Magic Jewball

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Jew & A – Passover edition

Filed under : Jew & A,Judaism
On April 1, 2007
At 7:20 pm
Comments : 8

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.

Lydia asks:
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

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.

Sarpon asks:
No Starbucks?

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, 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.

Joy Division – Passover


8 Comments for this post

  1. Lydia says:

    Ah, thanks for the enlightment. Given the background of Passover (which I know only from a Christian perspective) the task makes some sense. It would still make me sad, though.

    Also, I’ve never seen a Kosher food label, with or without the P. I mean, I know that Hebrew National Hot Dogs are Kosher, just because I know that. Does this reveal my incredible stupidity or is food labelled differently here in the boonies where I think there might be about 5 (and that’s generous) Temples in the entire state?

    Finally, the day I clean with toothpicks and Q-tips is the day Brittany and Queen E II are buddies. I don’t think I’d be very good at being Jewish.

  2. Alex says:

    Becca, if you don’t come back before it gets dark, I’m going to answer Lydia’s question myself!

    But I will add now, for Lydia’s interest, that because Becca lives in Manhattan, she completely overlooked the fact that if anyone ever eats in your car, you also have to clean your car(s) out completely before the holiday, if you’re really going to do this cleaning thing properly.

  3. Becca says:

    It’s actually a really joyous holiday. I’m just too tired to ever notice.

    I’ll bet you have and just never noticed. Coke, for instance has the most ubiquitous one, a U in a circle. But here’s a long list of some of them:

    That’s why I have Ermin, who, when I told her about all this, informed me that she had worked for another Jew Lady and so she understood.

    I didn’t overlook it Alex, there were just things there wasn’t time/space for, like one’s office at work as well.

    Also, a correction from last week. Opening Day is a day game, so I can actually see it. If I weren’t so utterly exhausted I’d say woohoo.

  4. Alex says:

    All right, then, Becca…space constraints. I forget that not everybody who reads the Jewball wants every last detail. Sorry ’bout that; I don’t mean to make your blog ponderous. 😉

    A zissen Pesach to you, and all the J’ball readers who are observing it.

  5. Sarpon says:

    I’ve never been in a sandwich serving Starbucks, but they certainly do push the muffins. I am relieved; I thought perhaps there was some leavening agent in the latte and that I was in for another “dairy margarine” style smackdown.

  6. Becca says:

    Most people just come here to find out if Roger Federer is Jewish, Alex, so we’re both failing them, really.

    And you too! I have one more post to come before I leave. I wrote it at 2am. < yawn >

    Oh, Sarpon, you just haven’t lived! OK, I haven’t actually eaten any of their sandwiches. They serve hot breakfast sandwiches as well, by the way. Now if only you’d come to NY I could show you these wonders as well as dairy margarine…

  7. Paige says:

    Becca, I was at work earlier and Joy Division’s “Passover” came up on my iPod -and I said to myself “I need to check out the Jewball and see if Becca has a Passover update.”

    And you chose “Passover” as the song.

    I love it.

  8. KP says:

    Anytime I get a chance to type Roger Federererer’s name I get happy. Yay!

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