Kashering ovens for Pesach –
In a regular oven one must clean all surfaces (including thermostat, window, corners, door edges, etc.). One should use a caustic cleaner such as Easy-Off to remove spots that are difficult to remove. If one uses Easy-Off twice and the spot still does not come off one need not worry about it. After cleaning the oven and racks thoroughly one should set the oven to its highest setting for 40 minutes. The broiler pan cannot be kashered but should still be cleaned thoroughly or removed.
In a self clean oven one must remove all visible food and set oven for self-clean with racks inside.
As with all kashering the item may not be used for 24 hours prior.
Whether one can properly kasher microwaves and dishwashers for Pesach are a matter of much debate. I would therefore highly discourage doing so. There are those who rule leniently in this matter and therefore if someone feels like they need to have their microwave or dishwasher, please follow up with me via email/ call for the details as to how to do so.
Although there are those who are stringent not to, it is permitted to use shampoos and soaps that are made with chameitz materials. (Owning these items is not a problem because it is not fit for consumption).
Ideally, anything that will come into contact with one’s mouth should not have chameitz, even though it is not fit for consumption. Therefore, items like toothpaste, lipstick, chap-stick, and similar products, should bechameitz-free. Kashrut agencies such as OU and Star-K have comprehensive lists on their websites and in print.
One should clean the entire stove top area thoroughly. The way to kasher the burners is as follows:
Electric – The burners should be lit until they glow red.
Gas – Turn stove top on for five minutes. The grates should be placed inside the oven with the oven at a high heat for forty minutes. The burner pans should be kashered, either in the same fashion as the grates/ by covering them with foil/ or the same way you kasher the sink.
Corning – Put the stove on the maximum setting for ten minutes.
In the stove tops listed above, one should either lightly blow-torch the area between the burners or the area must be covered (foil is a safe cover to use).
Glass top – One should put the burners on high and pour hot water over the other areas. Even after kashering, if one has a glass top stove, one should not place any food or pots in between the burners over Pesach.
Refrigerator: All shelves and surfaces should be cleaned thoroughly. If it is difficult to clean shelve (due to ridges etc.) or it is an area which food touches directly (like a vegetable/fruit drawer) then one must line that area. Otherwise, no lining is necessary.
Any chameitz food that needs refrigeration should ideally be finished before Pesach. If that is not practical, one must place the food in a specific area and cover it in a way that is not so easy to access the food.
Probably the hardest area in the kitchen to kasher properly is the sink. The way to kasher the sink: One cannot kasher their sink unless it is made of stainless steel. 1) Do not use hot water in the sink for 24 hours prior to kashering. 2) Clean sink thoroughly. 3) Boil water. 3) Pour boiling water directly on every surface of one’s sink. Allowing the water to flow from one side of the sink to another does not suffice.
As mentioned in the previous days, the primary concern of chameitz lying around one’s home is because one may eat the chameitz food. This obviously is not a concern when it comes to crumbs. Therefore, there is no need to drive oneself crazy to find every crumb in one’s home. If one does not have young children and there is no concern about food being hidden in all sorts of places then one should not be breaking a sweat when cleaning for chameitz.
However, when it comes to the kitchen there is an additional concern of eating chameitz. It is forbidden to eat even a drop of chameitz. That being the case, if a crumb of chameitz is left on one’s kitchen floor and a piece of food falls onto the floor on Pesach, thechameitz can get attached to the food and become forbidden to eat. Therefore it is imperative to meticulously clean one’s kitchen.
In addition, anything that came into contact of hot chameitz during the year retains a chameitz status and if it comes into contact with hot food on Pesach can make the food chameitz and forbidden to be eaten on Pesach. We therefore must purge all appliances and surfaces before Pesach to remove any chameitz from within them. The laws of purging appliances, otherwise known as kashering, will be discussed in the coming days.
Books – Although one sometimes eats while reading books and therefore there is reason to assume that crumbs have fallen in between the pages one need not clean out every book they own. However, due to this concern the custom is not to bring books to one’s table during Pesach. Benchers that are used during the year should not be used on Pesach and should be put away with the chameitz that is sold.
Kitchen/ Dining Room Table – One should clean very well. If there are hard to reach places, the area should be sprayed with a harsh cleaner. The custom is to cover the table with a water-resistant cover such as a plastic sheet. It should be thick enough that it shouldn’t tear during Pesach.
Tablecloths/ dishtowels – The custom is to use ones that are designated for Pesach use. If this is difficult one can wash the tablecloths/ dishtowels and use the same ones they use year-round.
We are only obligated to search for chameitz in places that we have reason to assume that it will be found. This makes Pesach cleaning very subjective. If for example, one has a strict policy of ‘no food outside of the kitchen and dining area’ then they only need to look for chameitz in those locations. If one has young children then typically every area of the house potentially has chameitz.
Our sages instituted that one should check the pockets of their clothing before Pesach. When doing so, one is not searching for lint or old tissues. Therefore, one does not have to empty out their pockets over a garbage bin. Rather, what one is looking for is things like candies, wrappers, and other items that are chameitz.
I’m Sorry/ I Love You
When I think of Purim, I think of the street sign at the corner of Shellydale and Greenspring. You know that sign? The one that has four different street names on it! What were they thinking when they made that?
Some mornings I am on my way to drop my children off at Montessori in the morning. I turn off of Willow Glen to Greenspring and there’s major traffic. Now I don’t know this for a fact but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with that sign. I could just imagine that there’s some car way up ahead with grandparents, not from around here, dropping their grandchildren off at Montessori.
“Ok, so she told us to turn left on Shelleydale. Honey, can you read that street sign?”
“Sure. Actually, oh boy, there are four street signs. OK, hold on…. Are we supposed to be turning on Lincoln?”
“What about Larryvale?”
“What about Greenspring?”
Meanwhile there are cars backed up all the way to the 695….
“Oh! Here we go, Shelleydale! Turn left here! Actually, isn’t the synagogue that we’re looking for supposed to be on Lincoln? Wasn’t that the first sign? The Lincoln sign is parallel with this street, and oh, look I see a shul up ahead, that must be it!”
You know, I sometimes wonder to myself, thanks to that confusing sign, how many people who were on their way to Ner Tamid are sitting in Shomrei on a given Shabbos, wondering why Rabbi Motzen looks so much shorter in the pictures.
Now, the reason I associate Purim with that street sign is because each and every holiday has a theme that it’s meant to teach us. Each holiday is a day to reflect on some aspect of Judaism and incorporate it into our lives. Pesach and freedom, Yom Kippur and forgiveness, Chanukkah and balancing what we accept and what we reject from the world around us. But Purim – I feel like I have no idea where to turn. What are we supposed to be taking out of this holiday? Where is it supposed to direct us?
I give a class in Washington to young professionals, most of them with a very limited connection to Judaism, so I asked them last week, what’s Purim all about?
Some suggested that it’s Judaism’s response to Halloween. I get that. Others suggested, it was the original Mardi Gras. Now I don’t know where she went for her Purim party but it wasn’t my house. I think maybe St. Patrick’s Day would have been a better comparison. If you’d ask a Yeshiva boy they might tell you that Purim is Judaism’s version of April Fool’s Day and that’s because in many Yeshivas the days before Purim are filled with pranks. Someone in this shul told me that in his Yeshiva high school they turned their classroom upside down – literally. They drilled the desks and books to the ceiling. In my high school, the senior class switched places with a senior class from a different school.
So you have all these signs and directions; Halloween, Mardi Gras, April Fool’s Day, but we’re still lost. Where are we supposed to be going on Purim? In what direction are these fun and games supposed to take us?
So I’m going to be a bit of a kill joy for a few moments and debunk a few Purim myths. First, the Halloween-Purim model: while most of us see dressing up as the primary Mitzvah of Purim, the first recorded mention of dressing up on Purim does not take place until the 15th century – about 2000 years after the Purim story took place. Even there, the author Rabbi Yehuda ben Eliezer haLevi Mintz, a respected Halachic authority, does not even mention the source of the custom.
Next, the Mardi Gras or St. Patrick’s Day version of Purim. There is no shortage of Halachic authorities who say getting drunk on Purim is actually forbidden. That includes the Rosh, the Kol Bo, the Peri Chadash, and the Aruch HaShulchan – all of them are Halachic heavyweights. There are others who disagree and say that one may drink if they do so responsibly. And I’ll repeat that, if they do so responsibly. But obviously if there are those who say it’s forbidden it clearly cannot be the focus of the entire day.
The April Fool’s Day approach – As much as I really wouldn’t mind walking in here tomorrow and seeing the bimah hanging from the ceiling, I really have no idea where that comes from.
So we know what Purim is not. So what is Purim all about? Not only is there confusion about what Purim is supposed to teach us and where it’s supposed to direct us, but the Zohar actually teaches us that Purim is the holiest day of the year and that’s hinted in the name we use for the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur, the Zohar teaches us, means the Yom Kippurim – the day that is like Purim. Imagine that, Yom Kippur the holiest day of the year is like Purim. Which teaches us two things. 1) Yom Kippur and Purim have something in common – they are like each other. And 2) Purim is holier than Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is like Purim – but it is not on the same level.
So what does this all mean?
Allow me to introduce you to Matt and Samantha, two fictional people whose names I use whenever I speak of relationships. Matt and Samantha are married and they’ve been married for a number of years and they have a pretty good relationship. Matt is a good guy, not perfect, but a decent husband and he knows that there are two key phrases that he needs to keep in his back pocket to ensure that his marriage stays strong; “I am sorry” and “I love you.” So let’s make this a little interactive. Are you ready?
So, Matt stays late in work one day, totally forgetting that he had promised to take Samantha out to dinner. When Matt comes home, what does he say? ——-
OK. Let’s say Matt is on his way to work in the morning. He says to his wife, “Have a good day, I —-“
But there are times that it’s not so clear what to say. For example, in most marriages the relationship waxes and wanes. There are times when people feel a stronger bond between them and there are times when things get a little stale; the spark just isn’t there. And in such a situation, when a couple feels a little distant, Matt and Samantha really have two options. They can say I’m sorry. Not literally but what I mean is they can take some time to analyze what’s going on between them. They can try to focus on what is pulling them apart from each other and how they can fix it. They can work on reconciling their differences.
Or, they can say I love you. Meaning, they could make extra time to enjoy each other’s company. They can write each other love notes, they can do things together that they both enjoy. And in doing so, not always, but often times the problems or the friction that stands between them will fade away and their relationship will be rekindled.
As I’ve mentioned countless times, the Mitzvos are not simply commandments. Rather, there is a relationship between us and G-d and the Mitzvos are the glue that binds us to our Creator.
But as we all know, there are times when we don’t feel so connected to Judaism, there are times we don’t feel like praying, there are times we don’t enjoy Shabbos, there are times when we feel distant from G-d. And that’s normal, it’s human nature. Every relationship waxes and wanes.
To counter that very normal and natural feeling, G-d gave us two holidays. There is Yom Kippur – a day to say I’m sorry, and there is Purim – a day to say I love you. On Yom Kippur, we spend the day regretting the many things we’ve done wrong and how we’ve allowed our relationship with G-d to deteriorate through our actions. We say I’m sorry and after it’s all said and done, you and I know that we feel better after Yom Kippur. Who doesn’t? We feel energized and connected to Judaism in a way that we normally don’t feel.
On Purim, we also work on our relationship – but in a very different way. We spend the day saying I love You by doing Mitzvos that we enjoy. We give gifts to those in need, we have a festive meal with family and friends, and we read the most captivating and interesting book in the Torah, the Book of Esther. And in that context, in the context of reconnecting to G-d by enjoying His presence and by celebrating His Mitzvos, there is room for a genuinely fun time together. There’s room for dressing up, there’s room for a festive meal and there’s room for a little bit of shtick. Because Purim is a day of saying I love you; let’s enjoy each other. And through that experience, through the joys of Purim, we are meant to feel more connected and more excited about our relationship with G-d.
Now I have to tell you, this second approach, the ‘I love you’ approach, is not always appropriate. Sometimes you first have to work through your problems. But when it is appropriate, when you rekindle a relationship with an ‘I love you’ approach and infuse the relationship with more love, more care, and more concern, it could be very powerful, and at times even more powerful than I’m sorry.
So on the one hand Purim is just like Yom Kippur; it’s an opportunity to rekindle a relationship that may have grown stale. And at the same time, Purim is even holier than Yom Kippur because when we connect with love, the connection is that much deeper.
When I studied in Israel, we would stay up all night studying Torah, connecting to G-d by immersing ourselves in His wisdom. And then we would walk to the Kotel and daven there at the crack of dawn. And not just any davening, but a powerful, meaningful, heartfelt davening. And I encourage you to do the same. If you don’t daven on a daily basis, tonight and tomorrow are wonderful opportunities to do so. And if you do, make that tefillah count. Spend some time tonight or tomorrow studying Torah. Enjoy yourself but in the process reconnect to G-d.
(Dr. David Maine -) So in conclusion, all those fun things – the Halloween-esque costumes, the St. Patrick Day l’chaim’s, and even the April Fool’s Day Shtick, they’re all part of Purim because they direct us to a joyous Purim; they ensure that we are having a great time with G-d. So dress up! Dress up like the rabbi. Do shtick! Switch places with the Vice-President of the shul. But make sure you make it to your destination; rekindle that flame, reignite the spark, and reunite with G-d. Let’s spend this Purim focusing on the joys of Purim and ALL the joys of Judaism. Let’s use this time to remind ourselves that through G-d’s Mitzvos, we can live a fulfilling, meaningful, and joyous day!