DATE OF PASSOVER
Pessach (Passover) in 2020 is from April 8 (nightfall) to April 16 (until nightfall)
The eigth-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan. It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. It is observed by avoiding leaven and highlighted by the Seder meals that include four cups of wine, eating matsa and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus.
( Pesach in the Coming 2021: March 27-April 4 )
The Passover Story in a Nutshell
After many decades of slavery to the Egyptian pharaohs, during which time the Israelites were subjected to backbreaking labor and unbearable horrors, G-d saw the people’s distress and sent Moses to Pharaoh with a message: “Send forth My people, so that they may serve Me.” But despite numerous warnings, Pharaoh refused to heed G-d’s command. G-d then sent upon Egypt ten devastating plagues, afflicting them and destroying everything from their livestock to their crops.
At the stroke of midnight of 15 Nissan in the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), G-d visited the last of the ten plagues on the Egyptians, killing all their firstborn.
While doing so, G-d spared the children of Israel, “passing over” their homes—hence the name of the holiday. Pharaoh’s resistance was broken, and he virtually chased his former slaves out of the land. The Israelites left in such a hurry, in fact, that the bread they baked as provisions for the way did not have time to rise.
Six hundred thousand adult males, plus many more women and children, left Egypt on that day and began the trek to Mount Sinai and their birth as G-d’s chosen people.
In ancient times, the Passover observance included the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, which was roasted and eaten at the Seder on the first night of the holiday. This was the case until the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in the 1st century.
What is Shabbat Hagadol?
The Shabbat which precedes Passover is called Shabbat Hagadol, the Great Sabbath, for many and varied reasons, as we shall explain below. There are also many special customs associated with this Shabbat. It was in Egypt that Israel celebrated the very first Shabbat Hagadol on the tenth of Nissan, five days before their redemption.
On that day, the Children of Israel were given their first commandment which applied only to that Shabbat, but not to future generations, as it is written : “On the tenth day of this month [Nissan]... each man should take a lamb for the household, a lamb for each home (Exodus 12:3). Many miracles were performed for the Children of Israel on this first Shabbat haGadol. The Torah commanded them to take their lambs and tie them to the bedpost.
When they did so, their Egyptian neighbors saw this and asked:
"What is the lamb for?"
The Children of Israel answered: "It is to be slaughtered as a Passover sacrifice as G-d has commanded us."
The Egyptians, for whom the lamb was a deity, gnashed their teeth in anger but could not utter a sound in protest.
Many other miracles as well were performed in connection with the Passover offering, we therefore refer to this day as Shabbat Hagadol.
Why We Celebrate Shabbat Hagadol instead of the 10th of Nissan?
Why do we commemorate the miracle on the Shabbat before Passover rather than on the tenth of Nissan, the date on which it actually took place? We see that the Torah itself mentions only the date rather than the day of the week.
It is because the miracle is closely connected to Shabbat. The Egyptians were aware that the Children of Israel observed Shabbat and did not busy themselves tending animals on that day.
So when the Egyptians saw them taking lambs and binding them to their bedposts on Shabbat, they were surprised and decided to investigate what was happening. The Children of Israel were in great danger when they were confronted and were saved only by virtue of a miracle. We therefore commemorate this miracle on Shabbat rather than on the tenth of the month of Nissan. Moreover, had it not been Shabbat, the Children of Israel would not have needed a miracle to save them. They would have been able to deceive the Egyptians by diverting their attention or making up some kind of explanation.
On Shabbat, however, they would not do so, for, as our Sages said, "Even an ignorant man will not tell lies on Shabbat." Thus, we see that they were endangered because of their observance of Shabbat, and they needed a miracle to save them.
A further reason why we recall the miracle on Shabbat rather than on the tenth of the month is that, forty years later, Miriam died on that day and the well, which was dependent on Myriam’s merit, which accompanied the Children of Israel and provided them with water in the wilderness, disappeared. When the anniversary of Miriam's death falls on a weekday, some observe it as a fast for the righteous.
Customs of Shabbat Hagadol
*We read part of the Passover Haggadah on Shabbat Hagadol, beginning from the paragraph that begins with the words "Avadim hayinu" ("We were slaves") until the words, "lechaper al kol avonotaynu" ("to atone for all of our sins"). One reason for this is that the redemption began on Shabbat Hagadol.
Another reason is to familiarize the children with the contents of the Haggadah, in fulfillment of the mitzvah of “You shall tell your children on that day”. Yet, another reason is that the reading from the Haggadah on Shabbat haGadol is like a rehersal for the Seder night, and helps us to become more familiar with the text.
*From as long ago as the days of the Tanna'im and Amora'im, it has been customary in Jewish communities throughout the world for the outstanding Torah scholar of the congregation to address all the people on this Shabbat. The purpose of this address is to teach the people the ways of G-d and instruct them in the laws of Passover.
The rabbi explains how utensils must be prepared for use on Passover, how to remove the chametz, and the laws concerning the baking of matzot. His purpose is to ensure that the people not err in the slightest degree in their observance of the Festival. It is also customary for the rabbi to add other material that speaks to the heart, as well as subjects of topical interest.
When Shabbat Hagadol falls on the day before Passover [and all of the preparations have already been made], it is customary to move this special sermon to the previous Shabbat, so that the congregation can learn all of the applicable laws in time to prepare for the Festival
Passover A to Z
A quick overview of the Passover process
The Celebration of Pessach
Passover is a holiday that mandates our complete involvement, not just during its eight days but for weeks before. Aside from the regular holiday obligations, we are also commanded (Exodus 13:3–7): “No leaven shall be eaten….. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread…. and no leaven shall be seen of yours [in your possession].”
We accomplish this by cleaning and inspecting our homes well before Passover, and gradually eliminating chametz from every room and crevice. This intensive cleaning takes place in Jewish homes throughout the world.
Methodically inspect and rid every part of your home of any traces of chametz.
Be on the lookout for crumbs of all sorts, hidden stashes of crunchy chocolate, fermented drinks (nearly all are made with grain), etc. Make a list of all the rooms in your house, and cross off each one as you complete it.
Enforce the pre-Passover house rules: No food may leave the kitchen. After eating, clothes must be brushed off and hands thoroughly washed.
What is chametz?
The Biblical Basis
Just before the nation of Israel left Egypt, G-d commanded them to sacrifice the paschal lamb and then eat it with unleavened matzah and bitter herbs. G-d then told them that they should replicate this feast every year on the anniversary of the Exodus: “It shall be for you a remembrance… seven days you shall eat matzah, and on the first day you should remove all se’or (sourdough, a leavening agent) from your homes.
Anyone who eats chametz (leaven) from the first day to the seventh day shall be cut off from Israel.”
Chametz is any food product made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that has come into contact with water and been allowed to ferment and “rise.”
In practice, just about anything made from these grains—other than Passover matzah, which is carefully controlled to avoid leavening—is to be considered chametz.
This includes flour (even before it is mixed with water), cake, cookies, pasta, breads, and items that have chametz as an ingredient, like malt. So, Chametz is "leaven" — any food that's made of grain and water that have been allowed to ferment and "rise." Bread, cereal, cake, cookies, pizza, pasta, and beer are blatant examples of chametz; but any food that contains grain or grain derivatives can be, and often is, chametz. Practically speaking, any processed food that is not certified "Kosher for Passover" may potentially include chametz ingredients.
When Is It Forbidden?
According to Jewish law, it is forbidden to eat chametz after the fourth halachic hour on the morning before Passover. It is forbidden to derive any benefit from chametz at the fifth hour, and all chametz should be burned before the sixth hour. From then until after Passover, chametz is completely forbidden.
Why does the prohibition start before Passover begins?
The Torah states: “You shall slaughter the Passover sacrifice to the L-rd, your G-d… You shall not eat leaven with it.” Tradition interprets this to mean that the prohibition of chametz starts from the time when the Passover sacrifice could be offered: from midday of the 14th of Nissan.
To prevent people from transgressing the prohibition inadvertently, the sages decreed that the prohibition of eating chametz starts two hours before midday, and the prohibition of deriving any benefit starts one hour prior to midday.
Selling Your Chametz
Let's say that you own a liquor store. Or that you just bought a three-month supply of breakfast cereal on special. Or you live in a 40-room mansion and don't want to clean the whole thing this year. Is there some way of avoiding the ownership of chametz on Passover without getting rid of your chametz forever?
There is. Since the commandment to rid one's domain of chametz is binding only on a Jew, you can sell your chametz to a non-Jew, and then buy it back from him after Passover. The area where the chametz is held is leased to the non-Jew for the duration of the festival. This sale is not symbolic but a 100% legally binding transaction, and must therefore be conducted by a competent rabbi.
Designate the areas where you'll be placing the chametz you're selling. These can be cupboards, closets, rooms, or an entire house. Remember that you will not be able to use or enter these areas for the duration of the festival. Your local rabbi can transact the sale for you, after obtaining power-of-attorney from you to sell your chametz
Getting Rid of Chametz
From the morning of Passover eve until the conclusion of the festival — for approximately eight days and eight hours — we avoid eating chametz or anything containing the slightest vestige thereof. It is also forbidden to own chametz, to derive benefit from chametz in any way, or to have chametz physically present in our domain, during this time.
Because chametz forms such a pervasive part of our lives during the rest of the year, getting rid of it for Passover is no easy task. Preparations to make the home "kosher for Passover" begin days, even weeks, before the festival. But for those who make the investment, the reward is an especially meaningful Festival of Freedom.
Attaining a chametz-free Passover includes six basic steps: cleaning the home, setting up the Passover kitchen, and selling, searching for, burning, and nullifying chametz. Long before Passover begins, we clean our homes, offices, and any other place that belongs to us to rid our homes of chametz. Although it’s praiseworthy to be stringent on Passover, keep in mind that dust isn’t chametz.
The main purpose of cleaning and searching for chametz is to remove any chametz that one may come to inadvertently eat or derive benefit from during Passover. This obligation of getting rid of chametz does not extend to inedible chametz or tiny crumbs or particles of chametz that are soiled or spoiled. So the key areas to focus on are things that may come in contact with food, since we are forbidden to eat anything with even a trace of chametz.
Preparing the Kitchen
The kitchen should be thoroughly cleaned, and all surfaces should be covered or koshered. Additionally, if you’re using your regular utensils or appliances for Passover, they will need to be koshered. If finances permit, it is better (and easier) to simply buy a set of Passover utensils.
Some non-food items, such as vitamins and cosmetics, may contain chametz and will need to be disposed of or sold (see below). Please consult with a rabbi for a list of permissible and prohibited items.
Every part of our homes is cleaned for Passover, but we pay special attention to the kitchen, because (a) that’s where most of our chametz hangs out during the year, and (b) we will be using our kitchens to prepare our Passover food.
Dishes and Utensils
Today, most Passover-savvy homes have a special set of dishes, silverware, pots, pans and other utensils for Passover use only. If necessary, certain year-round utensils can be used—provided they are koshered for Passover. This gets rather complex—you’ll need to consult a competent rabbi about your particular utensils.
Oven and Stove
Thoroughly clean and scour every part of the oven and stove. Heat the oven to the highest temperature possible for 1–2 hours. Heat the grates and the iron parts of the stove (and the elements, if electric) until they are red-hot.
It is suggested that the oven and the stove top should be covered with aluminum foil afterwards for the duration of Passover. A self-cleaning oven should be run though a full cleaning cycle and may then be used (but no hot Passover foods or dishes should be placed on the glass door).
Clean the oven thoroughly. Fill a completely clean container that was not used for 24 hours, with water. Turn on the microwave and let it steam heavily. Turn it off and wipe out the inside.
To use the microwave during Passover, use a flat, thick, microwave-safe object as a separation between the bottom of the oven and the cooking dish. When cooking or warming, the food should be covered on all sides.
For 24 hours before koshering the sink, do not pour hot water from chametz pots into it. Meticulously clean the sink, boil water in a clean pot which was not used for 24 hours, and pour three times onto every part of the sink, including the drain stopper. Then line the sink with foil or liner.
Refrigerator, Freezer, Cupboards, Closets, Tables, and Counters
Thoroughly clean and scrub them to remove any crumbs and residue. Afterwards, place a heavy covering over those surfaces that come into contact with hot food or utensils.
Tablecloths and Napkins
Launder without starch.
Cars, Garages, etc.
Vacuum your car or van; thoroughly clean your basement, garage, or any property you own. Special care should be taken with items you will be using, or rooms you will be accessing, during Passover.
Passover Shopping Not just kosher, but “kosher for Passover”
While shopping for Passover we must be careful that the foods we buy are not only kosher, but are also kosher for Passover—that is, chametz-free.
Starting “From Scratch”
All fruits and vegetables, as well as all kosher cuts of meat and kosher fish, are kosher for Passover, provided they have been prepared in accordance with Jewish law and have not come into contact with chametz or chametz utensils.The prevailing custom in Ashkenazi communities is that on Passover we do not eat rice, millet, corn, mustard, legumes (beans, etc.) or food made from any of these.
Commercially Prepared Products
Today there are many kosher-for-Passover packaged foods available. However, care must be used to purchase only those packaged foods that have reliable rabbinical supervision which is valid for Passover. Obviously, all leavened foods made from—or that contain among their ingredients—wheat, barley, rye, oats, or spelt are actual chametz and are prohibited on Passover. Examples are bread, cake, cereal, spaghetti, beer and whiskey.
Check That Medicine Cabinet!
Many medicines, sprays, and cosmetics contain chametz. Consult a competent rabbi as to which ones may be used on Passover. The same applies to pet food.
Shmurah means “watched,” and it is an apt description of this matzah, the ingredients of which (the flour and water) are watched from the moment of harvesting and drawing. The day chosen for the harvesting of the wheat is a clear, dry day. The moment it is harvested, the wheat is inspected to ensure that there is absolutely no moisture. From then on, careful watch is kept upon the grains as they are transported to the mill.
The mill is meticulously inspected by rabbis and supervision professionals to ensure that every piece of equipment is absolutely clean and dry. After the wheat is milled, the flour is again guarded in its transportation to the bakery. Thus, from the moment of harvesting through the actual baking of the matzah, the flour is carefully watched to ensure against any contact with water.The water, too, is carefully guarded to prevent any contact with wheat or other grain. It is drawn the night before the baking, and kept pure until the moment it is mixed with the flour to bake the shmurah matzah.
Also in the bakery itself, shmurah matzot are under strict supervision to avoid any possibility of leavening during the baking process. This intensive process and careful guarding gives the shmurah matzah an added infusion of faith and sanctity—in fact, as the matzah is being made, all those involved constantly repeat, “L’shem matzot mitzvah”—“We are doing this for the sake of the mitzvah of matzah.”
Shmurah matzot are round, kneaded and shaped by hand, and are similar to the matzot that were baked by the Children of Israel as they left Egypt. It is thus fitting to use shmurah matzah on each of the two Seder nights for the matzot of the Seder plate.
Search for Chametz: Bedikat Chametz
The process of creating a chametz-free environment comes to its climax the night before Passover. We conduct a veritable “search and destroy” mission to find any remaining chametz in our home and eradicate it. The search is traditionally conducted with a beeswax candle, using a feather, wooden spoon, and a paper bag for collecting any chametz found. It is customary to place ten pieces of bread throughout the house to be “found” during the search.
These should be wrapped in paper or some other flammable wrapping (but not silver foil, as it does not burn), and perhaps then in plastic bags to prevent crumbs. It’s a good idea to write down the locations of the hiding places, in case some of the pieces aren’t found.
On the evening before Passover, 7 April 2020
As soon as the sun is down, gather the household together, light the candle, and recite the following blessing:
Bo-ruch A-toh Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ho-olom
A-sher Ki-de-sha-nu Be-mitz-vo-sov Ve-tzi-vo-nu Al Bee-ur Cho-metz.
Or, in translation:
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by His commandments, and has commanded us concerning the removal of chametz.
Next, hold the lit candle and search for chametz in every room, as well as any other area of the home that may have chametz, such as the basement, attic, garage, or car. Even once a house is thoroughly cleaned, there is often still a bagel crust or a Cheerio hiding in some overlooked cranny.
When you’re done, take all the chametz that was found in the search, wrap and seal it securely, and place it in a conspicuous spot. This chametz will be joined with all remaining chametz in your home, and burned the next morning.
Food intended to be sold or eaten later should similarly be carefully put aside. When you’ve completed the search, and done your best to get rid of any possible chametz, gather the family back together and recite the "Kol Chamira" declaration, translated below, nullifying all unknown chametz and relinquishing it from your ownership.
kol ‘hamira va’hamia déïka birchouti déla ‘hamité oudéla biarté oudélo yédaana leih libatel véléhévé hefker kéafra déar‘a
All leaven or anything leavened which is in my possession, which I have neither seen nor removed, and about which I am unaware, shall be considered nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.
Chametz's Final Moments: The Burning of the Chametz
On the morning before Passover, 8 april 2020, chametz may be eaten until the fourth hour of the day, (see your Pessach Guide) After that, only foods that are kosher for Passover are eaten.
We don’t eat matzah, though. We’re saving that for the Seder. Since even a minute amount of chametz is prohibited, we carefully rinse, brush, and floss our teeth, to ensure that we really have gotten rid of all the chametz within us.
Now we’ve got an hour to put away all the chametz utensils, and any other chametz hat will be sold over Passover, in their designated areas, and gather the rest of the chametz together for the burning of the chametz.
The Burning of Chametz
On the morning before Passover, before the fifth hour, (see your Pessach Guide), we burn all the chametz that was found during the search, and anything that was left over from breakfast and not stored with the chametz that will be sold to the non-Jew. (This should have already been arranged with your Rabbi, or online.)
After the chametz has been burnt in the fire, we recite the following declaration:
kol ‘hamira va’hamia déïka birchouti da’hazité oudéla ‘hazité da’hamité oudéla ‘hamité débiarté oudéla biarté libatel véléhévé efker kéafra déar‘a
All leaven or anything leavened which is in my possession, whether I have seen it or not, whether I have observed it or not, whether I have removed it or not, shall be considered nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.
Afterwards we recite the following prayer:
May it be Your will, Lord, our G d and G d of our fathers, that just as I remove the chametz from my house and from my possession, so shall You remove all the extraneous forces. Remove the spirit of impurity from the earth, remove our evil inclination from us, and grant us a heart of flesh to serve You in truth.
Make all the sitra achara, all the kelipot, and all wickedness be consumed in smoke, and remove the dominion of evil from the earth. Remove with a spirit of destruction and a spirit of judgment all that distress the Shechina, just as You destroyed Egypt and its idols in those days, at this time. Amen, Selah.
Fast of the Firstborn
In the tenth and final plague inflicted upon Egypt, G-d killed the firstborn in all of Egypt. But, as in all the plagues brought upon Egypt, the Children of Israel were spared. In the Plague of the Firstborn, not one Jewish firstborn died. To express their gratitude, all firstborn males fast on the day before Passover (8 april 2020).
The fathers of firstborn boys under the age of 13 fast in their stead. The prevailing custom, however, is for the firstborn to exempt themselves from the obligation to fast by participating in a seudat mitzvah (a meal marking the fulfillment of a mitzvah), such as a siyyum--a festive meal celebrating the conclusion of the study of a section of Torah). Most synagogues host such a celebration after morning prayers.
The first day of Pesach, April 8, before sunset (see the time in your Pessach Guide) we recite two blessings:
BAH-ROOCH AH-TAH AH-DOH-NOI EH-LOH-HEH-NOO MEH-LECH HAH-OH-LAHM AH-SHER KEE-DEH-SHAH-NOO BEH-MITZ-VOH-TAHV VEH-TZEE-VAH-NOO LEH-HAD-LEEK NER SHEL YOHM TOHV.
A Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Yom Tov light.
Additional Blessing for Holiday Candles (Except for the Final Days of Passover)
B BAH-ROOCH AH-TAH AH-DOH-NOI EH-LOH-HEH-NOO MEH-LECH HAH-OH-LAHM CHEHE’HIYANOU VEKIYEMANOU VEHIGUIHANOU LIZMANE HAZE
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.
The second day of Pesach we recite only blessing A
BAH-ROOCH AH-TAH AH-DOH-NOI EH-LOH-HEH-NOO MEH-LECH HAH-OH-LAHM AH-SHER KEE-DEH-SHAH-NOO BEH-MITZ-VOH-TAHV VEH-TZEE-VAH-NOO LEH-HAD-LEEK NER SHEL YOHM TOHV.
The two Seders: What Is a Seder?
A quick one-page overview of the Passover Meal’s steps
The Seder is a feast that includes reading, drinking wine, telling stories, eating special foods, singing, and other Passover traditions.
As per Biblical command, it is held after nightfall on the first night of Passover (and the second night if you live outside of Israel), the anniversary of our nation’s miraculous exodus from Egyptian slavery more than 3,000 years ago. This year’s Seder(s) will be on April 8 and 9.
The focal points of the Seder are:
Eating bitter herbs—to commemorate the bitter slavery endured by the Israelites.
Drinking four cups of wine or grape juice—a royal drink to celebrate our newfound freedom.
The recitation of the Haggadah, a liturgy that describes in detail the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Haggadah is the fulfillment of the biblical obligation to recount to our children the story of the Exodus on the night of Passover. It begins with a child asking the traditional “Four Questions.”
The highlight of Passover is the Seder, observed on each of the first two nights of the holiday. The Seder is a fifteen-step family-oriented tradition and ritual-packed feast.
The Seder plate is the focal point of the proceedings on the first (two) night(s) of Passover. Whether it is an ornate silver dish or a humble napkin, it bears the ceremonial foods around which the Seder is based:
Matzah: Three matzot are placed on top of each other on a plate or napkin, and then covered. (Some also have the custom to separate the matzot from each other with interleaved plates, napkins or the like.)
We have three matzot, so that we can break one (as a slave would), and still have two whole matzot over which to recite the Hamotzi blessing (as required on Shabbat and holidays). The matzot are symbolic of the three groups of Jews: Priests, Levites and Israelites.
They also commemorate the three measures of fine flour that Abraham told Sarah to bake into matzah when they were visited by the three angels (Genesis 18:6). It is ideal to use handmade shmurah matzah, which has been zealously guarded against moisture from the moment of harvest.
What is there on the Seder plate?
On a cloth or plate placed above the three matzot, we place the following items:
The zeroa (shankbone) The egg, bitter herbs, charoset paste karpas vegetable.
When and How to Eat Matzah
Matzah is eaten three times during the Seder:
After telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt (Maggid), washing our hands for bread (Rachtzah) and reciting the blessings (Motzi Matzah), 1¾ ounces of matzah are eaten.
For the sandwich (Korech), ¾ of an ounce of matzah is eaten.
For the afikoman at the end of the meal (Tzafun), a minimum of ¾ of an ounce (and ideally 1½ ounces) of matzah are eaten.
In each instance, the matzah should be eaten (reclining only for men) within 4 minutes. How much is one ounce of Matzah? Half a piece of shmurah matzah is generally equal to one ounce.
Before the onset of the holiday, weigh of the box of matzot. Divide the weight by the amount of pieces in the box, and you'll know how much you need to eat. Here are the 15 steps of the Seder. Each of the Seder’s 15 phases has not just a body, but a soul as well—a simple meaning as well as a deep lesson towards higher consciousness.
The Four cups of wine
G-d uses four expressions of redemption in describing our Exodus from Egypt and our birth as a nation:
1. "I will take you out…"
2. "I will save you…"
3. "I will redeem you…"
4. "I will take you as a nation…"
Our sages instituted that we should drink a cup of wine, a toast if you will, for each one of these expressions. We recite the Kiddush over the first cup, we read the Exodus story from the Haggadah over the second cup, we recite the Grace after Meals over the third cup, and we sing the "big Hallel" (Psalms and hymns of praises to G-d) over the fourth cup.
During the Seder we can experience these elements of redemption in a spiritual sense. There are a number of explanations as to the significance of the various stages of redemption conveyed through each of these expressions.
Here is one:
1. Salvation from harsh labor—this began as soon as the plagues were introduced.
2. Salvation from servitude; or the day the Jews left Egypt geographically and arrived at Ramses.
3. The splitting of the sea, after which the Jews felt completely redeemed, without fear of the Egyptians recapturing them.
4. Becoming a nation at Sinai.
During the Seder we can experience these elements of redemption in a spiritual sense, by leaving our "Egypt" and our servitude to our egos. There is actually a fifth expression in the above mentioned verses: "And I will bring you to the land which I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as an inheritance." While the Exodus from Egypt and the birth of the Jewish nation were permanent, we have yet to be brought to Israel on a permanent basis.
In honor of this verse we have a fifth cup at the Seder: the Cup of Elijah. This cup is set up for Elijah during the second half of the Seder, but we do not drink it. Elijah will announce the arrival of Moshiach, who will bring all Jews to Israel, for good.
The Haggadah follows a 15-step procedure.
1 - Kadesh – Sanctify the holy day over a cup of wine.
2 - Urchatz – Wash hands without reciting the blessing.
3 - Karpas – Dip a small piece of a vegetable in salt water.
4 - Yachatz – Take the middle matzah and split it in half, setting aside the larger half to be used as the afikoman.
5 - Maggid – Recite the story of the Exodus in great detail.
6 - Rachtzah – Wash hands for the matzah.
7 - Motzi Matzah – Recite the blessing over the matzah, and eat the required quantity of matzah.
8 - Maror – Eat the bitter herbs after dipping them into charoset—a sweet, sticky paste of nuts and fruits
9 - Korech – Eat a sandwitch of matzah and maror (again dipped in charoset).
10 - Shulchan Orech – The meal begins.
11 - Tzafun – The afikoman is now eaten.
12 - Beirach – Birkat Hamazon, the Grace After Meals, is now recited.
13 - Hallel – Recite songs and praise to G-d.
14 - Nirtzah – The Seder is now concluded.
A Passover Message
Passover, celebrating the greatest series of miracles ever experienced in history, is a time to reach above nature to the miraculous. But how are miracles achieved? Let’s take our cue from the matzah. Flat and unflavored, it embodies humility. Through ridding ourselves of inflated egos, we are able to tap into the miraculous well of divine energy we all have within our souls.
The meaning of Matza: the “Food of Faith and healing”
When our forefathers left Egypt, they were in such a hurry that there was no time to wait for the dough to rise. They therefore ate matzah, unleavened bread. With only this food (but with great faith), our ancestors relied on the Almighty to provide sustenance for the entire Jewish nation—men, women and children. Each year, to remember this, we eat matzah on the first two nights of Pesach, thereby fulfilling the Torah’s commandment, “Matzot shall you eat.” (Exodus 12:15)”
Matzah: The Humblest of Foods
Matzah symbolizes faith. In contrast to leavened bread, matzah is not enriched with oil, honey or other substances. It consists only of flour and water, and is not allowed to rise. Similarly, the only “ingredients” for faith are humility and submission to G-d, which come from recognizing our “nothingness” when compared with the infinite wisdom of the Creator. One of the holiday’s primary obligations is to eat matzah during the Seder. It is strongly recommended to use shmurah matzah to fulfill this commandment.
Counting of the Omer
Between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot, the Omer is counted each evening, signifying our preparation for the receiving of the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot.
What Is the Omer?
Every evening from the second night of Passover to the day before Shavuot, we count another day, marking the 49 days (seven weeks) between these two holidays. It is known as Sefirat HaOmer (“Counting of the Omer”) since it begins on the day when an omer measure of barley was offered in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. On a spiritual level, the counting mirrors the journey of our ancestors in the desert who spent these 49 days between the Exodus (on Passover) and the Giving of the Torah (on Shavuot) in spiritual preparation and anticipation…
The “Intermediate” Festival Days
Chol Hamoed (literally, “the weekday of the holiday”) refers to the “intermediate period” of the festivals of Passover and Sukkot. They are the days sandwiched between the beginning and ending holy days of both festivals. Passover is eight days long. The first two days and last two days are full-fledged festival days, and the middle four days are Chol Hamoed. (In Israel, Passover is seven days long, with the middle five being Chol Hamoed.)
On Chol Hamoed, however, we are permitted to do many of these activities. For example, we may use electricity or drive a car. (Unless, of course, the intermediate day is also Shabbat.) Nevertheless, we still try to avoid going to work, doing laundry, writing and certain other activities. (See below for more details on this holiday/weekday balancing act.) Many families find Chol Hamoed to be a perfect time for fun family outings.
On these days, parks, museums and zoos are often full of Jewish families enjoying the holiday. The special mitzvahs of the festival are equally observed on Chol Hamoed. The days of Chol Hamoed also include the mitzvah to be joyous and celebrate; some wear holiday clothing. There are special prayers and Torah readings in the synagogue during Chol Hamoed, and in many communities men do not put on tefillin.
The Last Two Days of Passover In a Nutshell
On april 15 and 16 2020, we celebrate the seventh and eighth days of Passover which are full holidays. Like other holidays, we do no work, other than certain acts connected to food preparation, we recite holiday prayers, and women and girls light candles on the eve of both days. But there are also special practices for the last days of Passover.
The seventh and eighth days of Passover are celebrated as Yom Tov, holidays, capping the weeklong celebration that begins with the first Seder. In Israel, only the seventh day is celebrated. In Hebrew, the last two days are known as Shvii shel Pesach (Seventh of Passover) and Acharon shel Pesach (Last of Passover), respectively. Find candle lighting times for your city.
What Happened on the Seventh Day of Passover?
The Splitting of the Red Sea
The seventh day of Passover marks the day when many miracles were performed for our forefathers at the Red Sea. The Torah (Exodus, 2:15) states: “And the seventh day shall be declared a holy day for you. No work shall be done on that day.” In most of the instances where the Torah refers to the first day of Passover, mention is made of the Exodus from Egypt.
Regarding the command to observe the seventh day of Passover, however, no mention is made of the miracle of the splitting of the sea which took place on that day. Moreover, when the Torah refers to the miracle no mention is made of the date on which the miracle took place.
The essence of the celebration of this day is the song that Moses and Israel were Divinely inspired to sing on this day a song that merited being included in the Torah, a song to which G-d and His heavenly consorts listened. Although the Torah saw fit not to mention that the drowning of the Egyptians took place on this day for the reason that we have already mentioned, we have a tradition that this event took place on this day. Once it was permitted to commit the oral tradition to writing, we have written sources for this as well.
Candles Lighting (see your Pessach Guide for the time to light)
The seventh day of Passover is not a separate Festival in its own right, as is the case with Shemini Atzeret, the last day of Sukkot. Rather, it is the conclusion of Passover and we therefore do not recite the Shehecheyanu blessing when making Kiddush or lighting candles.
We recite only this blessing:
BAH-ROOCH AH-TAH AH-DOH-NOI EH-LOH-HEH-NOO MEH-LECH HAH-OH-LAHM AH-SHER KEE-DEH-SHAH-NOO BEH-MITZ-VOH-TAHV VEH-TZEE-VAH-NOO LEH-HAD-LEEK NER SHEL YOHM TOHV.
The Seventh Day of Passover: what do we do?
Don’t blink. Many people have the custom to remain awake the entire night preceding the seventh day of Passover, studying Torah as a way of thanking G-d for the miracle He did at that time.
Read it again. During the morning services of the seventh day, the Torah reading includes the biblical narrative of our miraculous salvation at the sea and the song we sang.
The Eighth Day of Passover: The Last Day of Passover
What do we do on the last day of Pessach?
Sip and dip. Many people have the custom to make sure that the matzah does not come in contact with moisture, lest some leftover flour become leavened. On the eighth day of Passover, this restriction is relaxed, and matzah can be mixed with water and other liquids to create Passover favorites like matzah balls and matzah brei.
Yizkor. During the morning services of the eighth day, Yizkor memorial prayers are recited for departed relatives.
Futuristic dining. The Baal Shem Tov remarked that on the last day of Passover, the rays of the messianic redemption are already shining bright.
He instituted that a special meal be held during the waning hours of the day. Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber of Lubavitch added four cups of wine to the meal, mirroring the Seders held on the first nights of the holiday. (In Israel, this meal and Yizkor are observed on day seven).
Last day of Pessach: The only blessing for Holiday Candles
BAH-ROOCH AH-TAH AH-DOH-NOI EH-LOH-HEH-NOO MEH-LECH HAH-OH-LAHM AH-SHER KEE-DEH-SHAH-NOO BEH-MITZ-VOH-TAHV VEH-TZEE-VAH-NOO LEH-HAD-LEEK NER SHEL YOHM TOHV.
Pessach Chéni : Pesach Sheni (the Second Passover)?
What Does Pesach Sheni Mean?
Pesach Sheni means "Second Passover[Sacrifice]." It marks the day when someone who was unable to participate in the Passover offering in the proper time would observe the mitzvah exactly one month later.
It is customary to mark this day by eating matzah—shmurah matzah, if possible—and by omitting Tachanun from the prayer services.
How Pesach Sheni Came About
A year after the Exodus, G-d instructed the people of Israel to bring the Passover offering on the afternoon of the fourteenth of Nissan, and to eat it that evening, roasted over the fire, together with matzah and bitter herbs, as they had done the previous year just before they left Egypt.
“There were, however, certain persons who had become ritually impure through contact with a dead body, and could not, therefore, prepare the Passover offering on that day. They approached Moses and Aaron and they said: “Why should we be deprived, and not be able to present G-d’s offering in its time, amongst the children of Israel?” (Numbers 9:6–7).
In response to their plea, G-d established the 14th of Iyar as a day for the “Second Passover” (Pesach Sheni) for anyone who was unable to bring the offering on its appointed time in the previous month.
What Pesach Sheni Means spiritually?
The day represents the “second chance” achieved by teshuvah, the power of repentance and “return.” In the words of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch, “The Second Passover means that it’s never a ‘lost case.’
A story for Pessach
Reb Shmuel's Two Seders
The festival of Passover was not far off. Households bustled happily from morning till evening with cleaning and shopping. Only the home of Reb Shmuel lacked the holiday luster and commotion.
His family had long become accustomed to a life of poverty. While yet young, Reb Shmuel had resolved to never seek the help of another person, even if it meant near starvation. He and his family would accept assistance only when offered. Despite the difficulty, they never uttered a word of complaint, strong in their faith that G-d would provide
Though the poverty was sometimes so bad that people noticed and lent a hand, Reb Shmuel successfully never spoke of the stark reality of his financial plight to most outsiders, even to his beloved mentor Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak, the Seer of Lublin.
One year before Passover, things reached a tipping point. Not a single kopek could be produced to purchase matzah, let alone four cups of wine for each member of the family. Reb Shmuel was distraught; even poverty, he knew, didn’t absolve them from observing the holiday’s mitzvot. Miles away, the Seer of Lublin was aware of the situation.
“Take whatever you can,” he commanded Reb Shlomo, a dedicated chassid with deep pockets, “everything necessary for a family to celebrate Passover, and send it over to Karov, to my student Reb Shmuel.” Reb Shlomo hurried home, his Rebbe’s words buzzing in his ears. Although he intended to fulfill the request as soon as he arrived home, various difficulties delayed him. It was only hours before the holiday when he ordered his driver to begin loading the wagon. Reb Shmuel sat in an empty beit midrash, but even the book before him couldn’t soothe his worry.
It was noon on Passover Eve, and he and his family had nothing. His stomach churned painfully with every passing minute, hampering his spiritual preparation for the holiday. But his faith remained absolute. Suddenly, the door burst open and a child ran inside.
“Father!” the child panted, “a wagon just stopped outside the house, filled with good things. The man wants to start unloading it right away because he needs to hurry, and we don’t know whether we should accept it…”
Reb Shmuel bolted home with his child hanging off his sleeve excitedly, where he found a man busy at work, unloading Reb Shlomo’s generosity: matzah, wine, an abundance of food, and even clothing for the children, all neatly packaged.
“Who sent you?” asked Reb Shmuel.
“Shlomo the Magnate,” was the reply.
Several weeks of stress evaporated instantly. Reb Shmuel raised his eyes to heaven, whispered a short prayer, and beamed at his family. Passover this year would be different.
And different it was. Inspired by G-d’s kindness, Reb Shmuel felt an overwhelming spiritual resurgence and decided to conduct this year’s Seder with all the possible Kabbalistic intentions and nuances. He paused at every paragraph, contemplated every meaning. The Seder was prolonged, but a special aura graced the proceedings. Even after reciting the Grace after Meals, Reb Shmuel’s enthusiasm didn’t dull, and the walls of his house shook heartily as he bellowed the songs of praise.
As morning began to peek from under the horizon, Reb Shmuel’s Seder finally concluded. But he didn’t feel tired, and he raced to the mikvah, eager to ready himself for the holiday prayers. Still far from waning, the excitement and gratitude lifted Reb Shmuel’s prayers to new spiritual heights. He swayed to a service unlike any other.
That evening, however, exhaustion finally overcame him. He had not slept for nearly two days.
When he returned home from prayers, Reb Shmuel informed his family he would take a short nap and that they should wake him in time for the second Seder. Of course, knowing the exertion Reb Shmuel underwent, they ignored his request and allowed him to sleep a little longer.
Close to midnight, Reb Shmuel awoke with a start. A glance at the clock sent daggers of fear into his heart, and he burst into the dining room, a look of panic in his eyes. Never had he neglected the mitzvah of eating the afikoman before midnight, even on the second night. Reb Shmuel dropped into his chair at the head of the table, rushed through the Haggadah, mumbling the words blankly, chugging the wine, and stuffing as much matzah into his mouth as he could chew at once.
This Seder was devoid of any meaning as he battled the clock’s swiftly moving hand. Reb Shmuel was ashamed. Surely even simpletons could conduct a better Seder than he had! Guilt haunted him for the remainder of the festival, and as soon as it concluded, he scrambled for the earliest opportunity to visit the Seer of Lublin. The gravity of his misdoing warranted rectification, which only the Seer could provide.
Before Reb Shmuel even opened his mouth, the Seer of Lublin said to no one in particular, as though thinking to himself loudly: “Let us examine Reb Shmuel’s Seders. The first was performed with fiery enthusiasm, though the spiritual commotion amounted to barely anything. The second, however… the broken heart and spirit have deemed this Seder extraordinary!” The Seer of Lublin peered at Reb Shmuel, who stood wide-eyed.
“Your second Seder, done purely for G-d and with nary the sense of self, has overturned the worlds above, as nothing has ever been experienced quite like this.”
A Message for Pessach
Jews are strictly forbidden to eat any leavened foods on Passover. Bread is replaced by Matzah – flat baked wafers made only of flour and water. Jews all over the world, take scrupulous care to avoid eating even the smallest particle of Chametz. The characteristic of leavened dough (Chametz) is that it rises and swells, symbolizing pride and boastfulness.
A Matzah, on the other hand, is thin and flat, suggesting meekness and humility. Passover teaches us that Chametz – arrogance – is the very antithesis of the ideal of Torah. When an arrogant man is confronted with the obligation of performing a Mitzvah that demands a measure of self-sacrifice (for example, charity, which involves sharing his possessions with his less fortunate fellow) he avoids fulfilling his obligation.
He reasons: “I am wealthy because I deserve it. In fact I am entitled to more than I presently possess, so why should I give some of it away?” Moreover, the egotism of the arrogant person deprives him of the ability to discern the worthiness of his neighbor and he smugly concludes that the other is truly far below his level. According to his logic the cause of this neighbor’s poverty is readily understood: “That pauper surely does not deserve any better!” “Now,” he thinks to himself, “if G-d sees fit, and rightly so, that this man be poor, should I interfere and help him?” Such egotistical reasoning leads the haughty individual to do more and more evil.
Yet, he will never perceive the evil of his actions and repent of them. For, even when he is forced to concede that his actions are improper, he finds various causes “beyond his control” that prevailed upon him to act as he did. Moreover, even when he cannot find any excuses to satisfy his conscience, nevertheless, “Self-love covers all transgressions.” He may be a spiteful evil-doer who cannot invent, through any stretch of the imagination, any line of reasoning to justify his behavior, yet self-love blinds his eyes and covers his evil.
The humble man, on the other hand, has quite the reverse attitude, both with regard to his fulfilling the Mitzvot as well as to his repentance of improper acts in the past. Using the Mitzvah of Tzedakah (charity) once again as an example: the humble man compares himself with his fellow-Jew in the proper light.
He thinks to himself: “Am I truthfully better than he? Do I deserve my better fortune?” This analysis, made objectively, rouses him to sympathize with his fellow-Jew and to render him assistance. Moreover, when the unassuming person acts improperly, he does not attempt to justify his incorrect behavior. On the contrary, his sincere self-analysis prompts him to do Teshuvah,” to honestly repent of his improper actions. Each year, on Passover, we are commended by the Torah to rid our domain of all traces of Chametz.
We must seek to rid ourselves of every particle of the ‘spiritual Chametz’ – arrogance – so that we are able to clearly perceive our own faults and our fellow’s good qualities.
The Spirituality of Dough
Passover is a time to receive the Divine energy and blessing from above.
If we are in Egypt, we now look to G-d for His assistance to release us. For one who is bound cannot release himself. (If he could it would make a marvelously entertaining act.)
So we must become a vessel for this Divine blessing. The trick to being a vessel is to remember that your purpose is to contain. If a barrel feels that it must give forth we call this a leak. If the container is able to keep this straight it is a blessing for the liquid and a blessing for the barrel.
Practically speaking, the time of receiving the Divine expression (blessing), is not the time for self-expression. After receiving the blessing, we may and must grow. But while we are receiving we must be still and intent upon the blessing.
Chametz is the rising of the dough. It is not the real substance, rather the self-expression. Which is heavier, a pound of bread or a pound of Matzah? The pound of bread takes up more space, but it is merely the presence of air.
This is the person’s ego. During Passover not only are we not to ingest this substance, but we are to thoroughly eradicate it. It may not be found in our domain nor are we to possess it. Chametz is a general term for all food and drink made from wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt or their derivatives, which is forbidden on Passover because it is leavened. Even a food that contains only a trace of Chametz is prohibited and must be removed from our homes.
Note: Matzah used all year round is not for Passover use. Only Matzot baked especially for Passover may be used on Passover. The concrete manifestations of this concept are the Mitzvot connected to getting rid of Chametz. They include cleaning and searching the entire house, nullifying the Chametz in our heart, and burning it the day before Passover. According to the Kabalistic understanding everything in the physical world is a reflection of a spiritual element. Conversely, the physical realm has an impact on what occurs, and what spiritual energy is produced in the spiritual realm.
Each Mitzvah is the concrete, actual form of the spiritual concept. This is the reason that Mitzvot must have a physical component. Without it, the spiritual level is left void and meaningless. In other words, the physical realm is the generator of Divine energy. So, Chametz does not merely teach us a lesson about self-expression and ego. It is a real entity that prevents the Divine blessing from being realized. The purpose of the Mitzvah of getting rid of Chametz is to allow us to take full advantage of the blessings that Passover bestows.