Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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18 Adar 5764 - March 11, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Pesach Principles
by D. P.

Reasoning that it is easier to keep chometz out of the bedrooms then out of the kitchen, I used to plan to start from the periphery and gradually zero in on the chometz. Right after Purim, I would descend on one of the bedrooms-- sorting, scrubbing and arranging the contents of shelves, drawers and closets.

One year, I even organized all the books in one bedroom by topic. I annually went through all the papers that had accumulated in my closet dawer. After all, it was only Adar; there was still plenty of time. I allowed a week for each bedroom and a week for the kitchen.

It was all very logical and reasonable. The only problem was, it didn't work. For one thing, with all that spring cleaning I tried to accomplish, I was always behind schedule and the bedrooms were not finished by the time I was scheduled to start the kitchen. Then, too, the children's bedrooms are very hard to keep chometz-free until the last minute. So that was also added to the last week's work. And, most important, one week is not enough to clean the entire kitchen, especially a week in which you also have to kasher the kitchen, cook for Yom Tov and shop for perishables for Pesach -- unless you have a whole staff of people sharing the work.

The last week before Pesach found me working around the clock, desperately looking for a cleaning lady with a few hours to spare -- very rare. And the kitchen, bathroom and porch were cluttered with refrigerator shelves, cabinet drawers and stove parts in various stages of being cleaned. The kitchen was never ready to be kashered until the last minute, leaving me only Erev Pesach to frantically cook for the seder and the first day of Yom Tov.

During the ensuing years, I thought about these problems, spoke to other women with experience, and developed my Pesach Principles.


The kitchen is the most important. Don't leave all of it for last!

Now I allot some time to the kitchen each week and some time to the rest of the house. Working backwards from Erev Pesach, I allow two days for cooking, one day for setting up the kitchen, unpacking Pesach dishes and groceries, lining refrigerator, stove and counters, and shopping for perishables, and one day for kashering the kitchen. Then I count three weeks back from there. In the first week, I clean the freezer and one third of my cabinets. The second week I clean the refrigerator and another third of the cabinets, and the third week -- the stove and the remaining cabinets.


You're probably wondering how you can clean your freezer three weeks before Pesach and your refrigerator two weeks before? There's still chometz inside! That brings us to the next principle: The fact that you're still using something doesn't mean you can't clean it. You just have to figure out a way to KEEP it clean.

One method is covering or lining (e.g. top of fridge, floor of freezer), another is enclosing chometz in containers. After I clean my freezer, I tape a piece of masking tape over the seam at the lower front where all the crumbs seem to accumulate. Anything that's not actual chometz (meat, chicken, frozen vegetables) plus anything in closed packages (e.g. frozen dough, fish sticks, packages of borekas) goes on the upper shelves. Then I take some shoe boxes or plastic freezer boxes and put all the crumby chometz (cake, bread etc.) inside, wrapped in zip-loc bags, and put that on the bottom shelf, which I have lined with shelving paper. In the last week before Pesach, all that needs to be done is to remove the tape and lightly go over the shelves with a damp rag.

Another advantage of cleaning the freezer early is that you can buy your meat order early, say around Rosh Chodesh, keep it on the top shelves (which by this time have hopefully emptied out) and have that good feeling of knowing that you're stocked for Yom Tov.

Another advantage is that you know what chometz is in your freezer, and can plan both to take advantage of it for quick meals in the pre-Pesach weeks, and also use it up, instead of being stuck on the Sunday before Pesach with frozen challas and two packages of frozen pizza, with your milchig toaster oven already clean and no way to warm it up.

The freezer is just one example. This principle also applies to cabinets, refrigerators and even your dining room table and high chair.


Get a hold of Rabbi Sheinberg's instructions for Pesach cleaning. He explains what has to be cleaned according to Halacha, and what's optional, i.e. spring cleaning, and also how to clean and kasher various items and appliances.

If you're behind schedule, skip the spring cleaning for the rest of that week and stick to the Pesach cleaning. Then if you find you have extra time at the end (ha, ha), you can go back and do some of the things you skipped.


Actually, this strategy should have been done from Rosh Chodesh Adar. File away in your memory and get a head start next year.

Starting from Tu Bishvat, perhaps, is the time to indulge in things like weeding out the undesirables from your wardrobe, sorting out your back issues of newspapers and periodicals, and filing away your bills from the past year. Remember, too, that many clothing gemachs and geniza receptacles are so full by the time Purim comes that they stop accepting stuff. When this type of work is done in a relaxed, non- pressured frame of mind, it can actually be fun.


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