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Zen_Again's avatar

Jews: Whatcha doin for Pesach? Non-Jews: Want to learn about Passover?

Asked by Zen_Again (9911points) February 21st, 2010

No disrespect intended. Here’s everything you wanted to know about Pasover but were afraid (or couldn’t be bothered) to ask:

Passover: Feast Without the Yeast
Why are some foods kosher and others not?
by Michael Morrison
The Jewish holiday of Passover, commemorating the Hebrews’ exodus from slavery in Egypt, runs from sundown on March 29, 2010 through sundown on April 6, 2010.
As you walk down the aisles of your supermarket, you may notice the words “Kosher for Passover” on some items and wonder what it actually means. Most people know that Jews eat matzoh instead of bread during Passover—but why would some soda, candy, or even vegetables be kosher for Passover while others would not?
Here is some information that should make things a little clearer.
1. During Passover, Jews refrain from eating chometz: anything that contains barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt, and is not cooked within 18 minutes after coming in contact with water. No leavening is allowed. This signifies the fact that the Hebrews had no time to let their bread rise as they made a hurried escape from Egypt.
2. Jews of different backgrounds do not observe all of the same rules. Ashkenazi Jews, who come from Europe (most Jews in America), also avoid corn, rice, peanuts, and legumes as they are also used to make bread and may have other grains mixed in. These items are known askitniyot.
3. Rules and guidelines may be extremely stringent. Not only must Orthodox Jews not eat these items, but they also must completely remove them and any food that has come in contact with them from their homes. They may throw them away, burn them, or sell them to a non-Jew (they are allowed to buy them back at the end of Passover). Some go through amazingly thorough and labor-intensive cleaning processes to rid their homes of any hint of chometz or kitniyot. For example:
o Sinks, refrigerators, ovens, and stoves must be scoured and then not used for at least 24 hours before the beginning of Passover. Specific Passover china must be used.
o Silverware must be “heated to a glow” and then cooled. Items are placed in a pot of boiling water (usually one at a time, because they must not touch each other during the process) and then immediately submerged in cold water.
o Pots must be cleaned inside and out. To accomplish this, a pot must be filled with water and brought to a boil. Then to clean the outside, a brick or rock is placed inside to cause the boiling water to flow over the sides. However, said rock must be hot because the water must still be boiling as it cascades over the sides. A cool rock would cool the water when it came in contact. A blowtorch can be used if one is available.
4. Items which seem acceptable for Passover but may not be:
o Soda: Most sodas contain corn syrup. Since eating corn is a no-no, soda containing corn syrup is also out. Even if corn syrup is not used, sodas generally have “additional flavorings” which are not divulged and could be derived from grains. Only sodas produced under supervision of a rabbi or other official certified agencies are acceptable.
o Frozen vegetables: Many bags of frozen vegetables are produced on the same machinery that also produces pasta or pasta/vegetable blends. Since pasta is made from grain and not allowed, neither are most frozen vegetables, unless made under supervision.
o Raw vegetables: Some fruits and vegetables (cucumbers for example) have wax coatings that may be made from soy proteins and oils derived from grain. Sorry, no dice.
o Dried fruits: These are often dried in ovens where bread is sometimes baked. Some also have waxes, oils, and even traces of flour to prevent sticking.
o Marshmallows: Not allowed unless made under supervision. They contain gelatin, which is made from the bones of potentially non-kosher animals.
o Milk: Unsuitable additives are often used. Chocolate milk is usually unacceptable because it could contain corn syrup or malt, which is made from grain.
And these are just food items. Balloons and rubber gloves can have a powdered coating on them, which may be considered chometz. Even some bug traps use an oatmeal or wheat-based substance and must be removed from the premises.
And let’s not even get started on pet food.

The Exodus
The story of Passover is told in the first third of the Biblical book of Exodus. The Jews had come to Egypt because of a famine, while Joseph was Pharaoh’s trusted advisor. Sometime after Joseph’s death, they were enslaved by the Egyptians and forced to perform hard labor under bitterly cruel conditions for hundreds of years.
Eventually, the prophet Moses went to the new Pharaoh and asked him to let the Jews go. When he refused, God sent a total of ten plagues that devastated Egypt. In the first nine, the waters of the Nile turned to blood, frogs appeared everywhere, lice infested everything, wild animals menaced the land, cattle died, there was an outbreak of boils, hail destroyed the crops, locusts devoured whatever was left, and the land was covered in darkness.
After each plague, Moses asked Pharaoh to set the Jews free. Every time, Pharaoh refused.
Passover
The final plague was the killing of the firstborn sons. Moses instructed the Jews to sacrifice a lamb for each family and spread its blood on the doorposts of their house. (As lambs were considered sacred by Egyptians, this was a public test of faith.) God passed over the marked Jewish houses, and killed the firstborn male child in every Egyptian household. There was a great outcry, and Pharaoh finally told Moses to take the Jews and leave Egypt without delay. The Jews left in such a hurry that they didn’t have the time to make bread for the trip; instead, they left carrying dough, which baked on their backs before being able to rise.
The holiday is called “Passover” because God passed over the Jewish houses, protecting them while killing the Egyptian firstborn sons.
The seder
The central observance of Passover is the seder.This word literally means “order,” and it refers to the order of services in the banquet on the first night of the holiday. (In Orthodox and Conservative observance outside of Israel, it takes place on both of the first two nights.) In the course of the meal, the story of the Exodus is recounted, continuing the oral tradition stretching back to Biblical times.
Children are encouraged to ask questions about the narrative, and the youngest child present traditionally starts with the “Four Questions,“which ask about the unusual practices of the seder itself. These practices evoke both the bitterness of the Egyptian slavery (e.g., eating bitter herbs) and the freedom granted by God (e.g., reclining luxuriously).
The seder also includes the eating of matzoh, which itself contains both themes. Matzoh is made with flour and water, prepared and baked very quickly so that it never has the chance to rise. Matzoh is identified on the one hand as the “bread of affliction” and “poor man’s bread,” being an extremely humble, plain sort of food that recalls the days of slavery; on the other hand, it also symbolizes freedom, as it was eaten by the Jews as they hurriedly left Egypt for good.

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54 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

This year I may throw caution to the winds, and hide the Apfikomen.

Ivan's avatar

For Pesach, I’m going to stop using archaic, divisive language.

Zen_Again's avatar

I often throw kasha to the wind. Just saying

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Being married to a wonderful gentile woman and living in an isolated rural community, I have chosen to not observe Pesach as I used to years ago. Even obtaining Matzoh is nearly impossible around here. I hope Hashem will understand my position. He blessed me with a good wife after trying three times with Jewish wives.

I wish you a joyous and Kosher Passover.

faye's avatar

I loved reading this. I have a vague memory of once knowing why the first born sons were to be killed, as a grown man he would do something terrible? Can you help me out with this one?

Zen_Again's avatar

And to you too my friend – @Dr_Lawrence – Pesach is where the heart is. Yours is in Haaretz. Next year in Jerusalem.

Edit: @faye The Ten Plagues of Egypt, also referred to as Ten Plagues (Hebrew: עשר המכות, Eser Ha-Makot), the Plagues of Egypt (Hebrew: מכות מצרים, Makot Mitzrayim), or the Biblical Plagues, are the ten calamities imposed upon Egypt by Yahweh as recounted in the Book of Exodus, Chapters 7–12, to convince Pharaoh[1] to let the poorly treated Israelite slaves go. Pharaoh did not permit this until after the tenth plague. The plagues were applied in a way to portray clearly the reality of Israel’s God, and by contrast the impotence of Egypt’s gods.[2] Some commentators have associated several of the plagues with judgment on specific gods associated with the Nile, fertility and natural phenomena.[3] According to the book of Exodus, God claims that all the gods of Egypt will be judged through the tenth and final plague:

“ On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn-both men and animals-and I will bring judgement on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD ”
— Exodus 12:12 (New International Version)

The Plagues of Egypt are recognized as history by many Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Source: Wiki…

Qingu's avatar

The part about Passover they always left out of my old synagogue was post-Exodus when Moses ordered his soldiers to kill all the Midianites (the tribe who saved him in the desert) ... except for the young virgin girls, who they could keep for themselves as booty.

dpworkin's avatar

Docteh? A Ziessen Pesach, Docteh.

Rarebear's avatar

It’s not for another month, though.

Zen_Again's avatar

@Rarebear Purim is around the corner, then Pesach. Time flies. Besides, I want to get the pesach question in before all the yidin start hogging the holiday questions. Early worm…

janbb's avatar

Snow still on the ground here, Zen. Can’t get into a Pesach mood yet;. I’ll just be leaven this question alone and passover it til another time.

janbb's avatar

@Zen_Again We aim to please but it’s moro’or less easy to do at times.

Zen_Again's avatar

You have a huge karpasity for humour.

dpworkin's avatar

it makes me recoil in horrorset

janbb's avatar

I was workin’ on haroset, pd! You guys are just winning cause I’m jet-lagged. My wit is only afi-komin in today; tomorrow, it will be all comin.

Rarebear's avatar

matzaid to stop harroseting around.

janbb's avatar

I think I’ve been pun-ished enough for one night, sey dere ain’t no more!

Rarebear's avatar

Now I’m really bitter, Herb.

dpworkin's avatar

Eggs Ackley.

janbb's avatar

Didjew hear the one about the philosopher who went to the seder and had a piece of pascal, lamb? (And I just made that up myself.) I’m blaising new paths tonight.

dpworkin's avatar

@janbb Have Zuzim a docteh?

majorrich's avatar

Fascinating! As a non-Jew I found your post very informative and interesting. I briefly dated a Jewish girl in college and she referred to me as her Goy-Boy. I hadn’t thought about her in many years. It made me smile. Thank you.

EmpressPixie's avatar

As a non-Jew, I will most likely spend the time trying to convince @Qingu that going to family gatherings can happen without starting religious fights.

Well, it can.

Rarebear's avatar

@dpworkin I’m going to tell Diane you said that.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

As per usual, I have no idea when Pesach is, but I’ve got plans to celebrate Purim both days…and some other days that aren’t Purim, but they’re close to it…

lillycoyote's avatar

@Zen_Again I’m a gentile and an unrepentant, and unapologetic christian apostate but I was wondering if there is anything in the Jewish tradition, during any holiday, that is similar to the ritual “Crying Out of the Matriarch”. This is part of many families’, traditional Christmas celebrations (and very often Thanksgiving too, though Thanksgiving is, or course, not a religious holiday ) where the Mother cries out, sometimes in anger, sometimes in tears, something like (and it can vary depending on the tradition of a particular family): “CAN’T WE JUST ONCE HAVE A NICE CHRISTMAS? JUST ONCE? CAN YOU ALL STOP YELLING AND ARGUING AND GOING AT EACH OTHER LONG ENOUGH FOR US TO JUST ONCE HAVE A NICE CHRISTMAS? PLEASE, JUST DO IT IT FOR ME? CAN YOU JUST DO IT FOR ME” And that either works or it all goes downhill from there.

thriftymaid's avatar

Thanks, but I have a pretty good handle on this.

janbb's avatar

@lillycoyote Oh for sure, we have the “Crying out of the Matriarch.” And no Mama can do it like a Jewish Mama can.

Zen_Again's avatar

@lillycoyote Just substitute Christmas with any Jewish holiday – Passover, Hanukkah or whatever – it’s the same. Just with an accent.

;-)

janbb's avatar

We’ve sure come up with a zlateh puns here!

lillycoyote's avatar

@janbb and @Zen_Again. I thought you probably did have something similar in Judaism. :) I have a feeling the “The Crying Out of the Matriarch” at holidays is common to many traditions.

JLeslie's avatar

When invited to a seder, I always go; but if not invited, I don’t do much. I’ll probably make passover candies that my grandma used to make.

My favorite holiday is Passover. It was the one my whole family would get together, and my grandma cooked the yummiest meals. When my grandma passed away I hunted for her recipe book that had the candy recipe inside.

dpworkin's avatar

I used to conduct a Seder at my home every year when I was married. It was a big family event: mother and father-in-law, sisters and brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, my older kids, my twins, the whole megillah (to borrow a Purim metaphor.) I love to cook holiday meals.

Divorce can be so destructive. I miss Pesach, but on the whole I’m better off without my abusive ex-wife.

Rarebear's avatar

@dpworkin I dont’ know where you live, but sometimes the local Hillel or synagogue will have an open seder for non members. I used to do that.

dpworkin's avatar

They would let me cook for everyone? Would they clean up afterward?

JLeslie's avatar

@dpworkin What do you usually cook besides the matzoh ball soup, boiled eggs, charoses, etc. What do you usually make for the main course?

Rarebear's avatar

@dpworkin LOL! @JLeslie We usually make brisket, potatoes, cooked veggies, stuff like that.

dpworkin's avatar

Brisket tsimmes, veggies, and my Secret Ingredient for the kniedlach: rendered duck or goose fat instead of schmaltz!!!

janbb's avatar

@dpworkin You do realize that once you’ve told, it’s not a secret any more!

dpworkin's avatar

That’s why I said it in here. No one comes here. And you’ll never use goose fat anyways, ya lazy ole gramma.

janbb's avatar

Ah – you’re just jealous of my wee Jake. I was gonna let you hold him, but not if you’re gonna insult me.

dpworkin's avatar

Emmis: Are you gonna go out and find imported French goose fat from Perigord, just for your kniedlach?. I thought not.

janbb's avatar

If I were gonna use goose fat in my kneidlach, I would render it myself. (I have had goose gribbenes in Toulouse, though.) Don’t you have homework to do, eppis?

dpworkin's avatar

I’m going to sleep, bubbeleh.

SeventhSense's avatar

Peaches? I love peaches…

janbb's avatar

Another county heard from!

Zen_Again's avatar

Wish we were in the same time zone so we could krechtsen a bisele together, kinder. Alas, it’s night there, morning here, again.

susanc's avatar

I’ve never had this much flutherfun before. Who ARE you people? oh, wait, I know the answer to that

Zen_Again's avatar

We’re the yidin.

janbb's avatar

@susanc Yeah – convert and you can have this much fun all the time. Oh wait – that’s another thread.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Hey, guys. I’m going to hit the road again for Passover, like I usually do. My parents live just outside of NYC, while I’m several hundred miles away in upstate NY. I’m going to pack my bag, grab the puppy, and head down there.

Our main course is usually turkey and brisket. My mom makes both, so there are tons of leftovers for the rest of the week. One of my favorite sides is a whole wheat matzah apple pudding, which is fantastic.

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