How to get rid of chametz, prepare your home and celebrate the holiday of freedom!
Passover. Our miraculous exodus from Egypt. The birthday of the Jewish nation. The most widely observed holiday on the Jewish calendar. Is there any other holiday in which we invest so much time, effort, energy (and elbow grease)? This guide provides a clear, easy-to-read overview of the mitzvot and customs related to Pesach, as well as the terms associated with the holiday. Throughout this guide, the terms Pesach and Passover are used interchangeably. If you are unsure about any aspect of Pesach observance, just reach out to an Orthodox rabbi.
When is Passover?
We observe Passover from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nisan. Pesach 2022 falls on Friday night, April 15, and lasts through Motzo’ei Shabbat, April 23. It is forbidden to eat chametz beginning Friday morning, April 15. Click here for corresponding zmanim.
Is my home kosher-for Passover?
Keeping a year-round kosher home is not the same as a “kosher-forPassover” home. On Passover, eating chametz, or having chametz in your possession, is forbidden. (See “What is Chametz?” below) The following are some of the special preparations that must be made for Pesach.
What does this look like in practice?
The entire home must be cleaned of all edible chametz. Check and clean out any place where chametz may have entered during the year. (If you have kids at home, this might mean under the beds, in the closets, and of course, in your car!) Either clean all toys or set aside designated clean toys.
Any chametz not removed from a Jew’s premises before Pesach should be sold and the storage locations leased to a non-Jew, via your Orthodox rabbi. For guidelines on what can and should be sold.
Year-round cooking and eating utensils should not be used, and separate utensils should be purchased exclusively for Pesach use. (In some cases, year-round utensils may be kashered for Pesach use, in consultation with a rabbi.) Check out our Kashering Primer for more details.
What exactly is chametz?
Practically speaking, any processed food that is not certified as kosher-for-Passover may potentially include chametz ingredients. Download the OU’s Passover Guide for a list of OU certified products that are, nonetheless, recommended for Passover. Even foods with minute amounts of chametz ingredients, or foods processed on utensils or machinery that are used for chametz, are not permissible for Pesach use. Practically speaking, any processed food that is not certified as kosher-for-Passover may potentially include chametz ingredients and should not be eaten on Pesach.
The busy days before Pesach — special mitzvot and customs
Have you turned your house inside-out, transformed your kitchen into an aluminum-foil-covered spaceship, and rescued all the lonely Cheerios from their dusty corners?
You’re ready for the next step:
Bedikat Chametz means the “search for chametz.” We comb our homes for any chametz that we might have overlooked. This year, Bedikat Chametz will take place on Thursday evening, April 14. Any chametz found is set aside to be burned the next morning.
Burning the Chametz
On the morning of Erev Pesach, we burn the chametz. Click here for the latest time to burn your chametz.
The Fast of the Firstborns
Erev Pesach is a fast day for firstborn males (Ta’anit Bechorim). During the tenth plague, all the firstborns in Egypt died. G-d passed over the homes of the Jews and spared their firstborns. To commemorate this, firstborns fast on Erev Pesach. This year, the fast will be held on Friday, April 15.
Many congregations conduct a siyum. (The conclusion of a portion of Torah learning is a celebratory occasion that allows for a seudat mitzvah, a ritual feast). A siyum exempts firstborn males from fasting altogether.
This year, since the first Seder is on Friday night, all Seder preparations should be prepared before Shabbos, i.e.: maror, salt water, charoses, egg.
Maot Chitim — money for the poor
Before Pesach, there is a custom to give Maot Chitim (literally, money for wheat). We donate money to the needy to help them buy matzot and other food for Pesach. Visit ou.org/ hunger to support the OU’s Maot Chitim campaign efforts, where money is given to poverty-stricken families to help them celebrate the holiday with happiness and dignity
Passover Is Here — What You Need to Know
Not all the days of Passover are the same or have the same laws.
The first two days and the last two days
The first day (Friday night, April 15 through Motzo’ei Shabbat, April 16) and the last day (Friday night, April 22 through Motzo’ei Shabbat, April 23) are observed with Shabbat restrictions on work and creative activity. The second day (Motzo’ei Shabbat, April 16 through Sunday night, April 17) and the seventh day (Thursday night, April 21 through Friday evening, April 22) are observed with yom tov rules and regulations.
Special reminder for this year
This year, the second night of Pesach falls on Motzo’ei Shabbat (April 16). Remember to say “Baruch haMavdil bein Kodesh L’Kodesh,” to allow you to use fire and prepare food for yom tov.
The Intermediate Days — Chol Ha’moed
The intermediate days of Pesach (Monday, April 18 – Thursday, April 21) are considered “semi-festive.” Although they are the “weekday” of the holiday, not all work, activities and crafts are permitted. The laws of Chol Ha’moed are pretty nuanced. An Orthodox rabbi will be able to give you detailed guidance.
An eruv tavshilin should be made on Thursday, April 21, to allow for the preparation of food on yom tov that will be consumed on Shabbat. For more on eruv tavshilin, click here.
You’ve made it to the Seder! Now what?
The Seven Mitzvot of the Seder
There are two Torah obligations and five rabbinical obligations to perform during the Seder.
1. Relating the story of the Exodus (Maggid—reading from the Haggadah).
2. Eating matzah.
1. Arbah Kosot: Drinking four cups of wine.
2. Maror: Eating bitter herbs.
3. Hallel: Reciting psalms of praise.
4. Afikoman: Eating an extra piece of matzah for dessert as a reminder of the Pesach offering.
5. Demonstrating acts of freedom like sitting with a pillow and leaning to the left when eating matzah and drinking wine.
The Seder Plate
The Seder plate is arranged with symbolic foods that follow the order of the Haggadah. The prepared plate is placed in front of the leader of the Seder, who gives out the various foods to each participant.
What do we put on the Seder plate?
1. Three whole matzot (next to the plate)
2. Charoset: a mixture of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon, symbolizing the bricks and mortar of ancient Egypt
3. Karpas: a vegetable (preferably parsley, radish, potato, or celery)
4. Maror: bitter herbs (may consist of romaine lettuce, endives, or pure horseradish)
5. Beitzah: a roasted or boiled egg
6. Zeroa: a piece of roasted or boiled meat or poultry
7. Salt water: Place a bowl of salt water for dipping the karpas near the Seder plate.
Note: Salt water should be prepared before Shabbat.
We are commanded to eat matzah three times during the Seder:
1. At the start of the Seder meal (with a special bracha)
2. For korech (Hillel sandwich) together with the maror
3. For the afikomen (at the end of the meal) For details on the specific amounts and requirements see Sizing Up the Seder.
Four cups of wine
Red wine is preferred for the Seder. Each Jew is obligated to drink a cup of wine at four specific times during the Seder:
1. Start of the Seder, following Kiddush
2. Before the meal (after reciting the Haggadah story)
3. Following Birkat Hamazon (Grace after the meal)
4. After the completion of Hallel
For details on the specific amounts and requirements see Sizing Up the Seder.
Bitter herbs (maror)
Everyone is obligated to eat bitter herbs twice at each Seder:
1. A kezayit, dipped in charoset (maror)
2. A second, smaller amount, inside the matzah sandwich (korech) Maror must be raw and unpreserved. Therefore, commercially prepared grated horseradish, which is packed in vinegar, may not be used for the mitzvah.
For details on the specific amounts and requirements see Sizing Up the Seder.
Telling the story of the Exodus and singing Hallel
We encourage young children to participate in the Seder to the best of their ability. It is customary for the youngest person at the Seder to ask the Four Questions.
We close the Seder with Hallel, which praises God and His special relationship with the people of Israel. The Seder traditionally concludes with singing (and dancing to) several lively songs that celebrate our treasured relationship with God.
When Passover ends
All dietary laws and restrictions remain in effect until nightfall of the eighth day of Pesach. Chametz that was properly sold may only be eaten once the resale is confirmed by your rabbi (agent). Chametz that was in the possession of a Jew during Pesach is forbidden for consumption by any Jew, even after Pesach.