Observing the Passover Holiday

OU Kosher Staff

How to remove chametz, prepare your home and celebrate the holiday of freedom!

Passover. Pesach. Zman Cheiruteinu –The Time Of Our Freedom.Is there any other holiday for which we spend more time, effort and energy preparing? Whether this is your first year observing or making Passover, or your 40th, reviewing the mitzvot and customs associated with Pesach annually contributes to the likelihood that you will do everything properly, according to Halacha (Jewish law). The following article contains a concise overview of the mitzvot and customs related to Pesach, as well as the terms associated with the holiday. For any questions about Pesach observance, please consult an Orthodox rabbi.

When is Passover?

We observe Passover from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nisan. Pesach 2024 falls on Monday night, April 22, and lasts through Tuesday, April 30. It is forbidden to eat chametz beginning Monday morning, April 22.

Is my home kosher-for Passover?

Keeping a year-round kosher home is not the same as a “kosher for Passover” home.

On Passover, eating chametz, or having chametz in your possession, is forbidden. (See “What exactly is chametz?” below) This mitzvah takes up the bulk of our Pesach preparations, as we search, clean and even scrub our homes to remove all remnants of edible chametz.

What does this look like in practice?

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 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.


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.


As it’s impractical to dispose of all of one’s chametz, there developed a custom to sell one’s chametz to a non-Jew. Place chametz in a specially marked and sealed place, e.g.: a room or closet. That storage space can then be leased to a non-Jew for the duration of the holiday. Ask your Orthodox rabbi to help you arrange this. For guidelines on what can and should be sold, as well as for those whose custom it is to not sell chametz, see When to Peddle and When to Purge.

Different Utensils

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?

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

Some common examples of chametz are bread, crackers, cookies, pretzels and pasta. 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 not certified as kosher for Passover may include chametz ingredients and should not be eaten on Pesach.

The busy days before Pesach — special mitzvot and customs

Have you combed every inch of your home for wayward chametz, turned over your kitchen into an aluminum-foil-covered spaceship, and searched all corners?

You’re ready for the next step:

Bedikat Chametz

Bedikat Chametz means the “search for chametz.” Using a candle or flashlight we comb our homes for any chametz that we might have overlooked. This year, Bedikat Chametz will take place on Sunday evening, April 21, after dark. A bracha is recited before starting Bedikat Chametz. Kol Chamirah should be recited after completing the search. 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. Kol Chamirah should be recited. Check for the latest time to burn your chametz.

The Fast of the Firstborns

Erev Pesach–Monday, April 22–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.

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.

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 two days (sundown Monday night, April 22, through nightfall Wednesday, April 24) and the last two days (sundown Sunday night, April 28, through nightfall Tuesday, April 30) are observed with Shabbat restrictions on work and creative activity. The exceptions are carrying and the use of fire, which are both permitted (in certain ways) if needed for cooking and food preparation.

Chol Ha’moed — The Intermediate Days

The intermediate days of Pesach (Wednesday night, April 24 – Sunday, April 28) are considered “semi-festive.” Although they are the “weekdays” 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. Note that of course for Shabbat, April 27, despite falling during the Chol Ha’Moed period, the usual Shabbat restrictions apply. For more see our Overview of the Laws of Chol HaMoed.

You’ve made it to the Seder! Now what?

Here’s your overview of the mitzvot of the Seder:

The Mitzvot of the Seder

There are two Torah obligations and five rabbinical obligations to perform during the Seder.

Torah Mitzvot:

1. Relating the story of the Exodus (Maggid—reading from the Haggadah).

2. Eating matzah.

Rabbinical Mitzvot:

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?

Charoset: a mixture of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon, symbolizing the bricks and mortar of ancient Egypt

Karpas: a vegetable (customarily parsley, radish, potato, or celery)

Maror: bitter herbs (may consist of romaine lettuce, endives, or pure horseradish)

Beitzah: a roasted egg

Zeroa: a piece of roasted or meat or poultry. There should be a kezayit of meat on the bone

Salt water: Place a bowl of salt water for dipping the karpas near the Seder plate.


Three whole matzot are placed next to the Seder plate. 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.

Maror — Bitter herbs

Everyone is obligated to eat bitter herbs twice at each Seder:

1. A kezayit of maror, dipped in charoset

2. A second 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 G-d 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 G-d. For more on engaging children at the seder please see Telling Our Story: How to Engage Our Children at the Seder.

When Passover ends

All dietary laws and restrictions remain in effect until nightfall after 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.

OU Kosher Staff

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