This is really a bit early since Pesach is still a month and a half in the future, and even the most over-the-top early-bird Pesach cleaners don't start until after Purim. But a rabbi member of my minyan just posted the Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative) Pesach Guide 5771 (2011), so here's the link before I forget to re-post: www.rabbinicalassembly.org/pesahguide5771.pdf
It describes what can and can't be kashered for Passover and how to do the kashering if possible. It lists what food items need a special Kosher L'Pesach hechsher. If you keep a strictly kosher home, you really do need to consult these lists (unless like me you live where you can simply buy everything for Pesach from a rabbinically supervised supermarket) because there are a lot of items like canned tuna or herbal teas for which a regular hechsher is not good enough due to possible minute amounts of chametz in the processing.
Last Edit: Feb 28, 2011 22:53:39 GMT -5 by Debbie B.
Yes, the in-between time between after Pesach cleaning and kitchen "conversion" and Pesach is a pain because there are many food products that can't be used during Pesach if opened before the holiday begins. But once your kitchen is kashered for Pesach you still have to eat something before the first seder.
I keep forgetting the differences between living in an area with lots of readily available kosher food and other parts of the country. Even our local chain supermarket sets up a huge Kosher L'Pesach section with a lot of special products for the holiday. Since we avoid kitniyot, I find that I do have to be careful with the supermarket that sometimes puts Israeli Kosher L'Pesach products out that are therefore only suitable for Sephardic Jews (or some Conservative Jews who have decided to give up the silly minhag). In the rabbinically supervised kosher supermarket, they keep the Kosher L'Pesach foods with kitniyot well separated and labelled from other items.
When we spent one Pesach in Israel (in 2002), I told our Dati (Modern Orthodox) friends that Pesach was the one time of year that it was easier for us to buy kosher food in Skokie, IL than in Israel, because our friends had a long list of approved "no kitniyot" items that they had to refer to and even bring with them shopping. Since most observant Jews in Skokie avoid kitniyot, those items are clearly designated in the kosher supermarket.
I do try to get certain items several weeks ahead because they will run out. Last year, the kosher supermarket ran out of the good cheese that was kosher l'Pesach. I had bought some, but then we ate it before Pesach and I was disappointed that I couldn't get any to have during the holiday.
When my kids were little, they used to want to get the kosher l'Pesach "breakfast cereal". Since the only ones available were sweetened, Passover was one of two situations I let them have pre-sweetened cereal. There other time was when we went camping. Now that they are older, they don't want those Passover "cereals" anymore.
By the way, Mike, take my word for it: if you should see and be curious about the kosher l'Pesach "pasta"---don't bother---they are disgusting and practically inedible Better to do without pasta for 8 days!
Last Edit: Feb 28, 2011 22:52:49 GMT -5 by Debbie B.
I was recently talking to my mom who was remembering when she came to help out after my son was born. (He just turned 14 this week.). She was there for the bris, helped us clean for Passover, celebrated my daughter's 3rd birthday with a Potato starch cake I made because it was right before Pesach, and then was there for our seder and went with us to the home of friends for another seder. Back then, we didn't have separate meat/dairy kitchen stuff (except for some glass plates that we used as kosher dairy for observant guests and a few other assorted cookware items), so we also didn't have separate cookware for Pesach. But we did separate and set aside all the chametz and we didn't buy or eat chametz during the holiday.
She said that now that our kitchen is strictly kosher it must be easier. She figured that we used to have to do all the cleaning to make our house "more kosher" for Pesach, but now it was always "kosher". I explained that it is actually much more work precisely because we do have a kosher house and thus have two additional sets of Passover kitchenware. I didn't go into the details because she'd really think I was nuts.
I'm definitely going to try the brownies because just mixing the ingredients together, pouring them into a pan, and baking sure is easier than having to whip up egg whites as I would to make the flourless chocolate cake I was planning on trying. I think there is enough to worry about with having everything you need for a seder---I don't want to make complicated dishes too. However, I'm going to have to buy some other kosher for Passover oil for the pareve brownies I'm making to bring to our friend's home for a first night seder with meat. Somehow I don't think olive oil would make very good brownies.
Forgive me for not being as conversational as many of you, but I have had all of you in mind during this season of preparation.
Right after Purim, a thought came to mind which I have tried to focus on during these months -- what is Pesach all about? Is it about my efforts at physically cleaning and preparing that brings HaShem's redemption? Or is it a celebration of HaShem's deliverance of our ("our" meaning us, gerim, as part of B'nei Israel in Mitzraim) people in the past; the potential for deliverance for us from our limitations, despite ourselves, in the present; and our future deliverance from our oppressors around the world and the ultimate redemption?
May this be a holy and blessed time as we all relive again the experience of the Exodus.
One thing that I remember thinking was really eye-opening at the first seder I attended (as a teenager 30 years ago) was the use of the first person: "when I went free from Egypt". In fact the "wicked child" is castigated for saying "you" and not "I".
There are other lines in the seder about "our ancestors", but I've always felt that they use of "I" puts those of us who are gerim on a more "even footing" with Jews by Birth. For when those JBB say "I" they must mean it in a somewhat different way that when we say for example "I was at shul last Shabbat". The way in which all Jews must reach back through the millennia to be there at Sinai seems to be not all that different from the way that we gerim reach back in our minds and our hearts to feel ourselves there too. At least I do.
For all the generations after Sinai, each generation and each individual renews the covenant established by those first Jews. The seder is an annual reminder. Some complain about its length and repetitiveness, but to me, it would lose some of its power if it was too short.
For those of us who have raised Jewish children, the mitzvah in the other direction, to teach our children, is one we can carry out the same as a JBB. I have greatly enjoyed experiencing the seder with my children. I was never the "youngest child" at a seder while growing up, but I now have warm memories of when my oldest child had just turned two and we coached her to say "How night different?" And later "shepping naches" (beaming with pride) as each of our children reached the age to be able to sing the four questions in Hebrew.
I love Pesach. A seder was my first ever Jewish experience and observing the dietary laws at Pesach was the first of baby steps toward observance of kashrut. Ironically, as I have taken on more stringent observance so that Pesach preparation (and undoing it all at the end) has become a huge amount of labor, I love it all the more.
Last Edit: Apr 27, 2011 23:36:18 GMT -5 by Debbie B.
There's a midrash, that Sinai is an event out of space/time, and we 'receive' it every day. Another says, the souls of every Jew that ever was or will be, were present at Sinai (including all gerim).
Passover - in case we didn't make that connection already - is the prelude to Sinai of course. We often say Passover is a Festival of 'Freedom' and that Moses said 'let my people go' and that it shows that slavery is wrong, and so forth -
But go back and read: Moses (God) does say 'let my people go' but the complete phrase is 'Let My People Go That They May SERVE ME'. We didn't leave slavery in Egypt to be 'free', we left slavery TO PHAROAH in order to enter into 'slavery' (service) TO GOD.
We left 'the narrow place' (the name of Egypt in Hebrew - Mitzra'im - means 'the tight spot' or 'the narrow place' in order to go out into the WIDE OPEN place of God-service.
When the people stood at Sinai and Moses came down the mountain, the people didn't even ask what was IN the covenant/agreement - they said: we will DO and we will HEAR. They took the package without reading the fine print first.
I'm thinking now that I misread Malka's side note " 'our' meaning us, gerim" as implying that we as gerim ought to experience Passover differently. And I guess I was also thinking about something I read about how some non-Jews could find the seder off-putting because it is so particularist. That was a weird concept to me because I loved my first seder back at a time when I never imagined that I would want to become a Jew myself. Nevertheless, I guess these various thoughts caused me to think about what the holiday means to me and if it means something special to me as a convert ("giyoret").
Simcha: thanks for reminding me that although the Exodus and the receiving of the Law at Mt. Sinai are inextricably linked in my mind, they are not one and the same and the seder commemorates the former rather than the latter.
Some comments on your note: "the people didn't even ask what was IN the covenant/agreement - they said: we will DO and we will HEAR. They took the package without reading the fine print first." Yes, this is said both in Yitro and again in Mishpatim. But there is a midrash that God held Mt. Sinai over the heads of the Hebrews, and even without the midrash, the Torah itself mentions the thunder, lighting and loud horns and describes the fear of the Hebrews. So the Rabbis say that the initial acceptance of the Covenant was not necessarily binding because it was made under duress. Seen that way, it became truly binding when the Jews chose to continue to honor the Covenant even when not scared into it. And all future generations renew their own personal covenant with God---passed down from parents in the case of JBB, but taken on freely when the child becomes a bar/bat mitzvah and continuing throughout adult life. I think becoming a bar/bat mitzvah and accepting full responsibilities of an adult Jew ought to be analogous to conversion for a JBC.
With respect to personal acceptance of the Covenant, there are many JBB these days who choose to jettison their religious heritage. For that reason, some Jews even say that "all Jews are 'Jews by Choice'". I personally find it somewhat insensitive to converts to imply that there is no difference between JBB and JBC, but there is an element of truth to the fact that it is possible for Jews to walk away from their religion, so to continue to be Jewish is in some ways a "choice."
Bringing this back to Passover: the holiday's purpose is to reinforce Jewish identity annually for all Jews by retelling the story of key events that set the stage for the foundation of Judaism. You know it is an important Jewish holiday because it requires so many special preparations and lasts a whole week and has a very elaborate set of rituals. Passover is not about how a modern individual became a Jew---that would be a birthday or maybe bris anniversary for a JBB, or a conversion anniversary for a JBC. Rather Passover is about the story of the beginning of the Jewish people, and all Jews are connected to that regardless of how that connection came to be.