Observing the Passover Holiday

Batya Rosner

What to do, and when to do it. Plus, our most important tip: Please, don’t forget to enjoy the holiday!

IN OUR PREPARATION AND OBSERVANCE of the Passover holiday, we are actively partnering with God to commemorate the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt more than 3,000 years ago; just steps in the collective Jewish memory leading to becoming a nation and receiving the Torah, the greatest gifts ever bestowed upon mankind. With the approach of any momentous occasion, some nervousness may accompany the countdown, yet overall there is excitement to greet the upcoming holiday.

Don’t stress; we’re all in this together.

While Passover does require close familiarity with the laws governing Passover foods, ownership of chametz, preparing the home, etc., to be properly observed, that doesn’t mean that home has to be filled with negative stress and tension.

If you are unsure about any aspect of Passover observance or how to make sure your home fully conforms to the Passover requirements, do not hesitate to ask an Orthodox rabbi for his guidance.

IMPORTANT DATES

PASSOVER BEGINS

The festival takes place from the 15th to the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nisan, that is from sundown Monday, April 14 through Tuesday night, April 22 on the secular calendar. The restrictions on chametz begin on the morning of Monday April 14.

OBSERVANCES BEFORE PASSOVER

A search for chametz is conducted Sunday evening, April 13, and the chametz that is found is burned the next morning. See Bedikat Chametz.

The eve of the holiday — this year Monday, April 14 — is a fast day for Jewish firstborn males, commemorating the tenth plague, the slaying of the firstborn male Egyptians, the tenth and last plague to precede the Exodus. In many congregations, a special siyum is conducted in celebration, following which participating firstborn males are permitted to break their fast.

Before Passover, there is a custom to give Maot Chittin, money for the poor to buy matzot and other food for Passover.

PASSOVER ENDS

All Passover dietary laws remain in effect until nightfall of the eighth day of Passover, Tuesday, April 22. Chametz which was in the possession of a Jew during Passover, in violation of Jewish law, is forbidden for consumption by any Jew even after Passover.

OBSERVANCE

OBSERVING PASSOVER

The first two days (sundown of Monday, April 14 – Wednesday night, April 16) and last two days (sundown of Sunday, April 20 – Tuesday night, April 22) are observed with Shabbat restrictions on work and creative activity, with the exceptions of carrying and the use of fire (with respect to cooking and preparation of food). The Shehecheyanu blessing is recited on the first two nights only.

The intermediate days of Passover (Chol Hamoed: Thursday, April 17; Friday, April 18; Sunday, April 20) are considered “semi-festive.” Only nonessential work, activities and crafts, as defined by Jewish law, are prohibited. Ask an Orthodox rabbi for guidance.

PREPARING THE HOME

Keeping a year-round kosher home is not the same as a “kosher for Passover” home, since Jewish law forbids the consumption or possession of all chametz during the holiday. Special preparations for Passover include:

  • The home must be thoroughly cleaned of all chametz.
  • Any chametz not removed from a Jew’s premises before Passover should be sold and the storage locations leased to a non-Jew.
  • All cooking and eating utensils must be either set aside exclusively for Passover, or, in some cases kashered (in consultation with a rabbi,) according to the procedures of Jewish law. See our Kashering Primer.

For specific questions, consult a local Orthodox rabbi for guidance.

WHAT IS CHAMETZ?

Chametz refers to any food created by allowing grain (specifically wheat, oat, spelt, rye or barley) and water to ferment and rise—most commonly referred to as “leaven.”