Pesach Passover –
Held each year on Nisan 15. (Typically March/April)
This is the first of the Biblical Pilgrimage Festivals (recall that Nisan, not Tishri, is the first month of the Hebrew calendar).
Pesach commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt.
The first seder is on the 14th. On the night of the 15th, the second seder is held, and the counting of the Omer starts. The Omer is a counting down of the days from the time of the departure from Egypt, until the time the Torah was received at Mount Sinai. Pesach is also called “zman cheruteinu” (the time of our freedom), because it is the time when the Jewish people were freed from Egyptian slavery.
The holiday is called the “Passover” because God “passed over” the Israelite houses when smiting the Egyptians with the tenth plague (Ex. 12:23, 12:27). It is also called the Festival of Unleavened Bread since the only bread that may be eaten during the festival is unleavened (matzah), and the Festival of Spring because of the command to “observe the month of Abib(spring) and offer a passover sacrifice” (Deut. 16:1).
Because the Jewish lunar year is 11 days shorter than the solar year, the Jewish calendar was adjusted so Passover should always fall in the spring.
Passover’s first and last days ( in the Diaspora, the first two and last two) are holy days on which most work is forbidden, and the days in between are known as hol ha’mo’ed (“the festival’s weekdays”) or “the intermediate days.” The principal observance of the festival is the eating of matzah and the removal of all hametz (leaven or any products containing it) from one’s abode prior to the festival.
In antiquity, the central Passover rite was the sacrifice of the paschal offering – ofter called simply “the Pesah” – on the 14th of Nisan, and the eating of it that evening together with matzah and maror (bitter herbs). The Samaritans continue to perform this rite on Mount Gerizim, but for other Jews the Seder became the central rite after the destruction of the Second Temple.
The Passover prayer services are essentially the same as those of other pilgrim festivals. The first days Musaf service includes the prayer of dew , the petition for rain (Heb. Tefillat Geshem) , is no longer recited. In the Arvit (evening) service for the second day, the counting of the Omer begins.
Connections to Israel and Jerusalem: Zionism
Passover is a Biblical pilgrimage festival – The Torah tells us that all Jews who were able should make a pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, they would participate in festivities and ritual worship in conjunction with the services of the kohanim (“priests”) at the Temple.
In the Shaharit Amidah for Pesach we pray
Protect Jerusalem Your holy city, and exalt all your people Israel…
Accept the prayer of your people Israel as lovingly as it is offered. Restore worship to Your sanctuary, and may the worship of Your people Israel always be acceptable to You. May we witness Your merciful return to Zion. Praised are you Adonai, who restores the Divine Presence to Zion
In Hallel we pray
Pslam 116, I will honor my vows to Adonai in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the House of Adonai, in the midst of Jerusalem, Halleluyah!
In his vision of a restored Jerusalem, the prophet Isaiah refers to Zion as “the city of our appointed feasts.”
The prophet Zechariah foretells a messianic era when all nations will come to Jerusalem for the feast of Sukkot.
May we eat kitniyot on Pesach?
May Ashkenazi Jews consume legumes on Pesach? Contrary to popular belief, the Ashkenazi minhag to forbid legumes as ‘kitniyot’ doesn’t have much a reasonable basis, and many rabbis have wanted to overturn this minhag for centuries. In the last 50 years some Ashkenazi Jews both in and outside of Israel have paskened that this custom is no longer obligatory.
Rabbi Amy Levin and Rabbi Avram Israel Reisner wrote a responsa permitting consumption of legumes on Pesach for Jews who live in the Diaspora. This was accepted by the CJLS of the Rabbinical Assembly in 2015.
“A Teshuvah Permitting Ashkenazim to Eat Kitniyot on Pesah”
In Israel, Rabbi David Golinkin, president of the Schechter Institutes wrote a responsa on this in 1989. His paper originally applied only to Jews in Israel, where Ashkenazim are a minority, and are mixing in to Sephardi families through marriage. His 1989 paper was later revised, and translated into English, and made available here: Rice, beans and kitniyot on Pesah – are they really forbidden?
Connecting Passover to slavery in the modern world
Our religious holidays don’t mean anything if they become mere rituals; the entire point of halakhah – the Jewish way of life – is to have an effect on how we think and lives our lives, to transform mundanity into sacredness, and to be a light unto the nations. The story of Passover is the story of how we Jews were literally slaves in Egypt – and also, in successive generations, we were second class citizens or dhimmis in other cultures at many other times in history. As such our faith teaches us to be especially sensitive to slavery, calling us to speak out against it in every generation.
The Four Sons
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (mid 1800s) taught the four sons can symbolize four generations:
The first son represents the generation of Jews who are learned and observant.
The second son represents the generation that rebelled against the tradition.
The third son represents the generation whose only connection to Judaism was through their grandparents; This generation will partake in some Jewish ritual, but is unsure what it is all about.
The fourth son represents the generation that grew up without a Jewish education, and as such has never got to have a real connection to Judaism.
Concerning this insight, Rabbi Reuven Lauffer, of Ohr Somayach, writes:
Hidden in the Four Sons is the secret of the Jewish People. As a rule, when the troubles begin, it is the committed Jews that are thrown out of their host country and have to search for another place to live. It is this generation that are the “Wise” ones because they are prepared to give up their livelihood for their belief. However, on finding refuge, this generation works so hard, in order to let their children have the stability that was missing in their lives, that they do not have the time needed to educate their children in the way of Torah.
That next generation is faced with the decision to either blend in with the society of the country, or to remain “different” and choose the way of their parents. Very often there is no choice, the child immerses himself in the contemporary lifestyle and the parents’ world is ignored. That is the generation of the “wicked”.
Their children are the “naive” generation that accept their parent’s contemporary outlook. Their only attachment to the Truth and to Torah lies in their grandparents. Their offspring are the generation that “Do Not Even Know How To Ask”, their Great Grandparents are long gone and there is nothing for them to see that might spark their interest and make them ask.
Why is there no Fifth Son? Because if the assimilatory tide is not turned the damage is irreversible and there are no more generations. The ultimate blame lies, not with the Wicked Son but, rather, with the Wise Son who did not educate his children properly. Education is the only guarantee that we have to ensure our continuity.
The laws of Passover are discussed in Pesahim, the third tractate in the Order Mo’ed. It contains ten chapters with Gemara in both Talmuds and Tosefta.
Observing Passover during a pandemic: Preparing for Pesah During a Time of Pandemic
Responsa for times of emergency only: Streaming services on Shabbat and Yom Tov
What To Do When Erev Pesah is on Shabbat Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin
When Passover begins on a Saturday night
From The Rabbinical Assembly:
When Passover starts on a Saturday night, “Erev Pesach” is stretched over three days. The fast/feast of the firstborn, which would normally be on Passover eve, is pushed two days earlier, so that we do not have to fast on Shabbat or Friday. So, the traditional Siyyum for the firstborn will be held on Thursday morning.
Then, Thursday night is when we search for Hametz by candlelight.
Kitchens should be completely switched over to kosher for Passover and we get rid of almost all our hametz by burning or selling it by the sixth hour of the day on Friday.
But what about challah on Shabbat? For Shabbat meals, there are two solutions:
1. Eat hametz, but very carefully. The hametz sale document, and the way that we dispose of hametz, has a loophole for any hametz that web are planning to eat on the rest of Friday evening or Shabbat morning.
We can therefore hold back enough challah for Shabbat dinner and Shabbat lunch (this is a great time for paper plates or outdoor dining).
We finish eating the hametz by the fifth hour, and dispose of any leftovers by the sixth. Leftovers can be discarded–rendered inedible. At that time, we recite the “Kol Chamira” formula (normally recited when burning the hametz) that cancels any remaining hametz.
2. “Egg Matzah” is not technically considered Matzah, but is also not hametz, as it is similar to bread. So, it’s possible to use two sheets of it in the place of challah, and thus be totally kosher-for-Passover.