Baltimore, MD - Mar. 30, 2020 - There comes a time in most of our lives where circumstances require us to go through the ultimate rite of passage that marks frum adulthood - making Pesach in our own home.  In these difficult days, many of us unexpectedly will be making Pesach ourselves this year, maybe for the first time ever. With Yom Tov rapidly approaching, you may be worried.  So, here are some common-sense guidelines to lessen the stress.

In these days of Covid 19, purchasing Pesach goods may seem especially daunting. Even buying food for everyday use has made us all into a tribe of nervous “hunter gatherers.“ (If you are going out to buy, please strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines and if you are either a senior or immunocompromised, do not risk going out. )  The good news is that many of the basics that you need require no Pesach Hechsher.  According to the Star-K, and many other hechsherim, eggs, milk without additives, unground raw meat and poultry in original manufacturer’s packaging, raw fish (kosher with skin on and hechsher) are good for Pesach use.  You may use raw unseasoned meat, poultry and fish, even if these items were purchased before your source “kashered” for Pesach.  (Do not use any ground meat, ground poultry, ground fish or items that have been spiced, marinated or otherwise prepared for cooking without a Passover certification.)  Carefully rinse off all meat and fish in cold water before use. 

Fruits and non-kitniyos vegetables may all be purchased and used without special certifications.  Eggs and milk should be acquired before Yom tov and given the limits on some food purchases these days, large families may want to consider freezing milk if space is available.

Many Hashgachos are posting lists of staple items that require no special Pesach Hechsher.  Click here for a list from the OU and click here for a list from the Star-K. If you are going out to buy and find that the products you need are not on the special Passover shelves, check out the regular kosher shelves in the store. They will likely contain many kosher for Passover certified items that are carried year round.  

You may also consider using year-round items which are Kosher for Passover that have already been opened for pre-Pesach use.  In your kitchen, you may know that many of these packaged items, still in their original containers - such as extra virgin olive oil and spices - are never directly contaminated by chametz.  So, in a pinch, you may use these items already on your shelves and  avoid the cost and risk of additional shopping time.  Simply clean the container or transfer its contents.

So, you have scoured your shelves and purchased your supplies, now comes kashering and cooking.  If you have never kashered for Pesach before, there are some excellent online videos that can help you.  Otherwise, contact the person who was supposed to host you for Yom Tov.  Mom has been doing it for years, after all.  If your counters can’t be kashered, don’t worry about fancy covers.  In ancient times, before the kitchen counter “stone age” people covered their counters with contact or heavy duty foil.  For a fast, cheap Pesach surface, get some painter’s “frog” tape and tape a new heavy duty plastic tablecloth or large heavy duty trash bags to your backsplash or clean kitchen counter.  When using lighter materials, replace as necessary.  Home depot has sheets of thin plywood or laminate that you can cut or cover for re-use when you eventually make yom tov yourself once again.   Order dishpans or cheap buckets online if your sink is not easily kashered.  Ask your preferred Halachic Authority if you have questions.

Usually, one of the biggest expenses for the first Pesach is the purchase of cooking utensils and tools. If you have cooking items from your chasana gathering dust in some closet, see what you already own. If you lack space to store new sets of pots, consider a camping set of nesting pots.  They are often inexpensive, lightweight and easy to store.  Some even come with tin cups and plates and there is still time to order them online.  Check out local community business for Pesach items or various items available online with delivery in time for Yom Tov.  If you are purchasing new utensils, due to the current situation, the Baltimore Vaad HaRabbanim has issued guidelines which, among other issues, deals with tevilas keilim (immersion), Click here  for the details.

But, if you want to avoid paying for big ticket items such as pots, pans, glassware and flatware, many of the items that you already own may be kashered for Pesach, via leebun, hagolah or immersion . Metal pots, lids and pans without linings or coatings can often be kashered for Pesach use.  I have used my self-cleaning oven to kasher items for Pesach that I have neither the space nor money to duplicate   Warning: use only unlined/uncoated pots or pans suitable for cooking on a regular stove-top or in ovens.  Some metals may not endure this process well and molten metal on your oven floor is not something you want.  Even pots that can endure the high temperature may be discolored.  You do not need to use the full self-cleaning cycle for this method, shut down the self-cleaning cycle after 45 minutes.  Or if you do not have or do not wish to use the self-cleaning cycle,  500 degrees for 45 minutes is the suggested leebun time for all metal pots but not for frying pans  Speak to your Rabbi regarding using the nonmetal parts of cookware that cannot withstand leebun and are not actual cooking surfaces, such as handles or lids. Make sure to remove these prior to kashering via leebun to avoid ruining them.   Most will simply unscrew.

For Hagalah (boiling) or immersion, make sure that your item is meticulously clean without any traces of food. Check rims or crevices carefully.  If you have flatware and utensils with simple patterns and clean lines, choose them to kasher rather than your fancier items.  Some types of glassware, depending on type, may also be kashered for Pesach by a three day immersion process. Ask your halachic authority whether your glassware may be made useable for Pesach in this manner. Websites from kashrus agencies such as the Star-K and others have detailed how-to instructions as to which items may be kashered and how. 

For many, every penny counts, since job loss and financial turmoil are threatening to make this Pesach a difficult one for many families.  Remember, you are not alone.  If you are among the financially at risk population or cannot safely buy supplies, contact your Rabbi. Here in Baltimore, Ahavas Yisrael is ready to help.  If you don’t need help, show your gratitude by contributing generously to those who do. 

We are fortunate to live in times where we are normally able to share our Pesach table with an abundance of food, family and friends.  May we all be zocheh to do so for the Yomim Tovim to come in health and with full acknowledgement of the gifts we are given.  Perhaps this Pesach will also give us a greater appreciation of those who have labored to prepare the many Yomim Tovim we have enjoyed in the past and hope to share in the future.