The Laws of Pesach
The current practical laws particular to Pesach are divided into two basic categories.The first of these categories of laws is known as “Issurei Chometz” (Prohibitions of Chometz).These are the prohibitions of deriving benefit on Pesach from those things that are called chometz, or of having chometz in one’s possessions.The second category of laws pertain to the positive acts we must fulfill in order to satisfy our obligations on Pesach.These include the eating of matzah, the drinking of the four cups of wine (“Arbah Cosos), eating of Morror (bitter herbs), and Magid, which is the relating of the story of our going out of Egypt.The last, Magid, captures the actual essence of Pesach; for one must try to feel himself as though he were of the original Children of Israel who were freed from the physical and spiritual bondage of Egypt.
Prohibition of Chometz
Chometz may be defined as the resultant product of the fermentation of one of the five grains:wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and oats, after its combination with water.This process takes place chemically, approximately 18 minutes after water at 45-48 degrees Fahrenheit (approx. 8 degrees Celsius) is combined with flour of these species and is allowed to ferment.The actual visible signs of chometz are when the dough begins to have hair-like cracks or whitening of the dough.
The prohibition of chometz on Pesach is an absolute one, which we call an “Issur Hanoah.”It is positively forbidden to derive any benefit through any means from chometz.This prohibition includes a prohibition of eating, “Issur Achilah,” a prohibition of selling, or even feeding it to one’s pets.There is, of course, a difference between eating and selling, which we will discuss later.
At present there are three basic ways of removing chometz from one’s possession:
- Bitul Chometz - nullification of ownership of chometz.
- M’chiras Chometz - sale of chometz.
- Bedikas Chometz. - searching and destroying (burning) of chometz.
We shall discuss the three methods in the chronological order in which they are performed.Due to the seriousness of removing chometz, all three are done; although it is possible one need not sell his chometz (if he destroys it all).M’chiras chometz is usually performed first.It can only be done before the end of the 5th hour of daylight of the day preceding the first Seder (the 14th of Nissan).The sale is not a sale in name only.It is a bona fide, legal sale with contract and all, in which the owner of the chometz or his agent, who is usually his Rabbi, conducts a contractual agreement with a non-Jew to purchase the chometz, payment of which need not be made until after Passover.There is a stipulation for non-payment in which ownership reverts back to the original owner but not retroactively.Therefore, during Pesach, the non-Jew must have access to the Chometz since is legally his.If possible, all the chometz to be sold should be kept in one place, since the place where the chometz is kept is sold or rented to the non-Jew along with the chometz itself.Incidentally, dishes and pots, etc., need not be sold on Pesach and indeed should not be sold.If they are sold, they may require “t’vilas kailim” for all metal and glass utensils.It is advisable to consume all or as much as possible of chometz on hand and destroy the remainder, thereby dispensing with the sale altogether.
It is important to note that if one does retain some chometz and for financial reasons it would be too great a loss to destroy it, it is essential to contact his local competent Orthodox Rabbi, concerning the sale. If one is living far away, he can phone, fax or email the Rabbi, and appoint him as his representative.
The next step is the searching for the chometz. This is done preferably beginning with dusk on the evening of the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, which is the evening before the first Seder.Those years in which the first Seder falls on a Saturday night, the Bedikah must be conducted Thursday night.
One should make the search by candlelight although some authorities allow the use of a flashlight.One may not use a multi-wicked candle since it sheds very uneven light.The owner of the house or renter of the apartment must search his home for every piece of chometz he can find and is required to look in those places where he may have brought chometz.
Before one begins the search he recites the blessing:“Blessed are You, G-d, our L-rd, King of the universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the destruction of chometz.”
The search follows, and should be a real search, not merely a perfunctory ritual.When the brocho is being recited anyone listening may be included and may aid in the search.The search should be done by men.If no man is present, a woman should search.When the time for the Bedikah arrives nothing may be started before the Bedikah is completed and even one who is learning must stop (by nightfall) to engage in the search for chometz.Upon completion of the search, during which one should not engage in idle distracting conversation, the third part, the Bitul (nullification of ownership) is performed.There is a formula called “kol chamirah,” which is recited.However, it was formulated in Aramaic and since the nullification must be knowledgeable, those who cannot read and understand Aramaic should say this English translation instead: “All chometz or leavening which is in my possession which I have not seen or have not removed or whose existence I didn’t know about, I am making null and void (hefker) as the dust of the earth.”At this point, the only chometz that he owns is that which he found during the search and that which he knows about and has yet to sell or burn.
The following morning, before the end of the 5th hour of light (your Rabbi should be consulted as to the time limit), the chometz not sold must be burned.The nullification is again pronounced with the addition of:“All my chometz that I do know about,” following “or don’t know about” in the above formula.
It is customary to burn one’s lulav and any hoshanos left from Succos with the chometz so that we accomplish the mitzvah of burning chometz with an object that was used for a Mitzvah.
It is preferable to say it first in Aramaic and then in English but if it is too difficult to say in Aramaic, then there is no question that it is better to say it in English alone.“Kol Chamira” is not a prayer.
With the completion of the burning and verbal nullification, the prohibition of chometz on Pesach in your possession has been remedied.
After the 5th hour, nullification does not work, rabbinically (and after the 6th hour, Torahitically). Incidentally, if chometz is found during the first day or last day of Pesach, in Eretz Yisroel, and the first or last two days of Pesach, outside Eretz Yisroel, one must cover it with a vessel he has picked up for another purpose and, after Yom Tov, burn the chometz.If found on the intermediate days, the chometz must be burned immediately!
There is a widespread custom to put down ten pieces of bread before making the Bedikah.Some say that the reason for this custom is that one should not make a Brocho L’vatalah, that is, make a blessing on the bedikah with the possibility of not finding anything.Actually, the reason for the custom stems from Kabbalah as does the number ten and not because of the possibility of a Brocho L’vatalah.In fact, there is no question of this situation since the blessing is made on the search, not necessarily on the finding of anything.
A shul or Beis Medrash requires Bedikah, as do business offices, etc.
Pockets and books should be checked for chometz.
If bedikah is missed at night, in the early morning of the 14th, open areas that have many windows and are well lit may be searched by the light of the sun.
The reason for the decree to nullify our ownership of chometz that we do not know about, in the day, is for fear it was not done at night.
If we burn all the chometz that we know about, why are we “m’vatail” the chometz that we know about after it is burned?The Tur explains that the essential Mitzvah is to burn immediately after the Bedikah, but now that people buy or leave over bread for breakfast, the Rosh (and according to the Beis Yosef, Rashi as well) holds it is necessary to nullify again.Therefore, even though the procedure we follow is different we must still go along with the original decree.
If someone missed the Bedikah on the night of the 14th, he should do it as soon as he remembers and recite the brocho.If however, he does not remember until after Pesach, he does not recite the brocho, but still must search.
Someone who is going away for Pesach and will leave before the night of the 14th does the following:If it is less than 30 days before Pesach, he must search before he leaves, but does not say a blessing. If it is more than 30 days before, he need not search there.
Toraitic or Rabbinic
The Torah prohibits eating the smallest amount of chometz after the 6th hour of Erev Pesach.If more than a k’zayis is eaten within 9 minutes (K’day Achilas Pras, and some say four minutes, and yet others, two minutes), after nightfall of the 15th of Nissan, one has incurred a penalty of Korais.These and all prohibitions apply to all the days of Pesach.The Torah prohibits any use of chometz on Pesach, whether it is eaten, sold or even given away (it may only be destroyed).
The Torah also prohibits any chometz to be found in one’s possession, whether it be his own, another Jew’s or even that of a non-Jew, to which he is responsible (Bal Yairaeh U’Bal Yimatzai).Although according to some authorities one has not transgressed “Bal Yairaeh” if chometz is found in his possession between the 6th hour and nightfall, Erev Pesach, nevertheless he has transgressed the positive command to destroy chometz.(acc. to Rashi on Daf Tzade, Amud Aleph in Psachim (90A), he has transgressed the negative commandments mentioned above, “Bal Yairaeh”).
At the end of the 6th hour Erev Pesach, the Torah takes the ownership of all chometz out of the hands of all Jews but leaves them with the responsibility of destroying it.Failure to do so is a violation of a Toraitic command.
All admixtures of chometz are prohibited.The Torah permits the bitul of chometz b’ta’am, up until one in 60.Due to the severity of a prohibition carrying the penalty of Korais, the Sages prohibited even the smallest admixture.The Sages also prohibited having chometz in one’s possession after the end of the 5th hour of Erev Pesach (even for T’rumah, which was permitted until the end of the fifth).
However, liquid admixtures are treated as other prohibitions, before nightfall, (re: bitul) because there is no Korais, until Pesach itself.If dry, and it will be reheated it must be eaten before Pesach, because on Pesach is “Chozer V’niur,” – it reawakens the prohibited chometz.
In addition, the Sages prohibited after Pesach any chometz found in the possession of a Jew on Pesach.Therefore, extreme care must be exercised after Pesach to purchase chometz only from a Jew who sold his chometz before Pesach (M’chiras Chometz) or from a non-Jew.This is called “Chometz Sh’Avar Alav HaPesach.”
Chometz not fit for the consumption of a dog is not forbidden on Pesach.
In the period of the Gaonim an additional prohibition was levied forbidding the consumption of “kitniyos” (bean products, corn, rice, mustard, peas, and other grains) which, when ground into flour, may in some way resemble one of the five species, and also Kitniyos were mixed together with one of the 5 species of grains. Ashkenazim (Europeans who daven Nussach Sephard and Chassidim included) accepted the decree.Most Sephardim did not.However, many Sephardim today have, out of concern that they may not have been examined carefully enough.
Therefore, it is perfectly permissible for Sephardic Jews to eat “kitniyos” on Pesach.In Eretz Yisroel this presents a problem since many things marked kosher for Pesach contain “kitniyos” and are forbidden to Ashkenazim.Therefore, as during the rest of the year, extreme care should be taken and one should be aware of the nature of the “hechshair” (supervision).
If erev Pesach falls on Shabbos, the Bedikah is performed on Thursday night, the 13th.The Shabbos meal is eaten of chometz.Davening in the morning is completed as early as possible so that the meal that follows will be completed by the end of the fourth hour.The remaining chometz must be destroyed before the end of the 5th hour.It may be done by disposing down the toilet.Since it is Shabbos, it may not be burned.Seudas Shelishis, which should be eaten after noon, may be fulfilled with fruits.
Some authorities advise splitting the Shacharis meal in two, washing twice, with an interruption between the two parts, making them separate meals.However, one should be extremely careful to be certain that the first meal has terminated before he begins the second, in order to avoid reciting an unnecessary blessing (A “brocho Sh’einah Tzricha’).
Erev Shabbos one should destroy all his chometz before the end of the fifth hour, except that which he is saving for the Shabbos meal.He should not say the nullification until the fifth hour on Shabbos.One should avoid cooking any chometz dish that will be difficult to clean on Shabbos and will result in problems of “Bal Yairaeh.”CHOMETZ MAY NOT BE EATEN AFTER THE FOURTH HOUR OF THE DAY M’drabbanan.
There are some who have the custom to abstain from allowing any matzah product to come in contact with water all Pesach except the last day in the diaspora.This custom is called “gebrucht.”Therefore, matzah-bry, matzah balls, etc., may not be eaten by those who accept the custom of gebruchts.Gebrucht is not halacha since it was not accepted by most communities.A woman who marries follows her husband’s customs even if she previously did not eat gebrucht.
The need for matzah shmurah comes from the Toraitic statement “U’shmartem Es HaMatzos” (“And you shall guard the Matzos”).There are three types of shmurah, which literally means “watched.”
As previously mentioned, if water comes into contact with one o the five species of grain and is allowed to stand for 18 minutes, it becomes chometz.If dough is constantly kneaded, it will not ferment.Matzah must be made with these five species of grain and also must be made with water.What is required is guarding that the dough or the grains not be allowed to stand 18 minutes once they have come in contact with water.They must be baked within that time.
The three types of sh’murah matzah are:
- Mishaas K’tzirah - watched from the time of reaping (harvesting)
- Mishaas Techina - from the time of grinding (milling)
- Mishaas Lisha - from the time of kneading
A grain may become chometz any time after reaping (after it is removed from its organic source of growth) if it has come into contact with water.Therefore it must be carefully guarded.
Although we eat matzah all Pesach, one is only legally obligated to eat matzah on the first night of Pesach (in Eretz Yisroel) and the first two nights in the diaspora.This of course does not mean that chometz may be eaten; IT MAY NOT.Therefore we are especially careful with the matzos that we eat that night (or those nights).Matzos commonly bought in supermarkets or grocery stores that are “Passover Matzos” are also shmurah matzos.However they are NOTsufficient to fulfill one’s obligation.First, they are only watched from the time of kneading, which is in itself not desirable, but more importantly, they lack another essential condition, that of being baked “L’Shame Matzas Mitzvah” (“for the sake of the commandment”).Therefore while they may be permitted the rest of Pesach they may not be used to fulfill one’s obligation to eat matzah on the first night of Pesach (first two in diaspora).Most G-d fearing people eat only matzah shmurah mishaas k’tzirah the entire Pesach.However, those who do not do so have authorities upon whom to rely.
The matzah used to fulfill to Toraitic precept of eating matzah must be made “L’shma,” for the sake of the mitzvah.Therefore all the steps of the production must be made with the intention of L’shame Matzas Mitzvah.Many authorities question the permissibility of using machine matzos even if the one who pushed the button on the kneading blenders has the proper intention.Therefore hand matzos, in which the kneading and the putting in the oven are done by hand, are preferred.There are, in addition, mills that grind the flour for matzos, which are “Rachayim shel yad” hand mills, and “Rachayim shel mechona” machine mills.On the other hand there are those who say that the machine-kneaded dough is more homogeneously worked and there is less chance of fermentation, concluding that it is preferable to use machine matzos.There are authorities that hold that if the one who pressed the button had the proper intention it has been made “L’shame Matzas Mitzvah.”
It is accepted today that hand matzos are most preferred.(The author, having observed and supervised both processes, has no question that the well-supervised hand matzah baking is superior in both aspects, L’Shame Matzas Mitzvah, and chometz free.)
Matzos must be baked with water that has been placed in a cool place over night and must stay at least 12 hours.It is preferable to draw the water just before sunset.If however it was done earlier, or later, it is acceptable if it stayed 12 hours.This is called Mayim SheLanu. If mayim shelanu was intentionally not used, the matzos are forbidden.However, if no other matzos are available for matzah the first night, it may be used.If unintentionally not used, then they are permitted.Egg matzah is totally unacceptable to fulfill the obligation of eating matzah.In fact, egg matzah should not be bought at all unless health reasons require it.If for health reasons one cannot eat matzah he should consult a competent orthodox rabbinic authority.
At the Seder, matzah should be eaten while leaning on one’s left side.
On the first night of Pesach (first two in the diaspora) it is incumbent upon every Jewish man, woman, and educable child to drink four cups of wine in recognition of the four expressions of freedom mentioned in the Torah in connection with Y’tzias Mitzrayim (the going out of Egypt).The four expressions can be found in Exodus 6:6-7.They are:V’Hotzaisi, V’Hitzalti, V’Ga’alti, and V’lakachti.(The Gra holds that V’lakachti is a “taoos sofer” in the Yerushalmi and the fourth expression is a repetition of V’Ga’alti.)There is actually a fifth expression, which a minority opinion holds requires a fifth cup.We DO NOT hold in accordance with this opinion and a fifth cup MAY NOT be drunk.
As during the entire year one should be extremely careful to purchase and drink only kosher wine.It is most preferred to use red wine on Pesach for the Seder.
The keynote of Pesach is freedom.Consequently, as an expression of freedom, rabbinic enactment mandates leaning to one’s left side while drinking the cups of wine.The reason we lean (called “hasayba”) is that wealthy people used to recline on a couch while eating, and, for health reasons, (Shema Yakdim Kana L’Veshet) leaned on the left.Even left-handed people must lean to the left.Leaning to the right is not considered leaning.So important is this expression of freedom, that according to the Rama, if one does not drink the first two cups while leaning, he must revert and drink an additional cup for every cup drunk while not leaning.Since there are authorities who hold that, nowadays, we do not require leaning, since it is no longer the mode of freedom, and an additional opinion who holds that between the first and second cup no wine may be drunk lest it be construed as adding to the Mitzvos, one MUST ONLY return for the second cup if he did not lean on his left side.
It is customary to have someone else pour cups for the one who leads the Seder as an expression of freedom.
If one has difficulty drinking four cups of wine during the Seder in their proper place, he may use grape juice (only kosher grape juice with rabbinic supervision).One may not drink all four cups consecutively, one after another.Women are obligated to eat matzah and drink four cups.
As with the eating of the matzah, there is a minimum requirement that must be consumed.One should have a cup of at least 4.42 fl. oz. for Kiddush if Pesach falls on Shabbos, and of at least 3.3 fl. oz. if not.All other cups require only 3.3 fl. oz., according to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.The Chazon Ish requires 150 cc or 5.072 fl. oz.The leader of the Seder should remind everyone to lean while eating the matzah and drinking the wine.
The reason we eat morror, or bitter herbs, is to remind us that there was great bitterness in Egypt.It is an unusual person who can make himself feel this bitterness and appreciate the great kindness of G-d for taking us out of Mitzrayim.Our Sages, keenly aware of this, required us to continue the Toraitic precept of “Al Matzos U’M’ror’rim Yochluhu,” (to eat the Paschal sacrifice with the matzah and morror) even though the sacrifice is no longer offered.The bitterness of the herbs may help us appreciate, perhaps a little, the magnitude of this great suffering.One should not fool himself into thinking that he can begin to feel this unless he is quite knowledgeable of the events that took place.
The measurement for morror is 8 in. x 10 in., if Romaine lettuce is used, or an amount equivalent to ½ of an egg (at least 1/3), if pure horseradish is used.Extreme care should be taken by one using romaine lettuce, since there are often little worms and bugs in the leaves.Horseradish normally bought in stores is insufficient since sweeteners are added to make them less bitter.Morror which has been cooked or boiled is unfit to fulfill one’s obligation.Morror soaked over 24 hours in water is also not acceptable.
For Koraich, a smaller measurement is used.The measurement for Morror in fl. oz. is 1.1, and for Koraich, .7 fl. oz.If romaine lettuce is used for koraich, the measurement of 3.6 in. x 7.2 in. is used. Rav Elyashiv shlita holds that 15 grams of Morror is sufficient (0.529 oz).
Sipur Y'tzias Mitzrayim
The telling of the going out of Egypt is what the Seder is really concerned with.Although the other laws are extremely important, the story of Y’tzias Mitzrayim should be told in great detail.
One should make every effort to learn about Y’tzias Mitzrayim in order to tell their children, which is the fulfillment of the mitzvah “V’higadta L’vincha . . .” (“and you shall tell your children . . .”) which is a Toraitic commandment.
It is customary that someone else pours the wine, not the one who conducts the Seder.
The one who says Kiddush should have in mind (and should announce before he begins) that he will me “motzi” all those who listen to every word and concentrate on fulfilling their obligation to hear Kiddush. If the first night is Shabbos, then all necessary insertions pertaining to Shabbos must be made.If the first or second night is Motzei Shabbos, the Havdalah is said immediately after Kiddush, its order of blessing being: wine, Kiddush, Borei M’Orei Ha’Aish, HaMavdil Bain Kodesh L’Kodesh, and also have in mind the mitzvohs of the night ie. Haggadah, Matzoh etc.Then, one should Lechatchila drink the entire cup or if difficult, at least drink more than half a cup containing a R’veeis of wine must be drunk in one sip by each participant while leaning to the left side.The second cup should be poured immediately after the drinking of the first to stimulate questioning by small children.
After the Kiddush, we wash our hands without a brocho.We do this for two reasons.
- Any detached food dipped in one of the seven fluids (water, wine, blood, dew, milk, olive oil and bee honey) makes food susceptible to spiritual uncleanliness and requires washing of hands.
- Since we are not accustomed to dipping, we do it to provoke questions from the children who observe us doing something unusual.
The opinion of the Vilna Gaon is to make a brocho for this washing. It is customary, that the one who heads the Seder does not leave the room to wash his hands, but has the water brought to him.
We take a piece of vegetable, preferably green, less than a k’zayis (size of an olive) and dip it into salt water or vinegar and say the brocho “Borei P’ri HaAdamah,” having in mind the Morror which we will eat later.Since the morror to come is eaten because of the mitzvah, and not as part of the meal, the blessing of“HaMotzi” will not cover it.Normally, if one eats more than a k’zayis, he requires a brocho achrona (an after blessing).Therefore, one should be careful not to eat more than a k’zayis and not necessitate a brocho.If one inadvertently ate more than a k’zayis, b’dieved, he need not make a brocho achrona.
The Seder leader should have three Sh’murah Matzos before him.Where possible, all at the table who want to make their own Afikoman should have three Sh’murah Matzos before them also, even though this is not required.The middle matzah is broken into two uneven parts.The larger part should be designated as the Afikoman and hidden away until later when it will be eaten.It represents the Korban Pesach.The Talmud states that children should be encouraged to try to take the Afikoman (acc. to Chok Yaakov) in order that they may remain awake during the Seder.The larger part should be at least a k’zayis and preferably two.
Before discussing the Haggadah, one should remind the participants to have in mind to fulfill the obligation of Sipur Y’tzias Mitzrayim.The introduction to Magid begins with “HaLachma Anya,” (“This is the bread of poverty/affliction”).The matzah should remain uncovered and the Seder plate with matzos on it should be lifted.Before we commence, we remind everyone to have intention to fulfill the obligation of Sipur Y’tzias Mitzrayim.Next we say the “Ma Nishtana” which is traditionally asked by the youngest child.However, even a great scholar having the Seder alone should say it aloud.
One should make very effort to get an English translation of the Haggadah.IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SAYING THAN TO MERELY MUMBLE INCOMPREHENSIBLE WORDS!
While mentioning each of the plagues it is customary to spill a little wine from the cup as an expression of grief for the loss of the Egyptian lives that was necessary for our freedom.This wine is spilled with the index finger in conjunction with the Toraitic expression “Etzba E-lokim He.” (“It is the finger of G-d”).Some have the custom to use the pinky, even though the Hebrew term for the index finger is “etzba” while the pinky is called “zeres.” The Vilna Gaon spilt directly from the cup, without using his finger. So did the Shelo Hakodosh.
For the second cup, as for the first, everyone should drink a measurement while leaning to the left.
The most important part of the Haggadah is the section of “Rabban Gamliel haya omair” until after the paragraph, “U’moror.”Even women who are not in the room should be called in to hear this (and preferably, they should say it themselves).
Wash hands for HaMotzie as usual.
The Seder leader should then lift the three Sh’murah matzos, the two whole ones sandwiching the remaining part of the broken matzah.Having in mind to fulfill the Toraitic precept of eating matzah he should first say the blessing of “HaMotzie Lechem . . ..”He should immediately put down the bottom matzah, retaining the top one and the portion of the broken one, and say the blessing “Al Achilas Matzah.”He should then, leaning to his left side, eat preferably two k’zaysim (one for Motzie Matzah, and second for Al Achilas Matzah) within eight minutes without talking in between.According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Zecher Tzaddik L’vrocho, this may be eating 1/3 of a hand-made or 3/4 (7 in. x 4 in.) of a machine Sh’murah Matzah, which is enough for both K’zaysim.(According to the Chazon Ish, ½ hand matzah or a whole machine matzah).
Rabbi Y.S. Elyashiv shlita holds that for the first kzayis 20 grams (0.705 oz) of hand Matzo, and the second kzayis 15 grams (0.0529 oz) ie, 35 grams of matzoh (1.234 oz)
Some people who are very exacting in the performance of mitzvos chew two k’zaysim before swallowing and swallow it all at once.
Next we take a k’zayis of morror, dip it in the choroises (see earlier), say the brocho “Al Achilas Morror” and eat it without leaning.Remember, we already recited “Borei P’ri HaAdamah” on the Karpas.This, as all the mitzvos of the night, must be done by both men and women.If for health reasons, this cannot be done, consult a competent orthodox rabbi.
Next we take a k’zayis of morror between a k’zayis of matzah, dip it in the chorises and, without a blessing but with the recital of “Zecher L’Mikdash K’Hillel,” eat the sandwich.
There are those who eat the egg from the seder plate to remind us of the chaggiga, also the first night of Pesach coincides with the day of the week on which the ninth of Av comes out on, and the egg is eaten by mourners.
We eat and drink our meal.It is forbidden to set aside meat and designate it for Pesach (1st night) lest it be misconstrued as Korban Pesach.He may say, “This meat is for Yom Tov.”If one did say it was for Pesach, he may b’dieved eat it on Pesach.On the 1st night (1st two in the diaspora) one may not eat meat or chicken roasted unless it was roasted with water.Juices produced by dry pan roasting are not sufficient to be considered roasted in water.The importance of the meal should be de-emphasized as much as possible and eating limited to allow the Afikoman to be eaten with some appetite.
Before saying Bircas HaMazon, we eat the Afikoman, leaning on our left side.We should try to eat two k’zaysim.One represents the Korban Pesach and the other represents the Korban Chagigah.The Afikoman must be eaten before midnight (not necessarily 12:00 AM).One may not eat after the Afikoman.If one has only one k’zayis of Sh’murah Matzah, he should save it for the Afikoman.
The predominant custom is that the master of the house lead the Bircas HaMazon on the night of the Pesach.Before pouring the third cup, it should be cleaned and rinsed.
After Bircas HaMazon, the third cup is drunk leaning to the left side.One should have in mind to be “yotzai” the third cup.
It is customary to have a cup filled on the table for Eliyahu.We immediately fill our fourth cup.We say “Sh’foch Chamascha . . .” all this after opening the door for Eliyahu.We then complete the Hallel.Then, having in mind to fulfill our obligation to drink the fourth cup, we make the brocho and drink while leaning to our left.Hallel should also be completed before midnight.After the fourth cup, only water may be drunk.
We then conclude the Seder with Nirtzah.People of merit staying up at night as long as they can discuss the going out of Egypt.Most people sing the “Songs of Praise” at the end of the Haggadah.
- There is a custom to give Maos Chittin, which is money for the poor to buy flour for Matzos for Pesach.Anyone who resides in a town that is so accustomed for 12 months a year is obligated.
- The entire month of Nissan neither Tachanun during the week nor Tzidkascha Tzedek on Shabbos afternoon are said.
- The Shabbos before Pesach is called SHABBOS HAGADOL because of the miracle that occurred on it.The Torah states that the Korban Pesach must be set aside for offering on the 10th of Nissan.That year (Y’tzias Mitzrayim) the 10th fell on Shabbos, and although the Egyptians worshiped these animals, no protest was made when they were taken.It is customary in most places to have a special Shabbos HaGadol “drasha.”A special Haftora (Malachi 3:4-24) is read.
- Erev Pesach, Mizmor L’Sodah is not said, nor is LaM’natzaich.
- When the 14th is on Shabbos, even though bedikas chometz is done Thursday night, Friday morning davening is regular as far as saying Mizmor L’Sodah and LaM’natzaich.
In commemoration of “Makas Bechoros,” the killing of the first-born Egyptians, male Jews must fast on Erev Pesach.Fathers fast for children under thirteen.If one, however, is invited to a Seudas Mitzvah, he is permitted to eat.It is traditional to have someone complete a tractate of the Talmud Erev Pesach and to invite those presents to join him in his simcha.This is not just a formal reading of the last line of a tractate, but must be a bona fide completion.A father must fast for his minor son, even if the father is not a first-born.Some hold that if the father is first born the mother must fast for her son.Everyone holds if the father is first born and the mother is pregnant or nursing, then the father fasts for both.It is generally accepted that in all cases, the father fasts for both.A first-born father and his minor first born son need only one Siyum.
Matzah may not be eaten Erev Pesach nor should one work after midday.In some places the custom is to prohibit work all day.
It is a custom to read the Haggadah Shabbos HaGadol from “Avadim HaYeenu.”However, the Vilna Gaon says it should not be observed because of the line in the Haggadah, “I might think from day.”
Erev Pesach, the table should be set so the Seder may begin immediately after nightfall.Kiddush should not be recited before nightfall (Tzais HaKochavim).Many have the custom to wear a kittel (a special white robe).Since Pesach is “Lail Shimurim (“a night of guarding”), the entire “Krias Sh’ma Al HaMitah” is not said; only the Sh’ma and the brocho of “HaMapil.”Some have the custom to say the entire Hallel in shul (with or without a brocho) after Ma’ariv on the first night of Pesach.This is the custom in Eretz Yisrael (with a brocho).
From the Mussaf of the 1st day of Pesach one ceases saying “Mashiv HaRuach” in Shemoneh Esreh.In Eretz Yisroel, Morid HaTal is substitued (as it is in Nusach Sefard even in the diaspora).The whole Hallel is said on the first day of Pesach (first two days in the diaspora) and half-Hallel on the remaining days.“V’sain Tal U’Matar” is omitted from Bircas HaShanim beginning with the first intermediate day of Pesach, and “V’sain brocho” is substitued.
There are two customs concerning wearing Tefillin on the intermediate days.There are those (Rashba) who hold that since Chol HaMoed is an “os” because of the matzah (Succos because of the Succah) it is forbidden to wear Tefillin since one already has the “os” of the holiday.There are those (Rosh) who say since you are permitted to work on Chol HaMoed, it is not an “os” and you must wear tefillin.Most authorities hold even those who do wear tefillin do not make a brocho.In Eretz Yisroel the accepted minhag is not to wear tefillin on Chol HaMoed, and those who do wear should not do so publicly, but instead should put them on when they return home after davening with a minyan.
On the second night of Pesach we begin counting the Omer.In the times of the Mikdash, there was a mitzvah of cutting the Omer on the 16th of Nissan and fulfilling the Toraitic precept of counting every day until Shavuos.Although we do not have the mitzvah today of cutting the Omer, there are those (Rambam, Chinuch) who hold that the counting is still Toraitic.The majority of the authorities, however, hold in accordance with the opinion of Tosaphos who say it is rabbinic, in commemoration of the Mikdash.
- The counting should be done after nightfall.
- If it is done after sunset one has fulfilled his obligation, b’dieved.
- Since the Torah (Parshas Emor; Leviticus 23:15-16) mentions counting both weeks and days, after the seventh day, one must also mention weeks.
- If one forgets to count at night he counts in the morning without a brocho.
- If he forgot to count an entire day he counts the rest of the days without a brocho.
- If one is in doubt whether he counted or not he counts subsequent days with a brocho.
- If before counting someone asks you “What is today’s count?” say to him: “Yesterday was . . .” If you mention the day of today, you have already fulfilled the mitzvah and may not say the brocho that day.
- L’chatchila (preferably), the counting should be done standing, but if done sitting, one has fulfilled his obligation.
- According to the L’Voosh, everyone must say the counting by himself and therefore another Jew cannot be “motzie” him.The P’ri Chadash, however, is lenient.Therefore, it is advised to act in accordance with the suggestion of the Chayai Adam, “If one intended to be “yotzie” with his friend’s count, he should count again without a brocho.”
- According to most authorities, “chadash is forbidden in these times.Chadash is one the five grains, which has taken, root after the 16th of Nissan.It is prohibited by the Torah until next Pesach.
- Between Pesach and Shavuos the students of Rabbi Akiva died on every day that Tachanun is said.Since there are thirty-three such days, all Jews observe a period of partial mourning.There are two predominant customs.The first is to observe from Pesach to Lag B’Omer (33rd day).The second is to observe from the first of Iyar to the third day of Sivan.The lenient combination of these two periods may not be adopted (the overlap.)
- During this period it is forbidden to take haircuts, shave, have weddings or parties or other types of“Simchas M’raim.”
- On Lag B’Omer, according to both customs, all is permitted.
- The last day of each of these periods must be observed only partially because “Miktzas HaYom K’kulo” (“part of a day is like the whole day”) applies to the last day of a mourning period.
- Shavuos is the day the Omer was brought and is a complete Yom Tov (see Hilchos Yom Tov).
- Shavuos is also the day (the sixth of Sivan) upon which the Torah was given.Since the B’nei Yisroel slept the night before the giving of the Torah and had to be awakened by Ha-Shem, we are accustomed to stay awake all night Shavuos learning Torah to correct this.
- Care should be taken in the morning with the brocho “Al N’tilas Yadayim,” since there is a difference of opinion as the whether night or sleep causes the Ruach HaTumah.
- If one stays awake all night, the brocho “Elokai N’shama” should not be said, nor should “HaMa’avir Shainah.”
- Since there has not been an interruption in learning, Bircas HaTorah need not be said.
- It is strongly advised to have someone who has slept be “motzie” everyone with these brochos.
- There is a minhag to say “Akdamos” on Shavuos.
- There is a custom to eat dairy dishes on Shavuos because when the nations returned from Matan Torah they did not find any prepared dishes and ate diary dishes.Another explanation is that they had no kosher meat or pots for meat since they were just given the commandments of kashrus.
- From Rosh Chodesh Sivan until the day after Shavuos no Tachanun is said.Some hold an additional seven days as well, for make-up Korbanos (Tashlumim).
SPECIAL NOTE:To students of the yeshiva who are invited to spend the Seder with families: Since Matzah (especially hand matzah) and wine are very expensive, it is proper Derech Eretz for you to bring your own to the Seder.Also, please try and help the family in any preparation that you can, since it is a difficult Yom Tov.