Tradition varies about Pesach rules, yet some may benefit from a deep spring cleaning.

A dialogue overheard in more than one Jewish household goes like this:

Husband: “I can’t find my pen (or reading glasses or whatever). Have you seen it?”

Wife: “Don’t worry, it will show up before Passover.”

“It will show up before Passover,” of course, because the family will clean every inch of the house before the holiday, making sure the home contains not a crumb of leavened food (chametz) and, incidentally finding lost objects. The Mishnah, 1,800 years ago, insists on searching every place where leavened food was brought (Pesahim 1:1); in practice, many Jewish householders go further, scrubbing even places where they anticipate finding no leavened food.

Rebecca Sorani of Rishon Letzion in Israel, writes, in a statement familiar to many other observant Jews: “I am sure most of what I do is unnecessary! Throwing out expired medications, washing every item of bedding in the house, cleaning out every drawer in bedrooms where we never bring food … washing the windows …”

A local woman agreed with Sorani that her housecleaning during the month before Passover was unnecessary, according to Jewish law, but she added, “Without the motivation of Passover, I would never get around to spring cleaning.”

Yehudis Brea of Oak Park sticks with the necessary Passover preparations. “I’m at the stage of life that I only do what is absolutely necessary, thank God. The Pesach hysteria has long passed,” she says.

In other aspects of preparing for Passover, rabbis looking at books of Jewish law and ordinary Jews looking at what their grandparents did, have, over the years, decided to become more and more stringent. Perhaps this tendency originates with a statement attributed to Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, the 15th-century kabbalist: “One should follow all the strictures on Passover.”

A notable break from this tendency comes from none other than the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.

As part of its routine duties, the Chief Rabbinate in Israel issues guidelines for how certified kosher kitchens in hotels should maintain standards over Passover.

On March 26, journalist Hezki Stern, writing for Kikkar Shabbat, reported that Rabbi Yosef pulled this year’s booklet of guidelines. He instructed Moshe Dagan, executive director of the rabbinate: “Do not print it. Let us consider this for a couple of more days and correct it.”

Rabbi Yosef observed that the authors of the guidelines “seek to follow the principle the stricter the better” and “introduced many, many strictures.”

“I do not know who did this, to be so strict with the people of Israel; things that are completely permitted, permitted by all opinions, they have been forbidden,” he says.


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