What Is Jewish Chametz: Pesach (Passover)?

What Does Chametz Symbolize?

Chametz must be removed from all jewish homes as preparation for Passover. But exactly what is chametz? It’s anything that is made from the five major grains (barley, wheat, oats, rye, and spelt) that has not been completely baked within eighteen minutes after coming into contact with water. Further, observant Ashkenazic Jews also avoid rice, corn, peanuts, and beans, since they are commonly used to make bread. Historically, these were often processed alongside wheat, and there was a fear that wheat exposed to water (making it chametz) might have been mixed in.

Bedikat Chametz & Cleaning

If you think making a home “chametz-free” is an easy job, think again. It takes days, if not weeks, to accomplish this task. Not only must all chametz be removed from the house, any utensils, dishes, pots, and pans that have come into contact with chametz cannot be used either. This is why some families have an extra set of Passover kitchenware while others use paper products during the holiday.

The entire home, and particularly the kitchen, must be cleaned, scrubbed, and chametz-free. Once everything seems in order, a formal search, called bedikat chametz, usually takes place on the night before Passover. Any chametz that is found is carefully set aside, wrapped, and burned the following morning.

Selling Chametz To a Non-Jew Contract

Another ritual observed at this time is “mechirat chametz“, the sale of chametz to a Gentile or a rabbi acting with power-of-attorney. In fact, those who sell their chametz intend to repurchase it after Passover. This rite usually takes place when the chametz discovered from the search is burned. It is customary that a renunciation of ownership is declared regarding any chametz that has not been detected.

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Matzah: Kosher Food For Passover

Once all of the inappropriate foods have been done away with, that leaves the issue of replacing it with the proper items. In addition to buying food that is marked kosher for Passover, Jews need to have a good supply of matzah on hand. Matzah is a grain product made of flour and water, baked quickly so that it does not rise (Jews ususally make Matzah balls in passover). Enriched matzah, called matzah ashirah, contains egg, milk, honey, wine, or fruit juice. It is only permitted on Passover for someone who has difficulty digesting regular matzah.