The Fast of the Ninth of Av

The term “Tisha B’Av,” means “the ninth of av.” “Av” is the fifth month of the Jewish year, so “Tisha B’Av” refers to the ninth day of the month of Av.

Tisha B’Av is the day that both Holy Temples were destroyed. The First Holy Temple was destroyed in the year 3338 after Creation (422 B.C.E.). The Second Holy Temple was destroyed 490 years later, in 3828 after Creation (68 C.E.).

It was a day marked for evil. On that day in 2448 (1312 B.C.E. — 890 years before the Destruction of the First Temple), the Children of Israel accepted and believed the false report of the Spies (see Numbers 13:1-14:45.) On that day, Hashem decreed that because of this sin the generation that left Egypt would not enter the Land of Israel, and only their children would, forty years later. Moreover, Hashem decreed that later evils would befall the Jewish People on the anniversary of that day.

And, sadly, this has proven true. On that day, in 3893 (133 C.E.), the city of Beitar was destroyed during the Bar Kochba revolt. And on that day (I guess in 3894 after Creation — 134 C.E.), the wicked Tinneius Rufus, Roman Governor of Israel, plowed over the site of the Holy Temple. Many later events throughout our history also took place on Tisha B’Av, such as the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. World War I began, which, it is said, was the direct cause of World War II, a tragic time for world history, and particularly for the Jews.

For more events that took place on Tisha B’Av throughut the millennia, visit the Ohr Somayach website

The primary reason for the fasting and other observances of Tisha B’Av, however, is because on the Ninth of Av the enemy set fire to the Holy Temple.

Therefore, on this day we observe a greater level of mourning than during the rest of the Three Weeks. We mourn the destruction of Hashem’s Holy House, which was and will be our greatest location of blessing and spirituality; we mourn the Exile of Hashem’s Glory; we mourn the scattered exile of all Jews and the pain and suffering we have been through and are still put though in many places; we mourn the fact that we cannot keep all the Commandments because there is no Holy Temple; we mourn the fact that we cannot conduct our own lives entirely as Hashem wants us to because we are under the subjugation of other people.

Thus, on Tisha B’Av, from the night before until the stars come out at the end of the day (approximately 25 hours in most areas) we may not eat or drink anything at all—not even water. (We may not even wash out our mouths.)

Note that unlike any other fast besides Yom Kippur, the fast begins the night before. All fasts, except Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, begin in the morning and last until the night. Only Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av span a night and a day, lasting about 25 hours each.

(The reason it lasts 25 hours and not 24 is because it is not clear if a new day begins (and the previous day ends), according to the Torah, when the sun goes down or when the stars come out. Therefore, to cover all the bases, we begin when the sun goes down and continue until the next day when the stars come out. This prevents us from transgressing the Law at either time.)

On Tisha B’Av you may (and must) feed your pets or other animals that depend solely on you for food.

We may not bathe. When we wash our hands at any time in the day—even when we first wake up in the morning— we wash only up to the joints at the base of our fingers and not the rest of the hand. We may wash areas that have become soiled or stained, but no more than that.

We may not wear footwear that has any leather (other leather clothing, such as a leather belt or leather gloves, is permitted). It is forbidden to have marital relations.

We sit on the floor or on cushions or very low chairs, and not on regular chairs or benches. (This last is in effect only from sunset the night before until half-day on Tisha B’Av. After that time, we may sit on regular chairs.)

Anything needed for medical reasons is permitted (and is sometimes compulsory, if the doctor says so).

Levity, games, or any activity that takes one’s mind off mourning (except sleeping) is forbidden. We may not greet each other. We may not give or accept gifts (charity is permitted). We should not conduct business. Going to work is permitted only if financial loss will be caused otherwise, or if you could lose your job. Housework should not be done. Preparing food is permitted after midday.

Before midday, smoking is prohibited. After midday, if you absolutely must smoke, you may smoke in private.

The study of Torah is also forbidden, except for things that are appropriate on Tisha B’Av. This is because the Torah says «Hashem’s Laws are righteous, they make the heart happy…» (Psalms 19:9).
However, it is permitted to study topics of Torah that are relevant to Tisha B’Av or to mourning. Some examples of these are the Book of Lamentations and its commentaries, the story of the Destruction of the Holy Temple as told in the Talmud and other Rabbinic Writings, the Laws of Tisha B’Av, the Book of Job and its cmmentaries, the Laws of mourning, and the warnings of the Prophets before the Destruction.

Tisha B’Av is not a Holiday. We may drive our cars, turn on and off lights, and so forth, like any other weekday.

Everything forbidden during the Three Weeks and the Nine Days is forbidden on Tisha B’Av. We may not listen to or play music, take haircuts (like in the Three Weeks); we may not go swimming or wash our clothes (like in the Nine Days).

On the night of Tisha B’Av we read the Book of Lamentations after the Nighttime Prayer, and recite a few «Kinnot,» special prayers for and about Tisha B’Av. We pray Shacharis (the Morning Prayer) without tallit and without tefillin, because they are adornments of pride and joy. After Shacharit we recite a lot of Kinnot.

We wear our tallit and tefillin for the afternoon Mincha prayers.

All this mourning is done to spur us to full repentance.

The month of Av is also called Menachem Av, the consoling month of Av. This is because we hope and pray that Hashem will soon turn this time of sadness into a time of joy by bringing us the Rescue From Exile that we have been awaiting for almost 2,000 years. Then we will be able to serve Hashem as He wants us to.

When that time comes, and the Holy Temple is rebuilt, when all the Jewish People will return to the land of Israel, when we will have no enemies, when all Jews will know Hashem, study Torah and understand and observe the Commandments, when all the world will accept Hashem as the Al-mighty, and everyone will live in peace, at that time Tisha B’Av will become a day of joy and a Yom Tov (Jewish Holiday).

May Hashem make this happen soon!

The Three Week

The Three Weeks span from the morning of the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz until midday of the day after the Fast of Tisha B’Av.

During the Three Weeks we may not perform or attend weddings under any circumstances, even if no festive meal is served. It is permitted to get engaged during this time, and a seudah (meal) may be served.

During the Three weeks it is forbidden to dance or play or listen to musical instruments. We may not buy or don new clothing. This does not apply to all types of clothing. For example, we may buy new socks, undergarments, shoes or shirts.

It is also forbidden to take a haircut or to shave, or even to just trim one’s beard. Someone who must shave for business reasons and has a hetter (dispensation ruling) from his Rabbi, may do so during the Three Weeks, but not during the Nine Days. It is permitted to trim a moustache that interferes with eating.

A Married woman may cut hair that protrudes from beneath her hair covering. She may also pluck her eyebrows and trim her eyelashes.

It is permitted to cut one’s nails during the Three Weeks.

It is permitted to comb your hair during the Three Weeks, even though it is possible that some hair may get torn out during the combing.

It is permitted, on the day of a bris milah, for the father, the mohel and the sandek (man who holds the baby during the bris) to take a haircut. But it is NOT permitted to take a haircut in honor of a Bar Mitzvah.

During the Three Weeks one should refrain from doing anything that might be dangerous in any way. This is a time when evil things have happened to the Jewish People, many times, over the past two and half thousand years. During the Nine Days especially, the statistics of fatal Jewish teen car accidents in the United States is way out of proportion with those of the rest of the year, to name the most notable example.

During the Three Weeks the Haftoros (passages from the Prophets) that we read on Shabbos (the Sabbath) are relevant to this period of time. These are the Three of Pur’oniyos (misfortune), wherein the Prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah warn of the impending Destruction of the Holy Temple and our exiling to Babylon. They are part of the general tone of the Three Weeks, and it is the only concession that Shabbos makes to that sad tone.

This is a sad time, which is difficult for a religion and people that live so much in joy. But just as serving Hashem with joy is an obligation the entire year, keeping a measure of sadness during this time is also our obligation, and is, during the Three Weeks, how we must serve Hashem.

But Hashem will overturn our sadness to joy, when he takes us out of exile and restores to us our judges, courts, our land, the city of Jerusalem, and His Service in the Holy Temple. May it happen soon!

Baking The Passover Matzah

Preparing for Passover can be a lot of fun, but it takes a lot of work. The most interesting part is the baking of the Matzoh.

In the Hasidic group in which I mingle, we bake our own Matzoh. This is not unusual among the Orthodox. One reason that we bake the matzos ourselves is because it is always better to have personal involvement in a mitzvah. The Torah commands us to eat matzos on the two nights of Passover, and everything done in preparation for that is part of the mitzvah. The participation in a mitzvah both ennobles the person, and raises the level of the observance of the mitzvah itself.

About thirty or so people form an association, and rent out the bakery for four hours. There’s a job for everyone, and each association is planned exactly to fill the needed jobs. In the better associations, each participant gets about four to five pounds of matzoh per person.

It is necessary to understand that in addition to the Mitzvah of eating matzoh on the two nights of Passover, the Torah also forbids us to eat (or even have in our possession) chometz, leaven, or anything that has come into contact with leaven. So, everything we use for Passover must be free of leaven and bread. Of course, the very matzoh we eat must be made with the utmost care not to rise and become chometz. When we bake matzos, that is our primary concern.

If unbaked flour and water remain together for a period of 18 minutes, they automatically begin to leaven and rise. There are ways to slow down the process, and there are factors that can speed up the process. Therefore, we take great care not to allow the process of leavening to speed up.

All utensils used for the creation and baking of matzoh must be utterly clean, and most
especially free of any taint of flour, water, or dough.

First, paper is laid out over the tables where workers will be rolling the dough. Each worker receives a clean rolling pin. Meanwhile, a kneading bowl is prepared. The person in charge of that job washes the kneading bowl, then checks it to make sure there is no visible speck of dough in it. Even one speck of leavened dough can leaven an entire bowl of unleavened dough.

He dries it, checking again, this time to make sure it is dry. He places the bowl on the
pedestal, the kneader calls for flour, and the flour is poured, in exact measurement. This flour has been guarded from liquid since the wheat was harvested.

Water is carefully poured into this flour. The water is water from a well, left overnight to
cool to room temperature. The water is poured carefully so as not to raise flour dust that might float around and attach itself to an unwanted place, perhaps later coming into contact with water and creating leaven where and when we don’t want it.

The kneader begins to mix the flour and dough.

A good kneader takes about 30 seconds to prepare a batch of dough. (The best kneaders can do it in 20 seconds.) The batch is rushed to the main table, where it is divided and dealt out to the rollers, who roll their pieces into matzohs.

Meanwhile, another bowl is brought to the kneader, and the process starts again, even while the rollers are still rolling out the first dough.

The flat pieces of dough, which has been rolled into matzoh shapes, are next perforated so there can be no air bubbles trapped inside to puff up the matzoh. Next they are placed in the oven, where, due to the extreme heat, they are fully baked about 2O seconds later.

The oven is a specially constructed brick or stone oven, used only for the baking of matzoh. It has been stoked and heated all night, to attain a heat that can almost instantly bake anything. (When I visited a reconstructed colonial town a few years ago, I found I knew more about how to use the ancient stone oven than the tour guide did. I have personal experience with one; she did not.)

This whole process, from the placing of water to the removal of a finished matzoh from the oven, takes about 3 minutes.

Leavening, under optimum conditions, takes about 18 minutes, so conditions are kept as preventive as possible. Every 18 minutes all utensils are changed, and all hands are washed. The rolling pins are exchanged for clean ones, usually cleaned by sanding with sandpaper.

After the matzos are taken out of the oven, they are checked through for possible problems, like trapped air bubbles, or folds of dough in which there might be unbaked flour. Of course, we take off «challah,» which the Torah commands us to remove from everything we bake and give to a kohen (Jewish priest of the Levite Tribe) who is ritually prepared. Unfortunately, it is impossible to have that ritual state today (see my article about rebuilding the Holy Temple), so we have to burn those small pieces of matzoh that have been separated and removed from the batch.

Afterwards, the matzos are weighed, and carefully wrapped (or boxed, when this is
requested), and stored in a side room until they are divided among the workers.

Throughout the work, the mood is generally jovial, without our losing sight of the importance of the work. Often one of the guys will spontaneously break into song, and we’ll all join him in one of those rollicking, delightfully syncopated tunes that Hassidim are famous for.

Interestingly enough, one of the hardest positions to fill is the position of cleaning the
kneading bowls — not because no one wants to do it, but because not everyone can be trusted to do it properly. Anyone with a half hour of practice can roll out dough, but you can’t train an eye to be efficient, or a person to be reliable and scrupulous. The same goes for the guys who clean the rolling pins.

Sometimes, what seems to be most menial of tasks is also the most responsible.

Regarding Matzah

We eat matzah on Passover night to fulfill God’s Commandment to us to eat matzah during the Passover Seder. The Egyptians fed the Children of Israel (and probably all slaves) matzah, because it takes longer to digest, and they could therefore feed them less often.

Furthermore, when God took us out of Egypt, He wished to teach us that He keeps His promises promptly, and therefore rushed us out of Egypt, without even giving us time to let our dough rise. We are therefore commanded to eat matzah on Passover night and forbidden to eat leavened bread (chometz) throughout the eight days of Passover.

The best matzah to use is the guarded matzah made by hand. Immediately upon being harvested, the grain is guarded from moisture so that it does not become leavened. The grains are guarded from moisture at all times—even after it becomes flour—until it is finally matzah.

These matzos are unlike the matzos you will find anywhere else, or anytime else. They are special Passover matzos, and they are called «shmuro matzos,» guarded matzos. They look and taste unlike any other matzos. They are not usually baked square, but round. (Though they sometimes make them square, too.)

It was the custom among many Gentiles in the ancient world to bake into their bread or matzos a sign of their religious beliefs. Many baked their bread in the shape of the idol they worshiped. One common custom was to indicate the number of idols they worshiped, by creating an equal number of corners on their matzah.

Because the Creator of the universe is eternal, Jews often made round matzos, since a circle has no beginning and no end.

For those who cannot eat wheat, shmuro matzos are also available in oat and spelt.

Amounts: How Much?

The Torah requires that when one fulfills a Commandment one must fulfill it to a significant degree. It is not sufficient, for example, to merely sip the wine. One must drink a significant amount. The Torah has therefore mandated minimum amounts for all commandments.

Each wine cup for the Four Cups must hold a minimum of four and a half ounces. A sick person may be more lenient and use a cup as small as three ounces.

When drinking the Four Cups, one must drink a «majority» of the wine, i.e., more than half the wine that is in the cup.

When eating Matzah and Koraich, one must eat an amount that covers an area of at least seven by six-and-a-half inches.

If one uses romaine lettuce for the Bitter Herbs and Koraich, one must eat an amount that covers an area of at least eight by ten inches. That usually necessitates eating two or three leaves.

The Four Cups of Wine

As I mentioned in the brief History of the Exodus, G-d spoke to Moses and told him of the impending Exodus. G-d said to Moses:

Therefore tell the Children of Israel that I am G-d, and I will take you away from the
oppression of Egypt, I will free you from their slavery, and I will liberate you with an outstretched arm (i.e. a demonstration of My power) and great judgments. I will claim you for me as a people, and I will be your G-d. You will know that I am Hashem your G-d who is bringing you out of the oppression of Egypt. I will bring you to the land I have sworn to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as an inheritance. I am G-d.

— Exodus 6:6-8

Five expressions of redemption are used here. These expressions correspond to the promises that G-d made to Abraham at the Covenant Between the Parts. G-d told Abraham that his descendants would be 1) aliens, 2) enslaved, 3) oppressed, 4) rescued to become the Chosen People, and 5) given the Land of Israel permanently.

The first act of Redemption that G-d did for us in Egypt was to stop the oppression. Therefore, the First Cup commemorates «I will take you away from the oppression.»

The second act of Redemption that G-d did for us in Egypt was to end the slavery. Therefore, the Second Cup commemorates «I will free you from their slavery.»

The third act of Redemption that G-d did for us in Egypt was to rescue us from Egypt with many miracles. Therefore, the Third Cup commemorates «I will liberate you with an outstretched arm.»

The fourth act of Redemption that G-d did for us was to bring us to Mount Sinai, give us the Holy Torah, and thus declare us his Chosen People. Therefore, the Fourth Cup commemorates «I will claim you for me as a people, and I will be your G-d.»

The fifth act of Redemption was to bring us to the Land of Israel. Unfortunately, that was not expected to be permanent, and indeed has not been. Even now, when many Jews live in Israel, it is not the kingdom that G-d has promised us. When the Messiah comes, we will institute the drinking of the Fifth Cup, to commemorate «And I will bring them to the land.»

We pray daily that the Messiah arrives soon. Thus many people, near the end of the Seder, have the custom to fill one extra cup, and place it somewhere prominent on the table. This symbolizes our hope that we will soon be permitted to drink a Fifth Cup.

The Prophet Malachi tells us that G-d will send us the Prophet Elijah before the Final
Redemption, to prepare us (Malachi 3:23). For this reason we call this cup of hopefulness the «Cup of Elijah.»

Simply drinking four cups of wine is not permissible. One cannot fulfill the requirement in that manner. One must drink the Four Cups at the appropriate times, interspersed between the various sections of the Seder.

Lighting the Candles

If the Seder is to take place on a Friday night, then the candles must be lit before sunset. All other nights the candles should be lit when you start the Seder, and only from a flame that was lit before the Holiday started.

It is customary that the woman of the household light the candles, but any adult may do it. Take a lit match or candle in your hand, and just before lighting the candles, say the following blessings:

Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Who has made us holy through His commandments, and commanded us to light the (Sabbath and) Holiday light.

Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

Light the candles. Do not blow out the match. Put it down in a safe place, and let it burn out by itself.

May it be Your will Hashem my G-d and G-d of my forefathers that You show favor to me (my husband, my son(s) and daughter(s), my father and mother), and all my relatives; that You grant us and all Israel a good and long life; that You remember us with a remembrance that will grant us good and blessings; that You consider us with a consideration that will grant us salvation and mercy; that You bless us with great blessings; that You make our homes complete; and that You cause Your Presence to dwell among us.

Make me worthy of the privilege and grant me the merit to raise children and grandchildren who are wise and understanding, who love Hashem, and fear Hashem; may they be people of truth, holy offspring, devoutly faithful to Hashem, and may they illuminate the world with Torah and good deeds and with every type of activity that serves the Creator.

Please, listen to my request at this favorable time, in the merit of our mothers Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. And illuminate our lights so that they never get extinguished. Shine your «Face» upon us with joy and we will be saved, Amen.

When the First Day of Passover is on Sunday

There are numerous things that we must do on the day before Passover that we are not allowed to do on the Sabbath.

So what happens when the day before Passover is on the Sabbath?

The Bedikas Chometz — checking for the leavened bread and similar products, is done on Thursday night. It cannot be done on Friday night for a number of reasons. One of them is because we need to check the house for chometz using a lit candle. It is forbidden to move fire (or even an unlit candle) during the Sabbath. So instead of doing it the night before Passover, which is Friday night, we do it Thursday night, one night earlier. The procedure is exactly the same in all other respects.

The next morning, Friday morning, we burn the chometz. During the Sabbath it is forbidden to set a fire or to add anything to a fire, or to burn anything in a fire (or to extinguish a fire). When the day before Passover is on the Sabbath we could not possibly burn the chometz that day, as we would normally do. So instead, we do it Friday morning, two days before Passover.

However, at that time, we do not recite the Kol Chamira — the declaration of abandoning all chometz. We recite that on the Sabbath morning, after we have eaten our last bit of chometz.

For the Sabbath, we do not make anything that we could not keep in the house during Passover.Therefore, all Shabbos food should be free of chometz, and should be made in pots and pans that can be used during Passover. Ashkenazim, who may not eat kitniyos (legumes, peas, corn, soy, rice, string beans, mustard, beans, sesame or products containing any of these), may not cook them in Passover pots either. This means that if you usually make a Shabbos cholent with beans, it is best not to do so for that Shabbos.

In short, before the Sabbath, we cook a Passover meal in the Passover pots.

It is forbidden to at matzah on the day before Passover, so we must use challah during this Sabbath. However, we cannot leave any challah or challah crumbs in the house during Passover, so we must be very careful to eat
every last bit of the challah.

What is generally done is as follows:

Before the Sabbath, we buy very small challah rolls. Make sure to put them far away from anything to be used for Passover. And be sure to put them in a place where children or animals can’t get to them. You do not want them anywhere in the house during Passover!

On Sabbath, we are required to eat three meals: one at night, and two during the day. On this Sabbath, for each of the three Sabbath meals, we eat the challah in the hallway, or on the outside steps, or somewhere that we are allowed to carry the challah (i.e., not in another domain or property). We make sure to finish the challah entirely, leaving as few crumbs as possible. We brush ourselves off very carefully, so we do not bring any crumbs of chometzinto the house. We very carefully wash our hands and mouths in the bathroom, or anywhere that will not be near Passover food. (Toothpicks are often very helpful for this. If you want to brush your teeth, which is a good idea, you must make sure not to use toothpaste. It is forbidden to use toothpaste on the Sabbath. Mouthwash is permitted, but it won’t help against the chometz in your teeth and mouth.)

When we are sure we are as clean as we can make ourselves, we then return to the dining room, and eat the Sabbath meal using the Passover dishes. We do this process for all three meals of Shabbos.

Since it is still very difficult to ensure that we are completely free of chometz, especially in our mouths, many people use plastic dishes for the Shabbos meal. We can’t use the yearly dishes, since even before Shabbos we must put
those dishes and utensils away for Passover.

As I mentioned above, on the Sabbath we are supposed to eat three meals — one at night, and two during the day. However, it is forbidden to eat a meal in the afternoon before a Sabbath or Holiday. It is also forbidden to eat any chometz after a certain time of the day. That time of day is usually very early in the morning.

Let me discuss this a bit.

It is forbidden to eat chometz or to own chometz, or to even use chometz, past a certain time of the day on the morning before Passover. This time always takes place at a specific, calculated time, based on the length of the day in each area. In other words, it is dependent on locale.

If you travel often, you may have noticed that the daylight hours are longer in some parts of the world than in others, throughout the year.

You may have heard that at the North Pole there are six months of night and six months of day. During the summer months, there is no nighttime at all. During the winter, there is no daylight.

As you move a little more south, say to northern Greenland, or Svalbard, you begin to see a little nighttime, for periods as short as an hour in some areas. As you move more south, like in northern Norway, you get slightly longer nights. and so on, as you move south.

So, for example, on the day of August 1st, you will find some places that have no night at all, some places that have a little night, and some places that have six hours of night. At the South Pole, there is no night at all that time of year!

So, when it comes to the cutoff time for eating chometz, the time is calculated according to the individual locale. Therefore, each area has a slightly different time of day that is the cutoff time. (And no, I will not discuss at this juncture when the cutoff time is at the North Pole.)

You will have to either get a chart that lists the time in your area, or ask your Rabbi for the precise cutoff time. The time for your area might be posted in your synagogue. In New York it’s usually a little after 10:00 in the morning, most years (but it varies, so check the calendar). That should give you an idea of how early it becomes forbidden to own chometz that day.

So how do we eat the two meals on a Sabbath that is the day before a Holiday?

The answer is that the synagogues usually schedule an early prayer service, so that we can go home early and eat two meals.

There is another Jewish Law to keep in mind. After finishing one meal, and saying the Blessings After the Meal, we are required to wait at least one half hour before washing for another meal. So we must get in that first meal fairly early.

Most people wash to the first meal immediately after kiddush, after returning home. Some people wash for the challah, go through the cleaning process I mentioned above, eat one course of the meal in the dining room, and then say the blessings after the meal. We then wait one half hour.

After a half hour, we wash again, eat challah, clean up again, and eat the rest of the Sabbath meal. Some people feel this is too complicated and laborious, so they simply wash, say the Blessings After the Meal, wait half an hour, wash and eat challah again, clean themselves up, and then eat the entire Sabbath meal in the dining room.

As soon as we have finished eating our chometz, we recite the Kol Chamira, in which we abandon ownership of, association to, or desire for any chometz that may be in our house. (It is printed in most Hagadah publications.) Then we go to the dining room to eat the Sabbath meal.

We must stop eating chometz at the cutoff time. We can continue eating the Sabbath meal, but we must be finished with the chometz and have it gone by that time. This is so important, that if you have not yet had the chance to eat the Sabbath meals, you still can’t eat chometz, and therefore you may not eat your challah, once the cutoff time has passed.

This cannot be stressed enough. Not eating chometz past that time is more important than most other Jewish Laws (with the exception of saving a life, of course.)

When the day before Passover occurs on the Sabbath, it is also forbidden to move or use any chometz past the forbidden time. So it must all be gone by then.

All preparations for Passover must be completed before the Sabbath begins. All cleaning, arranging, cooking, or whatever else it may be, must be done before Shabbos. During Shabbos it is forbidden to prepare anything at all for the next day, even if the next day is a Holiday, such as Passover. Therefore, make the saltwater, boil the potatoes and the eggs, broil the shankbone, check the romaine lettuce, make the charoses, etc., whatever you need must be done before Shabbos begins.

We may not even clean our pots for Passover, so it is therefore forbidden to cook anything with chometz for Shabbos.

It is also a good idea to make sure your children get some sleep during that day, so they can stay awake for the Seder that night.

This has been rather hastily written and edited, so I hope I have not forgotten anything. Remember, if you have any questions, contact your Rabbi!

Preparations for the Seder

To be done before the Holiday begins

You may not start the Seder until an hour after sunset, when it is definitely full nighttime. However, all preparations for the Seder should be made the day before Passover, before sunset.

Among the things you will need are:

1. Salt water. This is easy to make. Simply take some salt and dump it into water. This will represent the tears our ancestors cried when they prayed to God to rescue them from slavery. During the part of the Seder known as «Karpas,» we will dip potatoes into this salt water. The potatoes call to mind the bricks that the Egyptians forced us to make when we were building the cities of Pisom and Ra’amses for them.

2. Potatoes. For the Karpas, as mentioned above. While many people use potatoes, various vegetables are acceptable for Karpas, including parsley, celery, or cabbage. Do not use romaine lettuce, since it qualifies as the maror (Bitter Herbs—see below).

3. Romaine lettuce. These will be used for the Bitter Herbs, for the part of the Seder called «Maror.» It is important to carefully check the lettuce, because most Romaine lettuce is mildly infested with worms. Aside from the automatic disgust most people would feel about eating worms, it is also forbidden by Jewish Law. Eliminating the worms is fairly easy, though. Hold each leaf up to the light and check for livestock. If you find any, remove it. These days, it is also possible to buy pre-checked romaine lettuce. The investment is worth it. Some add a little ground horseradish to augment the bitterness. If you use horseradish, it should be pure, and not have any additives, nor should it have beets mixed into it.

4. Chazeres: The spine of the Romaine lettuce. This is placed on the Seder Plate and will later be used for the Koraich sandwich.

5. Charoses. We will dip the bitter herbs into this very sweet dish. To make charoses, mix ground almonds, filberts, and apples. Add some cinnamon, and a touch of ginger. Some people add one pear for every three or four apples. Pour in some red wine to create a thick, pasty texture. The thick consistency is the consistency of mortar, and calls to mind the mortar we were forced to mix as slaves in Egypt. The Charoses should be red, or reddish, to represent the Jewish blood spilled in Egypt.

6. Drumstick (Shank bone). This will be placed on the Seder Plate, to represent the Passover Sacrifice that we may not offer when there is no Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It may not be made of meat, but chicken is acceptable. Most people use a chicken drumstick, to represent the «outstretched arm» (i.e., the great miracles) with which God took us out of Egypt. Some people use a chicken neck, perhaps because it is long and thin, and more closely resembles an arm. It should be roasted, to remember that the Passover Lamb was required to be roasted. The shank bone will be eaten on the following day, and not on Passover Night at all.

7. Egg. A hard-boiled egg is placed on the Seder Plate, to represent the Holiday Sacrifice offered when there was a Holy Temple. It is forbidden to offer any sacrifices except on the Holy Altar in the Holy Temple, which will be rebuilt when our Final Redemption from Exile takes place. If you have no hard-boiled eggs, any cooked item will suffice, but an egg is best, because it symbolizes protected growth. This is a reference to the protected growth of the Israelites in Egypt, and to the «incubation» of holiness within us from Passover until Shavous, fifty days later.

8. Kittel. The person leading the Seder should wear white. The Kittel is a long, white, men’s jacket worn by a man leading the Seder. If a woman is leading the Seder, it is appropriate for her to wear a white dress, or some extra white garment. The purpose of the white clothing is to resemble angels, on this night that we celebrate our release from the mundane and our freedom from slavery.

9. Pillows for reclining. It is customary to recline slightly during certain parts of the Seder, to indicate that we are no longer slaves. In ancient times free people reclined while eating; slaves did not.

10. Wine. Red wine is best, because it is reminiscent of the blood we spilled in Egypt. Each person at the Seder must drink the Four Cups. If a person is unable to drink wine for health reasons, then grape juice is also acceptable.

Buy a goblet or glass for each person expected at the Seder, and enough wine so that each person at the Seder can drink four cups. Each cup must hold at least 4 and Ѕ ounces of wine (see Amounts), and must be filled up to the top. When drinking any one of the Four Cups, one must drink more than half the cupful. (See The Four Cups of Wine.)

11. Fire. You will need to light the Holiday Candles at the beginning of the Seder. Since it is forbidden to strike a match to create fire on the Holiday, prepare some fire before the Holiday begins. Many Jewish groceries sell multiple-day candles. If you can get one of these, light it before sundown on the day before Passover. Use that fire to light the Holiday Candles. Those who cannot get such a candle often leave one burner on their gas range on low, from which to get fire for the Holiday Candles and with which to heat up the Holiday food.

The candles should be lit just as you begin the Seder, unless the Seder is being held on Friday night, in which case the candles are lit Friday before sunset.

12. The Meal. Part of the Seder involves eating a festive Holiday Meal. While there is no Law about what you must eat, there are certain conventions and customs. You’ve probably heard about chicken soup and matzahballs, and that is indeed a popular course to serve. Just make sure the matzahballs are made out of Kosher-for-Passover matzah meal.

Fish is also commonly eaten at a Holiday Meal, and it is generally the first course. Afterwards, chicken soup, and then chicken or meat. However, it is forbidden to eat roasted meat on Passover Night. Finally, if you prefer, dessert. The primary dessert, though, should be the Afikoman, the piece of matzah you will put away for later.

Passover Holiday Schedule: Chapter 3: The Last Two Days of Pesach

The Last Two Days of Pesach

Passover in Israel has one day of full Holiday, followed by five days of Chol Hamo’ed, followed by one day of full Holiday.

Passover outside of Israel has two days of full Holiday, followed by four days of Chol Hamo’ed, followed by two final days of full Holiday.

As in the previous article, we will concentrate on the Diaspora.

Let’s go back a day. The sixth day of Passover is the last day of Chol Hamo’ed. That night it will be full Yom Tov again, and the entire spectrum of Yom Tov Laws apply. One of those Laws is the prohibition against lighting or extinguishing fires. Since you won’t be allowed to light a fire during Yom Tov, it will be necessary to light them on the sixth day, before the full Yom Tov begins.

To be clear: it is forbidden to create fire on Yom Tov. If it was lit before Yom Tov, you may move it on Yom Tov, and even use it to light another candle. However, you may not extinguish flame on Yom Tov. (See the article “Two Levels of Holiday” for a fuller explanation of this.)

So what many people do is light one long-burning candle before Yom Tov begins, big enough to burn for a few days. Whenever they need fire, they take it from that candle. Many people also leave one of their stove burners on low and take flame from there. That way, they can also put pots and pans on that flame when they need to cook or heat up food during Yom Tov.

On the sixth day of Passover, before nightfall, the men go once again to shul (synagogue), and pray a Chol Hamo’ed Minchah. Once the stars come out, full Yom Tov has begun again, for two more days. Therefore, we pray a Holiday Maariv, which means, basically, that we pray a Holiday Shemona Esray. It is now Shevi’i Shel Pesach, the Seventh Day of Passover.

The Seventh Day of Pesach

Now that it is full Holiday again, we are required to eat a Holiday Meal after Maariv. This begins with the woman of the home lighting the Yom Tov Lights (candle or oil). As we learned above, you may not strike a match to do this. You must take an existing flame and light the candles.

If that Yom Tov night is on a Friday night (i.e., Shabbos) you must light the lights before sunset, before Shabbos begins.

We then say Kiddush. At the end of Kiddush, we do not say the Blessing of Shehecheyanu, which is a Blessing we say at the beginning of each Yom Tov to declare our joy for the Holiday. This is because it is not a new Holiday, but merely a continuation of Passover.

We wash our hands and eat matzah (in place of the usual challah, which we may not eat during Pesach), and eat a Holiday Meal. (See Holiday Meals for more information about this.)

Shacharis on the seventh day of Pesach is again the full Holiday Prayer, and is followed by a Torah Reading, which is followed by Musaf.

Birchas Kohanim

Musaf on Yom Tov includes Birchas Kohanim. The Kohanim (Priests) all assemble at the front of the shul, cover themselves with their prayer shawls, turn to face the congregation, and bless the people. The Torah commands the Kohanim to bless the Children of Israel (Numbers 7:22-27). In Israel this is done every day. Many Sefardic communities do this every day no matter what country they live in. Ashkenazi communities, however, do this only on Yom Tov. Parents bring all their children to shul to be there when the Kohanim bless us, even those children too young to appreciate

We do not look directly at the Kohanim during Birchas Kohanim, even though they cover their hands. We look down at the floor in front of us. Men also cover their eyes with their hat or with their tallis, and we look down.

After Musaf we return home to eat another Holiday Meal. We begin with a very short version of Kiddush: one verse (optional) and the blessing over wine. It should be in your prayer book. Then we wash our hands for matzah and eat a Festive meal. Just as discussed for the first two days of Yom Tov, this day must be conducted with constant awareness of the holiness of the day. It should include the study of Torah, as well as some rest time.

 Later in the day the men return to shul to pray a Holiday Minchah. After the stars come out, the next day begins.

The Eighth Day of Pesach

It is now the twenty-second day of Nisan. If you live in Israel, it is no longer Pesach. You go home and say Havdalah, and put away all the Passover dishes and so forth.

If you live anywhere outside of Israel, it is now the Eighth Day of Passover, usually referred to as “Acharon Shel Pesach,” the Last [Day] of Passover.

Acharon Shel Pesach is Yom Tov, a full Holiday like the seventh day of Passover. Maariv is therefore also a Holiday prayer. We go home and eat a Holiday Meal, beginning with Kiddush, and washing for matzah, just as we did last night.

The next morning, Shacharis is the same, with its own Torah Reading. After the Torah Reading, Yizkor is said. Yizkor is the Remembrance Prayer for the Dead, in which anyone — man, woman or child — who has lost a family member prays for the souls of the departed. It is the Custom (I assume in all communities) that all those who have not lost any family leave the shul for the few minutes while Yizkor is being said.

After Yizkor, everyone returns to the shul, and everyone says the prayer of Av Harachamim (Father of Mercy). In this prayer we pray for the souls of all Jews who have been martyred, and ask that Hashem remember them with mercy and in a good light. We ask that Hashem also avenge their murders.

Passover is a particularly poignant and relevant time to pray for the souls of the martyred, considering how many tens of thousands of Jews have their lives during Passover because of blood libels. While anti-Semites didn’t need any special impetus to harm Jews, Passover was a time when they came out in force, accusing us of the most vile and disgusting crimes, particularly the old lie that we add Christian blood to our matzos. Moreover, Passover is a time we celebrate our continuing existence despite almost ubiquitous anti-Semitism, as we say in the Hagadah, “In every generation people rise up against us to destroy us, and Hashem saves us from them.” Still, we must remember those we have lost and pray to Hashem to rescue us from this exile (no matter how comfortable we have become in it) and bring an end to our troubles.

But let us not forget that Pesach is a Yom Tov, a Jewish Holiday, and the Torah commands us to be happy during the entire Yom Tov.

After Yizkor we pray Musaf, complete with Birchas Kohanim again.

After Musaf we all return home to eat a Holiday Meal, like yesterday. We begin with the short Kiddush again. Again, as we have said before, this day must be conducted with constant awareness of the holiness of the day, as is true every day of Yom Tov.

The men return later to shul for a Holiday Minchah. After Minchah on the Last Day of Pesach many communities have the Custom to eat a Festive Meal (without Kiddush) to “say goodbye” to the Yom Tov as it ends. There are other reasons for this meal as well. However, this meal is not mandatory.

This meal is called “Ne’ilas Hachag,” the “Closing of the Holiday.” During the meal we sing some of the Passover songs and pray that Hashem will send us the Final Rescue from exile soon.

As Passover Ends

After the stars come out, we end the meal, say the Blessings After Meals, and pray a weekday Maariv. We insert into Shemona Esray the small prayer “Attah Chonantanu” that is said after Shabbos and after Yom Tov. It is sort of a mini-Havdalah. If you forget to say it, do not repeat Shemona Esray; just say “Boruch Hamavdil bain Kodesh lichol,” which means, “Blessed is He Who separates between holy and mundane.” We do not say Hashem’s Name in this brachah.

We then go home and say Havdalah over a cup of wine. If Acharon Shel Pesach was on Shabbos, then we say the full Havdalah, like any other Saturday night. If Acharon Shel Pesach occurred on any other day of the week, then we say the “Half Havdalah,” which includes only the blessing over the wine and the blessing of Havdalah itself, as explained near the beginning of this article.

Passover is over. It is time to clean the Passover dishes and put them away. All the Pesach items should be stored in boxes and put away in closets or closed rooms.

As it says in one of the Passover songs: “Just as we have merited arranging the Passover Seder, in imitation of the time when we brought the Passover Sacrifice, so may we soon merit actually bringing the Passover Sacrifice.”

Next year in Jerusalem!