As promised, the answers to your pressing Passover queries! Sadly, there’s no suspense since the questions were in the comments. Luckily, half of you never read the comments.
Why in the world do you have to get rid of all your food? As a fat girl, that would make me extremely sad.
It makes everyone sad. And tired, very tired. Judaism is all about taking the most basic pronouncement God makes and taking it to the extreme. And why not? His pronouncements are pretty weighty. Passover celebrates the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt and slavery. Pharaoh kept changing his mind about it so when the Jews got the OK they dashed! Because of this, the bread they had been baking didn’t really have time to rise and instead became matzah, a kind of crispy flatbread. To commemorate this, God said we’re not supposed to eat bread on Passover and our sages have taken that to mean we must clean every speck of chametz (food that has any bread or flour involved with it) out of our homes. So unless it has a symbol on it (usually a regular Kosher symbol with a P next to it) that ensures that, out it must go. Then you clean every bit of your home (especially if you’re like me and you drink your coffee in bed each morning) to make sure nothing remains. It’s like Spring cleaning on steroids! And just when you think you’re done you find a Jolly Rancher in your messenger bag. Oops.
Here’s a good description from jewfaq.org:
The process of cleaning the home of all chametz in preparation for Pesach is an enormous task. To do it right, you must prepare for several weeks and spend several days scrubbing everything down, going over the edges of your stove and fridge with a toothpick and a Q-Tip, covering all surfaces that come in contact with food with foil or shelf-liner, etc., etc., etc.
In reality, you don’t throw everything out. There are other options:
a. Finish it up! If you lived in a home like the one in which I grew up, you ate creative recipes like pasta with cumin and ketchup from about late February onward. By the end, you’d sneak out to Baskin-Robbins for dinner just so you could avoid tuna-noodle casserole sans tuna or noodles.
b. Give it away! The homeless love Passover!
c. Sell it! No, really. Most people (Becca included) set up contracts with a friendly neighborhood non-Jew in which they sell their chametz (that’s the forbidden food) for a nominal amount and buy it back at the end of the holiday. Then you cover it up or get it out of your sight (I put mine in my storage space) and don’t mess with it till Passover has passed over.
Next year, I’ll be selling my chametz to Lydia to cheer her up.
Actually, Starbucks’ bagged coffee often has the O-U P symbol on it. But the coffee they make in the shop does not and comes into too much contact with all the other bready goodness they sell. During the regular year, the fact that they sell ham sandwiches is pretty separate from the coffee. But on Passover, things are really strict and the bread in the sandwich is the death knell for having a latte there. But let me tell you, that is the first thing I buy for Passover each year, a bag o’Starbucks. I’m still waiting for Moses’ Pesach Blend, though.
Not a question, but Alex suggests I clarify the title of my last post. Passover is, in fact, only eight days in the diaspora (that is, outside Israel). In Israel it’s only seven, thus negating my catchy post title. This is because (and I’m going to again steal from jewfaq.org, because I still have a lot of cleaning with Q-tips and toothpicks to do):
The Jewish calendar is lunar, with each month beginning on the new moon. The new months used to be determined by observation. When the new moon was observed, the Sanhedrin [kind of like the supreme court] declared the beginning of a new month and sent out messengers to tell people when the month began. People in distant communities could not always be notified of the new moon (and therefore, of the first day of the month), so they did not know the correct day to celebrate. They knew that the old month would be either 29 or 30 days, so if they didn’t get notice of the new moon, they celebrated holidays on both possible days. This practice of celebrating an extra day was maintained as a custom even after we adopted a precise mathematical calendar, because it was the custom of our ancestors.
Since Liverpool is outside Israel, John, Paul, George, and Ringo called their song “Eight Days A Week.” Yep.