A Weekly Message from Rabbi Sam Levine 3.24.23

Email 3.24


My intensive UJA Federation Mission to Israel ended on Thursday night. I spent Shabbat in the Galil with old friends and headed back to Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon. I discovered that some friends from Toronto happened to be in Israel for a bat mitzvah, and so I suggested that we meet for dinner at a Mexican restaurant that I had heard about – a place called Tacos Luis (I know I live in Brooklyn, but still, the prospect of a good, Mexican, kosher, meat restaurant was too alluring!). It turns out that Tacos Luis is on a street in Jerusalem called Shlomtziyon Hamalka – Queen Shlomtziyon. Having lived in Jerusalem, I was certainly familiar with the centrally located street. But something tempted me to do a little research into this exotically named thoroughfare – who was Queen Shlomtziyon, and why did she merit a street name in downtown Jerusalem? As it turns out, Shlomtziyon (Salome Alexandra), who lived from 141–67 BCE, was one of the great heroic (if largely forgotten) figures of Jewish history. She gained the throne in the tumultuous, bloody, and fractious years of the Hasmonean dynasty, and was able to bring peace and stability to the land. She brokered peace between the Sadducees and the Sanhedrin, paving the way for the flourishing of early rabbinic Judaism.


It seemed to me that there was a poignancy to receiving that bit of historical information when I did. If only we had a leader in Israel right now who used their power to unite the people and bring peace and stability. The contrast saddened me.


Tomorrow morning, I hope to deliver a sermon that gives some introductory background on the current crisis in Israel, and why we should all care. I will, at least, be staking out my own position. 


Then, on Monday evening at 7 PM, we will have a special NightShul session where we will dig in a little deeper, and I will answer any questions about the tumultuous past few weeks. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this moment in Israel’s history and in the history of the Jewish people. I hope you can join us for this hybrid event (in-person will take place in the rabbi’s office on the 4th floor. For Zoom, use the weekday evening service link). 


If you’re not up-to-date on the situation and would like to do a little reading-up, I am attaching a link to an article by the important Canadian/Israeli writer and thinker Matti Friedman. He gives his perspective, and at the bottom of the article you will find links to a broader array of viewpoints. This article is from Mar. 6, and a lot has happened since then, but Friedman lays out the parameters of the crisis articulately. 


Having said all that, the main purpose of today’s message is to provide guidance for the upcoming Passover holiday. Below you will find information and resources on rituals leading up to Passover and on kashering your kitchen, permitted foods, and so on. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact me.


Shabbat shalom um’vorach – a peaceful and blessed Shabbat.


Rabbi Sam Levine


EMJC Guide to Passover 2023/5783


Here is some important information for the week leading up to Passover:


  1. Ta’anit Bechorot

Next Wednesday, April 5, is a “personal” fast day for firstborn sons and, according to some rabbis, firstborn children in general. For information about the fast, (and to see if it applies to you) see this article:


There are many variations in practice, so if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.


There is a widespread tradition that a joyous occasion overrides the obligation to fast. We will create a joyous occasion by having a brief study session that ends a tractate of Mishna of Talmud (a traditional celebration point). If you are a first-born child, please have some cake and a little schnapps with you next to your Zoom screen on Wednesday morning so that you may partake. The service begins at 8am as usual. The study session will be brief – 10 to 20 minutes, I imagine.


  1. Selling Chametz – Must be done BEFORE 12:00 PM ET on Tuesday, April 4, 2023.

As a final (and crucial) precaution before the holiday begins, we must engage in the act of selling our chametz. Any chametz that remains in our homes can be temporarily sold to a non-Jew for the duration of the holiday – it must be stored away somewhere in our home and separated from everything else; it does not belong to us for the 8 days of Passover. This legal transfer absolves you of having any chametz in your possession, since it’s not really your possession. You can sell your chametz by filling out the following form (this is done through the agency of Rabbi Mordy Schwartz of the Rabbinical Assembly): This form will not be available after 12:00 PM ET on Tuesday, April 4, 2023.



If you need help, contact me at salevine66@gmail.com.


  1. Searching for and destroying Chametz

The rituals of bedikat chametz and bi’ur chametz (searching for and destroying chametz) take place on the night before the eve of Passover and the following morning. This year, the search for chametz takes place on Tuesday night, April 4. On Wednesday morning, we burn the chametz (should be burned by noon at the latest). Both rituals are accompanied by blessings and declarations which can be found at the bottom of this document (“Bi’ur Chametz – Searching for Chametz”). You can buy a kit for bedikat chametz at ShopRite on McDonald Avenue or most stores in Midwood.


  1. Latest time for eating chametz on Wednesday

If you must have that last bowl of Wheaties, 11am is your cut-off point. After that, any chametz in your home doesn’t belong to you and it would be considered stealing (from the person you sold your chametz to).


  1. More Questions?

At the following link, you’ll find the 2023 Passover Guide from the Rabbinical Assembly. It’s full of useful information about kashering your home and which foods require a Passover hekhsher:



And of course, you can always contact me at salevine66@gmail.com.


Bi’ur Chametz – Searching for Chametz


  1. Bedikat Chametz (checking for chametz)


Before the search make this blessing:

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu al biur chametz


Praised are You, Lord our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has sanctified us with commandments, and commanded us about removing chametz.


After the search recite the following (it is preferable to say it in English if you do not understand Aramaic):

Kol Chamira veChami’a deika birshuti, D’La Chamitei U’dla Bi’artei U’dla Yedana Lei Liv’teil Velehevei Hefker Ke’Afra De’Ar’ah.


All chametz and leaven in my possession that I have not seen and have not eliminated and don’t know about shall be nullified and become ownerless, like the dust of the earth.


  1. Bi’ur Chametz (destroying the chametz)


There are several ways to perform biur chametz (ridding ourselves of chametz). 

  1. Burning: this is the traditional manner. Biur literally means “burning” and if you choose to destroy your chametz this way please do so responsibly!
  2. Flushing it down the toilet
  3. Crumbling it and scattering it to the wind
  4. Disposing of it in a public waste receptacle


  1. Bittul Chametz (nullification of the chametz)

After burning the chametz, say the following (it is preferable to say it in English if you do not understand Aramaic):

Kol Chamira VaChami’a De’Ika Birshuti DeChazitei U’dLa Chazitei, DaChamitei U’dLa Chamitei, D’Bi’artei U’dla Bi’artei Libateil Velehevei Hefker Ke’Afra De’Ar’ah.


All Chametz and leaven in my possession that I have seen and that I have not seen, that I have burned and that I have not burned, that I have destroyed and that I have not destroyed, shall be nullified and become ownerless, like the dust of the earth.