Passover starts Monday night -- after lots of cleaning
Passover, which begins Mondayand ends a week from Tuesday night, is the culmination of weeks of elaborate cleaning and purification preparations for observant Jews.
Between Purim and Passover, observant families scrupulously purge their homes of anything "chametz" -- items containing leavened wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt products. Sofa and car cushions are cleaned. Pockets and purses are purged of crumbs. Cupboards and refrigerators and emptied out and scrubbed, with any "chametz" condiments, beer, booze, and bread products that contravene Jewish law thrown out, given away or temporarily "sold" to non-Jews until after the holiday is over.
While not all of the city's 1.1 million Jews are observant, Passover - which commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt -- is the most widely observed Jewish holiday, said Rabbi Ari Hart of Riverdale's Hebrew Institute.
Hart was busy yesterday covering his kitchen countertops with foil, to make sure that anything "chametz" that might have been absorbed would not touch Passover foods, many of which are "kosher plus" for the high holiday.
Hart was also busy fielding questions as to how to best observe Jewish law: What foods need to be labeled 'kosher for Passover'? What do I do with my pet food? Can I make my dishwasher kosher for Passover?
(Answers: Olive oil doesn't need special labeling, but milk does. Let a non-Jewish neighbor take and feed the dog for the week. As for the dishwasher, ask your own rabbi! "Not all rabbis agree," Hart explained.)
For many Jews, the "spring cleaning" is a family affair, with kids pitching in not just to clean, but to hide 10 pieces of wrapped chametz on Passover eve for the adults to find and later burn. Significance and symbolism abound, pointed out music teacher Moshe Weidenfeld of Park Slope, who was scrubbing his kitchen yesterday under the direction of his mother in law. Yeast, leavening and fermentation can symbolize egos and self importance, so the cleaning -- which is thought to return Jews to their natural, pure selves, restores humility, he explained.
"When you're cleaning the schmutz off the inside as the stove, as I've been doing, believe me, it does so!" said Weidenfeld.