24 Mar Pesach & Corona Kashruth Questions
What koolas can you offer us when preparing for Pesach this year if someone is worried that the food will run out because of the situation? Should people buy their Pesach food now?
We at the OU have been told that there is going to be enough food. All the food that is manufactured for Pesach was manufactured and shipped quite a while ago. Everything has been delivered here already and therefore, there really isn’t anything to worry about. People’s buying habits and the hoarding that goes on in stores is a different issue. My wife went a little while ago to buy eggs and they’re rationing the eggs to a maximum of three dozen per person. That, however, is more of a psychological situation. As far as we know, there’s going to be enough of everything. In terms of any leniences, it’s hard to be lenient when there’s no reason to be lenient. The question is really what the leniency is about? There’s no reason to be lenient, for example, on how you kasher your kitchen. Even with the corona situation, you can kasher your kitchen the same way you do every year. Suppose someone is concerned that he or she can’t get shmura matzah and that is what they use for Pesach and the Sedarim (although this is NOT what we’re finding). The reality is that all the matza we certify, even not shmura, is made the same way for what’s required to fulfill the mitzva on Pesach. Therefore, we see no reason to be concerned, but if that’s the only matza they can find, they can use this matza and use it for the seder without a problem.
Please remind everyone about some of the foods that do not need a hechsher for Pesach? There are a lot of products that don’t need a hechser for Pesach. You can find a full listing online with the OU Passover Gudie at https://oukosher.org/passover/passover-guide/. Some non-food examples are aluminum foil, candles, carpet cleaners, detergents, cupcake holders, furniture polish, hair gels, insecticides, isopropyl alcohol, napkins, paper towels, shampoos, silver polish, soaps, suntan lotion, and water filters. Some food examples are salt, sugar, water, virgin olive oil, Kirkland frozen salmon, regular coffee made in America. Decaffeinated coffee has to be kosher for Pesach.
What about things like gloves, masks, Lysol…?
Lysol and masks are fine. Latex gloves are fine. If you really want to be 100% careful, rinse out the inside of the gloves because sometimes starch into the gloves to help open it up. Or you can wash your hands after you’ve taken the gloves off.
In the current environment, if one has the choice between having the seder with one’s parents or one’s older, married children, how should they choose?
Excellent question! This year it’s more of a question than other years because more people are going to be home. No one is going to hotels. There’s a mitzvah in the Torah of kibud av v’em. It’s in the aseres hadibros and it’s a critical mitzvah. Hakadosh Baruch Hu says He and your parents are equal partners in our creation. The Torah actually tells us the reward for this mitzvah, which it rarely does, and gives us a bracha for respecting our parents properly: l’maan yitav lach, you’ll have it good, v’arichas yomim. In the time that we’re living, everyone’s thinking of their health and long life. All of that is guaranteed in the Torah to someone who fulfills Kibud Av V’Em. There’s nowhere in the Torah, that I’m aware of, that says you have to respect your children. Someone from Israel called me. They have a very small apartment and they just don’t have enough room to have both their married children and their parents for Pesach. So they asked me who comes first. The answer is very obvious; the parents come first. There’s a mitzvah deoraysa to respect your parents. It is great to want to spend time with your children and your grandchildren, but our first obligation is to our parents. If there’s a choice between putting up your adult children or putting up your parents, your parents come first!
How does one fulfill simchas Yom Tov with the current environment? How can we buy shoes, sheitals, suits… when everyone is being told to stay indoors?
When we talk about Pesach or anytime in the year, the first obligation the Torah wants from us is to stay healthy. So, if going to buy a suit or a sheitel involves a health risk, you’ll get it after Yom Tov. But if it doesn’t pose a health risk, then you can go buy it. The mitzvah of simchas Yom Tov will continue this year even if we are not able to daven in shuls on Yom Tov. (I hope it won’t be the case, but we don’t know yet.) That doesn’t mean we don’t need to have simchas Yom Tov. The Vilna Gaon says that the hardest mitzvah to fulfill is simchas Yom Tov. Being happy for 24/7 for eight days is very complicated, especially in the world we live in today where everyone’s worried about what’s coming. No one’s going to ask you “Are you going to eat matzos this year on pesach?” Of course you’re going to eat matzos! The coronavirus doesn’t take away your obligation to eat matza. So just like the coronavirus doesn’t take away our obligation to eat matza, it doesn’t take away the obligation to do the best we can at having simchas Yom Tov. Whether we’re able to go out or we’re stuck in the house, we should do whatever we can to have simchas Yom Tov. If you think about it, when the Jews left Egypt they weren’t in such a good situation either and they survived and prospered! We will, too! Do you feel there’s an issue for people to travel to Florida for Pesach at this point? I get calls all day from mashgichim “Should I do this? Should I do that?” People who work for us tell me “I don’t feel well.” I tell them, “I feel for all of you but I’m not a doctor and I am not able to make those decisions.” Those decisions belong to people in the medical field. Do what your doctor says.