Friday April 22 through Sunday May 1, 2005
Passover is our central link in the long chain of Jewish history and tradition. Family and friends gather to share the memories and to taste freedom. Passover requires a lot of preparation to get rid of the Chametz and bring in the Matzah.
What Is Chametz?
Chametz includes bread, cookies, cakes, pastries, noodles, macaroni, whiskey or liquor; any wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that was in contact with liquid for 18 minutes or more before being baked.
The prohibition against eating chametz on Passover is as severe as eating on Yom Kippur. This prohibition applies even to minute particles of chametz, such as:
A. Food containing any trace of chametz, or food processed in utensils once used to process food containing chametz. All processed food must be reliably certified Kosher for Passover.
B. It is forbidden to derive any pleasure or benefit from chametz, even if not eaten. We do not buy, sell, give chametz as a gift, or use chametz pet food for dogs, cats, birds, or fish. (If there is no Kosher for Passover alternative, the pet is transferred to non-Jewish ownership and may be fed chametz).
C. Passover laws prohibit us from owning any chametz during Passover. Chametz left in the house, store, car, etc. is legally transferred to a gentile through the agency of a Rabbi.
Grains similar to wheat, e.g. rice, kasha, peas, lentils, beans, and corn, including corn starch, corn oil, peanuts, soy, etc. are also prohibited. (Sephardic Jews may eat kitniyos.)
We clean every room in the house and office, closets, drawers, etc. thoroughly before Passover, to remove any cookies, cereal, crumbs or other chametz. The car, including the trunk, is cleaned and vacuumed; seats are removed and cleaned, if possible. Prayerbooks & benchers used at the table during the year should be sold with the chametz.
A clean room is dedicated to store Passover supplies. Nothing is placed in the kitchen until it is kosherized for Passover. Dishes and cutlery are reserved exclusively for Passover. (Consult a rabbi which metal utensils can be kosherized for Passover.)
Kitchen surfaces and counters used year round for chametz are scrubbed and covered with aluminum foil, cardboard, or other covering.
The stove is thoroughly cleaned. Preferably, grates and parts that directly touch the pots, should be separate ones dedicated for Passover use. It is best to cover the remaining part of the stovetop with heavy aluminum foil.
To bake on Passover, the oven is thoroughly cleaned, and a tin insert is placed in the oven. If insert is not available, consult a Rabbi on how to kosherize the oven.
The sink is thoroughly cleaned and lined with a plastic or tin insert. Steel sinks (but not ceramic) may be kosherized.
Clean the refrigerator, and line inside with paper or foil, perforated to allow cool air circulation.
Closets, tables and chairs are scrubbed, and cabinet shelves are lined with paper or plastic. A child's highchair, crib, stroller and car seat must be cleaned well.
Fast of the First Born
When the Egyptian first-born were stricken during the Tenth plague before the Exodus, the Jewish first born were spared. In gratitude, Jewish first-born sons are supposed to fast the day before Passover (this year on Thursday, April 21) One is, however, exempt from this fast if he participates in a mitzvah meal: e.g., a Siyum celebrating the conclusion of a Talmudic tractate, usually held in the synagogue.
Search FOR and Burn Chametz
This year, on Thursday night before Passover (April 21) we do 'Bedikas chametz', a formal, thorough search for chametz throughout the house (and office and car) in all rooms, closets, shelves, behind furniture, etc.
The head of the house recites a blessing for all adults doing the search by candle (use flashlight under beds etc.) with a feather, wooden spoon and bag to collect all chametz found.
Ten wrapped little pieces of bread are placed throughout the house to be found during the search. (Tip: write a list of the chametz hiding places, in case you forget their location!)
After the search, we disown any chametz overlooked by saying Kol Chamira in Aramaic with the English translation: All leaven in my domain which I did not see or did not remove, or have no knowledge of, shall be null and void as the dust of the earth.
Burning the Chametz
All chametz found during the search, and all Chametz left from breakfast, must be burned in the (late) morning (Friday, April 22), followed by this annulment of all Chametz: All manner of leaven that is in my possession which I have seen or have not seen, which I have removed or have not removed, shall be null and void as the dust of the earth.
The Chametz Deadline
Check your calendar for your areas deadline for eating & burning chametz the morning before Passover. Chametz found in the house during Passover must be burned immediately, unless it is on Yom Tov (1st, 2nd, 7th, or 8th day) or on Shabbos, when it is covered, and burned later during the intermediate Chol Hamoed days, or after Passover.
The Sale of Chametz
We cannot own Chametz on Passover, so we sell any chametz remaining in our possession to a gentile through the rabbi. The gentile buyer is told the value of the chametz and its location. He gives a deposit, and the balance is considered a loan. The Chametz sale is legally binding, but the option of paying the balance is up to the buyer, who may return it to the seller.
Place all Chametz utensils in the room or closet(s) to be sold. These designated places should be sealed with tape or locked, and are not to be opened until after Passover.
The prohibition against Chametz also applies to all Chametz owned by any Jew during Passover. It is therefore advisable to patronize only bakeries or grocery stores owned by Jews who sold their Chametz, or buy from non-Jewish owned stores. Consult a Rabbi regarding buying Chametz after Passover from Jewish-owned supermarket chains.
Additional Laws of the Day before Passover
After the Chametz deadline on Erev Pesach morning, only kosher for Passover foods may be used. However, we do not eat matzah, which we reserve to be eaten and relished for the first time at the Seder. Also restricted are wine, romaine lettuce, horseradish and endives, items that are used at the Seder. Some people also abstain from eating the charoses ingredients: apples, pears, and nuts before the Seder.
Once the house is clean of all Chametz, we are ready to usher in Passover.
The highlight of Passover, Matzah is a simple mixture of flour and water that did not rise, reminding us how Israel left Egypt in great haste, leaving no time for their dough to rise. We eat matzah to relive Israel's flight from slavery to freedom.
Note: Not all Matzah is kosher for Passover. Read the labels carefully. Consult a Rabbi regarding egg Matzah, which is permitted to to eaten only in case of illness.
All Kosher for Passover Matzah is carefully watched during baking. Shmura Matzah is a specially made Matza, preferably hand baked, whose grains were supervised from the harvesting of the wheat.
The special Shmura Matzah is used at least for the first ounce of Matzah eaten at the Seder. A little over half of a round hand baked Shmura Matzah equals 1 ounce.
Some people refrain from eating Gebroks- which means Matzah or Matzah meal mixed with water or liquid, to avoid any possibility of leavened dough. It is customary, however, for everyone to eat Gebroks on 'Achron Shel Pesach, the last day of Passover (Sunday, May 1). This days Haftarah is about Moshiach and the final Redemption. It is customary to eat a Seudat Moshiach meal, as we eagerly await the Final Redemption.
Maror: Bitter Herbs
Romaine lettuce, endives, fresh horseradish, or a combination of these are eaten for the mitzva of eating Bitter Herbs, giving us a taste of the bitterness during Egyptian slavery.
(The minimum amount eaten is 1 ounce; Romaine lettuce or endives covering a 12x10 inch area).
The Maror is dipped into the Charoset, a mixture of crushed nuts, wine, pears and apples symbolizing the mortar used by the Jews to make bricks during the Egyptian bondage.
The Seder Plate
The Seder Centerpiece consists of 3 matzos, covered by a plate or cloth on which the following five six items are arranged:
In the upper right hand corner, a roasted shank or neck bone symbolizes the paschal offering. (This item is not eaten).
In the upper left corner, a hard boiled egg symbolizes the Festival offering. The egg is later dipped in salt-water and eaten at the start of the meal.
|Saturday Night Special!
Important Notice: This year, Pesach begins on Saturday night, which necessitates certain changes in our Passover preparations. In respect of the sanctity of Shabbat, the search for Chametz and the burning, etc. are observed a day earlier, on Thursday night and Friday morning. A minimum of Challah is set aside for the Shabbat meals, which are otherwise prepared in Passover utensils, as Shabbat prevents us from changing and Kosherizing utensils as usual on Erev Pesach. The Shabbat Morning meal is eaten earlier than usual, with all chametz consumed by the time indicated. Remaining bread crumbs, etc, are disposed and flushed down.
The Charoset is placed on the bottom left, the Karpas vegetable on the bottom right, with the Maror in the center. The romaine lettuce is placed at the bottom.
Seder Plates can be elaborate artistic works of china, silver, or embroidered cloth, but a plain napkin or cloth is fine. Children sometimes make Seder Plates at Hebrew School as a project.
It is a mitzvah to recline (to the left side) at the Seder as a relaxed feeling of freedom and royalty. We recline when drinking the Four Cups of Wine, and when eating the Matzah, the Sandwich, and the Afikoman (do not recline when eating the bitter herbs).
Each Seder participant drinks 4 cups of wine: the First at Kiddush, the Second after reading the Haggadah, the Third Cup after saying Grace after the meal, and the Fourth Cup concludes the Seder.
The cup of wine should contain at least 3.5 ounces. If it is difficult to drink wine, grape juice may be used.
orech: The Matzah & Maror Sandwich
We eat a Matzah and maror combination, just as Hillel the Elder ate Matzah, maror and Paschal lamb together in the holy Temple. This sandwich consists of 1 ounce of bitter herbs placed within two pieces of matzah (1 ounce).
The Afikoman, the last Matzah eaten before saying Grace at the meals end, should be eaten by midnight of the first Seder night. At the second Seder, it can be eaten past midnight.
Cup of Elijah / Opening the Door
Toward the culmination of the Seder, we open the door for Elijah. As we recall our Redemption from Egypt in the past, we also look forward to the future Redemption with Moshiach, exclaiming Next Year In Jerusalem! at the end of the Seder.
Our belief in Moshiach isn't just wishful thinking. It is a Divine promise that the Redeemer will inspire all Jews with Torah and Mitzvot, and will usher in an era of universal peace to eliminate misery, and change the world for good, bringing Creation to fulfillment.
Expanding the Haggadah
The original Haggadah is in Hebrew, but it is important that the story be understood in plain English (or any other language).
Suggestion: Rather than the Seder 'leader' monopolizing the reading, involve everyone by dividing paragraphs of the Haggadah among all the Seder participants. For variety, ask someone who knows a foreign language (Russian, French, Spanish, etc,) to read a paragraph aloud in their language.
Not the Last Word
Don't just read the Haggadah merely by rote, but elaborate on it, for it is praiseworthy to expand the story of the Exodus. We enhance the Seder with our commentary, personal experience, thoughts and insights.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: PERSONAL CHAMETZ & MATZAH
Chametz and Matzah represent the opposites of good and evil. Historically, the Matzah reminds us how the Jews left Egypt in such a rush that their dough had no time to rise. But there is also a moral dimension to Chametz and Matzah. Chametz and Matzah represent different human characteristics: Chametz is arrogant and egotistic, rising, puffing up, swelling bigger and bigger. But Matzah keeps a low profile, suggesting humility with no pretensions of appearing greater than it really is.
The First Fast Food
Chametz and Matzah, the two opposites of Passover, are made from the same flour and water ingredients. The only difference between Chametz and Matzah is the time factor: bread is left to rise, while Matzah dough is made in a rush.
A Matzah bakery hums with the constant rush and movement of hands, rolling pins, perforators, shovels and dough, into the oven and out. Nothing stands still for a moment from when the flour touches the water until the finished Matzah comes out of the oven.
What is time but fleeting moments, here today and gone tomorrow? Time seems intangible and abstract, yet time makes all the difference. Not only on Passover, but all the time.
Matzah and Mitzvah
This quick Matzah baking movement recalls the rush in which our forefathers left Egypt. The Hebrew spelling of Matzah and mitzvah relates the rush of baking the Matzah to the observance of a mitzvah in general.
Just as we are quick with Matzah, so should we be prompt and energetic with all mitzvos. Abraham, our Patriarch, is praised for rising early in the morning to serve G-d. If we don't seize the opportunity immediately, it may be lost when we finally get around to it. Do not say when I will have time I will study, for you may not have the time, (Ethics of Our Fathers, 2).
Good timing enhances a mitzvah. Even if it finally gets done later, it's not the same, for a mitzvah is best at the right time (Talmud). Procrastination shows a lack of interest and appreciation. A mitzvah is certainly better late than never, but it loses its taste, like a cup of hot tea that's been standing around, soda that lost its fizz and gone flat, or dough that has passed the 18 minute deadline and became Chametz.
Sometimes, it's best not to rush into things, but with a mitzvah we should try to strike while the iron is hot. Why wait till next year, or for retirement, to start davening, learn Torah, go Kosher, or try Tefillin? The time is...NOW.
Let's Be Practical
All the Seder observances help us recall the Exodus. So the question arises: why go through all the motions? Why not close our eyes and just meditate on the concept of freedom?
The Seder teaches us that the best way of learning is by doing. Judaism always blends the spiritual with the physical, expressing lofty ideals in physical ways.
The Seder is rich in symbols that fill our senses; to see, taste, touch, and feel the concepts. The horseradish chokes us with bitterness, the Charoses looks and feels like mortar. Eating Matzah allows us to digest, internalize freedom and absorb it into our system. Rather than just express freedom in flowery phrases, we drink four cups of wine. And we don't just reenact the past, for Elijah's cup in the middle of the table represents our Redemption in the future.
Good intentions may be vague and abstract; they become real and concrete only in a physical mitzvah involving not only the mind, but also our b
ody. Our Mitzvos combine thought and action that complement each other like body and soul.