Beth Jacob Guide to Pesach

This section is meant to be a general guideline for following the laws of Pesach.  Rabbi Ezray should be consulted when any doubts arise.















We “make Pesach” by cleaning our homes of all traces of chametz or leaven. We observe this holiday by carefully avoiding the use of chametz both at home and away. The Torah tells us, “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the very first day you shall remove chametz (leaven) from your houses.”(Exodus 12:15). This is the basis of the laws of Pesach.

The Rabbis specified five grains that can become chametz: wheat, oats, barley, spelt, and rye. Later Ashkenazic authorities added other foods to the Pesach prohibitions. The term “chametz” is applied not only to foods, but also to dishes and utensils in which foods are prepared or served during the year.

The term “kashering” refers to the process by which certain utensils are made fit for Pesach use. New dishes and utensils need not be kashered before Pesach.


One of the important pre-Pesach rituals is the selling of chametz. According to halachah (Jewish law), no Jew is allowed to own chametz on Pesach. At the same time we are not allowed simply to throw away perfectly good food—for not only would this be wasteful, but it would also involve a considerable hardship for many. 

Because of this, the Rabbis devised a process whereby a Jew could sell his or her chametz to a non-Jew before Pesach and repurchase it after the conclusion of the holiday.  This sale has been structured so that the non-Jew will find it in his or her best interest to resell the chametz after Pesach. Because this sale involves many technicalities, it has been traditional for the Rabbi of the congregation to act as the agent for those who sell their chametz.

Everyone who prepares his or her home for Pesach should arrange with Rabbi Ezray to sell his or her chametz.

This is done by signing a Statement of Authorization (Shtar Harshaah) prior to Sunday, April 17. 

The authorization form meets the Halachhic requirements and should be delivered to the congregation office in order for Rabbi Ezray to receive it prior to Sunday, April 17. If you own chametz in several places, such as your home and a vacation home, complete all of the addresses.

It is customary to make a contribution in connection with the selling of chametz. Beth Jacob thrives as a Kehillah Kedoshah (Sacred Community) through the participation and generosity of its 450+ member households.  Please participate in the Sale of Chametz and donate generously to CBJ to support the needy in our community.  Click here to make a secure online donation.

We will also use these funds to invite guests for our Second Night Community Seder who otherwise might not have been able to observe the holiday. Your generosity is most appreciated.

BEDIKAT CHAMETZ (Search for Chametz)

On the night of Sunday, April 17, we give our homes a final check for chametz with a ceremonial bedikat chametz (search for chametz). Since the house has already been thoroughly cleaned of chametz, it is customary to “hide” a few pieces of chametz that can easily be found. Before looking for the chametz pieces, the searchers say:

Ba-ruch a-ta A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam, a-sher ki-de-sha-nu be-mitz-vo-tav ve-tzi-va-nu al bi-ur cha-metz. 

You are praised, Adonai our God, Monarch of time and space, who shares Your holiness with us through Your mitzvoth, and now bestows on us the mitzvah of destroying our chametz.

Then the search begins. Armed with candle (or other light source), feather (or the arava from the Sukkot lulav), and spoon, we use the candle to probe the corners of our inner-lives as deeply as we probe the corners of our homes. After the search, when all chametz not to be used for breakfast the next day has been gathered in a safe place, the searchers say:

Kol chamira va-chami’a d’ika vir’shuti, d’la-chamitei u-d’la va-aritei, u-dla yadana lei, livtil v’lehevei hefker k’afra d’ara.

Every sort of chametz in my possession which has not met my gaze and which I have not destroyed, let it be null and void, ownerless, like the dust of the earth.

BI'UR CHAMTEZ (Burning of the Chametz)

On Monday morning, April 18. we conduct the bi’ur chametz (burning of the chametz), with the traditional blessing. This should take place before noon along with the kol chamira (a formula for nullifying unseen chametz).

Kol chamira va-chami’a d’ika vir’shuti, da-chamitei u-d’la chamitei d’va-aritei u-dla va-arieti, livtil v’lehevei hefker k’afra d’ara.

Every sort of chametz in my possession whether I have seen it or not, whether I have removed it or not, let it be null and void, ownerless, like the dust of the earth.


Prohibited foods include:

  • Bread
  • Cakes
  • Biscuits
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Pasta
  • Alcohol
  • Vinegar made from these five grains: wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye.

Some Ashkenazic authorities also prohibit the following foods, known as kitniyot:

  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Millet
  • Many legumes
  • Beans, peas, and string beans are permitted


What exactly is the law about eating legumes and other products like rice, peas and lentils?  Is it possible to eliminate the Ashkenazic custom of not eating legumes on Pesach? 

Rabbi David Golinkin, the Head of the Law Committee of the Israeli Masorti movement (the equivalent of the Conservative movement in Israel) and a leading authority on Jewish law answers with a resounding, “YES!”

He cites cases in the Talmud (Pesachim 114b), as well as subsequent Rabbis [the Amoraim both in Babylonia and in Israel (Pesahim 114b and other sources), the Geonim (Sheiltot, Halachot Pesukot, Halachot Gedolot, etc.), and of most of the early medieval authorities in all countries.

He explains that the custom of not eating legumes is a very late custom, beginning in the 13th century in France and Provence and then spreading to various countries (with the list of prohibited foods expanding). The reason for the custom was unknown and as a result many sages invented at least eleven different explanations for the custom. As a result, R. Samuel of Falaise, one of the first to mention it, referred to it as a "mistaken custom" and R. Yerucham called it a "foolish custom."

Based upon this history, Rabbi Golinkin reasons that we should do away with the custom because:

  • It detracts from the joy of the holiday by limiting the number of permitted foods

  • It emphasizes the insignificant (legumes) and ignores the significant (hametz, which is forbidden from the five kinds of grains)

  • It causes unnecessary divisions between different ethnic groups.

He concludes that we are permitted to eat legumes and rice on Pesach without fear of transgressing any prohibition.


The following fresh and unprocessed foods require no “Kosher le-Pesach” labels:

  • Fruits, vegetables, eggs, kosher fish, and meat.

The following foods require no “Kosher le-Pesach” label if purchased before Pesach and if they remain in an unopened package, but do require a label if purchased during Pesach:

  • Milk, butter, cottage cheese, cream cheese
  • Frozen uncooked vegetables with no additives (for legumes see above)
  • Frozen uncooked fruit with no additives
  • Fruit juices with no additives
  • Sugar, uniodized salt, pepper, and other natural spices
  • Baking soda
  • Tea: unflavored, non-herbal, and non-decaffeinated
  • Cocoa: 100% pure, no additives
  • Coffee: without cereal additives, non-decaffeinated

The following foods always require a “Kosher le-Pesach” label:

  • Baked products including matzoh, cakes, matzoh flour, farfel, matzoh meal, and any products containing matzoh
  • Fruit juices: canned or bottled
  • Fish: canned or breaded
  • Wine, liquor, vinegar, ketchup, oils, margarine, dried fruits, candy, chocolate milk, soda
  • Ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, and other dairy products
  • Decaffeinated or flavored coffees and teas, herbal teas

Please consult with Rabbi Ezray if you have questions about Pesach foods.


It is best to use dishes and utensils reserved for Pesach. However, since this is not always possible, certain utensils may be kashered (specifically prepared for Pesach). If you wish to kasher certain utensils or dishes, the first step is always cleaning.

  • Pots made entirely of metal, including Teflon coatings, can be kashered by filling them to the rim with water, bringing the water to boil, and causing the water to flow over the sides of the pot. Immerse handles and lids in boiling water also.
  • Silverware, knives, forks, spoons, and small pots made entirely of metal can be kashered by immersion in boiling water. The kashering pot should be kashered before and after it is used.
  • Hard plastic utensils, including cutting boards, that are not scratched and can withstand boiling water can be kashered in the same way as silverware.
  • Table glassware and Pyrex can be kashered by running through the dishwasher.
  • Chinaware, enamelware, earthenware, wood, and porcelain cannot be kashered. Fine translucent china can sometimes be kashered. Consult Rabbi Ezray for details.
  • Dishtowels and tablecloths can be kashered by washing with soap.


  • Refrigerators and freezers: Defrost, clean, and scour. Include all walls, shelves and baskets.
  • Ovens and ranges: Every part that comes in contact with food must be thoroughly cleaned. Then, oven and range should be heated as hot as possible for one hour. Self-cleaning ovens should be scrubbed and cleaned and then put through the self-cleaning cycle. Continuous-cleaning ovens must be kashered in the same manner as regular ovens.
  • Dishwasher: After not using the machine for a period of 24 hours, the empty dishwasher should be run through a full cycle with detergent.
  • Electrical appliances: if the parts are removable, then kasher them in the appropriate way. If the parts are not removable, the appliance cannot be kashered.
  • Kitchen sink: thoroughly clean with boiling water. If the sink is porcelain, a dish basin should be used.
  • Clean insides of cabinets of all crumbs. Reline cabinets, especially those cleared of chametz, where kosher-for-Passover food, dishes, or utensils will go.
  • Place chametz items in boxes to be stored away, and use up partially eaten boxes of chametz in the month before Passover.
  • Scrub down and cover all countertops. A good covering is lightly adhesive shelf paper that sticks and is washable but comes off easily without leaving a residue. Vinyl or plastic coverings or aluminum foil can be used.
  • Tape shut or tie any cabinets that are not for Pesach use with a cord or rubber band.
  • A microwave oven can be koshered by cleaning thoroughly and bringing a cup of water to a boil for several minutes. A microwave oven that has a browning element cannot be kashered for Passover.



Seder 5771 - Planning Your Seder

Planning the Seder should be a joy – take the time to prepare so that the evening can be meaningful and memorable.  Here are some thoughts for planning a great Seder:

  • Plan to discuss several topics. Encourage questions and discussion. Bring interesting interpretations. 

  • Remember that the object is not to "get through" the Hagaddah text, but to share the sacred story. 

  • Expand upon the themes of the Seder – bringing in modern examples of enslavement, liberation, and the struggle for freedom.

  • Tell your stories. Encourage people at the table to tell theirs.

  • Encourage participation. Sing joyfully.

  • Involve the children at the table. Ask them questions. Play games. Make them part of the Seder.



Explaining the Miracles of Passover to My Grandchildren – Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis

A passage in the Mechilta (on Exodus 17:5) reports that the Israelites complained about three things: the incense, the ark, and the rod. When the people said that the incense was a means of punishment, for it had killed Nadab and Abihu, the Bible showed it to be an atonement for the people. When they complained that the ark was but a means of punishment, for it smote Uzzah (11 Samuel 6:7), the Bible showed how it was a blessing for David and the people (II Samuel 6:11-12). When they complained that the rod was only a punishment, for it brought ruin upon Egypt, the Bible showed how it had saved the children of Israel. It is not to the rod of Moses that the rabbis call our attention. The rod has no intrinsic supernatural powers. The rod is an instrument that can save or destroy, relative to the moral intention of its use. For when the same rod that was used to split the sea was used by Moses to strike three times against the rock, forcing it, against God's will, to yield water, it led to the punishment of Moses.

The same pans of incense that killed Nadab and Abihu and the 250 rebels against Moses and Aaron restrained the plague against the people and saved them(Numbers 17:13). There is no magic in genuine miracles, only moral meaning.  The "signs" of God are found not in the reports of the changes in the natural order of things, but in nature's orderliness.

God is discovered in the intelligibility of the universe rather than in its capriciousness. For its intelligibility enables human beings to exercise their intelligence and will to hallow creation. The evening service (Ma'ariv) begins with the praise of God who with wisdom orders the cycles of time and varies the seasons. Significantly it is followed with a prayer that emphasizes the wisdom that the House of Israel shares through God's teachings. The miracles that are daily with us are in us and are revealed through us when we use our God-given moral wisdom to protect and enhance His creation.



If you would like to be a guest at someone’s first-night seder (April 18) or would like to host others in your home, please contact Eric Stone by email or at 650-366-8481, ext. 333.  He will serve as shadchan (matchmaker).

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