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Passover dietary restrictions

This year’s Passover will be celebrated between April 14 and April 22.

The holiday celebrates the Jews’ liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt and subsequent freedom under the guidance of Moses.

Passover is observed for seven days in Israel and eight days in the Diaspora. Like Hanukkah, the date changes every year.

During Passover, the Jewish kosher laws become a lot more challenging. Leavened and fermented grain products are prohibited to commemorate our freedom from Egyptian slavery

According to Jewish beliefs, after being freed from the Egyptian Pharaoh’s rule, Israelites left their homes in such a hurry that they couldn’t even wait for their bread to rise. Thus, during Passover Jews abstain from chametz, grains that rise such as wheat, oats, rye, spelt and barley. These grains are prohibited if they’ve had contact with water/moisture for longer than 18 minutes, which leads to rising or “leavening.” Leavening agents, like yeast and sourdough, are also considered chametz.

Matzo, which doesn’t rise, is a traditional staple in Passover meals. You might be thinking– but, isn’t matzo made from wheat flour? Yes! Most matzo is made from wheat, but the process used to “cook” the matzo from the time liquid is added to the flour to the time the matzo is baked can last no longer than 18 minutes. The wheat is closely supervised to ensure that no water touches it from the time of harvest to the time it is baked. This is to make sure that no leavening occurs.

Matzo, which doesn't rise, is a traditional staple in Passover meals

Matzo, which doesn’t rise, is a traditional staple in Passover meals (photo Haaretz)

What foods are forbidden during Passover?

Depending on whether you’re Sephardic (originally from Spain or Portugal) or Ashkenazi (from central or eastern Europe), traditions might differ.

For Sephardic Jews, rice, corn, peanuts and beans are permitted during the holiday, while for Ashkenazi Jews, they are not.

During Passover, the basic kosher guidelines apply, and there are also additional restrictions to what can be eaten.

Here is a quick rundown of the basic kosher laws, which apply year-round to Jews who choose to keep kosher:

1. Certain meats may not be eaten. Forbidden meats include (but are not limited to): pork, shellfish, lobster, shrimp, crab, rabbit, and seafood without fins or scales (like swordfish and sturgeon). Also, any products made with ingredients from these meats (example—pig ingredients in non-kosher gelatin) cannot be used.

2. Meat must not be eaten in combination with dairy. So, no cheese, butter, or cream sauce on your beef or chicken dish.

3. Fish and eggs are considered neutral. They can be served with dairy or with meat.

The most important thing you need to remember is that grain-based products… even beer!… are generally not considered kosher for Passover. Matzo, matzo meal, and matzo cake meal are used as substitutes for bread, bread crumbs, and cake flour, respectively.

In addition to these restrictions, many Jews avoid eating lamb during Passover because of the paschal sacrifice and Passover symbolism of the lamb shank bone. Some Jews also avoid garlic, though this is more rare. Neither of these rules are observed universally, however.