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Pesach Primer

Preparing for Passover

APRIL 8– APRIL 15, 2020


Prior to Passover, every Jew is required to remove all chometz from his home, property, and all premises under his or her jurisdiction (i.e., desk, office, locker, car). Even if one will not be on the premises during Passover, as long as one is there within 30 days of Passover, the obligation to remove all chometz before Passover applies. In such cases, one should consult a competent Halakhic authority and make the necessary arrangements.

To facilitate the removal of Chometz, one is obligated to conduct a diligent search in all places where Chometz may have been kept or consumed any time during the preceding year. The specified time for this search April 7th after 8:45pm, traditionally using a feather and the light of a candle. However, Passover cleaning must be started much earlier. The premises should be clean by the time the search begins (approximately 45 minutes after sunset). The blessing is recited before the search begins. The public disclaimer of ownership of chametz is recited at this time. These texts can be found in most traditional Haggadot.

It is permissible to sell Chometz to a non-Jew before the restrictions on Chometz go into effect on the day before Passover. To comply with the stringent requirements of Jewish law, the sale is conducted by contract through an Orthodox rabbi, who is empowered to act as an agent. The sold Chometz is the non-Jew’s property until after Passover ends and must be treated accordingly. The Chometz should be locked away until after Passover when the rabbi repurchases it for the community.

Restrictions on the eating, then use, and finally, possession of Chometz begin on the morning before Passover, April 8th, 2020 11:00am. The remaining Chametz must be destroyed (usually burned) 12:07pmChometz which remains in a Jew’s possession during Passover may not be used by him or any other Jew at any time, and it may not be purchased after Passover. If Chometz is discovered during Passover, it should be disposed of, in accordance with Jewish law, as soon as possible.


Please remember to make an Eruv Tavshilin on Wednesday, April 8th, before 7:39 pm. This is a dish of one cooked and one baked item, such as matzah and a hard boiled egg.  This represents the begining of cooking for Shabbat and allows one to cook on Yom Tov for eating on Shabbat the text to designate an Eruv Tavshilin is here.


Jewish law requires special dishes, cooking utensils, glassware, silverware, and table linen for Passover use, with separate meat and dairy sets. They can be made of any material, including plastic or paper. Once they are used for chometz, they may not be used again on Passover.

If it is not possible to maintain a complete set of separate utensils for Passover it may be possible to use some year-round utensils for Passover after a special “kashering” procedure. “Kashering” should only be done under the guidance of a rabbi. Metal and wooden utensils, if they can be thoroughly cleaned, may be “kashered”, but earthenware utensils may not be “kashered”. Procedures for “kashering” depend on how the utensil was used during the year. Consult with your rabbi for details.

Shelves, countertops and eating surfaces used year round should be cleaned and covered for Passover use, and special dish racks and wash basins should be used. Cooking surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned and covered. Ovens should be thoroughly cleaned, and either “kashered” by being “burned out” or used with a special insert liner.


Any food or food product containing fermented grain products (chometz) may not be used or remain in a Jew’s possession on Passover. Even foods with minute amounts of chometz ingredients, or foods processed on utensils which are used for other chometz-containing foods, are not permissible for Passover use.

Ashkenazic Jews (Jews of Eastern European descent) do not eat many legumes (kitnios) - beans, corn, peas, rice, etc. - and products containing them as ingredients, throughout Passover while Sephardic, Yemenite and Oriental Jewish custom varies from one community to another.

Because of the large number of food products which contain chometz or kitnios ingredients, only food products manufactured under reliable rabbinical supervision should be purchased for Passover use. That includes beverages, condiments, spices, and all processed foods such as fruits and vegetables, fish, meat and dairy products, and, especially, baked goods.

Grain alcohol is a fermentation product, and is there-fore chometz. Any edible items which normally contain grain alcohol, including whiskey, liquor, and liquid medications (however, see paragraph F for further information on medications), and even those which are not usually taken internally (such as perfumes, cologne, toilet water, hair spray, hair tonic, shaving lotion, mouth-wash, liquid and roll-on deodorants) should be treated as chometz unless specifically approved for Passover use.

Totally inedible non-food products which contain grain alcohol such as polish, ink, paint and floor wax, are permissible for Passover use.

Any person with a medical condition must consult his or her physician and rabbi to ascertain the medicines that should be taken during the holiday, and any special procedures that should be followed.

There are many families which maintain the tradition of additional restrictions to their Passover diet. Some do not eat any food products made of matzoh or matzoh meal mixed with water (gebrokt) during the first seven days of Passover.



A special seder plate is displayed during the seder, containing the key elements of Passover. The plate is carefully prepared and placed before the head of the household, or the one conducting the seder, who dispenses the seder foods to each of the participants. The following items appear on the seder plate:

1/         Three whole matzos – unleavened “bread” (on the plate or next to it)

2/         Maror – bitter herbs, usually horseradish or romaine lettuce

3/         Charoses – special mixture of apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon symbolizing mortar

4/         Karpas – a vegetable, preferably parsley or celery

5/         Zeroah – a piece of roasted or boiled meat or poultry, preferably a shankbone, recalling the Paschal sacrifice of the original Exodus. Before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple the Paschal sacrifice was the central feature of the Seder.

6/         Baytzah – a roasted or boiled egg, commemorating the festival sacrifice that was brought at the Jerusalem Temple. An egg is used because it is a traditional food for mourners, reminding us of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.


There are five basic obligations (mitzvos) performed by each Jew, in the course of the seder.

1/         eating matzos

2/         drinking four cups of wine (arbah kosos)

3/         eating bitter herbs (maror)

4/         relating the story of the exodus (haggadah or magid)

5/         reciting Psalms of praise (Hallel)


There are three times during the course of the seder when matzoh must be eaten: at the beginning of the seder meal, when the special blessing over matzoh is made, for the korech (“Hillel Sandwich”) together with the maror, and at the end of the meal for the afikomon.

For the appropriate minimum quantities of matzoh, and the time period in which it must be consumed, please refer to the following section on Shiurim (measurements).

Three unbroken matzos are required for the seder plate for each seder. Each individual must consume the minimum specified quantity of matzoh during the course of the seder. If the matzos from the seder plate are insufficient, they should be supplemented by additional matzos.

The matzoh is eaten while reclining on the left side as a symbol of freedom. The piece of matzoh called afikomon should be eaten before midnight, and no solid food should be eaten thereafter.

To fulfill the mitzvos of the seder, one must use “Shmurah Matzos”, which are produced under a special standard of supervision, beginning with the harvest of the grain (rather than with its milling into flour, as with regular matzos for Passover).

Matzoh made with fruit juice or eggs, including egg-matzoh, whole wheat matzoh, and chocolate covered egg-matzoh, egg barley, are permissible on Passover only for the elderly, sick, or young children who cannot digest regular matzoh. Under no circumstances should they be eaten by others at any time during Passover, nor can they be eaten to fulfill the mitzvos of the seder.


One is obligated to drink four cups of wine at these specific times during each seder: the first at the start of the seder, following kiddush; the second before the meal, after reciting the Haggadah story; the third following the Grace After the Meal; and the last after completing Psalms of Praise (Hallel).

Please consult the following section on Shiurim (measurements) for minimum volumes necessary to be consumed and time limits for each of the four cups.

Red wine is the preferred beverage for use during the seder. If a person has difficulty drinking wine, it may be diluted with kosher grape juice. If one wishes to dilute the wine with water, a rabbi should be consulted to determine the minimum acceptable proportions. If someone cannot drink even diluted wine, he may drink kosher grape juice instead. If an individual cannot drink any grape product, then a rabbi should be consulted on the proper beverage to substitute in order to fulfill the mitzvah of drinking the four cups.

One should drink wine reclining on the left side in order to symbolize freedom.


All persons are obligated to eat bitter herbs twice at each seder. According to most authorities, the bitter herbs may consist of either romaine lettuce, horseradish or endives.

When using the romaine lettuce, one may use the stalks or leaves for maror. When horseradish is used for the maror, it should be chopped, ground or grated to reduce its strength, but it must be covered so as not to be weakened too much. Cooked or preserved vegetables are not suitable for maror; therefore commercially prepared grated horseradish, which is packed in vinegar, may not be used for the mitzvah.

The maror is dipped in charoses, a specially prepared mixture of wine, nuts, cinnamon, and apples, symbolizing the bricks and mortar of ancient Egypt.

Immediately thereafter, a second, smaller volume of maror is eaten with matzoh in the korech (“Hillel Sandwich”).

When lettuce is used, it must be cleaned and inspected very carefully to remove the small insects which often are present in its leaves. One recommended way to clean lettuce of insects is to soak it for not more than half an hour in salt water, and rinse it in fresh water before inspection.

for the minimum volume of ShiurimConsult the following section on maror to be consumed each time and the time limits.


Most of the unique seder practices are designed to stimulate interest and arouse curiosity in the Exodus story. The central theme for the Haggadah is the discussion of the Exodus, a timeless event which has forged countless generations of Jews into an unbroken chain through history, with each year’s seder another link of that chain.

The seder is a symbolic re-enactment of the Exodus with a compelling message for young and old alike. Seder participants are encouraged to discuss the various aspects of the Exodus in detail, beyond the text of the Haggadah.

Young children are encouraged to participate in the seder to the extent of their ability. In addition to the “Four Questions” at the start of the seder, they are encouraged to drink the Four Cups, eat the maror and matzoh, and ask as many questions as they wish.

In addition to relating the story of the Exodus, each Jew at the seder is obligated to discuss three central elements of the seder ritual - the Paschal sacrifice, the matzoh and the maror, as explained in the Haggadah. The seder is a miniature re-creation of the Exodus, and participants should imagine themselves as leaving Egypt.

The formal part of the seder closes with special Psalms known as Hallel, which praise the Almighty and His special relationship with the people of Israel.

The seder traditionally concludes with the singing of several lively songs celebrating the relationship between G-d and the Jewish People.


In order to fulfill the mitzvos of the Passover seder, it is necessary to consume a minimum quantity (shiur) of the Four Cups of wine, matzoh and maror, in a minimum period of time. For wine, the volume of most of a revi’is should be consumed. For matzoh and maror, a k’zayis is the minimum volume. The time limit is k’day achilas pras.

Rabbinic authorities have historically disagreed as to the exact quantities that each of these represent in modern measures. We quote here, the modern equivalent values for the minimum acceptable quantities (b’dieved) for each of these mitzvos, according to the listings published by the Otzar Haposkim of Jerusalem. We also include some practical suggestions for estimating these amounts.

We urge the reader to consult with a competent Halachic authority for the ideal quantities that should be consumed in each case to perform the mitzvah optimally (l’chatchila).

Minimum Volume for Wine: 86 c.c. (3.0 fluid ounces). This should be the minimum size of wine cups used during the Passover seder for drinking the Four Cups. Each seder participant must drink more than half this volume for each of the Four Cups to fulfill the mitzvah.

Minimum Quantity of matzoh: At least one-third of an average, machine made matzoh. (Please note, however, that machine made matzos vary in size.) Optimally (l’chatchila), one should consume substantially higher minimum quantities both for the initial mitzvah of achilat matzoh and for the afikoman.

Minimum Volume of maror (Bitter Herbs): 19 grams (0.7 fluid ounces). In the case of ground horseradish, this volume can be easily estimated by putting it in a small cup or glass. In the case of lettuce, this volume can be estimated as follows:

Leaves: enough to cover an area of 80 square inches (8” by 10”)

Stalks: enough to cover and area of 15 square inches (3” by 5”)

Time Limits : The drinking of each of the Four Cups of wine should be done, if possible, in one or two swallows. In any event, the drinking of each cup of wine and the eating of the matzoh and maror, respectively, should each be completed within 9 minutes.



Fermented or leavened wheat, rye, oats, spelt and barley. When these grains come into contact with water, they leaven within 18 minutes. In the case of hot or salted water, leavening takes place instantly. Chometz may not be consumed either by eating or drinking, and may not be held in one’s possession, nor may any benefit be derived from chometz. Grain flour is commonly produced from grains that have been washed and tempered. Tempering is the process by which grains are softened by soaking in water, and this flour and all products made with it are, therefore, chometz.


Leguminous vegetables such as beans, peas, corn and rice. The consumption of these foods is restricted by European Rabbinic tradition, though these foods are not chometz. Unlike chometz, benefit from, and possession of kitnios during Passover are permitted. Yemenite, Sephardic and Oriental Jews are not bound to this custom by their traditions. The tradition of the kitnios restriction has been steadfastly maintained by all the Jews of European origin for centuries. This includes the Jews of France, England, Germany, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Austria and the Low Countries.


Unleavened bread prepared from the flour of grains that have not been washed or tempered, and have been milled under supervision, completely protected from any contact with water. Matzoh may be prepared only with water that has been stored overnight. It is kneaded into dough either by hand or machine, but only in a cool room, since heat may cause instant leavening. The dough may not be left idle for a period longer than 18 minutes. It is rolled into thin sheets and then baked.

All equipment used in the preparation of matzoh must be constantly cleaned of dough crumbs, and the oven in which matzoh is baked must be set at the proper temperature. Insufficiently heated ovens cause leavening to occur. Once matzoh has been baked properly, leavening can no longer occur, and the product can no longer become chometz. Therefore, matzoh products such as ground matzoh meal, flour and farfel may be cooked in hot water, baked or blended with any variety of Passover ingredients.

Shemurah Matzoh

Matzoh used for the seder on Passover eve. All Jews must fulfill the mitzvah of achilas matzoh – “eating of matzoh”. This matzoh is eaten at the seder before the seder meal, at which time the blessings of Hamotzi and Al achilas matzoh are pronounced. Such matzoh must be prepared with the expressed purpose of the mitzvah of matzoh (l’shem matzas mitzvah). It is traditional that the flour from which this matzoh is prepared should be specially supervised from the time the wheat is cut – shmurah mishaas ketzirah. When this special supervision has been instituted only from the time of milling – shmurah mishaas techinah – matzos prepared from such flour may be used for matzos mitzvah only when the traditional matzoh shmurah mishaas ketzirah is not available.

Matzoh Ashirah

“Egg matzoh” made from flour kneaded with fruit juice or eggs. This matzoh may not be used for the mitzvah regardless of which flour is used. This type of matzoh is commonly referred to as “egg matzoh”, since it is usually prepared with eggs. Water may not be used in the baking of “egg matzoh” since adding water to the dough would create instant leavening. According to European Halachic tradition, such matzoh may be consumed on Pesach only by the elderly, sick or young children who cannot digest regular matzoh. Under normal circumstances, “egg matzoh” should not be used; both because it is feared that some water may have accidentally been blended into the dough, and in deference to the opinion which maintains that the mixture of flour with any liquid other than water causes immediate chometz.

Bedikas Chometz

The search for chometz. On the night of the thirteenth of Nisan, (April 7th, 2020 – after 8:45 pm) a search for chometz is to be conducted in the home, wherever chometz may have been brought during the year. The search is conducted in the evening, by candlelight. Chometz found during the search is set aside for burning the next day.

Bitul Chometz

The nullification of chometz.Since chometz may not be held in one’s possession during Passover, one may rid oneself of the chometz by declaring all types of chometz in one's posswssion to be dust and ashes, abandoned property. The bitul (renunciation) is pronounced immediately after the search, to nullify the chometz that may have been overlooked, and again after the burning in the morning, to include any additional chometz that may have come into one’s possession in the interim.

Biur Chometz

The destruction of chometz. All chometz in one's pessesion must be destroyed before Passover, by 12:07th pm on the fourteenth day of Nisan – April 8th 2020. Though any method of complete disposal is permitted, i.e., flushing into sewers or throwing into the sea, it is traditional to destroy chometz by fire, after which the bitul is pronounced to nullify any chometz that may have been overlooked.

Mechiras Chometz

Sale of chometz to a non-Jew. The requirement of biur chometz is limited to foods under Jewish ownership and possession. Chometz that has been transferred to a non-Jew, need not be destroyed. Such transfer of chometz, by legal and binding sale with properly executed contract (shtar mechirah) gives the non-Jew full title to all chometz foods. This transfer is traditionally carried out by engaging the Rabbi to act as agent – with power of attorney to sell the chometz to a non-Jew – by means of kabbolas kinyan and contract (shtar harshoah). The Rabbi, acting as an agent for the owners of the chometz, then enters into an agreement with a non-Jew for the sale of the chometz. Chometz that has been sold must be put in a completely sealed-off place, inaccessible during Passover.

Chometz She’Avar Alav Ha’Pesach

Any chometz held over Passover under Jewish ownership. This chometz may not be used or sold after Passover, as a penalty for failure to perform the mitzvos of bedikah and biur properly. Selling the chometz before Passover to a non-Jew avoids Jewish ownership during Passover. The mitzvos of bedikah and biur have therefore not been violated, and the injunction of chometz she’avar alav ha’pesach is avoided.

Wed, 27 May 2020 4 Sivan 5780