Pesach Questions & Answers
Why is Tachanun not said during the month of Nisan?
During the entire month of Nisan we do not say Tachanun or Tzidduk HaDin (burial service prayer), and we do not say Tzidkatcha on Shabbat Mincha (Shulchan Aruch 429; and Rema). The reason for this is that during the first twelve days of Nisan the leader (Nasi) from each of the Twelve Tribes offered a special sacrifice in the Mishkan, and each day was considered a holiday for him (Beit Yosef 429 cited in Mishneh Berurah). When adding those days with the days connected with Pesach, the majority of days of the month of Nisan have a holy status. Therefore, the entire month is exempted from Tachanun and other matters of a similar nature.
Why is the language of the blessing we recite on bedikat chametz (checking for chametz) “To destroy chametz” and not “To search for chametz”? And why do we place ten pieces of bread around the house before searching?
We say “to destroy” and not “to search” because the search is only the first part in fulfilling the command to destroy the chametz. We search in order to be sure we've found and destroyed all the chametz (Levush 432, cited in Ta’amei HaMinhagim). There are several reasons given for the custom of placing pieces of bread to find during the search. Some write that it should be specifically ten. Here is a sampling of the reasons given: 1) The Rema explains that the reason for the minhag to place pieces of chametz before the search is in order for the blessing not to be in vein in case no chametz is found. However, he concludes that even in the event that no chametz is found (if one did not place pieces of bread), the blessing is still not in vein since the intent of all people is to destroy chametz if any chametz is found (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 431:2). 2) It is explained in the name of the Arizal that one should place exactly ten pieces of bread, and that this custom is based on a Kabbilistic concepts. The Kaf HaChaim explains that the ten pieces correspond to ten crowns of impurity (Pri Eitz Chaim).
Why do we dip a vegetable in water before the meal?
The Shulchan Aruch writes that one should take Karpas (generally parsley since some explain Karpas to be celery) and dip it into vinegar (473:7). However, the Rema writes that one may use vinegar or salt water instead (473:4). Though today many people use salt water for the dipping, vinegar or wine can also be used (Mishneh Berurah). The reason for the dipping is in order to do something different than at meals on other nights so that children will be interested in what is happening and will ask about it. According to this reason, any vegetable will do. In fact there are various customs regarding which vegetable to use, such as potatoes, celery, parsley and onions. According to the writings of the Arizal one should specifically use Karpas (celery) according to Kabbalah. The Dorshei Reshimot (cited in countless commentaries on the Haggadah and in halachic writings) explains that the word karpas contains within it a hint to the extreme suffering the Jewish People were subjected to during their Egyptian bondage. Each of the Hebrew letters of the word karpas are used to make up the phrase “Parech Shishim”, a reference to the crushing labor of six-hundred thousand, a number representing the Jewish People who were enslaved in Egypt.