The new moon of Nissan is behind us. By the time the moon is full we will be celebrating Pesach.
Let me offer, this week and next, some thoughts on the technical side of preparation for Passover. This week – food, next week - cleaning.
There is a problem with food on Pesach and it has nothing to do with Jewish law.
With so many kosher l’pesach goods now available, not only in Golders Green, but even at the major supermarkets, many people feel an urge to buy certified everything. This can be wasteful from both financial and baal tashchit – ecological – perspectives. For many years I would spend 51 weeks of the year not eating jam – who needs jam? – only for Pesach to come by at which point I would feel the need to own four different flavours which would spend the rest of the year cluttering up the fridge. Pesach is, or at least ought to be, a time for simplification of consumption and yet many of us consume more white flour, desiccated this and sugary that over Pesach than at any other time of the year. Try, this year, a Pesach which provides the opportunity to eat more non-processed, freshly prepared foods.
Chametz is only food which is made from five species of grain; wheat, barley, oats, spelt, rye which has been allowed to leaven. If it is not food it is not chametz. There is no need to buy kosher l’pesach toothpaste, for example.
As well as avoiding chametz we are also commanded to avoid taarovet chametz – food in which chametz has been mixed in with non-chametz. Food science has grown ever more complex with grains used in all kinds of ways laypeople might not realise. As such foods that are subject to anything beyond an absolute minimum of processing should have a kasher l’pesach certification. Raw foods, and products subjected to a minimum of processing (fresh coffee, fruit juices, spices, ground nuts, etc.) do not need certification if they are bought before Pesach, though I would only use certified products if I needed to buy any of these products during the festival.
More information on these issues (and more) can be found on the NLS web-site (from Monday). And, of course, all are welcome to the adult-education evening on 30th March where I will be addressing some of these issues, as well as looking at the history behind the manish tana.