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PESACH / PASSOVER


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 (5774-2014), Pesach starts at sundown, Monday evening, April 14, and ends late Tuesday evening, April 22, 2014.

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.

The "work" 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.

The Seder 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.


MATZAH

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 Pesach.

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,

  1. By itself as MATZAH
  2. With MARROR as KORECH
  3. 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.


MAOT
CHITIM

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.


PREPARING
FOR
PESACH

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.


MECHIRAT
CHAMETZ

SELLING
THE
CHAMETZ

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 Rabbi.

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 community.


BEDIKAT
CHAMETZ -


THE SEARCH
FOR
CHAMETZ

On the evening before the Pesach Seder, Sunday evening, April 13, 2014, 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 the bracha:
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.
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.

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."


BEE-UHR
CHAMETZ


BURNING
THE
CHAMETZ
The following morning, (Monday, April 14, 2014), 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 from breakfast.

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."


TA'ANIT
BECHORIM


FAST
OF THE
FIRSTBORN

The day before Pesach, Erev Pesach, Monday, April 14 , 2014, 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.


ERUV
TAVSHILIN

NOTE: THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO THIS YEAR - PESACH 2014:

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]."


SHABBAT
HAGADOL

The Shabbat before Pesach, (Parshat Acharei Mot , April 12, 2014), 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.

Traditionally, on 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.'


SEFIRAT
HA'OMER

(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 here.



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