Passover Guide 2008

    April 2008 Passover Edition            
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What to do when the Shabbat precedes Passover

By Nachum Mohl

This year, 2008, Passover comes in on Saturday night, April 19. The day before, April 19, is Shabbat. Passover coming on the heels of the Shabbat presents many unique and special problems since we do eat matzah on the day before Passover nor can we clean our house for Passover on the Shabbat, and yet we want to make certain that our homes are in perfect condition for Passover at the termination of the Shabbat.

The following is a brief guide which is designed to help make these preparations easy:

The Shabbat before Passover is called Shabbat HaGadol, the great Shabbat. It commemorates the day on which the Jews in Egypt took a lamb and set it aside for the meal in accordance with the instructions that Moses gave them. There was great peril in doing this since the Egyptians worshipped the lamb as a deity. The custom today is that the Rabbis give special sermons on this Shabbat. Since this year it is the day preceding Passover and the instructions that the rabbis may give can not be done practically, Shabbat HaGadol is pushed ahead one week. This year Shabbat HaGadol comes out this year a week early on April 14.

The sale of chametz (the forbidden foodstuff) should be arranged before Friday through the local rabbinical associations or synagogue rabbis. The sale does not go into effect until moments before Passover, but the arrangements must be made ahead of time. Arrangements can even be made online and a search will find many sites that offer to sell the chametz for you.

Thursday, April 17, is the fast of the first born. The custom is that all first born males fast on this day. However, this fast is not one of utter stringency and may be broken by attending a ceremonial completion of a tractate of the Talmud. Most synagogues provide one for their members.

Thursday night is bedikas chamatz, the traditional search for chametz, which are all the bread or grain containing products that are not kosher for Passover. In reality, the house should be kosher for Passover before the bedikas chamatz with the exception of those bread and wheat containing products that will be consumed before Passover such as Friday for breakfast or lunch, and also for the Shabbat. The home should be kosher for Passover by this time - all pots, pans, silverware, etc that were used for chametz are replace by vessels that are only used on the Passover. The stove and refrigerator should have been cleaned out by this time and clean for the Passover, leftovers that are not kosher for Passover should be discarded. Food stuff that are to be sold should be put in a closed area and not touched until after the Passover holiday has finished.

The traditional search is made as is normally done every year, first we make a blessing "on destroying chametz" and then we search with a candle everywhere that chametz could possibly be found with the exception of the guarded place that the foodstuff for Friday and the Shabbat are kept. After the search, we nullify the remaining chametz that we have not found by saying the "kol chamira" (all chametz) which should be said in English if you do not understand the original Aramaic or Hebrew.

Friday morning the remainder of the chametz that is not needed for Friday or for the Shabbat meals should be disposed or burnt. This is called 'biur chametz' the destruction or burning of the chametz. It is traditional in many communities to have fires to burn the chametz. However in many localities it is prohibited by law to have an open fire, therefore other arrangements are made, such as simply throwing it in the garbage or if it is bread, crumbling it and feeding it to the birds. In any manner it should be rendered un-edible for man. This should be done two hours before the solar noon; times vary per location and it is best to consult your local calendar.

It is permitted to eat chametz on Friday after the biur chametz but you must now be careful with the crumbs that they should not be scattered in you home. Many people will go outside to eat bread unless it is raining. It is well worth preparing early for both the Shabbat and for Passover in the kitchen since the Seder will start immediately when the Shabbat finishes. All preparations for the Seder should also be prepared ahead of time, such as the shank bone, the bitter herbs, the eggs and even the salt water. On Friday everything should be ready for both the Shabbat meal and the Seder.

For the Shabbat it is best to cook in Passover pots and pans with kosher for Passover recipes. We keep the Shabbat food which is kosher for Passover and the bread separate. When we make kiddush Friday night we eat the bread on a disposable table cloth with no dishes on it. When we finish eating the bread we take off the disposable table cloth and replace it with a clean one for the rest of the meal. Other people eat the bread outside on a patio or balcony so that the crumbs can be eaten by the birds. We rinse our mouths out after finishing the bread and then eat separately for the Shabbat only kosher for Passover foods. We do the same for Shabbat morning meal except we eat it very early. Any chametz that remains is flushed down the toilet. It is well worth using plastic plates and cups for the Shabbat meal as it saves much of the needed time and energy. We should finish eating bread at least two hours before the noon.

We can not eat bread for the third Shabbat meal so instead we have fruit or fish. It is important not to fill up with food so that we can eat the Passover meal with zest.

See also for more on preparations.


from the April 2008 Passover Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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