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Laws in Preparation for Pesach

Cosmetic products that are not flavored do not need to be kosher for Pesach, but those that are flavored, such as toothpaste and lipstick, need kashrut for Pesach * Products that are kosher for Pesach but are similar in shape to chametz, such as wafers and cookies, may not be eaten or kept at home if they are not made with a significant change from their chametz form * According to Ashkenazi minhag which is careful about kitniyot on Pesach, there is no need to be concerned about quinoa, and it is permitted to be eaten

It is permissible to use ointments and body creams and all other cosmetic products that have no flavor on Pesach, and there is no need for them to be certified kosher for Pesach.

The poskim disagree about whether body ointments that contain cḥametz may be used on Pesacḥ. While soaps and creams are not made from cḥametz, they sometimes contain grain alcohol or other cḥametz derivatives, leading to queries about their status on Pesacḥ.

Some poskim say that applying an ointment is equivalent, by rabbinic enactment, to drinking. Therefore, even if the cḥametz in these products is not fit for a dog’s consumption, it retains the status of cḥametz because it is suitable for anointing, and thus it is forbidden to use them on Pesacḥ. Accordingly, one must use soaps, shampoo, and creams that are kosher for Pesacḥ.

Others maintain that the Sages only equated the application of ointment to drinking with regard to Yom Kippur and anointing with oil consecrated as teruma (priestly gifts). All other Torah prohibitions relate to eating alone, not anointing. Although it is forbidden to derive benefit from cḥametz, the cḥametz in these products was rendered unfit for a dog’s consumption even before Pesacḥ began and thus lost the status of cḥametz. It is therefore permissible to derive benefit from them and apply them to the body during Pesacḥ.

In practice, even if we knew that these products contained chametz which in its current state is not fit for a dog’s consumption, since it is a matter of doubt in a rabbinic enactment, the halakha goes according to the lenient opinion. However, in practice, most cosmetic products do not contain chametz, and therefore in general, even according to the strict method, these products are kosher (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 8:9).

Toothpaste and Lipstick

Toothpaste, as well as flavored lipstick need to be certified kosher for Pesach, seeing as they are flavored.

Kashrut for Medicines on Pesach

If the medicine is flavored, like syrup, lozenges, or chewables, then one must ascertain that it is kosher for Pesacḥ. In cases of uncertainty, it is forbidden to ingest them. Only those who are dangerously ill, and whose medicine does not have a good substitute, are permitted to eat it, for pikuach nefesh (preservation of human life) overrides the prohibition of eating chametz. If possible, one should render the medicine unfit for a dog’s consumption before Pesach.

However, a medicine that is tasteless does not need to be certified kosher for Pesach, because even if it was mixed with chametz that was previously fit to eat – because now it is not fit to eat even in a time of need, since it is even not fit for a dog’s consumption, it no longer has a prohibition of chametz. Indeed, there are meticulous people who insist not to swallow even bitter medicines that have a mixture of chametz in them, because they take into consideration the opinion of a few poskim who believe that since the medicine is important to us, it is not considered unfit for a dog’s consumption, and according to rabbinic enactment it is forbidden to swallow it; however, the halakha goes according to the opinion of the majority of poskim, who permit swallowing a medicine that is not suitable for eating without inspecting it.

Moreover, even a flavored medicine is almost always kosher for Pesach, because the chances of it containing chametz is very low, all the more so today, when many people are sensitive to gluten. Therefore, when there is difficulty in checking the kashrut of a medicine that has no flavor, one can trust the great majority of medicines, and consider them kosher (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 8:7, end of note 9).

Foods that Look Like Chametz should not be Eaten or Stored with Kosher for Pesach Food

Some manufacturers make food products for Pesach that look similar to chametz foods, such as wafers, cookies, and rolls. However, even though in practice they do not contain chametz, as long as they resemble chametz products, one must be careful not to eat them on Pesach, nor to keep them together with the Pesach food products, lest because of this, one makes the mistake of eating chametz. From year to year this concern is becoming increasingly confirmed, as from year to year there are more stories about Jews who made the mistake of eating chametz on Pesach, believing that it was a kosher product for Pesach.

Therefore, on Pesach, one should not eat foods that look similar to chametz foods, including wafers and cookies. Only if the manufacturers have made a significant change in their shape, which is obvious and noticeable to everyone, may they be eaten.

The Prohibition of Baking Dairy or Meat Bread

As a kind of source for this is the ruling of our Sages not to bake dairy or meat bread in an quantity larger than eaten in one meal, lest people forget that the bread is dairy, and come to eat it with meat (which is a rabbinic prohibition, since they were not cooked together). And if the mistake was made, our Sages decreed that the bread is forbidden to be eaten (Pesachim 30a-b).

Only if they changed the shape of the bread in such a way that all the members of the household understand that it has a different ruling, and will check to find out whether it is dairy or meat, is it permitted. But such a sign does not permit the baking of dairy or meat bread in order to be sold, lest there be people who do not pay attention to the sign. Only when a clear sign is made where everyone recognizes from it that the bread is dairy or meat – is it permitted, such as a pita with yellow cheese on it, or a strip of meat (SA, YD 97:1; Peninei Halakha: Kashrut 25:4).

Is it Appropriate to Sell Chametz and Safek Chametz

Q: Is it appropriate to sell chametz products left at home? Is there no concern that this is a fictitious sale? And is it appropriate to be strict and not sell chametz gamur (absolute chametz), but to sell only safek chametz (uncertain chametz)?

A: In the past, it was not necessary to sell chametz products, because people were not used to preserving chametz food. However, today, as a result of industrial production, there are many chametz products that can be preserved for a long time, and in order not to incur financial loss, it is necessary to sell them. On top of that, there are flavored food products and medicines that are doubtful if a little chametz is mixed in them, and they should not be destroyed just because of this safek (doubt). Therefore, the proper thing is to sell them and thus avoid all doubt. There is no reason to ask a rabbi about this, and there is no reason to ask what is cḥametz gamur and what is safek chametz, as the basic halakha is that even the sale of real cḥametz of little value is permissible for the sale is valid even le-khatḥila, and one may rely without concerns or questions on the rabbis conducting the sale.

And the claim that this is a fictitious sale should not be made, since it is done in a complete and absolute manner from a legal point of view. And even though in practice, the chance that the non-Jew will come to take his chametz is negligible, in practice, from a legal point of view, the sale is valid – in other words, it is not a fictitious sale, but a legal (formal) sale. There is also nothing wrong with the fact that the sale takes place online, as it is common today to make numerous transactions online.

Do Not Sell the Dishes or the Chametz Absorbed or Stuck to Them

One should not sell chametz vessels to a non-Jew, because if he does so, after Pesach, he will have to immerse them in a mikveh before using them.

One should not sell the cḥametz that is stuck to or absorbed into kelim (vessels). Quite a few laws relating to mekhirat cḥametz were introduced in order to make it clear to all that it is an actual sale, but if one writes that he is selling the cḥametz absorbed in or stuck to his kelim, the sale will appear to be lacking seriousness, since this has no value and nobody is interested in buying it. Therefore, one should not indicate this in the sale contract.

Indeed, if there was a halachic need for this, the sale of chametz absorbed in utensils would be considered a serious matter. However, according to the halakha, there is no need for this, because there is no prohibition of bal yera’eh (the prohibition against chametz being seen in one’s possession on Pesach) and bal yimatzei (the prohibition against chametz being found in one’s possession on Pesach) on chametz absorbed in vessels, rather, the prohibition is the use of these vessels on Pesach, lest they emit flavor of chametz into foods. Therefore, they should be put in a closed place for the entire Pesach.

Quinoa According to the Ashkenazi Minhag

Regarding quinoa, some poskim rule strictly due to its similarity to some types of kitniyot. Others are lenient since the customary prohibition does not apply to quinoa, which entered our diets only recently. Moreover, its seeds are much smaller than those of cereal grains, making them easy to distinguish. In practice, the primary view is the lenient one, as long as one thoroughly inspects the quinoa.

Shemura Matzah for Seder Night

It is a Torah commandment to eat safe-guarded matzah on the night of the Seder. Some poskim say they need to be guarded from the time of the wheat harvest (Rif, Rambam), and others say that it is enough from the time of milling (Rashi, Rosh, and others). In practice, today’s custom is to be scrupulous about shemura matzahmatzot that have been guarded from the time of harvest are used to fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah on the Seder night (Peninei Halakha 12:2-3).

There are those who are scrupulous to have hand-made matzah, because according to many poskim, the meaning of the guarding is that the matzot be kneaded and baked with special intent for the sake of the mitzvah of eating matzah on Seder night (“le-shem matzat mitzva”), and a machine cannot have intent. And although according to halakha, machine-made matzah is kosher le-khatḥila for the mitzvah of eating matzah on Seder night, because it is sufficient that the operation of the machine is done for the sake of the mitzvah – hand-made matzahs are more mehudar, because they are done with more intent for the sake of the mitzvah.

Is it Appropriate to Buy Matzah Shemura for the Entire Pesach?

Q: On the rest of the days of Pesach, should one be scrupulous and buy machine-made matzah shemura from harvest time, or is it possible to make do with regular matzah, whose price is about a third of the price of shemura matzah?

A: There are two sides to the question: 1) from the side of the mitzvah of eating matzah. 2) From the side of concern of chametz.

1) Some Rishonim and Achronim (Rosh, Gra, and others) say it is sufficient to eat a kezayit of matzah at two meals every day of Pesach. However, in order to do so, it is enough to use our regular matzot (not labeled as shemura), which have been safeguarded from the time of milling, because one technically fulfills the requirement for matzat mitzva with matzah that has been guarded from the time of milling, and even on Seder night, in a time of need, one fulfills his obligation of the mitzvah, all the more so, on the seven days of Pesach.

2) However, on the side of concern for chametz, there is a hiddur in eating shemura matzah, because indeed in practice, in the regular matzot there is concern of a mixture of chametz. This is because sometimes after the wheat has already finished ripening, and their stalks have dried, heavy rains fall on them, which causes some of the grains to become chametz, but when the wheat is guarded from harvest time, they make sure to harvest them before they dry out and rain falls on them, and after that, they make sure to store them in a dry place; consequently, there are no wheat kernels that got wet in water, and became chametz. However, in the normal wheat that is imported from abroad, from which the rest of the matzot are made, seemingly, there is wheat that became chametz, either because of the rains that fell on them after they had dried and were still left in the field, or from water that is sometimes found at the bottom of the warehouses. Also, during the kneading process too, they are more meticulous in the preparation of matzot shemurot than regular matzot.

However, in practice, according to all the poskim, even the regular matzot are kosher, since there is no fear that they will contain more than one-sixtieth of chametz. And although according to the strict poskim, when the chametz was batel be-shishim before Pesach, when Pesach begins, chametz is ḥozer ve-ne’or (“reawakened,” i.e., its nullification is reversed), and forbids everything (Peninei Halakha: Pesach 7:3-4) – this is on the condition that there is certainty there was chametz there, but in practice, there is no certainty there was even any chametz in the package in question, and therefore, it is kosher by all accounts. However, the scrupulous are careful even about the slightest bit of chametz, and therefore, are meticulous to eat shemura matzot throughout the holiday.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.

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