Pesach products primer

Over the last 32 years, we have developed quite a few traditions at ‘JM in the AM.’  Among my favorites is the annual “Pesach Products Program,” a full 90 minutes of programming dedicated to helping our listeners fill their pantries, medicine cabinets and wine cellars with appropriate products ahead of the holiday.

During this special segment, I am joined in the studio by Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld and Rabbi Eli Gersten of the Orthodox Union (authorities on the Kosher supervision of food products), Ronnie and Larry Birnbaum of J Drugs (experts regarding the ‘Kosher for Passover’ status of both over the counter and prescription medications), and Jay Buchsbaum of Royal Wines (a very knowledgeable Kosher wine sommelier).

Living up to its reputation, the “Pesach Products Program” (which took place on Tuesday, April 8) was an incredibly informative and entertaining show.  The panel discussed an array of issues surrounding the Kosher status of popular items on Passover among themselves and then opened the phone lines so that listeners could take part in the conversation as well.

Here’s a sampling of what we learned from our panel of experts this year (one tidbit for each day of Passover):

  • “Chamar Medinah” – Our show began with a reminder that if one cannot tolerate wine or grape juice for medical reasons, he would be able to fulfill his “Four Cups” obligation by drinking Chamar Medinah, generally defined as distinctive beverages worthy of being served to guests in a specific area, at the Seder (example: orange juice).
  • Lipstick– Our panel made it clear that lipstick never needs Kosher supervision.  However, one should purchase new lipstick for Pesach simply because her lips (and, thus, her lipstick) came into contact with leavened items caught in her mouth during the rest of the year.
  • Quinoa – A staple for many, the Passover status of quinoa has been a touchy subject for several years.  Rabbi Schonfeld and Rabbi Gersten echoed the recent historic announcement made by the Orthodox Union that quinoa is now officially certified Kosher for Passover (though it must have the special Kosher for Passover packaging).
  • Chia Seeds – It was also clarified that while Chia seeds, a very popular way to reduce food cravings, looks like “classic kitniyot” (a category of grains and legumes that may not be eaten on Passover as an extension of the prohibition on leaven), they are not kitniyot and are allowed on Passover.
  • Powerade – Due to hints of kitniyot in its ingredients, Powerade, which is Kosher during the rest of the year, is not allowed on Passover.  However, if an elderly or ill person is in need of the sugars and electrolytes contained within the drink, they should feel comfortable drinking it throughout the holiday.
  • Tums – This popular antacid has a secret: it, too, contains traces of kitniyot.  As such, if one takes Tums as a calcium supplement, he should hold off during Passover.  But if he takes it to calm serious stomach ailments, he should feel comfortable taking Tums (that were purchased before Passover) during the holiday.
  • Pinot Noir – If one is looking for a Seder wine that is light, dry and complex, a Pinot Noir is the way to go. Tzuba, Barkan, and Alfasi currently offer some delicious options.
  • Hot Dog Buns – No surprises here: hot dog buns are obviously chametz (they are leavened bread and, thus, forbidden on Passover).  However, if one attends a baseball game on Passover, he likely has nothing to worry about if he finds himself in a situation where he must pass a hot dog from the vendor to a gentile fan.  (It’s a true story – I had a serious crisis of conscience when it happened.)

Interested in learning more?  Listen to the rest of the program here.

Hopefully, the experience will prepare you to, quite literally, enjoy a Chag Kasher v’Sameach, a Kosher and happy Passover holiday.

About the Author
Nachum Segal is a Jewish radio icon and the founder of the Nachum Segal Network (NSN), the Jewish world's premier English-language internet radio network. Nachum is best known as the force behind 'JM in the AM - Jewish Moments in the Morning,' the #1 Jewish Radio Show in the world and the radio program of record in the Jewish community for over 30 years.
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