Parshas Bo.


The laws of prohibition of chametz throughout Pesach.


1. The Torah prohibits us not only from eating chametz on Pesach, but also from keeping it in our houses and from deriving any enjoyment from it. Thus, chametz on Pesach has a unique status similar only to the objects of the idol worship. All other foods prohibited by Torah can be kept in oneís domain. The majority of forbidden foods can be used to feed animals or for another purpose. The commentators explain that the severity of prohibition of chametz has to do with the importance of this commandment. Our whole faith depends on the exodus from Egypt. The Creator will not make open miracles in every generation to prove His control to a disbeliever. It is thus so crucial to be able to transfer the traditions about the miracles that happened 3,300 years ago. If not for the commandments that make us remember the exodus, it would have been forgotten long time ago. Look at how quickly the Holocaust is being denied. Even though there are still plenty of eye witnesses of the atrocities of World War II, these events are denied by various lecturers from the podiums of colleges and universities. Certainly the exodus from Egypt would be refuted a generation or two after the evens happened. This is one of the reasons why the Torah stresses the importance of practical commandments that remind us of these events. These traditions could not be invented in any generation. No group of people could persuade the Jewish people that all their ancestors came out of Egypt if it had not been in the nationís memory all the time. The Torah makes sure that through millions of Jews keeping the Pesach holiday, the exodus will be remembered. The events that once and for all demonstrated the Creatorís full control over nature will not be forgotten.


2. According to Torah law, there are two ways to get rid of chametz. One can search the house and destroy or sell all the chametz found. Alternatively, one can declare all the chametz in his possession Ė ownerless. According to rabbinical law, we need to do both Ė search for chametz and declare it ownerless, like the dust of the earth. On the night of 14th of Nisan, we search all our possessions for chametz. After we finished we declare that any chametz we did not notice will be ownerless. In the morning we are allowed to eat the chametz till 1/3 of the day passes. This means that during most years we can at least eat chametz till 9 AM. We are allowed to derive enjoyment from chametz for another hour. We burn any remaining chametz and make another declaration that any chametz we might still have, whether we are aware of it or not, is now ownerless.


3. If Pesach falls on Sunday, we search for chametz on the night after Thursday and burn it Friday morning. We leave sufficient amount to be eaten throughout Friday night and Shabbos morning. On the Sabbath, we have to make sure to finish the morning meal early, while eating chametz is still permissible. Afterwards, all remaining chametz is flushed down the toilet and we declare all chametz that is possibly still in our possession Ė ownerless. During the third meal we can eat neither chametz nor matzo, for it is prohibited to eat matzo the last day before Pesach. Therefore, we eat meat or fish during this meal and also learn Torah to compensate the impossibility of eating bread.


4. The prevailing custom in our day is to sell chametz to a non-Jew. In order for this to be permitted, it has to be done without any deceit. One has to realize that he is in fact selling all his chametz, the non-Jew can come at any time and pick it up and he does not have to sell it back after Pesach. Since the technicalities of the sale are quite complicated, it should be conducted only with the help of a competent Rabbi. The chametz that was sold should be kept in a closed closet, marked clearly so that one will not accidentally start using it during Pesach. Many people donít rely on the sale due to the fact that it is difficult to do it completely honestly. They rather destroy all the chametz before Pesach.


5. Every year, special catalogues with lists of medicines and products are published in the U.S. These catalogues help a person know what can be kept at home throughout Pesach and what can be eaten or used. If you donít have such a catalogue, please call a Rabbi who can help check you medicines for you.


6. During the Pesach we have to use special Passover dishes. Even though it is possible to kasher the dishes one used throughout the year, it is rarely done, since buying Pesach dishes is cheaper and simpler. All of the counters are washed and covered with contact paper. The sink is washed and covered with heavy duty aluminum foil. Some also use special inserts inside the sinks. Special Pesach stove tops are usually used. If one canít buy them, the ones used throughout the year can be kashered. Those who want to use the ovens or microwaves throughout Pesach should discuss with a Rabbi the methods of kashering them.


7. The Torah forbids chametz made from five species Ė wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt. However, Ashkenazi Jews donít eat a number of similar grain foods like rice, corn, buckwheat etc. However, one is allowed to keep these products in the house. If any food that is not kosher for Passover got mixed with kosher for Pesach food, one should consult a Rabbi. In general, when chametz gets mixed with other foods, everything including the pot becomes forbidden, but if rice falls into other foods, they remain permitted.