Latest update: January 15th, 2015
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.
My uncle, HaRav Sholom Klass zt”l, discussed this matter in his Responsa of Modern Judaism, Vol. 1, much of which is based on the Mechaber, Orach Chayim 451-452, the Rema (ad loc.), and the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 116. HaRav Klass writes:
“[H]ere is a brief summary of what may and may not be used and or purged:
“(1) You can purchase disposable [or inexpensive plastic] dishes and paper plates, which can solve many of your problems. The cost is nominal.
“(2) You can purge your utensils, which basically means, as we will explain further on, to cleanse them for Passover use by means of hagala – scalding hot water. As we state further on, there are numerous means of cleansing or purging.
“Earthen vessels and chinaware [which are chametzdik] cannot be purged and may not be used [because they are too absorbent, making it impossible to remove all the chametz].
“Wooden [implements, for cold usage only], metal and stone utensils may be used after having been purged by means of hagala, but if it is an article that will be damaged by hot water, such as a vessel [with parts that are] glued together, even if only the handle is glued on, purging is of no avail.
“Before the vessel is purged, it should be thoroughly cleansed of rust and the like, and made perfectly clean, but stains do not matter. If the vessel is dented, it should be carefully scraped. If it is made of metal, hot coals should be placed upon the dents until they glow, and the vessel should be purged thereafter. If, however, it is impossible to thoroughly cleanse the dents and cracks, or to ‘glow’ them [i.e., libun, making them turn white from the heat], it cannot be made valid for use. Hence it is necessary to carefully observe whether purging will avail for knives with handles. It is best, if one can afford it, to buy new knives for Passover.
“Utensils into which water is not generally placed when used over the fire (such as frying pans and the like) require libun gamur – heavier [higher temperature] glowing. One should glow them to the extent of making them emit sparks. A wooden spoon cannot be made valid for use.
“Any article that requires purging by means of hagala cannot be made valid by [merely] scraping, but must be purged. A vessel that cannot be thoroughly cleansed, such as a sieve, the receptacle of a mill, a basket used for leaven, and a grater, as well as any vessel that has a narrow neck which makes it impossible to cleanse it from within, e.g., tubes, cannot be made valid by purging.
“Purging is done only in boiling water and nothing should be mixed therewith, not even ashes and the like. If one has purged many vessels in one boiler, so that the water becomes turbid, no more purging should be done therein.
“One should not purge a vessel unless 24 hours have passed since leaven was cooked therein. Likewise, the boiler in which the purging is done should not have been used for leaven that same day [a 24-hour period must have elapsed for the boiler too]. Also, carefully observe, each time you put a vessel in the boiler, that the water comes up boiling hot. If it is necessary to purge the boiler, then it must be full when the water is boiling therein and hot stones should be thrown therein in order that the boiling water should overflow its edge. Purging should only be done until noon on Passover eve.
“After the purging it is customary to wash the vessels with cold water.”
We must make note of the fact that drinking or measuring vessels also need to be purged. As far as glass vessels are concerned, the Mechaber writes that mere rinsing (after they have been cleaned of any chametz residue) suffices even if they are mainly used for hot liquids (Orach Chayim 451:26). They don’t need purging because according to the Mechaber glass does not absorb. The Rema notes, however, that some authorities rule stringently and maintain that even purging through hagala does not suffice. He notes that the custom in Ashkenazic lands is in accordance with these stricter authorities.
Vessels that are used for cold liquid or non-heated storage may be purged via iruy – soaking for three days – i.e., pouring in water and letting the vessels stand for 24 hours, then pouring the water out, refilling the vessels and letting them stand again for 24 hours, and then repeating the same procedure a third time. This method of purging can also be used for glassware (e.g. drinking glasses) that isn’t used for hot liquids. Glass cooking utensils, however, or those used to serve hot foods, may not be purged.
In many communities, the rabbi or another synagogue functionary will perform purging for people who find it too difficult to do on their own.
Rabbi Sholom Klass continues: “(3) No Israelite is permitted to have leaven in his home on Passover, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Every moment he possesses the leaven he is transgressing the law of ‘[chametz] shall not be seen and shall not be found.’
“Thus, to avoid this prohibition, he must sell his leaven to a non-Jew. To avoid any mistakes we sell the leaven to a rabbi who becomes our agent in disposing of the leaven to a non-Jew. The rabbi is experienced in drawing the proper bill of sale and is well versed in all the necessary requirements of the sale.”
May I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a joyous and kosher Pesach, and may this Pesach bring with it the ultimate redemption.
About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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