Pesach – Passover – פסח

Hello everyone,

Once again the month of Nissan is here with the festival of Pesach. Along with this we have longer daylight hours and anticipation of the coming of the warm weather.

The month is quite exciting, somewhat tiring with the cleaning, purchasing and preparations, which dominate our lives for almost the whole month.

On the spiritual aspect of this month, the Shabbath before Pesach (April 4) is called the “Shabbath Hagadol” (Great Shabbath) which prepares us to receive and appreciate its presence and blessing. Also in this month we do not recite the penitential prayers (תפילת תחנון), eulogies (הספדים) are curtailed and donations and charities to the needy are maximised.

Pesach is first and foremost among the festivals in the Jewish calendar. The Talmud refers to Pesach as the Rosh HaShana (Head of the year) of the festivals.

This year(2020) Pesach starts on Wednesday, April 8(14 Nissan) at sunset  and ends on Thursday, April 16 (22 Nissan) after sunset (outside Israel).

The following table shows the time schedule for the 8 days of Passover (all times Eastern Daylight Saving Time):






Search  for  Chametz

April 7


8:22 p.m.


Fast  of  First  Born

April 8


5:16 a.m.

8:16 p.m.

Eat  Chametz  until

April 8



11:06 a.m.

Burn  Chametz

April 8



12:13 p.m

First Seder   Light Candles

April 8


7:35 p.m.


Second  Seder Outside Israel Light Candles – Omer 1        

April 9        


after 8:39p.m.

Eve7thdayPassover Light Candles

April 14


7:43 p.m.


Eve 8thday Passover Outside Israel – Light Candles

April  15


after 8:47 p.m.

8th Day Passover

Passover Ends –Havdala

April  16



8:48 p.m.

There are four names given to this first and foremost of the festivals in either the Torah or in the oral Torah:

 Chag HaPesach (Shemot [Exodus] 34:25) – חג הפסח

(“the Feast of Passover”)

Chag HaMatzot (Shemot [Exodus] 23:15) – חג המצות

(“the Feast of Unleavened Bread”)

Chag  Cherutenu (Mishna Pesachim 10:5) – חג חירותנו

(“the Feast of Our Liberation”)

Chag HaAviv (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 16:1) – חג האביב

(“the Feast of Spring”)

  What is Chametz

Our sages specified five grains which can become chametz: wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats. Ashkenazic authorities added to this list rice and kitniot, or legumes (including beans, peas, lentils, corn and maize, millet, and mustard). Sephardic authorities, prohibit only the five specified grains, thus Sephardic Jews are allowed to eat legumes and rice during Pesach.

What is the difference between matza and chametz? To bake matza, we must have the matza cooked within 18 minutes of the time we first add water to the flour. If we go eighteen minutes and one seconds, the matza becomes chametz.

 Pesach Cleaning

The Passover home atmosphere is created by the practice of cleaning the home of all traces of chametz(חמץ) ,or leaven, and by the careful avoidance of its use both at home and outside.

The term chametz is applied not only to foods,but also to the dishes and utensils in which foods are prepared or served during the year.  We usually have these utensils undergo the process of Ha’agala (הגעלה) where they are immersed in boiling water and then immersed in chilled water.

Selling of Chametz

 In order to be certain that all chametz has been removed from our possession, Jewish tradition requires us to sell our remaining chametz to a non-Jew. This chametz, then, becomes the property of the non-Jew for the duration of Pesach and should be set aside in a place in one’s home that will be unused during Pesach.

The authorization of the right to sell chametz can be granted to another. In order to symbolize that one is transferring the right to sell, it is customary to make a token monetary transfer. The money contributed will be used to provide needy families with Pesach necessities.

Search for Chametz

Takes place the evening before the first Seder.This ceremony is the climax of the Pesach preparation. Ten pieces of chametz are hidden around the house. 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.

Burning of Chametz

The crumbs of bread that have been gathered the night before are put together in a bundle and burned the morning before Pesach. The appropriate prayers can be found in any Hagada.

The Seder

The seder, from the Hebrew word for “order”, is the festival meal eaten on the first two nights of Passover, the Biblical celebration of the Exodus from Egypt. The main seder meal does not begin until the story of the Exodus has been retold, and, more important, re-experienced by the celebrants. This recreation of the circumstances of bondage, together with the details of the deliverance, forms the heart and spirit of the seder and of the Passover festival itself. “In every generation let each man look on himself as if he came forth personally from Egypt. WE WERE SLAVES TO PHARAOH IN EGYPT– “Had not HaShem taken us out from Egypt we would still have remained slaves.”

Each of us must see the deliverance from bondage as something that happened to us.

  The order of the Seder:

The seder plate (קערת סדר) is arranged in the following manner:

                                                                                       3 Matzot

                                                                Eggs                                          Shank bone


                                                                Karpas                                     Haroset


Four Cups of Wine

We were in exile, estranged from our land and from HaShem. Therefore, HaShem, Blessed be He, redeemed us with four mighty acts:

 Shemot (Exodus) 6:6 Wherefore say unto the children of Israel,  I am the LORD, and I will 

bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will

deliver you from their bondage, and I will

redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments;

Shemot (Exodus) 6:7 and I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

The Four Questions

With the matza lying before us, we are ready to perform the main mitzvah of the evening:telling the storey of the Exodus.

 The youngest child present asks:           

“Why is this night different than all other nights?”

מַה נִּשְּׁתַּנָה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת?

 Four answers are given:        

1.  On all other nights we eat leavened bread or matza, while on this night we eat only matza.

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה – כּוּלוֹ מַצָּה.

 2.  On all other nights we eat vegetables and herbs of all kinds, while on this night we must eat bitter herbs.

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת,  – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מָרוֹר.

 3.  On all other nights we do not dip herbs even once, while on this night we dip them twice.

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אֶנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּעַם אֶחָת, – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים.

4.  On all other nights we eat and we drink in an upright or reclining position, while on this night we all recline.

שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין, – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָנו מְסֻבִּין

  The Four Children

The text of the Hagaddah that deals with the four sons is taken from Midrash Mechilta, which is based on four verses in the Torah as follows:

What does the wise son say? “What are the testimonies, statutes, and laws that HaShem our God has commanded you?”

 Do then instruct him in the laws of Pesach, that one may not eat anything after eating the Pesach sacrifice!

The above is based on the verse from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:20-21):

When thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying: ‘What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which the LORD our God hath commanded you? then thou shalt say unto thy son: ‘We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.

 The wicked son – what does he say? “What does this service mean to you?” “To you” (he says) – but not to him! Therefore, because he has excluded himself from the community, he has denied the foundation of our faith; consequently you must blunt his teeth and reply to him: “It is because of this that HaShem did for me when I went out from Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

The above is based on the verse from the Torah (Exodus 12:26-27):

And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you: What mean ye by this service? that ye shall say: It is the sacrifice of the LORD’S passover, for that He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.’ And the people bowed the head and worshipped

The simple son – what does he say? “What does this mean?” To him you shall say: “With a strong hand did HaShem bring us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

The above is based on the verse from the Torah (Exodus 13-14):

And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying: What is this? that thou shalt say unto him: By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage;

 As for the son who does not know what to ask, you must begin to speak to him, as it is stated: “You shall tell your son on that day saying: ‘Because of this HaShem did for me when I went out from Egypt’.”                  

 The above is based on the verse from the Torah (Exodus 13-8):

 And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying: It is because of that which the LORD did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.

Question: What is the reason that our sages did not arrange the questions in the Hagadda in the order of the verses which appear in the Torah ?

Answer: Our sages chose to bring the children in order of their intellectual ability. They began with the wise son with the most detailed and complex question followed by the wicked son who is also on a high intellectual level but is not interested in getting any answer. Then we have the children who are on a lower intellectual level, the simple child asks an uncomplicated question followed by the child aho has no clue what to ask.

The Ten Plagues

by, Rabbi Israel Chait

What was the reason for G-d plaguing Egypt with the Ten Plagues?

Arov-Wild animals
Dever-Animal’s Plague
Barad-Hail mixed with Fire
Bechoros-Death of Firstborn

You notice that they are broken up into three sets. As well, the plagues were given an acronym, “DTZaK, ADaSH, BACHaB“. Why was this done? Not simply for memory’s sake. It was given to teach us that there is a specific grouping and method to the plagues. The first three plagues took place on the Earth itself: Blood was in the Nile, Frogs came from the Nile, and the Lice came from the dust of the Earth. The second three occurred upon the Earth’s surface: Wild animals roamed free, Animals were plagued and Boils smote all. The third set dealt with the heavens: Hail fell from the sky, Locusts were blown in from the sky, the sky turned Dark. The last plague – death of Firstborn – was really for a different purpose, that being the termination of the disseminators of the Egyptian culture and beliefs – the firstborns. What was the reason for this categorization? It is in line with the philosophy of the Torah, to show all that G-d is the only Source of power in the universe. G-d was thus showing Pharaoh and the rest of Egypt that he alone commanded all areas of creation: The Earth, the Heavens, and all in between. G-d’s intent is that all human beings recognize Him, as we say in Alenu everyday, “v’col b’nei basar yikriu shmecha”, “all flesh should call your name”. Therefore G-d desired to demonstrate His power to relate to the Egyptians as well as the Jews, His level of Supreme power over the universe.

Prophet Elijah and Passover

The Seder begins with:

“Let all who are hungry come and eat.”

 Among the awaited guests is the prophet Elijah who, according to the scripture, never died, but was carried up to heaven in a whirlwind. The life of no other character in the Tanach is so surrounded with a halo of mystery and wonder as is that of Elijah. He is the champion of the oppressed, he brings hope, cheer and relief to the downtrodden; and he performs miracles of rescue and deliverance.

 The Prophet Malachi says of him: “He will turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the hearts of children to their parents.” Elijah is the harbinger of good tidings of joy and peace. His name is especially associated with the coming of the Messiah, whose advent he is expected to announce.

 A part of the Passover Seder has always been to set a place for Elijah and to open a door to look for him during the feast. We look for Elijah just before we take the fourth cup to symbolize that Elijah is expected just before God comes to take His people for Himself.

At the end of the Seder we say:

                                                               לְשָׁנָה   הַבָּאָה   בִּירוּשַׁלָיִם.

                                Next Year In Jerusalem!


 Counting of the Omer

The fifty day period between the Feast of Pesach(Passover) and the Feast of Shavuot(Feast of Weeks) is known as Sephirat HaOmer, the counting of the Omer. On the second day of Pesach, the Omer offering from the new barley crop was brought into the Temple in Jerusalem. It began a period of counting of the Omer and preparation for Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the yearly celebration of re-accepting the Torah upon ourselves. There is actually a mitzva (a command) to count each specific day which is done at the completion of Arbit, the evening service.

         Wishing you all a Very Kosher and Happy Passover.

2 thoughts on “Pesach – Passover – פסח

  1. Esther Samuel

    Thank you Yafet for all the information on Passover and the Seder.
    I really appreciate the effort you take in telling us all about our festivals.

    I would like to wish you and your family a very happy Passover.

    Esther Samuel


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *