May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

One of the trickiest Pesach minhagim that some families have—my own family included—is that we don’t sell real chometz. I’m not sure what we sell. We do sell something, I know that. I do take time off on the busiest week of the year and go to a rav and tip him money in a secret handshake for doing something. The shtar says I’m selling him chometz. I’m not sure what, though. There’s no chometz that a non-Jew will find in my house that I didn’t find in 3 months of cleaning. Where is he looking? I think I’m mostly selling the hard bits on the dishes.

But the big challenge of this minhag is actually getting rid of all of one’s chometz in time for Yom Tov. No one has ever actually done this without either throwing out way too much at the end or having to buy more, way too close to Pesach. That said, there are a lot of articles out there that list useful cleaning tips, but not a lot on how to actually get rid of food. And I’m not about to break that pattern. But here are some tips from my own life:

First, stop buying chometz. This seems pretty obvious now, but only because we didn’t tell you this a few months ago when we should have told you. Pasta might have been on sale in January, and you were like, “We should buy twenty boxes! There are two Adars! We’re saving money!” But now we’re getting closer to Pesach, and it turns out that Adar Rishon wasn’t the never-ending pasta party that you thought it was going to be.

Go through every food closet, remove everything that is actual chometz, and line it all up somewhere that you can easily see it way before you get to the pantry. Everything has to be visible. Have your laziness work for you. Also, once you do that, your #1 priority will become finishing off these foods so you can get them off your counter. Every food you finish is a victory and will give you a sense of accomplishment that you can then carry into the rest of the day.

“And what did you do today?”

“I finished all the cookies. Do you see any cookies? You can thank me.”

“Nice. Thank you!”

“It wasn’t easy. But you do what you gotta do.”

Your kids can help you a lot here—especially the bochurim. That’s why they’re given all these extra days off. It’s clearly not so they can help you actually clean because they’re running off to clean other people’s cars all day. But at least they can help you polish off the massive amount of chometz in the house.

Even smaller kids can help, in a way. For some of the younger grades, the teachers will at some point decide to have a chometz party, which means that everyone is bringing in their various brands of animal crackers and finishing them off in one mad day of sugar and running around and irritating the janitor. So you have to scrounge around the house looking for a chometz item that you want to get rid of but that you also have enough of for 22 kids, and that your kids didn’t immediately attack when you lined up the chometz, all while your child is standing over you and saying, “Someone’s already bringing that in.”

“Is anyone bringing drinks?”

No. Drinks aren’t chometz. Well, not the kinds of drinks you can send into a kindergarten chometz party.

That said, buy chometz for your child’s chometz party. Yes, we know we said not to buy chometz anymore, but there are certain sacrifices that you have to make if you don’t want your child to be known as the loser whose parents are further along in their Pesach preparations than everyone else.

But lining up your pantry foods is not enough. There are plenty of chometz foods in your fridge that you have to bring to the forefront, and you have to line all these foods up too, but somehow still keep them in your fridge. One idea is to dedicate specific shelves to the chometz foods, even though you did not at all buy any of your foods based on height.

Another option is to make a list of what’s in the fridge that has to be eaten, and then post it where everyone can see it, such as on the fridge.

And then you have to rearrange the freezer. The freezer is a lot harder to rearrange because there are only two shelves in there and it was a Tetris puzzle to get everything to fit under normal circumstances. The best way to rearrange that is that the chometz foods go in front so that’s what falls out on you when you open the freezer.

Speaking of which, now that you know what foods you have (not counting some unmarked items in the freezer), you can start figuring out dinner menus that use as many of these items as possible in weird combinations. This involves making things like onion-ring pizza bagels, tuna in an ice cream cone, gefilte-fish wraps, Chinese-noodle baked ziti and Duncan Hines brownie mix chicken.

This is where you’d think the Jewish magazines would come in. But they’re already giving us Pesach recipes. How about giving us a recipe for what to do with a half a bag of barley, 14 packets of plain oatmeal and most of a container of garlic-basil salad croutons?

Well, I’m going to try:If you run out of cereal, most chometz items can be thrown into a bowl of milk with, at the very least, interesting results: corn flake crumbs, bread crumbs, animal crackers, kichel, breaded cauliflower… The list goes on.

Weird recipes are also how people get rid of beer and other alcoholic drinks. For example, whiskey-battered chicken! And if things go wrong, the good news is that your stove will be kashered.

Fact: Mushroom barley soup was invented by someone trying to get rid of an entire bag of barley a week before Pesach. Same goes for oatmeal cookies.You can make an entire recipe of oatmeal cookies using only oatmeal packets. Just mix in some margarine with toast crumbs in it and several hundred packets of sugar, and you have cookies!

Wait, you already kashered your oven.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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