Pesach 2013: Frequently Asked Questions
Question: When it comes to non-edible items such as toiletries,
cosmetics and medications, which items must be chametz free and which items
Discussion: Some families have the tradition not to use on Pesach any
item which may contain any chametz or chametz derivative. Those families
should continue following their hallowed and praiseworthy tradition. The
answer below is directed towards those families who do not have such a
custom and are looking to follow the basic halachah:
Medications: Coated tablets, flavored medications, pleasant tasting
cough syrups and all chewable medications need to be researched to see if
they contain any chametz or chametz derivative. All other medications are
permitted to be used regardless of the content. [Oral medications containing
kitniyos should only be used for some who is ill, not someone who is merely
suffering from a minor discomfort. If you are unsure of your status, clarify
it with a Rav.] Vitamins are generally not considered medications, and
should not be used unless they are chametz-free. It goes without saying that
no medications should be discontinued without prior consultation with a Rav
and a doctor.
Toiletries and Cosmetics: Deodorants, hair sprays, colognes,
perfumes, shaving lotions and all items which contain denatured alcohol
should be avoided. Toothpaste and mouthwash should not be used unless it is
verified that they contain no chametz. All other products, such as soaps,
shampoos, creams, powders, stick and gel deodorants, lotions, blush, eye
shadow, eye liner, mascara and nail polish, may be used regardless of their
Question: May I kosher my microwave for Pesach use?
Discussion: It is not recommended that you do so. If you absolutely
must use a microwave on Pesach, we suggest you buy a new one for Pesach and
keep it for Pesach use for future years.
Question: How do I kosher my countertops for Pesach?
Discussion: There are many different types of countertops available
today, and how to kosher them would depend on which type of countertop you
have: Group 1): Stone countertops (marble, limestone, granite, soapstone,
slate, onyx) may be koshered by thoroughly cleaning them, waiting 24 hours
and then pouring boiling water over them. Group 2) Glass, cement (Buddy
Rhodes, Cheng Design), porcelain or ceramic countertops may not be koshered;
they must be covered with a non-porous material which will not easily rip or
tear. Group 3) Butcher block or wood surfaces countertops (John Boos,
Spekva, Omega) may be koshered by the hot water method, but only if they
contain no cracks that may have trapped chametz; otherwise they must be
covered. Group 4) Countertops made out of synthetic materials or plastics
(Formica, acrylic, Corian, Avonite) are debatable; some poskim permit them
to be koshered via the hot water method provided they are not scratched or
stained and cleaned real well, while others maintain that these material may
not be koshered and cannot be used unless they are covered.
Question: Is it permitted to get a haircut or do laundry on erev
Pesach after midday (chatzos)?
Discussion: It is forbidden to do melachah, “work,” even if it is
needed for Yom Tov, on erev Pesach after chatzos. Two basic reasons are
given for this rabbinic prohibition: 1) When the Beis ha-Mikdash stood, erev
Pesach was considered a Yom Tov, since the Korban Pesach was brought on that
day. It retains the status of Yom Tov today even though the Korban Pesach is
no longer offered. 2) To give everyone a chance to properly prepare for the
Certain forms of personal grooming and certain households chores that are
halachically classified as “work” are forbidden to be done on erev Pesach
after chatzos. Thus it is forbidden to get a haircut or a shave, to sew new
clothing or to do laundry on erev Pesach after chatzos. One must arrange his
schedule so that these tasks are completed before midday. L’chatchilah, one
should even cut his nails before chatzos.
If, b’diavad, one could not or did not take care of these matters before
midday, some of them may still be done while others may not: sewing or
completing the sewing of new clothes may not be done at all; a haircut and
shave may be taken only at a non-Jewish barber; laundry may be done only by
a non-Jewish maid or dry cleaner. Other chores, such as ironing clothes,
polishing shoes, cutting nails, sewing buttons and other minor mending, may
be done with no restrictions.
Question: What type of chicken or meat may I serve on Seder night?
Discussion: When the Beis ha-Mikdash was standing, the only roasted
meat permitted to be eaten on the Seder night was the meat of the Korban
Pesach. Nowadays, although the Beis ha-Mikdash is no longer standing and we
no longer eat the Korban Pesach, we still do not eat any roasted meat on the
two Seder nights.
“Meat” includes meat from any animal which requires shechitah (ritual
slaughter), including chicken and turkey. Roasted fish, however, is
permitted. “Roasted” includes any type of roasting, including pot roast.
(Pot roast refers to meat or chicken which is roasted in a pot or pan in its
own juice, without adding any water or other liquids.) Even if the item was
cooked first and then roasted it is forbidden. But if it was roasted and
then cooked it is permitted according to most poskim. A minority opinion
forbids that as well.
Fried, barbecued, broiled over an open fire or smoked meat is considered
like roasted meat and is forbidden. Liver, which is broiled, is not eaten on
the Seder night. Deep fried, however, is considered like cooked and is
Based on the above, it is important to remember that at the Seder, it is
forbidden to eat the roasted zeroa which is placed on the Seder Plate. But
it is permitted to eat the zeroa during the daytime meal. In any case, the
zeroa should not be discarded, as it is considered a bizyaon mitzvah to do
so, and one should make sure that it is eaten at an appropriate time.
Question: At many Seders the recital of the Hagadah takes a long
time. Is it permitted to drink during that time?
Discussion: When necessary, it is permitted to drink water or soda
between the first and second cups. A shehakol is recited over the water,
unless the water was on the table during Kiddush, or if one intended during
Kiddush to drink water or soda during the recital of the Hagadah.
Coffee, tea, milk, or pure fruit juices may also, when necessary, be drunk
between the first and second cups, but only if they will not require their
own berachah. In order for them to be covered by the ha-gafen recited over
the first cup, they would have to have been on the table during Kiddush or
one would have had to intend to drink them while reciting Kiddush. Since
these beverages are considered chamar medinah, reciting a separate berachah
and drinking them would make it appear as if one is adding an additional cup
to the four prescribed ones.
Wine and other intoxicating beverages should be completely avoided between
the drinking of the first two cups. It is permitted, however to drink wine
and all other beverages after the second cup is drunk and throughout
Shulchan Orech when the meal is served.
Question In the first day of Yom Tov, is it permitted to take food
out of the freezer so that it will be defrosted come night time?
Discussion: It is forbidden to prepare food (or any other need) on
the first day of Yom Tov for the second day of Yom Tov - hachanah. Thus one
may not cook or warm any food on the first day of Yom Tov if it is being
prepared to be eaten on the second day. Some poskim maintain that removing
food from the freezer is considered a significant act which would be
classified as “preparation” and is therefore forbidden. Other poskim,
however, argue that merely removing food out of the freezer is not a
significant enough act to be considered hachanah, and is therefore
permitted. L’chatchilah, therefore, one should plan her meals in a way where
she would not need to defrost food on the first day to the next. Under
extenuating circumstances, or if one failed to plan and now finds herself
unable to serve the Yom Tov properly, she may rely on the lenient opinions.
The defrosting should take place as early in the day as possible, thus
giving the impression that the food may be eaten on the first day of Yom Tov.
The Vaad Harabbonim wishes the entire community a happy and inspiring Yom Tov!
Weekly-Halacha, Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Torah.org.
Rabbi Neustadt is the Yoshev Rosh of the Vaad Harabbonim of Detroit and the Av Beis Din of the Beis Din Tzedek of Detroit. He could be reached at email@example.com