The preparation leading up to the Pesach (Passover) period is a crucial contributing factor towards the carrying out of all the mitzvot (commandments) of the festival. This is a complicated procedure and must be followed carefully.
The first step is to have a separate set of pots, cutlery and crockery for Pesach. These are kept in a cupboard of their own and are never used at any other time.
If it is not feasible to have a separate set of utensils, many of the ones used for the rest of the year may be kashered (made kosher) for use during Pesach. This involves meticulous cleaning followed by a kashering process (usually immersing the item in boiling water). The rules concerning how to kasher (make kosher) an utensil are complex and much will depend on what material the utensil is made from and how it is used; a person experienced and knowledgeable in these matters (such as a rabbi) should be consulted.
All food preparation surfaces must be scrubbed down and covered with a non-porous cover. The refrigerator, sink and eating table must be thoroughly cleaned, so as to be rid of any traces of chametz (leaven). The eating of only unleavened bread (bread without any rising agents such as yeast) is an integral part of the Pesach period. The oven and stove are cleaned according to the methods used for food utensils. Some people also cover the tops of the stove (except for the burners) with aluminium foil.
After the kitchen has been adequately prepared, only items of food (and drink) which are properly ‘kosher lePesach’ will be allowed in. Often these will have a hechsher (rabbinic certificate) certifying them to be kosher lePesach, but some items, such as fruit and vegetables are assumed to be kosher lePesach provided they are clean.
One must try to eat all remaining food containing chametz prior to Pesach, otherwise this food must be sealed, placed in a completely separate cupboard and not used or touched again until after Pesach has finished. It is customary to sell all products containing chametz to a non-Jew before Pesach. This custom is called mechirat chametz. Once Pesach has finished one can buy back the food, reinstating it as one’s own property. This sale is usually arranged by the community’s rabbi. Any item containing chametz which remained in a Jew’s possession during Pesach and was not sold may not be used even after Pesach.
The entire house should be cleaned from top to bottom. This includes clothes, couches, cars and handbags. One should concentrate particularly on those areas where chametz is most likely to be found. Extra care must be taken if young children live in the home as food (including chametz) may be found in unpredictable places.
Cleaning and preparing a home before Pesach can be an all-consuming task. One must remember that the whole point of the exercise is to rid the house of chametz and not just to ‘Spring clean’.
Aish haTorah: Pesach Cleaning Made Easy
Aish haTorah: 10 Tips for Reducing Pesach Pressure
Ohr Somayach: Pesach Cleaning Primer
Orthodox Union: Hints for Pesach Cleaning
Related Pages on the BJE Website
Bedikat Chametz (the Search for Leaven)
How to Host a Passover Seder
How to Make Kneidlach (soup dumplings)