April 18, 2019 / Comments (0)

Our Guide to a Wilderness Passover

We cover some of this in our book, The Kosher Backpacker, but as Pesach starts Friday night, there may be Jewish thru-hikers out there, or people availing themselves of spring break from school and chol chomoyed days of the holiday…so here’s a guide to a WILDERNESS PASSOVER.

In a way, it’s kind of fitting. The Almighty lead our beleaguered people out of Egypt and into the wilderness for 40 years before letting us into the land. It’s a good time to commune with nature, and remember that if you have enough food for the 100 Mile Wilderness, dayenu.

So we’ll go in order of events with the assumption that you may be traveling before and during Pesach…

Selling Your Chametz

Most of us coordinate the sale of chametz through our local rabbi, or via an online service, such as what is offered by Chabad.

There’s an important fact – if your trip is taking you out of your usual time zone, it doesn’t matter where your chametz is, the sale is based off of where the owner of the chametz is! If you’re from the East Coast and are backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail, your local rabbi will buy it back too early. If you’re from the West Coast and are backpacking the Appalachian Trail, your local rabbi will sell it too late!

If you know where you will be for the duration of the holiday, services offered by Chabad online will time it based off of where you are and a Chabad rabbi in the appropriate location will sell it for you. I suggest a donation if you use their service, of course.

Searching for Chametz

If you’ll be returning to your home from your trip during Pesach, then you should clean your house of chametz, and do bedikat chametz the night before you depart. If it’s outside the conventional search time, you omit the blessing.

If you are staying at a backpacking hostel or hotel, you are required to do the search with the blessing in the room that you are leasing. If it’s an unpaid place, i.e. a trail shelter, you can still do the search, but consult with your rabbi for an absolute answer.

It’s a good time to clean out your backpack and your tent, anyway. I haven’t been on many East Coast trails where rodents haven’t been relentless little buggers. Pesach can help keep them at bay, at least until they get their hands on some matzah crumbs.

A Wilderness Seder

I would hope most Jews traveling find a seder to attend, however, if you cannot, years of experience in the United States Army have taught me that we have seven total mitzvot that we can fulfill on our own.

The mitzvot d’oraita of Pesach are:

  • Recounting Exodus
  • eating matzah

The mitzvot d’rabbanan are:

  • Eating bitter herbs (maror)
  • eating the Afikomen
  • saying Hallel
  • four cups of wine
  • drinking that wine while reclining and starting the eating with a dip

In our home, we use the ArtScroll Mesorah Series The Family Haggadah, but on the occasions that I’ve travelled or deployed, I have a laminated-yet-weathered Maxwell House Haggadah I use. I’ve found it’s an excellent opportunity to share our faith with non-Jewish friends.

Kosher for Pesach Food

This requires the most preparation. You would think that matzah would be a good trail food, but remarkably, it’s not all that wonderful. However, it packs better than most people would think, and you can add an element of awesomesauce to the holiday with store-bought or homemade chocolate-covered matzah.

One thing for Jews living outside of major Jewish communities – Pesach is the only time of year many of us can find kosher marshmallows. Leah and I stock up for this time of year in preparation not just for the 8 days of Passover, but for our Lag B’Omer bonfire.

We have some recipe suggestions, including our Vegetarian Matzah Brei or our Salmon patties (ochlei kitniyot only). Matzah ball soup is surprisingly easy to make on a camp stove.

If you are on a thru-hike, it is possible to place matzah and other OU-P or otherwise certified non-perishables in your “bounce box.”

Final Recommendations

I have an observant friend planning a trip to the Te Araoa Trail in New Zealand, but he is now postponing it because he would be leaving during the Omer, and crossing the International Date Line will hose his count. It’s an important consideration – Shavuos is determined by this count.

If you would be obliged to say Yizkor for a departed loved one, make suitable arrangements to be in a synagogue on the last day of Pesach.

Do you have any recommendations for Passover in the wilderness? Recipes? Tips? Stories? Share them in the comments below, or find us on Facebook.

Last modified: May 2, 2019

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