For some, Passover preparation is a big (but fun!) process that starts a week before the holiday. If you want to engage in this process, it involves cleaning up the house, making plans with family and friends for seder menus and heading to the grocery store. Many supermarkets carry matzah, grape juice and other important food products way before Passover itself.
The process of removing chametz (bread or leavened products) and completely cleaning the kitchen is essential to many Jews, and the main focus of Passover preparation. Why? When the Hebrew slaves were getting ready to leave Egypt in a hurry, they didn’t have time for their bread to rise—so they baked flat, unleavened cakes. We eat matzah during our Passover celebration to remember what they ate as they fled. When the Torah says to eat matzah, it also says to avoid eating any leavened bread with the matzah.
Some people simply put away the chametz and others leave it where it is. In your house, one partner may be “keeping” (following the dietary laws of) Passover and the other may not be, and that’s totally OK! You can be supportive by not eating all the carbs in their presence, or picking a day to make a Passover-friendly meal.
It’s important that everyone can choose to do what feels right for them. Passover traditions, even the seemingly odd ones, are often very important to people and help them feel connected to their families, their heritage and the Torah.
Even if you don’t plan to get rid of your chametz or to change your eating habits, an excuse for some spring cleaning is never a bad thing. Plus, it can be helpful to know about these traditions, especially if you’re invited to someone else’s home during the holiday.
And if you don’t feel like cleaning or getting rid of food, that’s OK. There are endless ways to prepare for Passover. Chametz as a food group can also be symbolized by things that are inflated, or too full. You can find ways to humble yourself or reduce what makes you feel “puffed up.” Maybe you can donate outgrown or out of season clothes. Spread kindness by planting flowers to beautify your neighborhood and celebrate spring or give tzedakah (charity) to people who don’t have enough to eat. Even if your holiday preparation is simply thinking about what freedom means to you, you’re getting yourself spiritually ready for the celebration.
The night before the first seder, there’s a ritual called bidikat chametz, which is a search for any remaining leavened products. Even if you’re not getting rid of any food, this is a great opportunity to create a scavenger hunt for kids! Have them look for crumbs or hidden pieces of bread. People often use a candle (or flashlight!) to search in dim light, and sweep up the crumbs with a feather. The next morning, you can burn them as a symbolic gesture of getting rid of those things that unnecessarily inflate our egos and, less symbolically, getting rid of those things that make our homes messy.
Return to the Guide to Passover for Interfaith Families