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Is it kosher for Passover? graphic

According to the Torah (Exodus 12.14)… “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread [matzah]; on the very first day you shall remove leaven from your houses…”  The rest is simply interpretation and tradition!

Most rabbinical authorities agree that to be certain a food is kosher for Passover, it must be rabbinically certified that it has not come into contact with, and does not contain, chametz.  Chametz is any food containing the 5 grains of wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats that have been leavened (come into contact with moisture and allowed to ferment or rise).  It is generally accepted that 18 minutes is the maximum time grain can be in contact with moisture before it will begin to rise. 

In addition, any food deemed kosher for Passover must also be kosher for year-round use, and prepared in accordance with all of the regular Jewish dietary laws.  Therefore, even foods and household products which meet the strict, year-round dietary regulations and are considered kosher, require special preparation for Passover use in the Jewish home in order to be kosher for Passover.

To be sure a product is kosher for Passover, look for the label “Kosher for Passover”, the Orthodox Union’s “OU-P”, or “Kosher P”. 

Many Ashkenazy Jews also consider legumes such as rice, beans, and corn to be unsuitable for Passover use.  These foods are referred to as Kitnyot.  In fact, Israeli Halva is labeled as Kosher for Passover, but since it has corn syrup as an ingredient, the orthodox Ashkenazy Jewish community considers it Kitniyot and therefore, not kosher for Passover!
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What is Kitniyot? (plural: Kitnios)

Simply put, Kitniyot is a category of foods that resemble chametz which are prohibited for Ashkenazy Jews to be eaten during Passover.  Sephardic Jews have no such prohibition.  Back in the middle ages, some Ashkenazy sages got together and decided to prohibit certain foods during Passover for the following reasons:

  1. Kitnios is harvested and processed in the same manner as chametz.
  2. It is ground into flour and baked just like chametz [so people may mistakenly believe that if they can eat kitnios, they can also eat chametz].
  3. It may have chametz grains mixed into it [so people who eat kitnios may inadvertently be eating chametz].

Examples of Kitniyot are:  rice, buckwheat/kasha, millet, beans, lentils, peas, sesame seeds, mustard, corn, green beans, snow peas, sugar-snap peas, chickpeas, soybeans, sunflower and poppy seeds.  Derivatives from any of these items such as corn syrup are generally considered prohibited, but differences of opinion abound.  Generally, the orthodox generally choose to play it safe and stay away from all Kitnios and its derivatives.

One very important distinction between chametz and kitniyot is that while it is forbidden for any Jew to own chametz during Passover, even the most orthodox agree that it is okay to own Kitniyot as long as it’s not consumed during Passover.

What makes wine kosher for Passover?/ Does it have to be that sweet?
There are two types of Kosher for Passover wine; mevushal and non- mevushal.  Mevushal wine is flash pasteurized and immediately cooled.  Mevushal wine can be handled by anyone and remain kosher for Passover, while non- mevushal wine can only be handled by Sabbath-observant orthodox Jewish males for it to remain kosher for Passover. 

While all wines require some sort of mold or yeast for fermentation, kosher for Passover wine must be made from a mold that has not been grown utilizing any form or chametz.  The Ashkenazy custom of prohibiting kitniyot for Passover use also applies to wine making.

Most kosher wines are kosher for Passover, especially the ones that come from Israel, but you can’t be assured they are suitable for Passover use unless they are labeled “Kosher for Passover”, “OU-P”, or “Kosher P”. 

These days there are many fine kosher for Passover wines available.  It is no longer necessary to drink the syrupy-sweet Concord wines of the past.  That custom came from the early days of American winemaking where the only grapes available for kosher of Passover wine came from Concord, Massachusetts.  That grape was so high in acidity; winemakers had to add extreme amounts of sugar just to make it drinkable.

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