Question: We are ba’alei teshuvah in the process of becoming more observant. We wish to kasher our home and utensils for Passover with minimal expense. Do you have any suggestions?
Names withheld by request
Answer: (We were asked this question a number of years ago. Since it is a timely topic, we are reprinting, and expanding upon, our previous discussion of it. We will continue with our series on “A Sabbath Desecrator Leading Services” next week.)
One does not need to fall into a never-ending spring-cleaning quicksand to properly prepare for Pesach.
The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 433:11) states that a person must search for chametz by candlelight on the eve of the 14th of Nissan even if he has already cleaned his residence on the eve of the 13th (with the intent of searching and destroying his chametz) and was careful not to bring in any more chametz.
Regarding the requirement to search by candlelight, some authorities state that an electric lamp (with a long extension cord) or a flashlight (there are many now that provide a strong focused light) suffices.
The Rema (O.C. ad loc.) adds that before searching, a person is required to clean his residence thoroughly and check the pockets and sleeves of garments in which he occasionally places chametz. (Likewise, one is required to check trouser cuffs where chametz might also be found.)
Usually the cleaning is performed so thoroughly that there is no chametz left to search for on the eve of the 14th of Nissan. Jews, therefore, have an age-old custom – cited by the Rema (O.C. 432:2) – of placing pieces of chametz in various places throughout their residence so that the blessing we utter before searching for chametz on the night before Pesach not be in vain.
The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc.) cites opinions that are critical of this practice, as some might substitute it for an actual, comprehensive cleaning and thorough search. However, he notes that the Havvot Ya’ir (in Sha’ar Hatziyyun this is credited to the Emek Hamelech) states that we should not void a minhag yisrael.
The Mishnah Berurah agrees that if one cleans everything thoroughly before Pesach, conducting a search on the eve of the 14th with a blessing is problematic. He therefore cites the Arizal, who maintains that a person should place 10 pieces of chametz around his house and search for those pieces. (He should also make sure to note where they are placed so that he doesn’t forget and accidentally be in possession of chametz on Pesach.)
These 10 pieces should then be destroyed through burning the following day before the designated time at which a person may no longer have chametz in his possession.
Preparing a kitchen properly for Pesach is most crucial if one is to have a truly kosher for Passover home. Cabinets that contained chametz must be thoroughly cleaned and lined with shelving material – paper or plastic. Countertops (formica) and sinks (porcelain) must be washed down thoroughly and covered. Exceptions to the above are granite countertops and stainless steel sinks, which can be cleansed via purging, as we will explain below.
Refrigerators must be cleaned and lined in much the same manner. Many gas or electric ranges and ovens are quite easy to kasher. One does this by turning on the self-clean cycle; however, the oven must be cleaned first and visually inspected for any chametz that might be present. Ovens and ranges without this feature should be thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned and then heated at the highest temperature for an hour. The use of blow torches present many serious problems and only one properly trained in their use should consider this option. Specific details about your appliances should be discussed with your rabbi.
Chametz that is sold to a gentile – traditionally done through a rabbi – must be removed from cabinets that will be used on Pesach and stored in other sealed cabinets. Only chametz is sold to gentiles – not actual utensils, dishes, pots, or pans. Thus, it is best that all utensils be thoroughly cleaned prior to their storage.
Regarding the kashering of utensils that one wishes to use on Pesach, there are numerous English publications available at most Hebrew bookstores that are quite helpful with the numerous details. The Orthodox Union in New York publishes the very helpful OU Guide to Passover every year. The fine work of Rabbi Avrohom Blumenkrantz, zt”l, Kovetz Hilchot Pesach – The Laws of Pesach (now edited by his children), is also popular. These are updated yearly and list all the Passover preparation procedures in great detail. Of course, your greatest resource is your rabbi, who I am sure will be ready and willing to help you.