Monday, March 21, 2011

Purim Is Over, Now Pesach Is Coming: Start Your Cleaning!

Now that Purim is over, you can begin really thinking about your Pesach preparations! I know, right? We all love Pesach (Passover) preparations! ...Not.

If you haven't prepared for Pesach before, I suggest taking it slow. Last year, I didn't kasher my kitchen because I had just decided to be orthodox and didn't know what I was doing. However, I did all the cleaning, including the kitchen. Pesach is possibly the original spring cleaning. Unfortunately for you, Pesach cleaning isn't optional or on your own schedule.

(Side note: I did help kasher the synagogue kitchen for Pesach, and if you're given this opportunity, I highly suggest taking it. I learned a great deal about kashering from it!)

So let's talk about cleaning.

The GOAL: Rid the house of all edible chametz (foods made of leavened grain flour). Remember that edible is defined as anything a dog would eat. If you have questions whether something is either chametz or edible, ask your rav.

The process: Clean your house one step at a time, and once a place has been cleaned, don't bring any chametz in there anymore. To be safe, don't take any food in there afterwards. Of course, this is more difficult in some areas than others.

Begin with the least-likely offenders: the bathrooms, the closets, the garage.

Move to the places where you sometimes have chametz: bedrooms and the car. Remember that you can't bring chametz in there after that!

Delay as long as you can on the living room and kitchen. Yes, you need to move the couch and vacuum under it. You even need to remove the couch cushions and clean there! Shampooing would be ideal.

And don't forget the halls, entryways, windowsills, light switches, door knobs, porches, dresser drawers, shelves, bookcases, and your nightstand.

While you're in the bathroom, throw out your expired toiletries, medicines, and make-up. Set aside any that are kosher for Pesach. Separately set aside toiletries that will need to be sold for Pesach. Talk to your rabbi about his rulings on this issue because there are significant differences of opinion. It's even possible that you may not have to separate anything.

What's more complicated? You need to clean your workspace. Any place that you own, rent, or lease needs to be free of chametz. You have a cubicle at school? Locker? You probably need to clean that too. And yes, your co-workers will think you're insane if you explain this to them. My advice? Pretend you're stressed and/or bored and on a cleaning streak. If you have only shared workspace and you're able to take off all of Pesach, I suggest speaking to your rabbi. You should probably speak to your rabbi about your workspace anyway.

And the most practical note of all: Start eating all that chametz in your pantry, fridge, and freezer! Sure, you can sell it to a non-Jew for Pesach, but it's better if it doesn't exist.

Happy chametz hunting! At least this gets me one step closer to moving, right? Right. And as annoying as Pesach cleaning is, you feel amazing afterwards when you sit back and admire your handiwork.

More Pesach steps will be discussed soon. If you want a more advanced discussion, google it or check out this Aish article: Passover Cleaning Made Easy. Note that it goes into kashering issues.


  1. I also start cleaning right after Purim. I'll be starting slow with one small closet this afternoon. And I started shopping a while ago - there are a few essential groceries that always seem to run out around here, so I stocked up early.
    Remember, though, that Pesach cleaning needn't be spring cleaning unless you want it to be. My understanding (check with your rabbi, of course) is that chametz larger than a kezayis must be removed; anything smaller will be nullified after you do bedikas chametz and say kol chamira, etc. This means that the kitchen and dining room need to be cleaned thoroughly, as do other areas of the house where one eats, but cleaning things like light switches and door knobs, which are highly unlikely to be "contaminated" with chametz, is definitely not required. Of course, most people do more than the minimum, and it's certainly nice to have a spotless house for any yom tov, but don't let anyone tell you that proper Pesach cleaning requires scraping under the baseboards with a toothbrush or any such nonsense!

  2. The Curmudgeonly Israeli Giyoret says:

    "Begin with the least likely offenders: the bathrooms, the closets, the garage."

    Not necessarily. This depends on how much time you have to give the project, whether or not you'll be eating and/or cooking at home, and whether or not you have small children.

    Some people, evidently living the Lives of the Rich and Famous, advocate holding off "as long as possible" on the kitchen and dining area. In my opinion, this s like advising someone confronted with a snake to avoid cutting off its head. I start with one kitchen cabinet, so I have a place to start putting Pesach items as they come, and as quickly as I can, I do the freezer and whatever bits of the kitchen I can keep chametz-free.

    It is my experience that you can devote infinite amounts of time to areas that are not likely to have hametz at all besides dirt. Spray everything with Windex to render whatever there is inedible. The only really likely bathroom spot for chametz is the medicine cabinet; early on you can sort out chametz meds, put them separate in a shoebox, wipe down the shelves and put everything back.

    I alternate between whatever MUST be done, whatever comes into contact with food(the kitchen), and less critical spots, making sure the kitchen, do or die, will be ready. This has kept me sane through nursing school and full-time jobs with small children. Spring cleaning is a lovely idea, but I have never had time to do both that and Pesach.

    Also, especially if you have a family, make sure you have on hand at all times edible non-chametz food. Now is the time to give the kids all those delicious kitniot cookies they can't eat during Pesach. Women are not avadim (slaves), and children are not korbanot Pesach (the Passover ritual sacrifice.

    REad over Rav Aviner's article on how you should not spend more than "a few days" ksashering for Pesach; whatever else you get done, this will make you feel virtuous.

    Have lots of good shiurim on hand to alternate with energizing music.

    Kochavaleh, you're going to be a lawyer and you plan to have children one day, אי"ה. The stories they have told you are like the mythical "frictionless surface" you learned about in physics.

  3. Ach, I love the Pesach seder, its one of my favorite Jewish activities. But all the preparation for this chag make me want to go Sephardic. I wish as a ger you could pick and choose with that. I've seen a Sephardi guide to Pesach that was 10-20% the size of the Ashkenazi equivalent!

  4. cool...I just decided to skip it totally..will work anyway, and really hope that distracts me from being alone as usual on the holidays...