Customs and Traditions of Passover

    April 2001 Passover Edition            
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Customs and Traditions of Passover


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Opinion & Society


Pesach 2001

By Eliezer Cohen

Pesach is generally not an easy holiday. There are many customs and traditions to browse up on. In the kitchen the scene is generally one of mayhem and effort. Many traditional dishes are prepared and many guests are invited. To many housewives, Passover is a time of spring cleaning, hard work, and toil.

There is a famous story about a couple that many years ago decided for social mobility to convert to Christianity. After many years, the husband remarked to the wife that in reality all of the expected social amenities that they expected were never realized. Although they were admitted to the ritzy country club, they never felt comfortable with their new found friends. Going to church was a very unpleasant experience and in general their expectations of being gentiles did not bear the fruits that they envisioned.

"You know," the husband remarked, "I'd like to convert back to Judaism"

"Me too, I also feel that being a goy isn't the real me" replied his wife.

"O.K., I'll call the Rabbi, maybe we can convert back this week," the husband suggested.

"You know, let's wait until next month. Passover is coming next week. You remember how hard Passover is. We can convert back after Passover finishes!"

Passover may seem to be difficult but a little prior knowledge of what is coming up can help us prepare for it.

Here is a bit of some of the customs and traditions that are coming up for this Passover, 2001:

Thursday - Fast of the First Born and Checking for Chometz
On a regular Erev Pesach the first born males (bechorim) are obligated to fast. This year the fast is pushed up to Thursday. Those bechorim who do not wish to fast should attend a completion of a Tractate from the Talmud.

Thursday night after the appearance of three stars, one should immediately check for chometz. A blessing and the kol chamira absolution from chometz are recited.

Friday - Erev Shabbat
Chometz which is necessary for Friday night and Shabbat morning meals should be placed in a disposable container away from all Pesach food. Although chometz may be purchased and eaten all day Friday, the custom is to sell and burn the chometz before the fourth hour of the morning. Burning it later could lead to confusion in subsequent years. Kol Chamira is not recited at the time of burning. All pots and pans should made Kosher for Passover by this time. If you didn't, one could make them kosher until candle lighting on Friday.

The following preparations for the seder should be made on Friday evening before the Shabbat: Roast the egg and shankbone, check and clean lettuce leaves, chop the nuts for the charoses, and grate the horseradish. Food cooked for Shabbat and Yom Tov should be kosher for Passover and cooked in Passover pots.

Friday Evening and Shabbat Day
Except for the bread, all meals should be eaten on Passover utensils. These utensils should not be brought to the table until after all bread crumbs are cleared away. Alternatively, one may use disposable utensils. The procedure for eating bread for all Shabbat meals is as follows:

Use small fresh rolls because there are less waste and crumbs. Bread should be placed on tissues on the table. Nothing that is for the Passover should be on the table with the rolls. All the rolls should be eaten carefully over tissues, so that any remaining crumbs can be wrapped in the tissues and flushed down the toilet. In this manner the table should then be cleared of all chometz.

The rest of the meal should be served on Passover or disposable dishes. For children who may leave crumbs, egg matzoh may be substituted. Because the blessing on egg matzoh is a matter of dispute, adults should eat rolls. On Shabbat Erev Pesach, regular matzoh may not be eaten by anyone except children under six.

If one is concerned with eating any bread inside, one may eat outside on an outside porch or backyard (if it is permissible to carry). Eat the rolls then sweep the crumbs off the table to the ground. Finish the meal and recite Grace outside.

Morning prayers on Shabbat morning should be scheduled earlier than usual because one must recite finish eating bread early. After disposing of all chometz, one must recite the same kol chamira that is usually said when burning the chometz. This must be done before the end of the fourth hour in the morning. One may continue his Pesachdik meal and recite Grace after these times.

During Third Meal, one may not eat bread or matzoh at this time. What is the solution? Some individuals have fish or fruit. Baked matzoh meal products, including cakes, may not be eaten all day.

Saturday Night & The Seder
All preparation for Yom Tov and the seder may not begin until Shabbat is over. Kiddush and havdalah are recited together at the seder as printed in the Hagaddah.

Even if Passover is time consuming and gives us plenty of work, still it is a kindness from G-d that this year we have the Shabbat to rest. Now we can all look forward to a very special Passover, one in which we will not fall asleep early. Now we can reap the spiritual rewards from the inner message of the Hagaddah.


from the April 2001 Passover Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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