Passover is just a week away! This is probably the weekend you’ll be cleaning out your cupboards to remove chametz, which is any food or food product that contains leavened products.
Clear out the beer, pizza, cookies, bread, and pasta. But why waste all of it?
Sell or Donate Your Chametz
As a kosher caterer, I understand throwing away fresh food can be painful even as we at Mitzuyan Kosher Catering prepare our Passover and Seder catering menu. One solution common in Orthodox communities is to sell it. Local Chabad synagogues in Toronto act as chametz sales agents:
- Chametz of Midtown Toronto will accept chametz through Monday evening March 30
- The Family Shul and Chabad of Danforth-Beaches participate in online chametz sales
Be sure to visit their websites (links provided) to check for instructions.
If you have unopened boxes and packages, consider donating them to local food banks and help lower-income families. Here are a few to check out:
If you have a large amount of food to donate or can work with others to provide a sizable package, SecondHarvest will pick up your donation.
Deadlines, Travel Plans, and Other Chametz Rules
The last time you can eat chametz is the morning before Passover; in Toronto, it’s exactly 11:12 am so the kids can have cereal or oatmeal for breakfast. Any leftover chametz you didn’t donate or drop off for sale should be burned by 12:16 pm.
If you’re traveling and will be away from your home during the entire holiday, you don’t have to go through chametz removal. You can freeze your bread and grains, but I’d urge you to donate or sell lest it spoil and go to waste. You can allow a trusted friend (not Jewish) to enter your home and remove chametz while you’re away.
There has been a lot of debate about whether kitniyot is permitted on Passover. Kitniyot includes rice, beans, legumes, corn, and seeds, which aren’t actual leavening agents but can be ground into them. They are, or were, often stored close to or with leavening products as well, leaving them susceptible to comingling.
Responsa committees from Reform and Conservative movements have ruled the ban against kitniyot is mistaken and branded it a “foolish custom” because it detracts from the joy of the holiday, causes exorbitant price increases, emphasizes insignificant foods like legumes and ignores the point of removing chametz, and can be divisive. Quite a list of charges! However, even Maimonides agreed that kitniyot should be allowed. Ultimately, it’s really a family’s or congregation’s decision. Here’s an article that explains this and includes links.
Many Sephardic Jews do eat kitniyot during Passover. Rice, legumes, and beans are featured in many Eastern foods, including our own (non-Passover) kosher catering menus.
How Did Chametz Selling Begin?
Selling chametz to gentiles began in the Middle Ages, when most countries did not allow Jews to farm. Many Jews opened their own shops and small businesses. Others had taverns and made their own food and drink. Passover could wipe them out since for many, the tavern was their home. Beer and bread no doubt made up a lot of their sales.
Since the holiday is not intended to cause ruin, Yoel Sirkis, a rabbi who lived in the 14th and 15th centuries, suggested allowing these Jews of modest means to arrange temporary “sales” of their businesses—not rentals—to gentile acquaintances who would then sell back after the holiday. This ensured that they did not earn money from chametz during the holiday or lose their businesses.
That’s it for this year’s Passover blog. Have a joyous holiday, everyone!