Baby Food

Baby food with Kosher lePesach certification may be available, but it is not necessary. Pure vegetable prepared baby food that is kosher year-round may be used on Pesach. You can also make your own baby food using Passover ingredients and utensils. You may use kitniyot for babies, even if you do not use kitniyot products for the rest of the family, if you take care not to mix the baby's food with food for everyone else. This also applies to infant formula, which is most often made with soy. Infant formula products that are kosher year round may be used on Pesach. Keep the formula, as well as bottles and nipples, away from the general food prep area; if possible, wash equipment outside of the kitchen (e.g., in a special dishpan in the bathroom).


It is customary (and if one has the space, easiest) to remove the utensils and dishes that are used during the year, and to replace them with utensils used only for Pesach. For most people, this is not possible for major appliances and may not be possible for dishes and utensils. There are therefore ways to kasher many, but not all, kitchen items to make them usable on Pesach.

Decide in advance which year-round equipment you want to use on Pesach. The process of switching an item over to Pesach use requires a 24-hour period between using it for hametz and making it ready for Pesach. It may not be possible to change something over at the last moment (unless it happens not to have been used for the past 24 hours).

Storing Hametz Which Has Been Sold
Separate hametz food and non-Pesach dishes and utensils from Pesach food and utensils and put them away in a box or a closed cabinet. A dishwasher that is not kashered for Pesach makes a good storage place! Tape hametz drawers and cabinets closed to prevent opening them out of habit.

Pots, Pans, Dishes & Utensils
The method for kashering kitchen utensils depends on how they are used. For an explanation, see Kashering 101.”

The following procedures apply only to cutlery and utensils made entirely of uncoated metal. Baking utensils cannot be kashered.

Thoroughly clean the items, then leave them unused for a full 24 hours. Pay extra attention to pot handles. If a handle can be removed, do so for a more thorough cleaning.

After the 24-hour waiting period, immerse the items in water at a rolling boil in a Passover pot. Each item must be completely exposed to the boiling water. Immerse pots and pans in a larger pot (may be done one section at a time) or boil water in them and then drop something in to make the boiling water overflow and cover the rim and sides of the pot. In former times, one used a heated stone; the lid to a smaller pot also works. Immerse cutlery, kiddush cups, and other small items individually, so that every part of each piece is exposed to the boiling water. Finally, rinse each item in cold water.

Drinking glasses and glass dishes used only for cold foods may be kashered by a simple rinsing. Some people follow the custom of soaking them in water for three days, changing the water every day.

Glass cookware and dishes used for preparing and eating hot food are treated like metal utensils. Clean them, leave them unused for 24 hours, then immerse them in boiling water.

If it has not been used in the oven, treat it like glassware. If it has been used in the oven, then (like a metal baking pan) it cannot be kashered.

China and pottery cannot be kashered, except fine china that has not been used for a full year may be made kosher lePesach by cleaning it thoroughly in hot water. The dishes then become like new, and may be designated for either meat or dairy.

Most plastic items may not be kashered; however, heavy-duty items that do not stain permanently may be kashered by boiling water, provided they can withstand the heat.

Put self-cleaning ovens through the self-cleaning cycle. Wipe out ash residue with a Passover sponge. In other ovens, scrub the walls, top, and bottom, and scour the racks. Then heat the oven at maximum heat for an hour. Kasher a convection oven the same way; make sure to clean thoroughly around the fan.

If the stove top lifts, open it and clean underneath.

Clean the grates and drip pans. If the drip pans do not come clean, cover them with foil or buy a separate set for Pesach. Turn the burners to full heat (only two at a time, to avoid overheating the area). Electric elements should be heated until they turn red and glow; gas burners, for long enough to burn away any residue on the grates.

Smooth top electric ranges present a challenge. Clean the top thoroughly; turn the burners to maximum so that the stovetop becomes as hot as possible; then carefully pour boiling water on the surface area around the burners.

Microwave Ovens
A microwave oven that has a browning element cannot be kashered. Other microwave ovens should be thoroughly cleaned. Then put two cups of water in a kosher lePesach container and microwave on high until half the water has boiled away. Move the container of boiling water midway through the process, so that the area under it is also exposed to the steam. Caution: boiling away all the water and running the microwave empty will damage the oven.

Enamel-coated dishwashers cannot be kashered. If the dishwasher is stainless-steel-lined, clean it thoroughly, including the drain and the filters. Leave the dishwasher unused for 24 hours. Then, to kasher it, run it at its highest heat setting, empty, with detergent in the dispenser and in the main compartment.

Electrical Appliances
If parts that come into contact with food are not removable, the appliance cannot be kashered. Kasher removable parts in the same way as non-electric utensils. Thoroughly clean all exposed parts.

Refrigerator and Freezer
Clean the refrigerator according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Defrost (if necessary) and clean the freezer. Racks should not be covered.

Kitchen Sink
Thoroughly clean the sink with special attention to the drain. Put a new rack or liner in the bottom and use a Passover dishpan. To kasher a metal sink so that you do not need a dishpan, clean it, and let 24 hours pass during which only cold water is used. Then pour boiling water over all surfaces of the sink, starting with the bottom first and working up towards the top including the lip.

The general rule is to clean them thoroughly, and then cover them with Con-Tact paper, foil, or plastic sheets (which can be saved year-to-year). Some types of counter may be kashered without covering them as long as they are not stained, scratched, cracked, or chipped; however, the process requires leaving them unused for 24 hours. For instructions and to see whether or not your counter is eligible, see the Rabbinical Assembly Guide.

Follow the same procedure as for counters. If the surface is not used for food prep, paper or cloth may be used for covers. The cloth must not have been exposed to hametz, e.g., starch.

Shelves and Cabinets
Wipe them well. If you use shelf paper, replace it. If not, wiped shelves do not have to be covered.

Fast of the Firstborn
Ta’anit bekhorot

Firstborns (whether of their father or their mother) are obligated to fast on erev Pesach to commemorate the redemption of Israel’s firstborn while Egypt’s firstborn perished; however, the commandment to celebrate the completion of a unit of Talmud study (siyyum) outweighs the commandment to fast. In order not to have to fast on the day before the seder, firstborn sons (and increasingly, daughters) attend morning minyan and a culminating study session and then join in the celebratory meal afterwards.

Friday, April 19 | 7:00 AM
Morning Minyan followed by a Siyyum and breakfast