Friday, March 28, 2014

PESAH Getting your Kitchen ready for Pesah (1 of 2)

During Pesah, we do not use the same cooking utensils or tableware that we use year-round for Hamets.  It is customary, and most recommendable, to have a separate set of dishes, cookware and tableware for Pesah.  If this is not possible, one can still use the year round utensils after a process known as hag'ala, a virtual sterilization that removes Hamets residues. 
Before we do the hag'ala we need to make sure that we have removed all visible residues of Hamets. The hag'ala then, will  expel the Hamets absorbed in the walls of the utensil, by exposing it to heat. The removal of food residues will happen upon the same conditions in which the absorption occurred in the first place (kebol'o kakh polto). 
Some examples of hag'ala:
Metal: Metal tableware like forks, spoons or knives, have to be thoroughly cleaned and then immersed in a pot of boiling water.  Afterwards, they need to be washed with cold water and then they can be used for Pesah. Hot water opens the pores of metal, allowing the removal of any absorbed Hamets. Cold water closes the pores back.
Glass: According to the Sephardic Minhag, glass utensils like cups or plates, used throughout the year for Hamets should be thoroughly washed and then, they can be used for Pesah without any further hag'ala.   A glass utensil does not absorb anything thru its pores and therefore there is nothing to remove from its walls.  This is applicable even when the glass utensil was used at high temperatures to serve hot Hamets food or even to cook Hamets food.  It should be noticed that this Halakha is different for the Ashkenazi custom.
Porcelain  (kele heres): Ceramic, pottery or porcelain china and tableware that we use throughout the year for Hamets should not be used for Pesah. They are an exceptional case, because Hag'ala cannot sterilize them completely.  Why? Because the way these utensils absorb food in their walls and expel food from their walls is erratic. Therefore, year round porcelain or ceramic utensils should not be used for Pesah.
Cold: Since absorption takes place only at high temperatures, if a utensil was used to serve only cold food, it could be used during Pesah after thoroughly cleaning it, without any hag'ala.

Shabbat Shalom!
Candle lighting in NYC      6:56 pm
Shabbat ends in NYC          7:57 pm

Dedicated to the memory of Ya'aqob Ben Yehuda, z"l

Thursday, March 27, 2014

PESAH, medicine and non-edible products

Sephardim are allowed to keep or use during Pesah any product which is non-edible, i.e., unfit for human or animal consumption, even if they might contain Hamets  For example: Cosmetics, glues, paint, shampoo, deodorants, perfumes, soaps, detergents or any other cleaning products, etc. In all these cases there is neither a need to check for the absence of Hamets, nor for any kind of Kosher for Pesah certification. 

The consumption of medicines in the form of capsules or non-chewable pills is also allowed. Why? Because when a medicine comes in the form of a hard non-chewable pill it is considered "non-eatable Hamets" (eno ra-ui leakhilat keleb) therefore, even if it would contain a Hamets by product (which is highly unlikely, as I will explain), one can take that medicine during Pesah. However,  chewable pills, syrups, powder-drinks, supplements drinks and/or any other flavored and/or chewable medicines or vitamins, should be certified Kosher for Pesah, or one should make sure that they do not contain any Hamets ingredient in their composition.    
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed explains that this Halakhic criteria is also followed by many Ashkenazi rabbis in Israel. He also clarifies that today, virtually all medical pills are made with potato or corn-starch and almost none with wheat-starch (among other reasons because wheat-protein, gluten, is harmful for celiac patients).  

It is advisable then, when possible, to ask the physician to prescribe for Pesah medication in the form of non-chewable pills. 
Needless to say that in case of a serious medical condition, any necessary medicine should be taken. 

Food that is suitable for animal consumption is forbidden to keep during Pesah. If one has a pet, therefore, one should get pet-food that does not contain any Hamets product.   Click here to see the Star K list of pet products Kasher for Pesah.
Dedicated to the memory of Ya'aqob Ben Yehuda, z"l

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

PESAH, two differences between Sephardic and Ashkenazi traditions

1. qiniyot. As we explained yesterday, the Ashkenazi custom is to refrain from eating rice and any other kind of seeds during Pesaḥ. This is called isur qitniyot (the prohibition of legumes).   Now, even though the Ashkenazi custom forbids the consumption of qitniyot during Pesaḥ, qitniyot products could be kept during Pesah at one's home and there is no need to throw them out or sell them (Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, penine halakha, following SH. A. Rama, 453:1).  Also, as pointed out by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed,  although the Ashkenazi custom  is to forbid qitniyot during Pesaḥ, that is  only when the qitniyot constitute the majority of that product (more than 50%) but if qitniyot are present in a smaller proportion (corn-syrup, corn-starch, etc), the food is not forbidden (see Mishna Berura 8-9).  You can read the book of rabbi Eliezer Melamed, Penine halakha online, here

2. eno hozer vene'or.   The Sephardic tradition holds that if a food does not have a Hamets ingredient or by-product in their basic composition, but has a Hamets additive or ingredient in a proportion smaller than 1.6 (or 1/60) of the total product (usually an additive), if that food was elaborated before Pesah, that food is permitted for Pesah.  Whereas for the Ashkenazi custom,  it does no make a difference if the food was done before or during Pesah: even a minimal amount of Hamets (0.001) renders the whole product non-Kosher for Pesah.  There are many practical consequences to this rule. One of them is that for the Ashkenazi custom every product to be consumed during Pesah has to be done exclusively under strict Kosher for Pesah Rabbinical supervision. Thus, in a food factory, the criteria to avoid the presence of Hamets would be, in practical terms,  the same as the criteria applied to avoid the presence of an allergen in the food product. Establishing a complete Hamets-free environment to preventing even an accidental Hamets's cross-contamination.

Dedicated to the memory of Ya'aqob Ben Yehuda z"l

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

PESAH, all about rice

Rice, corn and any seed, legume or grain which is not one of the five grains (wheat, rye, spelt, barley and oats) are not Hamets and do not become Hamets even if they undergo a fermentation process. 
The Ashkenazi custom, however, is to forbid the consumption of legumes and grains like rice or corn during Pesah (qitniyot).  Let us analyze the case of rice. Obviously, the Ashkenazi tradition does not consider that rice or any other grain besides the five above mentioned grains is Hamets. The reason for the abstention from rice on Pesah is that it was common to find grains of wheat mixed with grains of rice. Either because the fields where rice was grown were usually nearby or within the same fields where wheat was grown, and/or because whole rice-grains and wheat-grains look alike. In the market, it was not uncommon to find grains of wheat within bags of rice or other grains and legumes.  And, as we will later explain, the prohibition of Hamets during Pesah is so severe that even one grain of wheat would render a whole food e forbidden for Pesah.
The stringency of refraining from rice is not an exclusive Ashkenazi tradition.   Sephardic Jews are divided on the issue of rice. Moroccan Jews and other Jews from North Africa also avoid eating rice during Pesah, while Persian, Syrian and other Middle East Jews consume rice during Pesah. However, to avoid the possibility of the accidental presence of a grain of wheat in the rice, the Persian and Syrian custom is to check the rice three times before using it for Pesah.   

Information about rice, Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Hayim. 

1. "As per phone conversations with rice importers and receipt of confirmation letters from them, Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Haim has confirmed that the following brands of rice are 100% pure, not enriched, and have no additives or preservatives. Therefore, they are suitable for use on Pesah.  The brands are as follows:  Lalquila, Shahzadeh, Pari, Royal, Zebra, Deer, Empire, and Gold & Quilla. Even though these rices are 100% pure, our custom is to clean the rice and check it three times before using it for Pesah."  

2. Information about enriched rice from Rabbi Yehuda Boroosan, Mashgiach from OU, Atlanta, GA. 

"Rice is a primary staple food for many people. When rice is processed into white rice, the fiber and nutrient rich outer bran is stripped first, leaving behind the germ and endosperm. In many cases, the nutritious germ is lost as well during the polishing process. As a result, white rice is not terribly nutritious, naturally. Therefore, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that any rice labeled "enriched", regardless of its point of origin - whether domestically grown or imported - must contain at least the minimum level of thiamin, niacin, iron and folic acid as specified in the Code of Federal Regulations. "Organic Rice' on the other hand may not contain other nutrients, in compliance with the regulations set forth by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). Although the USDA does not require any import permit to import processed "Natural Rice" such as Basmati, Jasmine, etc., without enrichment, for food consumption to the US, in some countries abroad the trend has become to enrich their natural rice that is intended for import purposes.  
Niacin (Vitamin B3) - is produced through synthetic process. Although the production process is synthetic, it does rely on enzymatic process. The enzymes used in the process are not of any chametz concern.

Iron ferrous sulfate) - is an inorganic chemical and is not of any chametz concern.

Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) - is an innocuous ingredient and presents no issues for Pesach.

Thiamin (Vitamin B1) - is a vitamin that is made through reaction of ethanol with formic acid to produce ethyl formate that is used to make Vitamin B1. Ethanol variously made either from wheat, sugar cane, sweet potato or corn depending on its price in the market. Presently, there is no definitive assurance that the ratio of Ethanol is less than 1/60 of the total mix that is utilized to produce the final product. However considering the fact that all four vitamins are blended together along with a carrier and then only 3/10 of a pound of enrichment is added to every one thousand pounds (0.03%) of rice, the enrichment is considered null & void. Hence, if you purchase enriched rice DURING Pesach, it will be preferable to rinse it before cooking to remove vitamins. Rice purchased before Pesach could be used as it is. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

PESAH, what is and what is not Hamets?

Our father, Rabbi Yosef Bitton is in mourning for his father, Ya'aqob Ben Yehuda, sitting shib'a in Buenos Aires with his family, asked us to send the HOTD for this week based in what he wrote last year.

 During Pesah we are not allowed to eat, benefit from or even posses anything hamets But, what exactly is Hamets? Hamets (or Chametz) is any fermented substance -solid or liquid- that comes from one of the following five grains: wheat, rye, spelt, barley and oats.

The Hamets fermentation takes place only after eighteen minutes have passed, from the moment one of these grains or one of its by-products comes in contact with water. 

Some common examples of Hamets products are: Bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, fiber-drinks, cereals, baby foods, whiskey and beer.

The following three factors need to be present simultaneously for a food to be considered Hamets.

(i) Flour or any other product derived from one of the above mentioned five grains.  A fermented food product which is not or that does not contain any element coming from one of the five grains, like rice or corn, is not Hamets. (tomorrow, BH, we will explain this subject better).

(ii) Water: when flour coming from one of the five grains is mixed exclusively with pure fruit juice, without water, the dough is not considered Hamets but Matsa Ashira.  

(iii) Time.  The Matsa  has two of the three elements that makes a product Hamets: flour and water.  But it is entirely baked before eighteen minutes have passed from the moment water and flour came in contact.  Time, therefore, is the main difference between Hamets and Matsa. 

The prohibition of Hamets includes another element, a food additive which the Tora calls se-or (שאור). Se-or (grain yeast) is a catalyzer of the fermentation process. In other words, once you have a dough, flour and water, mixed together the fermentation process could take place in 18 minutes, or you can add se-or / yeast and the fermentation process will be faster.  All the prohibitions of Hamets apply to se-or as well.   

Today's HOTD is dedicated to the memory of Ya'aqob Ben Yehuda, z"l who passed away eve of Shabbat 19 of Adar II 5774. תנצב"ה