Reform Jewish Thoughts on Keeping Kosher for Passover

Rabbi Milder is a Reform rabbi who challenges his congregants to think about whether and how they might keep kosher for Passover. He sent them this delightful guide.

Three Stages of Kashering for Pesach

Deciding how kosher to be for Pesach is a distinctly Reform concern. If one is traditionally observant, the rules, extensive as they may be, are relatively clear. But for those of us who choose our own level of observance, we are challenged to find a meaningful and manageable way to keep kosher for Pesach.

Why keep kosher on Pesach? Ridding ourselves of chametz is all about re-enacting the Exodus and making it a part of our lives. It is a symbolic, physical and emotional act of recapitulating our history. To remove the chametz is to get ready for the journey.

Here are three-plus levels of kashrut that you can use as a personal yardstick. Choose your point of entry.

Level 0: Eat some matzah. I don’t consider this kashering for Pesach, because you haven’t removed anything from the house. But you have fulfilled one of the mitzvot of Pesach.

Level 1: Undertake a personal practice of not consuming chametz
during Pesach. This means not eating any product made from the five grains of wheat, barley, oats, rye or spelt, unless it has first been transformed into matzah.

Level 2: Regard your home as a place where chametz will not be eaten during Pesach. Remove all the chametz from your refrigerator, and seal off the cabinets containing chametz for the duration of Pesach.

Level 3: Do a thorough cleaning of your home. Kasher surfaces with boiling water, kasher stoves and ovens by cleaning and super-heating them. Use a different set of dishes and utensils.

Of course, one could go into much greater specificity regarding all these details. The principle is to set a standard for yourself and your home, and to enter into the holiness of the holiday through spiritual discipline.

You can fulfill another mitzvah, feeding the hungry, by bringing your unopened packages of chametz and other non-perishable food to a food pantry.

Happy kashering!
Rabbi Larry Milder
Beth Emek, Pleasanton