Thursday, March 14, 2013

Declaring our hametz ownerless

Bitul hametz (declaring our hametz ownerless)

After searching for any left overs of hametz  (see here) Sunday March 24th at night we pronounce the first declaration of Bitul hametz:

"kal hamira de-ika birshuti dela haziteh vedela bi'arteh libtil veleheve (hefqer) ke'afra dear'a"

The translation is:

"All kind of hametz or fermenting agent that belongs to me, that I haven't seen or that I haven't dispose of, it is considered ownerless, as the dust of the earth."

The reason for the bitul is the following: as we've already said, during Pesah the ownership or possession of hametz is forbidden, even if our hametz is hidden or even if it is not in our house. During Pesah there cannot be any hametz that belong to us. Therefore, through this statement (bitul) we renounce our ownership of any hametz that belong to us and that involuntarily we might not have found or removed. Technically speaking, the hametz will become subsequently ownerless. Therefore, even if any hametz is still found in our property, is not ours anymore. 

For this declaration to be valid, it is necessary to understand every word we are uttering. Thus, one should say it in a language he or she understands. To become absolutely conscious of this declaration, our Sages recommended repeating it three times.

Bi'ur hametz (Getting rid of hametz)

The following day, Monday March 25th, in the morning, after we finish eating hametz (around 10.00 AM), we take the hametz found last night together with all the leftover of the hametz that remained from our last meal and we proceed to its physical disposal (bi'ur). Following the ancient custom, this can be done by burning the hametz (in a safe place!), and it can also be done by disposing it, or throwing it in a river to the fish or by feeding it to the birds. After we disposed of our hametz  we pronounce once again the bitul. This time the declaration is more comprehensive:

"kal hamira de-ika birshuti dehaziteh vedela haziteh debi'arteh vedela biarteh libtil veleheve (hefqer) ke'afra dear'a"

The translation is:

"All kind of hametz or fermenting agent that belongs to me, that I have or have not seen and that I have or have not eliminated, should be considered ownerless, as the dust of the earth."

This last bitul must be done Monday March 25th, before 11.24 A.M. (the fifth hour of the day). Once this bitul is done no more dealings with hametz is allowed until Pesach is over.

Shabbat Shalom!

Candle lighting in NYC:        6:43 pm
Shabbat Ends in NYC:          7:44 pm

Bediqat Hametz, last inspection of hametz, and Pesah out of town

 The night before the Seder (Sunday March 24th, 2013) after 8.00 pm, once our house is clean of hametz and ready for Pesah, we do the bediqat hametz, which is the last inspection to search for any hametz food that might have remained involuntarily in our property after cleaning.
That night, with the aid of a candle or a flashlight, we search all spots in our house where we might have brought and/or stored food. We should especially search the kitchen, food storage rooms, the pantry, the refrigerator, the freezer and all other places in which we might have eaten or kept food. In the bediqa we are looking especially for hametz "food" that we could have overlooked during the cleaning process, and not so much for hametz crumbs, which will be rendered hefqer--ownerless--by the bitul, when we declare our hametz ownerless. 

Attention should be given also to cars, since it is not uncommon to eat or keep snacks in a car. Cars should be washed and cleaned before the night of the bediqa and then we should search them usually after we search our homes. We should also search our office or place of work, because we often bring food there. If it is impossible to search these locations right after we do the bediqa at home Sunday night, we should do the bediqa before Sunday night or early Monday morning March 25th.

When a family spends Pesah out of town, the cleaning and the last hametz inspection (bediqa) of the main house should be done the night before leaving home, without saying any berakha. The hametz found should be disposed, giving to a gentile or sold. The night of the bediqa, Sunday March 24th, the family should search for hametz in the house or in the Hotel room where the family will stay for Pesach, but this time with the berakha.

 Watch HERE why is important to learn Hilkhot Pesah

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Understanding the prohibition of owning hames during Pesah

 What makes the prohibition of ḥameṣ so unique is that, unlike any other forbidden foods, it includes the ban of its possession.  There are three miṣvot in the Tora related to this prohibition: bal year-e (your ḥameṣ shall not be seen); bal-yimaṣe (ḥameṣ shall not be found in your possessions), which our Rabbis explain as one single prohibition: owning ḥameṣ during Pesaḥ.  We also have a thirdmiṣva called tashbitu (you shall end the possession of ḥameṣ, before Pesaḥ begins). In sum, there are two identical prohibitions (an exceptional case!) and one positive commandment, virtually for the same issue: owning ḥameṣ during Pesaḥ.

Strictly speaking, (and following Maimonides opinion) these three miṣvot would be fulfilled at once by the 'bitul', i.e., a verbal declaration by which we renounce to the ownership of any ḥameṣthat belong to us, regardless of where that ḥameṣ is located.

But the Rabbis explained that there might be some practical complications with just declaring our ḥameṣ ownerless, while keeping at home. First, we might declare that we do not own anymore our ḥameṣ, but, if we posses something valuable, will we really mean wholeheartedly that we renounce to its possession? Second, ḥameṣ is the most common food (bread, etc.), so even if we declare it ownerless but we keep edible ḥameṣ at home, we might  eat it accidentally...

This is why our rabbis instructed us to actually dispose of ourḥameṣ before Pesaḥ begins. 

There are four steps, then, that we should take to fulfill these three Biblical commandments according to our  ḥakhamim

(1) We should clean our houses, cars, offices and other properties before Pesaḥ to identify and remove all ḥameṣ from our properties. 

(2) We have to run a final search of all our properties to make sure that we have removed everything ḥameṣ from them (bediqatḥameṣ). 

(3) We have to physically dispose or get rid of any ḥameṣ found in our properties before and during the Bediqa (be'ur ḥameṣ). 

(4) Then, we have to declare that whatever ḥameṣ we may still own anywhere, which was not detected and eliminated by us, does not belong to us anymore, and from now on it is considered ownerless (hefqer) as the dust of the earth (bitul ḥameṣ).
We will explain each one of these steps, B'H, in the coming HOTD.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Getting your kitchen ready for Pesah


Sink and countertops: The sink, even when made of porcelain, should be cleaned by pouring on it boiling water. Countertops and kitchen-tables, if possible, it should be poured on them boiling water. If that is not possible they should be thoroughly cleaned or covered in order to use them for Pesaḥ. For a regular table, after it is cleaned, the custom is to use a Pesaḥ or a new tablecloth.
Dishwasher: A day before Pesaḥ, after the dishwasher is completely clean, it has to run on an empty cycle without dishes but with detergent.  Then the dishwasher becomes ready for Pesaḥ use.  Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Hayim recommends to replace the dishwasher racks or to use some kind of an added base to cover them, in order to avoid a direct contact of the Pesaḥ utensils with the year round racks.  The reason for this stricter stand for the dishwasher is that unlike an oven or a microwave, where only the absorbed vapors need to be eliminated, in the dishwasher, tangible ḥameṣ (ḥameṣ ba'ayin) might be present, which makes its cleaning more difficult.

Oven:  The oven should not be used for 24 hours.  Then it must go thorough a deep cleaning.  Second, if it is a self-cleaning oven, we have to do one self-clean cycle and then it becomes ready forPesaḥ.  If it is not a self-cleaning oven, after we thoroughly clean it, we let the oven run on the highest temperature-setting, for an hour, including the racks. Then the oven is Kosher for Pesaḥ.
Microwave:  Take a bowl of water, with some detergent or soap in it, and let it boil in the microwave until the microwave walls are filled with its steam. The vapor penetrates the walls rendering the microwave Kosher for Pesaḥ. If you can't do this and you need to use a year-round microwave during Pesaḥ, cover completely the food in a container or Ziploc products, Saran wrap or any other hermetic microwavable (and safe!) covers.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

PESAH: Getting your kitchen Kosher for Pesah (1 of 2)

During Pesaḥ, it is not permitted to use the same cooking utensils or tableware that was used year-round for ḥameṣ.  It is customary and most recommendable to have a separate set of cookware and tableware for Pesaḥ.  If this is not possible, one can still use the year round utensils after a process known as hag'ala, which is a kind of sterilization.  The rational of the hag'ala is that the ḥameṣ absorbed in the walls of any utensil will be expelled when that utensil is exposed to the same circumstances in which the absorption occurred in the first place (kebol'o kakh polto).  
 Absorption will take place only at high temperatures, thus, if a utensil was used only  for cold food, it could be used during Pesaḥ after thoroughly cleaning it, without any further hag'ala

Some examples of hag'ala:

Metal: Tableware like forks, spoons or knives have to be thoroughly cleaned and then immersed in a pot of boiling water.  Afterwards, they need to be washed with cold water and then they can be used for Pesaḥ. Hot water opens the pores of the utensils, allowing the expulsion of the absorbed ḥameṣ.  The cold water closes the pores again. 

Glass: According to the Sephardic Minhag, glass utensils like cups or plates used throughout the year for ḥameṣ should be thoroughly washed and they can then be used for Pesaḥ without any further hag'ala.   Glass utensils do not absorb anything thru their pores and therefore they do no expel any substance thru them.  This is applicable even when the glass utensils are used at high temperatures.  It should be noticed that this Halakha is radically different for the Ashkenazi custom.

Porcelain  ( kele ḥeres): Ceramic, pottery or porcelain china and tableware that we use throughout the year for ḥameṣ are not suitable for Pesaḥ.  In other words, they are an exception because hag'ala cannot sterilize them completely. Therefore year round porcelain or ceramic utensils should not be used for Pesaḥ.

Click HERE to obtain very important information on rice types and brands for PESAH 2013  

In this document  I quote verbatim the information I got from Mr. Shmuel and Mrs. Mojgan Liviem, as per Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Hayim, and the information published by Rabbi Yehuda Boroosan, regarding the use of rice for Pesah 2013.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Information on Rice for Pesah 2013

1. From Mr. Shmuel and Mojgan Liviem, as per Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Hayim. 

“Passover Rice Information 2013"                                                          

   As per phone conversations with rice importers and receipt of confirmation letters from them, Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Haim has confirmed that the following brands of rice are 100% pure, are not enriched, and have no additives or preservatives. Therefore, they are suitable for use on Passover. 
The brands are as follows:


Please avoid any enriched rice.

2. From Rabbi Yehuda Boroosan, Atlanta, GA. 

“Rice is a primary staple food for many people.  When  rice  is processed into white  rice, the fiber and nutrient rich outer  bran  is stripped first, leaving behind the germ and endosperm. In many cases, the nutritious germ is lost as well during the polishing process. As a result, white  rice  is not terribly nutritious, naturally. Therefore,  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that any rice labeled  “enriched”,  regardless of its point of origin - whether domestically grown or imported - must contain at least the minimum level thiamin, niacin, iron and folic acid as specified in the Code of Federal Regulations. “Organic Rice’ on the other hand may not contain other nutrients, in compliance with the regulations  set forth by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). Although the USDA does not require any import permit to import processed “Natural Rice” such as Basmati, Jasmine, etc., without enrichment,  for food consumption to the US, in some countries abroad the trend has become to enrich their natural rice that is intended for import purposes. Consequently, please use the following chart as the reference to purchase qualified kosher rice for Pesach.”

                            See THIS table