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The Yom Tov (holiday) of Pesach / Passover last
for eight days. Pesach starts at sundown on the 14th of Nisan,
and ends after sundown the evening of the 22nd of Nisan. This year
(5773-2013), Pesach starts
at sundown, Monday evening, March 25, and ends late Tuesday
evening, April 2, 2013.
The first two and
last two days of the Yom Tov, are days on which no work
is permitted. Essential work is permitted on the intermediate days, (days
3 thru 6),
referred to as Chol HaMoed.
In Eretz Yisroel,
The Yom Tov of Pesach last for seven days. Pesach
starts at sundown on the 14th of Nisan, and ends after sundown
the evening of the 21st of Nisan. The
first and last days of the Yom Tov, are days on which
no work is permitted, days 2 thru 6 are Chol HaMoed.
prohibited on Pesach is the same as that prohibited on
Shabbat, except that cooking, baking, transferring fire
and carrying, all of which are forbidden on Shabbat,
are permitted on Pesach. When Pesach falls on
Shabbat, all Shabbat restrictions
must be observed.
is the most important part of the Pesach Yom Tov. Taking
place the first 2 nights of the 8 day Yom Tov, (except
in Eretz Yisroel, where there is only 7 days Yom
Tov, and only ONE seder), the family gathers together,
with friends and guests to observe the Pesach Seder.
The grain product we eat during Pesach is called matzah.
Matzah is unleavened bread, made simply from flour and water
and baked very quickly. This is the bread that the Jews prepared
for their flight from Mitzrayim (Egypt).
Matzot are baked any time before Pesach. Some have a tradition of baking their own matzot, or participating in the process. There are others who bake all their matzah on the afternoon of Erev
For the Seder, take three whole, unbroken Matzot and place them one above the other, either in a napkin/matzah cover or in a special compartment under the Seder plate.
The three Matzot represent the three categories of the Jewish people; Kohain, Levi and Yisroel. They also represent our three Fathers - Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov in whose merit we were taken out of Egypt.
In addition to the three matzot, we should prepare an extra supply of matzah so that each person will be able to eat at least the minimum required amount, each time matzah is eaten at the Seder.
We eat Matzah at least three times during the Seder,
- By itself as MATZAH
- With MARROR as KORECH
- By itself as TZAFUN (the Afikoman), at the end of the meal.
These three portions should be MATZAH SHMURAH, a special matzah made from wheat that was designated for the mitzvah of matzah and was guarded against moisture from the moment it was cut from the field. During the rest of the meal, and Pesach, for that matter, any matzah, especially prepared for Pesach may be eaten.
We should not begin to prepare for the Yom Tov Pesach
until we are sure that our fellow Jews are also able to enjoy
it. It is a centuries old tradition that immediately after
Purim, money is collected for the benefit of those less
fortunate, so that they too may be able to prepare and enjoy Pesach.
These funds are known as Maot Chitim, (money for wheat),
referring to the custom of gathering wheat to provide the poor
with Matzo and other items for the observance of Pesach.
Traditionally, Jewish communities all over the world provide
for their needy at Pesach in one way or another. The
practices have varied from place to place and changed over time,
but the basic idea has remained the same.
NOTE: This is just a very basic introduction. There are
many complex laws regarding Pesach, and a competent authority
should be consulted with any questions.
We may NOT eat chametz (leavened bread or leaven) during
Pesach. We may NOT even OWN chametz at all during
Pesach or derive any benefit from it. This includes
feeding it to our pets or animals. All chametz must either be disposed
of or sold to a non-Jew.
In preparation for Pesach, the home is cleaned and scrubbed,
and all chametz is removed. Kitchen utensils
and dishware normally used in the home all year round are not used
during Pesach. Special dishes and utensils for Pesach
are taken out of storage, cleaned and used.
No foods containing chametz ingredients may be eaten.
Only foods that are "Kosher L'Pesach (Kosher for
Passover)" are allowed.
A Jew may not own any chametz on Pesach. Ideally
one would dispose of all chametz, but this can pose a financial
hardship - especially for owners of whiskey or other merchants
who have large stocks of chometz merchandise. To solve
the problem, our sages permit us to sell our chametz to
a non-Jew. In doing so, chametz will not be in our possession
during Pesach, and we will not transgress the Torah's
prohibition of owning any chametz
during Pesach. By transferring it to a non-Jew, we are
permitted to buy it back after Pesach. This is not a legal
fiction, but an actual sale, that is legally binding and meets
all the requirements of both civil and religious law. The details
of this sale may be complicated and should be handled by your
All the members of the community sell their chametz
through a Rabbi, who is empowered to act as an agent by a 'Power
of Attorney Form for the Sale of Chametz.' The sold Chametz
is the non-Jew's property until after Pesach ends and must
be treated accordingly. The Chametz should be locked away
until after Pesach when the Rabbi repurchases it for the
On the evening before the Pesach Seder, Sunday
evening, March 24, 2013,
a thorough search of the house (and business) is made to ensure that no chametz
remains. There is a tradition of distributing ten pieces of bread
throughout the house, so that the searchers will have something
to find. A word of caution: Make sure someone remembers where they put each piece.
The family gathers together, with a candle for lighting
the way, a feather for brushing-up the chametz, and a
wooden spoon onto which the chametz is brushed.
The head of the household lights a candle and makes
Ba-ruch Ah-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hay-nu Meh-lech Ha-olam Ah-sher
Ki-de-sha-nu B-mitz-vo-tav V-tzi-va-nu Al Bee-ur Chametz.
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.
The head of the household collects this bread that is found into a special bag and sweeps
up the crumbs using a feather. A word of caution: Make sure someone
remembers where they put each piece.
The search for chametz
is made by candlelight, paying special attention to crevices
and places where chametz can usually be found. No talking
is permitted from after the recitation of the Bracha
(Blessing), until the search is completed - except for questions
or instructions related to the search.
After the search,
the chametz found is put away to be burned the next morning. The
head of the household recites the following declaration:
"Any chametz (leavened bread) or leaven which is in
my possession and which I have not seen, nor disposed of, nor
did I know of it, may it be considered as null and as ownerless
like the dust of the earth."
The following morning, (Monday,
March 25, 2013), Erev Pesach, the 14th day of Nisan, the chametz that was found, is burned together
with the bag and the feather. Don't forget to include the leftovers
The head of the household again recites the following declaration
after the chametz is burned:
"Any chametz (leavened bread) or leaven that is
in my possession whether I have seen it or not, whether I have
disposed it or not, may it be considered as null and as ownerless
like the dust of the earth."
The day before Pesach,
Erev Pesach, Monday,
March 25 , 2013,
is the fast of the firstborn, commemorating
the fact that the firstborn Jewish males in Mitzrayim
were "passed over " (spared) during the final plague
while the first-born sons of the Egyptians were killed.
It has been a custom for many centuries that the fast day is
broken by a Seudat Mitzvah, a festive meal in celebration
of a Mitzvah, such as a Siyum - (a celebration
marking the conclusion of the study of a book of the Talmud).
The Siyum usually takes place in the Synagogue after
the Shacharit (morning) prayers, following which participating
firstborn males are permitted to break their fast.
THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO THIS YEAR - PESACH 2013:
When the first or last days of
Pesach fall on Friday and Shabbat, in order to be able to cook on Friday for Shabbat,
an Eruv Tavshilin is made.
It is usually forbidden to prepare food on Yom Tov for
another day, even for the Shabbat. However, if someone
began preparing food for Shabbat before Yom Tov,
(on Thursday), it is permitted to continue on Friday (even though
it is Yom Tov). This is known as 'Eruv Tavshilin,'
literally, 'mingling of cooked foods,' since these foods become
part of the Shabbat food, whose preparation has already
begun BEFORE the Yom Tov started, and may therefore be
continued on Friday.
Some food (a matzah and a cooked food, such
as an egg, fish or meat) is prepared on the afternoon before Yom
Tov (Thursday), and set aside to be eaten on Shabbat.
When we set this food aside on Thursday afternoon, we recite
the following blessing:
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who has
made us holy with His mitzvot, and commanded us about the
mitzvah of Eruv.
We now explain why we are making an Eruv, so we say the
following paragraph. Someone who does not understand the text
should recite it in English:
"With this Eruv, may we be allowed to bake, to cook, to
fry, to insulate, to light a flame, to prepare for, and to do
anything needed on Yom Tov for the sake of Shabbat
[for ourselves and for all the Jews who live in this city]."
before Pesach, (Parshat Tzav , March 23, 2013), is called Shabbat HaGadol (the Great
Shabbat) because it was the day when the Jews were to take
the sheep (which the Egyptians worshipped) to be used for the
Korban Pesach (Pascal offering) four days later. (This
means that the first Pesach was on a Wednesday).
After nine plagues,
the Egyptians were powerless to react to the slaughter of one
of their gods. The Israelites, of course, didn't know this, and
therefore displayed tremendous faith in Hashem prior to
Yetziat Mitzrayim (the Exodus). We remember this event
with a special Haftorah (reading from the prophets) where
again great faith and trust in Hashem is emphasized. The
Haftorah concludes with the call to remember the teachings
of Moshe and informs us that Hashem will send Eliyahu
Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet) to herald the great and awesome
day when Bnei Yisroel (the Children of Israel) will again
experience redemption. This is yet another possible reason for
the name Shabbat HaGadol, - that "great day" mentioned
in the Haftorah.
Shabbat HaGadol, the Rabbi lectures about the observance
and meaning of Pesach, teaching the
laws of Pesach, so that the families can prepare properly
for the Yom Tov.
Which leads to another interpretation of Shabbat HaGadol
- "the Shabbat of the Leader" or "of the Rabbi." A more novel
explanation is that the people returning from the synagogue later
than usual on this Shabbat because of the unusually long
speech that was customary on this day. Thus this Shabbat
seemed "great," i.e., longer than the other Shabbatot.
Whatever the reason
for the name, it is customary to recite part of the Haggadah
on Shabbat HaGadol,
from 'Avadim Hayinu' "we were slaves in Egypt" to 'Lechaper
Al Kol Avonoteinu.'
(the counting of the Omer)
Counting of the
Omer begins from the second night of Pesach until the day before
Shavuot . The
period from Pesach to Shavuot is a time of great
anticipation. We count each of the days from the second day of
Pesach to the day before Shavuot, 49 days or
7 full weeks, The counting reminds us of the important connection
between Pesach and Shavuot: Pesach
freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah
on Shavuot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage to
idolatry and immorality.
For more details
about Sefirat Ha'Omer, click
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