I look forward to Passover every year but also find the amount of preparations overwhelming. Since I have been cleaning, planning, cooking and hosting for Passover for the last 15 years, I’ve developed a few ways for managing all of the to do lists. Feel free to download my Passover Checklist to help you stay focused and prepared for the holiday this year.
Make a schedule of what needs to get done. Either print out a blank calendar or add items to the digital calendar on your phone of everything you hope to get done before the holiday. This includes cleaning, menu planning, grocery lists, shopping dates and cooking. Get specific about things like when you are going to make your meat order, schedule to clean out the car, take the kids shoe shopping, and of course koshering the kitchen for Passover. Whenever you think of another task, just add it to the calendar.
Delegate and get help.
With each to do item on the calendar, delegate who will help with or complete the task. Family members should help clean our their bedrooms and belongings. Its ok to offer incentives such as a trip to the ice cream store once everything is done for the day in order to help motivate your kids to help you clean for Passover. Involving children in the cleaning and preparation will help instill in them the value of what you are doing and also will give them that sense of pride when you finally sit down to seder that they contributed to preparing for the holiday. If you have regular cleaning help consider scheduling them to come an additional day or two to help with a majority of the work.
Focus on the kitchen, clean out the cabinets that contain food and especially the ones that contain grain products.
Two weeks before Passover plan to work on cleaning out the kitchen cabinets that contain food, then work on the other cabinets that you will be using during the holiday. If you still have time before the holiday plan on cleaning out the rest of the cabinets or you can just close them off for the duration of the holiday if you don’t get to them.
Designate an area for eating chametz.
Be sure everyone knows where and on what dishes to use while eating chametz once you have cleaned out your kitchen. This gets more challenging the closer to the holiday it is and especially after you have already turned your kitchen over. Because you are going to be cleaning out and rearranging everything in your kitchen, you want to be sure that everyone else in the household understands that they need to begin to be more careful of where they are eating and to clean up after themselves when eating chametz.
Kosher your kitchen for Passover.
Once the chametz has been cleaned out of the kitchen and all the surfaces have been cleaned you are now ready to kosher your kitchen for Passover. This includes, sinks, countertops, ovens, ranges, microwaves, etc. For a guide on to how to kosher you kitchen for Passover download The Kashrus Consciences published by Rabbi E. Eidlitz from the Kosher Information Bureau at kosherquest.org or the Sephardic Passover Guide published by The Rabbinical Court of California of the West Coast, headed by HaRav Gavriel Cohen at beth-din,org.
Sell your chametz.
Any non kosher for Passover food items that you are going to keep in your home during the holiday need to technically be sold to a non Jew. This is done so that you don’t have to throw away any of your non kosher for Passover food during the holiday. Most Rabbi’s will provide you with a contract of sale for you to fill out indicating specifically what you are selling and where it is being kept. Be sure to return it to your Rabbi a few days before the holiday.
Bedikat chametz, search for chametz.
This is a big mitzvah and one that my children always look forward to participating in. Prior to Passover we are commended to search for any chametz that might not have been found during our initial clean up. This year because Passover begins immediately after Shabbat, the search will be done on Thursday March 25th, the 13th of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Before the search it is customary to hide 10 pieces of well wrapped chametz around the house so that your efforts and the concluding blessing will not be done in vain.
Burning and Nullification of Chamezt.
Any chametz that was found in addition to the pieces that were hidden need to be burned the following day by mid morning. (The specific time depends on where you live so either check with your Rabbi or on chabad.org.) Normally, after burning the remaining chametz, a formal nullification is declared rendering any chametz that might still unknowingly be in your possession ownerless. Because we are sill allowed to eat chametz the following day for Shabbat this year, the nullification will be recited on Shabbat day.
If you are going to be hosting a seder this is what you will need:
A hagada is the book that contains all of the readings for the seder. It’s helpful but not necessary that everyone at the table have the same version of hagada. That way everyone can literally stay on the same page. You can get basic versions fairly inexpensively at a local Judaica store or I have even seen them given out at supermarkets for free this time of year as part of a promotion. We have enough of the same version that all of our family and in the past our guests as well have a copy of the same one but I also have an illustrated family hagada that has additional questions and stories the add to the basic text. Since the actual telling of the story of Passover is a central mitzvah to the holiday, its nice to be able to add some commentary and create conversation about the text without just reading it straight through. Especially if you live outside of Isreal and will be having 2 seders, it’s nice to be able to keep it interesting by making it more interactive. This is especially important if you have children. We should encourage them to share what they have learned throughout the seder.
The Seder plate.
There should be a least one seder plate for the person leading the seder. Some people like to give each person their own individual plate with everything that they will use during the seder pre portioned. We use one seder plate and then I put the rest of the seder foods on small plates and bowls for everyone to take from as its needed. On your seder plate you will need: Zeroa: A piece of roasted meat that represents the lamb that was the special sacrifice on the eve of the exodus from Egypt. The sacrifice was also made again on the afternoon before Passover in the Holy Temple. Since we no longer have the temple, we place the zeroa on the seder plate to remind us of the Passove sacrafice. I always get a lamb shank bone from our butcher to use as the zeroa. Others have the custom of using a chicken neck. Whichever you use, it should be roasted. We don’t actually eat from the zeroa, its just put on the plate for the symbolism. Betza/Egg: Egg represents the pre-holiday offering (chagigah) that was brought in the days of the Holy Temple. This is also just for the symbolism and not eaten during the seder (by most people) so you only need one for the plate, not one for each person at the table. It is also customary to roast the egg. Just be sure you hard boil it first otherwise you risk having it explode while roasting. Maror/bitter herbs & Chazeret: These remind us of the bitterness of the slavery of our forefathers in Egypt. The most common foods used for the maror are freshly grated horseradish, and romaine lettuce (or endives). If you are using horseradish it needs to be grated before candle lighting. If you are using romain lettuce it should be washed and checked before the holiday as well. You will need 2-3 full leaves of romaine for each person and/or 1 tablespoon of grated horseradish per person. Charoset: This resembles the mortar and bricks made by the Jews when they were slaves to Pharaoh. Its typically made from a mixture of apples, pears, nuts and wine. I personally prefer a Moroccan version made by simmering chopped pitted dates in sweet wine with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. After the dates have become soft, add in chopped walnuts. Definately my most favorite of all the seder foods. Karpas: An onion, boiled potato, parsley, or celery. After making kiddush, the family goes to the sink and ritually washes their hands, but without saying the usual blessing. Everyone then takes a very small piece of the vegetable and dips it in saltwater (which you also need to have ready on the table even though it is not part of the actual seder plate.) After the appropriate blessing is said, the karpas is eaten.
Maztote: Two main types of matzah are machine made matzah and hand made matzah. Hand made matzah is round, it has a rough texture and you can tell by the coloring that it has been baked in an oven. It might look a little burnt around the edges. According to many halachic (Jewish law) opinions, these are preferable for the Seder. It’s also much more expensive than the machine made matzah. Machine made matzot are square, they have an even, smooth texture and color and today they come made from a variety of grains such as spelt, oat and even gluten free. Shmurah matzah is made from grain that has been under special supervision from the time it was harvested. You can buy both handmade and machine made shmurah matzot. You will need 3 full matzah for the seder plate and about two maztzos per person to eat throughout the seder. Wine and grape juice: enough for 4 full cups for each person minimum of 2.9 oz. Other opinions say around 4 oz.
Lastly, don’t forget a maztoh cover, pillows for reclining, afikomen bag, and cup for Eliyahu the Profit.
Keep the rest of the menu super simple. It’s better to make kosher for Passover variations of the dishes you normally make instead of making a lot of completely new recipes. First of all you are already familiar with the recipe. For example, if there is a particular roast recipe that you normally make during the rest of the year that you know your family and guests enjoy, then make that but just leave out anything that isn’t kosher for Passover. Let’s say the recipe calls for soy sauce. It probably won’t hurt just to leave it out. Just be sure to compensate by adding a little more salt to the recipe. Side dishes should not be any more complicated than simply roasted vegetables, roasted potatoes with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. A fresh green salad also makes a great side. Take into consideration the amount of matzo everyone is eating before you even get to the meal. Don’t feel the need to make too many dishes.
Plan your table.
Lots of meals means lots of dishes. Having guests? More dishes, and cups, and napkins, and silverware. If you plan on using your dishes be sure that you have enough for everyone. If you are planning on using disposables, add them to your shopping list to buy or order them online now. Now is also a good time to be sure you have enough folding tables and chairs. Lastly, don’t forget to make note of which table linens and any decor you plan on using.
Gather your recipes.
Many families have recipes that they only cook during the holidays. But you might not remember where you kept them from year to year. For years I kept a journal (yes, actual old fashioned pen on paper) of all the menus with references for the recipes that I could look back on from year to year to see what I made. Now that everything is digital, I keep my menus in the Notes section of my phone titled “Shabbat and Yom Tov Menus” folder. If you’re using a recipe that you found online you can easily copy and paste the link right in the notes. If you have a dish that you are making from a cookbook write the name of the of the dish, the name of the cookbook and page number next to it on the menu. If you have a handwritten recipe take a photo of it and insert it into the menu notes page or save it in a separate folder in your photos app titled “written recipes”. If you have a recipe that is part of an Instagram post that doesn’t have a separate link bookmark it in Instagram, and write in your menu the name of the post and who posted it. For example: 4 Pepper Hungarian Goulash, saved in Instagram @l.a._kosher_kitchen. If you’re like me, you have recipes saved in dozens of places. Organizing the ones that you are going to use this year and having them all in one place will make planning for next year SO much easier.
Make grocery lists.
Chances are you shop at more than one store for your groceries. Go through your recipes and make a list for each store of what you need. Also, if you don’t already, now would be a good time to sign up for a grocery delivery service. Instacart, Amazon Fresh and the like will save you tons of time and energy shopping and will come in very handy if you are in the middle of cooking and realize that you need an ingredient. Stock up on food storage containers. Since you are going to be cooking and baking and plan on freezing some of it, be sure that you have a good supply of food storage containers. Add shopping days to your calendar. Keep lists from year to year.
This year Passover begins motzay Shabbat.
Last year I think I can say that everyone experienced a very different Passover from all previous years because of Covid and the pandemic. This Passover will be different from last Passover because this year erev Pessach is motzay Shabbat on Saturday March 27th. That means that this year we have Shabbat first and then 2 days of yom tov! Mi kamocha Israel! Which other people has a “vacation day/holiday” where you are required to eat bread, immediately followed by an entire week long holiday were you are forbidden to eat any bread and grain products and not even have them in your possession?! So that’s the situation this year. We are going clean and plan and shop and cook and make extra sure that everything is Kosher for Passover, but the day before the holiday starts we’re going to have Shabbat where we need to eat bread for 3 separate meals. On Friday night you are going to light candles and say the blessing for the Shabbat candles but you also need to light a candle that will stay lit at least until the end of Shabbat and you will use that candle to light your candles for the holiday once Shabbat is over. To make the preparations easier, all of your food for Shabbat should be Kosher for Passover. You are going to cook or by all means get takeout food for that Shabbat but everything except the bread that you eat on Shabbat should be kosher for Passover. This is because your kitchen is already going to be kosher for Passover so anything that you heat up is going to need to be heated on kosher for Passover equipment such as a hot plate or the blech. And all of your countertops and sinks and the refrigerator and cabinets are going to have been cleaned and kashered for Passover so even though technically we are allowed to eat food on that particular Shabbat that is not kosher for Passover, its better to eat Shabbat food that is kosher for Passover because you don’t want to risk it coming in contact with your kosher for Passover kitchen and cookware and utensils. Everything that you eat on that Shabbat should be on disposable dishes and cooked in disposable cookwear. Just keep in mind that if anything comes in contact with the bread even if its in a separate container on the same table as the bread then any leftovers should not be put back to be eaten on Passover. Definitely use a disposable table cloth and wrap up the whole thing when one meal is finished and take it out to the trash bin. Before the holiday or even before Shabbat the trash bin should be taken out to the street so that the contents are no longer technically on your property. I asked our Rabbi what we should do if there is any leftover small pieces of bread or crumbs and he sent me a video of the Rav David Yosef who is the son of the Rav Ovadia Yosef z”l, saying that it is actually preferable to flush any leftover small bread pieces and crumbs down the toilet. When Shabbat falls immediately before erev Passaover many people eat pita instead of Challah because it create less crumbs. If possible eat the Shabbat meals outside. Passover is earlier in the year this year. Even in Los Angeles the evenings and nights are still pretty cool ( for southern California standards of course). If its too cold out to have all of the meals outside then its ok to make kiddish and wash and make motzy outside, eat the minimum requirement of bread, say brikat hamazone and them come back inside and finish the meal.
The last issue that there is with Shabbat immediately preceding erev Passover is we are not allowed to eat anything that is not kosher for Passover after a certain time of the day. This year because if fall on Shabbat day, we need to be careful not to eat the challah after that specific time. The specific time depends on where you live just like candle lighting is different depending on where you live. To find out which time you are no longer allowed to eat bread a on erev Passover, listeners should consult their own Rabbi. Local Chabbad Rabbi’s do an excellent job every year providing information on the specific times per their location that all of the mitzvote of the holiday need to be completed.