Passover Kitchen Countdown - Making the Passover Changeover


It is not necessary for Pesah cleaning to make you feel like you really never left Egypt and are still in bondage (although this has become a common allusion). You can take this opportunity to do a thorough spring cleaning, or operate on a more superficial level. As you finish each room, you might post a sign, such as "Kosher l'Pesah" or even “hametzbusters were here!" These signs remind the family both that food is not to be taken into these rooms, and that the task of cleaning for Pesah is gradually being accomplished. This is also a wonderful time for going over toys and books that have been outgrown. Each person can realize that he or she has changed since last Pesah, and that it is time to recognize that new person by removing the "hametz" of the old.

The kitchen is a serious challenge. However, if you take it step by step, you can keep it from being completely overwhelming. Listed here will be a suggested order for kashering different parts of the kitchen so that you don't lose your mind along with the hametz!

For actual kashering methods consult your Rabbi and see our page on Kashering for Passover.

Kitchen Countdown! (print out and affix to your refrigerator)

  1. Store Pesahdik foods, preferably out of the kitchen, so that they will not be confused with things that are "hametzdik."
  2. Clean the kitchen cupboards. If you don't have special Pesah-only cabinets, remove the regular dishes from the cabinets you will need and get them Pesah-ready. The food for Pesah can then be put inside. If you don't need to empty all of your cabinets, DON'T!! After you clean them to make sure they are hametz-free, tape them shut and mark them so that they will not be used. The outside surfaces should still be cleaned.
  3. Kasher the refrigerator and freezer. One small corner lined with foil can be used for hametz until the morning before the Seder. The foil is discarded at the final changeover.
  4. Kasher the stove and oven (this needs to be done after a 24-hour waiting period). After this point, hametzdik meals should be prepared in a toaster oven or other appliance. Microwave ovens can be kashered, but they also have to be unused for 24 hours beforehand. The process itself is quick, however, so the microwave can remain available longer than the oven.
  5. Kasher the sink and the dishwasher.
  6. Kasher part of the counter so that you can put Pesah dishes on it.
  7. Sweep and wash the floor (this will probably have to happen again). Take a rest while it dries!
  8. Bring out the Pesah dishes, wash them and put them away.
  9. Kasher pots, pans, and silverware (flatware).
  10. Take all remaining hametz out of the kitchen. Finish kashering all of the counters.
  11. Admire how far you've gotten!!
  12. Send someone out for a last frantic shopping trip; wash the floor again.
  13. Start cooking!!

And just how long is this going to take??!

It is a very good idea to have as a goal a completely kashered kitchen at least one day before the morning of the Seder. Balancing hametzdik meals and a Pesah kitchen is NOT easy, but lends to the sense of adventure. People end up eating dinner on the porch or even outside when the weather is warm enough. In order to manage everything, it is a good idea to start the kitchen four to five days ahead of the holiday, allowing more time if you have a very busy regular schedule. IT DOES GET FINISHED!!

But I have so much hametz!

Observing Pesah is expensive, but it is not supposed to cause financial hardship. It is a good idea to try to use up as much regular, opened food as possible. If, however, you have just too much left, by halakhah (religious law) you can sell it. This is called mehirat hametz. All of the hametz must be in a specified place, described, and paid for by a non-Jew. Because the process is complicated, it is usually conducted through a rabbi. Check with your synagogue.

The combination of children and cleaning

Drawing children into the activities is one of the central goals of Pesah and the Seder. However, the serious cleaning of the holiday is hard for adults to enjoy, let alone youngsters! Aside from the plain hard work, there are often strong chemicals around, heavy boxes to move, and sometimes stressed people to contend with. THIS may be the time to get a sitter. Alternatively, work with the children on preparing for the Seder and get someone else to clean your kitchen!

HOWEVER, if you are on your own with children demanding your attention while you are trying to make progress, get them started in one of the activities to get ready for the Seder (such as making place cards or pictures for one of the table songs) within shouting distance. You can then continue to work (although you will be interrupted) and the children will be contributing to the preparations. When a major job is almost done, the children may be able to symbolically "help" complete it. As they see it getting finished, they can get the feeling that everyone in the house is working together to "bring Pesah closer."

Of course, the children should have an active part in the culminating activities of searching for and burning the hametz (see further). They should be made aware that all hametz is now nobody’s property: it is like dust, not for eating, until Pesah is over. They can be reassured, if necessary, that the change is not permanent, and they will get to enjoy Cheerios again before too long!


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