Passover Holiday Schedule: Chapter 2: The Intermediary Days

The End of the First Two Days

In Chapter 1 of this Schedule, I detailed the schedule of Passover from the day before the Holiday begins until the end of the first day(s) of Yom Tov. We will now discuss the second part of Pesach (Passover), which is called Chol Hamo’ed. Chol Hamo’ed is a lesser level of Holiday, but it is still Holiday. (You can read about that at “The Two Levels of Holiday”). Passover begins with Yom Tov (full Holiday), has Chol Hamoed for a few days, and ends with more Yom Tov.

In Israel there is one day of Full Holiday at the beginning and one day at the end. Everywhere outside of Israel there are two days of Full Holiday at the beginning and two days of Full Holiday at the end. Since I think most of the readers of this web site live outside of Israel, I will confine the scope of this article to Passover in the Diaspora.

Chol Hamo’ed begins after the first two days of Yom Tov end, when the stars come out. (Remember, in Judaism a new “day” begins at night and continues the following daytime, ending when night comes again.) The date on the Jewish calendar is the 17th of Nisan. That night, we pray the regular weekday Nighttime Prayers (Maariv), but add Yaaleh Viyavo, the special insertion that mentions the Holiday.

It is still Pesach, and therefore chometz is still forbidden.

After Maariv, we go home and say a partial Havdalah. (It is forbidden to eat or drink anything until we say or hear Havdalah.) “Partial Havdalah” means that we don’t say the entire Havdalah that is usually said when the Sabbath ends. We begin with the blessing over a full goblet of wine, skip the following two blessings, and say the final blessing of Havdalah, which is: “Blessed are You, Hashem, King of the universe, Who separates between holy and mundane, between light and darkness, between Israel and the other nations, between the Seventh Day and the Six Days of Creation. Blessed are You Hashem, Who separates between the holy and the mundane.” Then we drink the wine.

Even though it is Chol Hamo’ed, which is still Yom Tov, albeit Yom Tov with fewer restrictions, we still say that same blessing. We still mention in Havdalah the Sabbath and differentiate it from the Six Days of Creation. After all, Yom Tov is a lesser form of Sabbath, and shares many aspects of Sabbath, including its holiness. In fact, the Torah sometimes uses the word “Shabbos” (Sabbath) when it is referring to Yom Tov (see, for example: Leviticus 23:23; 23:39, etc.).

The Intermediary Days

The following deals with the general schedule of Chol Hamo’ed. For a basic introduction to the Laws of Chol Hamo’ed, see my article “Some Laws of Chol Hamo’ed.”

The morning of Chol Hamo’ed, the men and boys return to shul for the Morning Prayers. Shacharis (the Morning Prayer) is essentially the same as on any weekday, with a few minor differences. We insert Yaaleh Viyavo in Shemonah Esray (the silent, standing Amidah prayer). We say “Half” Halel (the psalms of praise), meaning that we omit several passages, as you’ll find delineated in your prayer book.

We do not say Tachanun (putting down our heads in penitent prayer) the entire Pesach (Passover).

The Torah Reading

After Halel we take out two Torah Scrolls from the Holy Ark and read from them.

Each day of Passover we read a different passage from the Torah, calling up three people to the Torah. Each day’s passage is taken from somewhere in the Torah where Pesach is discussed.

After that is done, the first Torah Scroll is closed, a fourth person is called up to the Torah, and we read from the second Torah Scroll.

The fourth and final section read is the same each day. It discusses the Musaf — the Additional Sacrifice that must be offered each day of Pesach when there is a Holy Temple.

You should be able to find these readings in the back of the thicker prayer books, the ones that have all the prayers. They are probably not printed in the prayer books that have only weekday prayers.

The Additional Prayer

After the Reading of the Torah, we say a few more of the daily psalms and such, and then move on to the next prayer, Musaf, the “Additional Prayer.” This consists of Ashrai (Psalm 145 with a few other verses before and after), and a special silent Amidah Prayer. We pray it standing up with our feet together. It has all the same Laws as the daily Shemonah Esray.

Musaf is generally the same for most Holidays, with an interchangeable short passage inserted that very briefly describes the Sacrificial Musaf Offering of that day. It is generally one or two Torah verses. Take note which you say because you should say the passage relevant to that day. If for some reason you cannot say it, or you are not sure which one to say, you may pray Musaf without saying those verses.

After Musaf we say the final few passages with which we end the Morning Prayers every day, such as Alainu. We may then go home, though it is best to stay and study Torah for a while first.

Remember that it is still Pesach. All chometz is still forbidden.

In the afternoon, some time before nightfall, men return to synagogue to pray Minchah. Minchah is the same as the weekday prayer of the rest of the year, with the addition of Yaaleh Viyavo.

After the stars come out, we pray the regular weekday Maariv (Nighttime Prayer), with Yaaleh Viyavo inserted.

We follow the same pattern for all days of Chol Hamo’ed.

Chol Hamo’ed is followed immediately by a full Holiday, which we shall discuss, Hashem willing, in the next article, “Passover Holiday Schedule: Chapter 3.” 

Passover Holiday Schedule: Chapter 1: The Beginning

Chapter 1: The Beginning

Night and Day

It is important to remember that in Judaism the day begins at night. That is, Shabbos, for example, starts at night and continues to the next day until nightfall Saturday night. Holidays also begin at night.

In the Torah it says «It was night and it was day….» all throughout the six days of Creation. There was darkness before there was light. Thus, the night comes before the day. So we start our «days,» meaning that we start our 24-hour days when night begins, and it runs until the next night. So every «day» runs from night to night.

Therefore, Shabbos starts Friday evening when the sun goes down. Consequently, Shabbos ends Saturday night after the night begins.

Passover is the same way, but there’s an additional wrinkle. While the Holiday itself starts on the night of the 15th of Nisan, the day before, the 14th of Nisan, is also a semi-Holiday.

For example, on the 14th day of Nisan, we must stop eating and owning chometz a few hours after dawn, as we have learned. So that means that chometz is forbidden some time before Passover actually begins.

In addition, many types of activity are forbidden on Erev Pesach after midday. It is forbidden even to give someone a haircut at that time. It is also forbidden to wash laundry, and most types of weekday activity. It is best of all cooking is done by then, but it is certainly permitted to cook and otherwise prepare food for the Yom Tov (Jewish Holiday).

As Passover Begins

In ancient times, Erev Pesach was the busiest time of the year. We brought the Passover lamb to the Holy Temple on the day of the 14th of Nisan. It was sacrificed that afternoon, and eaten later that night. So, in other words, the Passover Sacrifice was offered, slaughtered, and so forth, on the 14th day of Nisan, during the afternoon. It was eaten the night of the 15th of Nisan.

The night of the 15th of Nisan is the first night of Passover.

To restate: on the 14th of Nisan we stop eating and owning chometz, around 9:00 in the morning. Later that night, on the 15th of Nisan, we hold the Seder. In ancient times, we ate the Passover Sacrifice, along with matzah and the bitter herb, during the Seder. Today we can’t offer the Sacrifice, so we just make the Seder and eat the matzah and bitter herb.

When the Messiah comes, we will once again bring the Passover Sacrifice each year on the 14th of Nisan.

So again: on the day before Passover begins, we have already cleaned out and destroyed any chometz from our homes and possessions. If there were a Holy Temple, we would bring the Passover Sacrifice that day, in the afternoon, and afterwards we would begin roasting them.

That night, the night of the 15th of Nisan, we would take our sacrificed Passover lambs, and bring them to the place we make the Seder. We make the Seder, we drink the Four Cups throughout the night, we eat matzah, bitter herb, (and the Passover Sacrifice when there is a Holy Temple). This is at night, the first night of Passover.

Timetable for the Holy Temple

Here it is again, in a timetable. First, when there is a Holy Temple:

Morning of the 14th day of Nisan (also known as Erev Pesach): Burn our chometz. They probably spent the rest of the morning preparing for the Seder, and finally, before noon, bringing their animals to the Holy Temple for the various Sacrifices. They were required to bring a lamb or a goat for the Korban (Sacrifice) Pesach, and another animal (lamb, goat, or cow were all permitted) for the Korban Chagigah (Holiday Sacrifice).

Afternoon of the 14th: Attend to the Pesach Goat at the Holy Temple for Sacrificing. The Kohen-priests did the actual work, of course.

Late afternoon: Roast the Pesach Goat as the Torah commands. Bake Matzos.

Cook other foods for Seder.

Evening: Attend the Priestly ceremonies of the Holy Temple.

Beginning of Nighttime: The 15th day of Nisan has begun. Once the stars have come out, take Pesach goat or lamb to Seder and begin Seder. Tell the story of the Exodus (i.e., say the Hagadah).

Night of the 15th of Nisan: During the Seder, the Korban Pesach and the Korban Chagigah would be roasting nearby. At the right time in the Hagadah, they would wash their hands, eat Matzah, and eat the Korban Chagigah for the main part of the meal. (If Erev Pesach is on Shabbos, as happens every so often, the Chagigah was not brought Erev Pesach, and therefore was not eaten at the Seder. They would eat meat that had been cooked on Friday.) Once they were no longer hungry they would eat the Korban Pesach for dessert, together with Matzah and the Bitter Herb. They would then say
the Blessings After the Meal, and drink the Third Cup of Wine. Then they finished the Seder. During the time of the Second Holy Temple, after the Blessings After the Meal they would all go up to the roof of the house and sing Hallel (Psalms of Praise), finishing the Seder on the rooftop.

Can you picture thousands upon thousands of Jews, from all over the land of Israel, every one of them standing on the roofs of Jerusalem, singing Hallel! The Talmud says that it seemed like all the roofs of the city were bursting. It must have been the most glorious sight ever seen and heard!

Late Night of the 15th of Nisan: They drank the Fourth Cup of Wine, and finished the Seder.

Morning of the 15th of Nisan: Attend Priestly Ceremonies at Holy Temple.

Our Timetable Today

Now here’s how it runs today:

Morning of the 14th day of Nisan: Burn our chometz.

Afternoon of the 14th: Cook all food for the Seder (if you haven’t already — it’s best to get an early start a few days before). Set up the table for the Seder.

Late afternoon: Sleep. If you are able, attend Matzah baking. It is not required when there is no Holy Temple, but nevertheless many people bake Matzos on Erev Pesach these days. Such matzos are much preferred, spiritually.

Evening: Attend the Prayers at the synagogue. At the right time, which is before the stars come out in the sky, learn or say the passages about the «Bringing of the Passover Sacrifice.»

After the Stars Come Out: The 15th day of Nisan has begun. Pray the Nighttime Prayer. Go home and begin the Seder. Tell the story of the Exodus (i.e., say the Hagadah).

Night of the 15th of Nisan: During the Seder, at the right time in the Hagadah, eat the Afikoman to remember the Passover Sacrifice. Some people recite the «Eating of the Passover Sacrifice» to relive the Commandment.

Late night of the 15th of Nisan: Say Halel (Psalms of Praise), finish the Seder.

The First Day of Passover

Morning of the 15th of Nisan: It is the first day of Pesach, a full Holiday, no matter where you live. Attend Prayers at synagogue in the morning. Go home, eat a Festive Meal, with the short Kiddush over wine and Holiday foods. Return to the synagogue for the Afternoon Prayer.

Second Night of Passover

If you live outside of Israel:

Nighttime: It is now the 16th of Nisan, the second day of Passover, and still full Holiday. Everything tonight is the same as last night. (However, after Minchah, the Afternoon prayer, omit the recital of the «Bringing of the Passover Sacrifice».) After the stars come out pray the Nighttime Prayers the same as the first night. Go home and have the Second Seder, just as you did last night.

If you live in Israel:

Pray the weekday Nighttime Prayer, but add Yaaleh V’yavo, the special insertion that mentions the Holiday. The sixteenth of Nisan in Israel is Chol Hamo’ed, semi-Yom Tov. You may drive your car home from the synagogue, unless it also happens to be Friday night, which is the Sabbath.

Second Day of Passover

Outside of Israel:

The sixteenth day of Nisan is also Yom Tov (full Holiday). Repeat as yesterday. Morning Holiday Prayers, go home, eat a Festive Meal, with the short Kiddush over wine and Holiday foods. Pray the Afternoon Holiday Prayers. Since outside of Israel, it is still full Holiday, we pray the Holiday Prayers, and keep all the Laws of Yom Tov (Jewish Holiday). In the afternoon, return to the synagogue for the Afternoon Prayers.

In Israel:

It is Chol Hamo’ed, and we will discuss that in another article.

Third Night of Passover

When the stars come out, Chol Hamo’ed (semi-Holiday) has begun. Pray the regular weekday Nighttime Prayers, but add Yaaleh V’yavo, the special insertion that mentions the Holiday. Some Laws during Chol Hamo’ed are somewhat more lenient than during the Full Holiday, and more is allowed. You may drive your car, for example, and turn on and off lights. Of course, if it is Shabbat, then you may not do these things, as the Laws of Shabbat are more stringent than even the Laws of Yom Tov. The next few days will be discussed in Chapter 2.

Please note that during Passover, both during Yom Tov and during Chol Hamo’ed, starting from midday the day before Passover, it is forbidden to eat chometz! It is forbidden to eat chometz the entire eight and a half days of Passover (seven and a half days, if you live in Israel).

May Hashem rebuild the Holy Temple soon, soon, speedily, in our days!

The Search for Leaven

The night before Passover, about an hour after sunset, we must search the house for any bread or leaven products.

The Torah forbids us to have in our possession any bread, leaven, leavening agent, or any food that contains any of those, from the day before Passover until the end of the eighth day of Passover. We call any such item «chometz.« Before Passover, we must clean our homes thoroughly, and remove any chometz. Not even the smallest particle of chometz may be in our homes, even if we don’t know it exists. We must therefore search our homes to the light of a candle the night before Passover. The light of a candle in the darkness can reach into small, tight areas, including cracks and behind the furniture.

If the night before Passover is a Friday night, this procedure must be done on Thursday night.

Take a few pieces of bread and wrap them carefully in plastic sandwich bags (or something else equally safe) so that no crumbs can fall out, and place them where you can easily find them. This is so that if you find no chometz in your home, you will have still fulfilled the Commandment to remove chometz from your home the day before Passover.

Light the candle. Turn off the lights. Recite the following blessing:

Blessed are You Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has made us holy with His commandments and commanded us
concerning the destruction of chometz.

Search every part of the house into which chometz has ever been brought, including behind the furniture and cracks in the walls if it is possible that chometz may have been placed or may have fallen there. If children have been in the house, you must take into account areas into which a child is likely to bring food.

After the search, place all the pieces of chometz into a bag. The owner of the chometz and the person who lives in that property recite the following:

I hereby relinquish any association or ownership to all and any leaven or leavening agents in my possession that I did not see, or did not find, and that I have not destroyed, or that I do not know
about. They are null and ownerless, just like dust on the ground.

Put the bag of chometz away until tomorrow morning. The following morning, as early as possible, take the chometz outside and burn it. When it is all burned, and there is nothing left but ash, recite:

I hereby relinquish any association or ownership to all and any leaven or leavening agents in my possession, whether or not I saw them, whether or not I found them, and whether or not I destroyed them. They are null and ownerless, just like dust on the ground.

The Removal and Sale of Chometz

The Torah tells us:

Eat matzahs for seven days. By the first day, you must have your homes cleared of all leaven. Whoever eats leaven from the first day until the seventh day will have his soul cut off from Israel. The first day shall be a sacred holiday, and the seventh day shall [also] be a sacred holiday. No work may be done on these [days].

The only [work] that you may do is that which is needed so that everyone will be able to eat. Be careful regarding the matzahs, for on this very day I will have brought your masses out of Egypt. You must carefully keep this day for all generations; it is a law for all times. From the 14th day of the first month in the evening, until the night of the 21st day of the month, you must eat [only] matzahs.

During [these] seven days, no leaven may be found in your homes. If someone eats anything leavened his soul shall be cut off from the community of Israel. [This is true] whether he is a proselyte or a person born into the nation. You must not eat anything leavened. In all the areas where you live, eat matzahs.

— Exodus 12:15-20

The Torah commands us (i.e., Jews — this does not apply to Gentiles) not to eat any chometz or chometz derivatives from the day before Passover until Passover ends. Not only may we not eat it, but we may not derive any benefit from it during Passover. This applies even to items like soap and deodorants and other things.

The Torah further commands us not to even have in our possession such items, and if we have them on our property, they may not belong to us, and they must be put away.

It is also forbidden to use utensils (such as pots, pans, dishes, cutlery, silverware, flatware, etc.) that have been used with chometz. Some things can be made kosher for Passover, and we shall, Hashem willing, learn about that.

Therefore, we are required to remove all chometz from any and all property, including one’s home, office, car, locker, storage units, pockets in clothing, and so forth. This includes mixtures that may contain even an infinitesimally small amount of chometz within them.

If you own any chometz during Passover, it becomes forever forbidden to use, even to sell afterwards to a Gentile. Even after Passover has ended, you may never use this chometz for anything at all, forever. You must destroy it.

However, before Passover starts, your chometz may be sold to a Gentile according to special arrangements done by local Rabbis. The chometz must then be put away in a place you will not use or access during Passover at all, but in a place where the Gentile may come and take them if he wants to. (It may be in your home or storage place, however, locked away safely.)

This must be an actual sale, not, as many people mistakenly think, a “symbolic” sale, whatever that means. The chometz must actually belong to the Gentile, and if he or she comes to take it, you must show him or her where it is and allow him to take it by himself or herself. You may not touch it or pick it (or ANY chometz) up during Passover, but the Gentile must be allowed to access and take it if he or she requests it.

The sale is created, however, to be temporary. After Passover, the Rabbi must buy back the chometz from the Gentile, and then we may use it again.

Do not attempt to make this sale yourself. The means by which the sale must be done and many other details are quite complicated.

Note that we do not sell dishes, pots, pans, etc., that were used for chometz. What we sell is any chometz that we have not been able to eradicate, that might be in those utensils. (If you sell any actual utensils used for food, when you get them back you will have to immerse them in a mikvah.)

Chometz must be removed entirely from one’s home, as best one can. We clean our entire homes, and then we must search for any chometz that we might have missed.

Anything that we must use on Passover that has been used during the year for food, must be specially prepared for Passover. Some things can be cleaned for Passover, some cannot, as we shall learn, with Hashem’s help.

The Prohibition of eating chometz during Passover is no small matter. As we saw above, the Torah warns us that if we eat chometz during Passover his soul will be cut off from the Nation of Israel. This concept is rather complicated, but in essence it generally means being cut off from one’s spiritual source. It can also denote premature death and childlessness, depending on various concepts. (Now is not really the time to discuss what this means). The Torah is quite strict about this matter. We must therefore be careful not to eat even the slightest amount of chometz.

Passover is the favorite time of most Orthodox Jews. We work very hard to prepare for it, and that adds to the enjoyment, but in fact the Holiday itself is in many ways one of the most enjoyable Holidays of the year. Besides which, the Torah commands us to have joy on the Holidays, and Passover is very conducive to joy. Remember that both before and during Passover, and, as they say, Have a Happy and Kosher Passover!

The Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning for Passover

The Torah commands us that from the day before Passover until Passover is over we may neither own, use, eat, or derive any benefit from chometz or chometz derivatives. This applies even to items like soap, and deodorants. (Of course, I’m talking about
deriving benefit. I assume you wouldn’t eat soap or deodorant. But if they contain soap, you may not use them or have them available in your house during Passover.) It is also forbidden to use utensils (pots, pans, dishes, cutlery, silverware, flatware, tablecloths, plasticware, etc.) that have been used with chometz.

Therefore, a number of preparations are necessary before Passover comes close:

  1. Every Jew is required to remove all chometz from any and all property, including
    one’s home, office, car, locker, storage units, pockets in clothing, etc. This includes
    mixtures that may contain even an infinitesimally small amount of chometz within
  2. All utensils used with, or that come into contact with food during the year, must
    be either put away or specially kashered for Passover. We will discuss each of these processes.

  3. However, certain types of items may be locked away and sold to Gentiles
    according to special arrangements done by local Rabbis.

Any room into which chometz has been brought must be cleaned. The kitchen, of
course, will need the most arduous cleaning. Every kitchen closet and cabinet you
intend to use for food or utensils during Passover must be cleaned and scrubbed.
Many people have the custom to also line each shelf with paper or aluminum foil
after cleaning them.

The closets and cabinets you won’t use during Passover may be filled with the non-Passover
dishes and so forth, and closed up in some way to prevent you from accidentally opening those cabinets during Passover.

The refrigerator must be cleaned as well, with a household cleaner or detergent. The
cracks of the rubber gaskets must be cleaned as well.

Ovens must be cleaned and kashered if you wish to use them on Passover. The process
is as follows:

Regular Ovens:

☺        Clean the oven thoroughly with a caustic cleaner, such as Easy-Off, as best as
possible. If there are still some stubborn spots, do this a second time, and if
they are still there, they can be ignored.

☺        Do not use the oven for twenty-four hours.

☺        After twenty-four hours, heat the oven for a minimum of two hours, and
continue until it is so hot that even after the flame is turned off it would burn
a piece of tissue paper that touches it. Two hours may be sufficient for your
oven, but two hours are mandatory even if it will take less time for the oven to
get that hot.

Oven Racks:

☸        The racks of the oven should either be changed, or after this process covered in
aluminum foil. If you use an oven insert during Passover,, you will not need
the racks at all.

☸        If the inside of your oven is lined with enamel, you must either use an oven
insert or cover the entire inside of the oven with heavy-duty aluminum foil,
after performing the kashering process.

☸        The oven insert used for cooking food for Passover must cover the pots on all

A Self-Cleaning Oven:

        A self-cleaning oven is the easiest. Clean it with a sponge and cleanser. Put on the self-cleaning function until the oven is absolutely clean. Do not use the oven for twenty-four
hours. Then run the self-cleaning function for another four hours. Line the edges of the
oven and the circumfrence of the inner side of the door with aluminum foil and tape it on. Now it’s kosher for Passover.

        The racks may be left in during the entire process, and they will be kosher for Passover.

Gas Stove Tops:

        The pan underneath the grates — forget this and get special ones for Passover. To prepare these little things for Passover you have to clean them with a caustic cleaner, not use them for twenty-four hours, and then purge them with by pouring boiling water poured over them. Every spot must be touched by the boiling water. It’s so much easier to buy new ones.

        The stove top, including the grates, must also be cleaned with a caustic cleaner. (Alternatively, you can purchase new grates, and even a new stove top cover. Kashering, however, saves money.) Do not use the stove for twenty-four hours after cleaning.

        Place heavy-duty aluminum foil over the entire stove-top. Turn on the burners for forty minutes. (Make sure the kitchen is well-ventilated.)

        After it has cooled down, take away the heavy-duty aluminum foil. Then cover the entire surface with aluminum foil, taping it down with scotch tape or something stronger. Keep it there until after Passover. Make holes for the fire to come through, of course.

        If the stove top is made of stainless steel, boiling water may be used instead of the heating method, and it need not be covered with aluminum foil.

The knobs of the stove and oven burners should be put away for Passover, 
and Passover ones should be used. If this is not possible, 
clean them carefully and thoroughly, and purge them in boiling water.

Stainless steel sinks:

        Clean thoroughly. Do not use for twenty-four hours. Pour boiling water over every inch of it. Many people have the custom of, after kashering it, lining it with aluminum foil or using a sink insert, but this is custom, and not absolutely necessary if you have already properly kashered the sink.

Enamel and porcelain sinks:

        These cannot be kashered. Clean it thoroughly, do not use for twenty-four hours, cover with aluminum foil or contact paper, and place a rack on the bottom on which to place dishes and pots.

Hey! Listen Up! This is important!

You know that round removable drain strainer thingie that goes into the drain in your sink? That can’t be kashered, because it has rubber on it. Get a new one. However, if you use a sink insert, they have their own drain strainers.

Make sure to clean the kitchen telephone. Even the cord is liable to touch food, so
either change the cord or wash it carefully. It sounds crazy, but you’d be surprised at
how much food gets stuck on kitchen telephones.

Kitchen utensils and dishware used in the home throughout the year may not be used
during Passover. Special dishes and utensils for the Passover holiday are taken out of
storage, rinsed and used during Passover. Throughout the year, these dishes and
utensils are stored safely away from any yearly food, so as not to invalidate them for
use during Passover.

During Passover, the year’s utensils should all be put away in storage, and access to
them closed and locked.

In rooms outside of the kitchen, we must clean out all chometz. Remember, this is not
spring cleaning. We are required only to clean out chometz that is visible, accessible
within the reach of one’s hand, and is still in some way edible.

You should also read my article about Selling Chometz for Passover

Passover cleaning should be done with joy, looking forward to the upcoming Holiday.
Passover is the Holiday of Jewish freedom, and you will find that the freedom is
enjoyed much more after all the preparatory work.

What Else is Forbidden on Passover?

There is yet another category of food that comes into play during Passover. This is the category of kitniyos.

Hundreds of years ago, the Rabbis of the Ashkenazic world: France, Germany, Russia, Poland and other Eastern European lands, convened and passed a ruling that all kitniyos items, and anything that contains kitniyos ingredients, are forbidden on Passover.

Some of these items are: legumes, corn (which includes maize, of course), peas, rice, soy, groats, millet, chick peas, sunflower seeds, string beans, mustard, lentils, beans of any type, poppy seeds, clover, peanuts, fenugreek, buckwheat, green beans, kimmel, caraway, fennel, cumin, linseed, cardamon, coriander, sesame, and so forth. Also forbidden are products containing kitniyos. (However, some Rabbis permit cooking and frying with peanut oil. Consult your own Rabbi.)

There are several reasons for the Halachah forbidding kitniyos.

One reason is that wheat very often gets mixed into other grains, such as rice, because they are often stored in the same places. When checking rice, one can occasionally find a wheat kernel or two in the bag. Such a mixture is chometz.

Also, the Rabbis noticed that people were confusing different types of flours and doughs, and many were, as a result, eating actual chometz on Pesach (Passover). Rice was made into a bread that many people thought was actual bread. People began to get confused, and soon they were eating chometz bread on Pesach, sometimes thinking that the bread was made of rice, and sometimes thinking that bread made of wheat was permitted. (Perhaps they thought “if it’s processed a certain way, it’s permitted.” Of course, that’s wrong, and so many people were eating chometz on Passover.)

Another reason they forbade kitniyos is because there are cereals that are made from kitniyos flour that look exactly like chometzdig cereals, and again, this was confusing many people and causing them to eat actual chometz.

Even if the reasons would not hold true today (and they do), we are still required to keep this Halachah (Jewish Law).

Incidentally, the Aruch Hashulchan (453:5) shows that the Rabbis of the Talmud (see Yerushalmi, Perek Kol Sha’ah, Halachah Daled) argued over whether or not the rising of rice is leavening or not. They examined the matter, and eventually agreed that it was not leavening, but simply a rising (which I guess is from the starch). If the Rabbis of the Talmud could be in doubt over this, points out the Aruch Hashulchan, all the more so would be the masses who have not studied in depth the Laws of Passover! Moreover, unlearned people could see the rising of rice, and think that if Halachah permits that, then other grains are also permitted. And the end result would be that they would eat one of the five forbidden grains with water or some other liquid.

Therefore, to all Ashkenazim, such items are forbidden on Passover, except sometimes to sick people who need them. In all such cases, one MUST consult a Rabbi.

The Sefardic Rabbis (Rabbis of Spain, North Africa, Italy, the Orient Middle and Far East, etc.) did not pass this ruling, for whatever reasons they had. Therefore Sefardim are permitted to eat kitniyos during Passover. However, Sefardim are required by Halachah to carefully check any kitniyos THREE TIMES before they can use it Pesach. This is also true for any Ashkenazic Jew whom the Rabbis permit to eat kitniyos for reasons of health. Even in this day and age, grains of wheat are often found among the grains of rice.

Many products in the stores have kitniyos. For example, a very prevalent ingredient in today’s mass-marketed foods is corn syrup. According to Wikipedia, “It is used to sweeten soft drinks, juices, ice cream, whole wheat bread and many other mass-produced foods. Its liquid
form keeps foods moist and prevents them from quickly spoiling.”
Since corn is kitniyos, during Passover we may not eat any products that contain corn syrup.

Another almost ubiquitous ingredient is lecithin. It is added to food products as an emulsifier, which is something needed for the other ingredients in the food. All commercially produced lecithin, including supplements, is made from soy, and is therefore kitniyos. Those who need to take lecithin for their health can get it from soft-boiled eggs, according to the Doctor Yourself web site. However, always ask your doctor and your Rabbi.

But as important and vital this Halachah is for Ashkenazim, the fact remains that kitniyos is not chometz. This means that most of the stringent Halachos mandated by the Torah concerning the five grains do not apply to kitniyos. We may own kitniyos, and even keep kitniyos in the house, on Pesach, separate from the food you intend to use, and locked up where you won’t find it. In fact, it is best to sell it with the chometz, in case there is indeed some grain mixed inside.

It is also permitted to derive benefit from kitniyos during Pesach. You may sell kitniyos to Gentiles Chol Hamo’ed Pesach (Intermediary Days of Yom Tov, when SOME things are permitted that are not permitted on Shabbos or Yom Tov). It is permitted to feed your animals kitniyos (Aruch Hashulchan 465:1).We may also use kitniyos-based fuel for fires and lamps and so forth.

Nowadays, any food product with a good Rabbinical supervision for Passover can be eaten during Passover without fear of it being either chometz or kitniyos.

The Deeper Meaning of Chometz and Matzah

The meaning of chometz and matzah is deeper than you might think.

The Torah tells us “You shall guard the matzos”(1), to prevent them from becoming chometz. The word “matzos” in that verse is spelled the same way the word “mitzvos” is spelled. Explain the Rabbis of the Talmud, “Rav Yashaya said, Read it also as if it says ‘You shall guard the mitzvos (Commandments). Just as you may not let the matzos turn into chometz (by waiting too long to bake them), don’t let a mitzvah (Commandment) turn into chometz. Rather, if a mitzvah comes your way, don’t let it become chometz’.(2)

In other words, don’t delay doing the mitzvah. Hasten to do it with love and joy, and do it as soon as possible. We see this from our Forefather Abraham. When Hashem told him to raise his son as a raised offering, and even though he thought he would have to kill his son he got up early in the morning(3) and hurried to fulfill Hashem’s command. Why? Because, says the Talmud, those who are eager to fulfill Hashem’s word do so at the earliest possible time. This characteristic trait is called Zrizus(4).

Chometz often alludes to sin. The Talmud tells us that Rabbi Alexandri would add this prayer at the end of Shemonah Esray: “Master of the multi verse! It is known and fully revealed to You that we really want to fulfill Your will. But what impedes us? “The yeast in the dough” and the pressure of the gentile overlords. May it be Your will that you save us from those.”(5)

What is the “yeast in the dough?” Rashi explains, “The Yetzer Hara (Evil Influence) in our hearts that turns us into chometz.”

The Rabbis explain that though yeast turns dough sour, it has the effect of making bread rise, and taste better. The Yetzer Hara does the same thing to us. It tries to make us sour, but it gives us the opportunity to rise and thus taste better. If we take the energy that the Yetzer Hara gives us, and turn it around and use it for doing good, we rise spiritually, and get closer to Hashem. Thus, we “taste better,” so to speak. This is the function of the Yetzer Hara, which Hashem created for that very purpose. By perverting (so to speak) the Yetzer Hara into good, or even by just ignoring its attempts to make us do bad, we rise. Thus, chometz is compared to the Yetzer Hara.

Says the Maharal(6), Chometz and Matzah alludes to this concept as well. Therefore, Chazal say “When a mitzvah comes your way don’t let it become chometz. This means that you should not let the “yeast in the dough,” that is, the Yetzer Hara, prevent you from doing the mitzvah. Moreover, a mitzvah is divine, and therefore transcends
time. However, corporeal things are subject to the demands of time. That’s why the term “don’t let it become
“chometz” is used, because the leavening process to become chometz takes time. Therefore, Chazal based it on the verse “You shall guard the matzos,” because matzos and mitzvos are both divine. Therefore, do not let time pass before doing the mitzvah you are supposed to do. And matzah as well, because when the Children of Israel left Egypt we left in an uplifted state above the concept of time, as explained [by the Maharal] elsewhere. This is why Hashem commanded us to eat matzah. [This possibly means that we were supposed to leave after 400 years of exile in Egypt, and instead Hashem took us out after only 210 years. In addition, we left in a tremendous hurry, without even time to let our dough rise. Moreover, Hashem catapulted each and every one of us into an elevated state, far beyond the demands of time and other mundane needs. This is perhaps also why we able to eat our matzah and maror for an entire month without running out.]

The Shelah(7) says that when you destroy the chometz before Pesach you should remember that chometz alludes to the Yetzer Hara, who is Satan, the yeast in the dough, and even the tiniest amount of chometz is forbidden. And therefore you are obligated by Halachah to search for it in every hole and crack on your property, to destroy it and to nullify it [and to relinquish any connection to it], as King David says, “Shun evil and do good” (Psalms 34:15). And thus purify yourself before the Holiday for which Hashem has chosen us.

And, finally, the Shelah(8) says that another allusion in the destruction of chometz is the fact that Hashem will, in the future, destroy the Yetzer Hara and eradicate it from the world, a hint of which is given in the verse “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the heart of stone out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh”(9). And as Rashi explains there, “A New Heart: An influence that has been renewed for the better.” [This will happen just before the World to Come
begins.] And in emulation of this, we are commanded to destroy our chometz on the day before Pesach.


1. Exodus 12:17
2. Mechilta, Bo, Parshah 9
3. Genesis 22:3
4. Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 4a
5. Babylonian Talmud, Brachos 17a
6. Nesivos Olam 1, page 74, Nesiv HaTorah Chapter 17
7. Tractate Pesachim, Sefiras Ha’Omer 1:7
8. Meseches Pesachim, Perek Torah Or 13
9. Ezekiel 36:26

What is Matzah and Why Do We Eat It?

Hashem (G-d) promised our Forefather Abraham that when the time came He would take us out of Egypt immediately. And indeed, when the time came, Hashem took us out of Egypt. The Egyptians, who until then had refused to let us go, suddenly were urging us and hurrying us away. We were sent out in such a hurry that we didn’t have time to let our dough rise to make bread. We wrapped up our dough, and baked it as soon as we were able. Since it had been so little time since we kneaded the flour with the water, the dough had not yet begun to rise. So we made what we call matzos, i.e., unleavened bread.

Thus the Torah says: “The Israelites traveled from Rameses toward Sukkoth. There were about 600,000 adult males on foot, besides the children…. They baked the dough that they had brought out of Egypt into unleavened (matzah) cakes, since it had not risen. They had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay, and they had not prepared any other provisions” (Exodus 12:37, 39).

Therefore, Hashem commanded us:

“This day must be one that you will remember. You must keep it as a festival to God for all generations. It is a law for all time that you must celebrate it. Eat matzahs for seven days. By the first day, you must have your homes cleared of all leaven. Whoever eats leaven from the first day until the seventh day will have his soul cut off from Israel…. Be careful regarding the matzahs, for on this very day I will have brought your masses out of Egypt. You must carefully keep this day for all generations; it is a law for all times. From the 14th day of the first month in the evening, until the night of the 21st day of the month, you must eat [only] matzahs. During [these] seven days, no leaven may be found in your homes. If someone eats anything leavened his soul shall be cut off from the community of Israel. [This is true] whether he is a proselyte or a person born into the nation. You must not eat anything leavened. In all the areas where you live, eat matzahs.”

(Exodus 12:14-20)

In addition, the Torah says:

“Eat matzos for seven days, and make the seventh day a festival to God. Since matzos must be eaten for [these] seven days, no leaven may be seen in your possession. No leaven may be seen in all your territories” (Exodus 13:6-7).

During the days of the Holiday of Passover we may not eat bread that has been allowed to rise, or bread that has been caused to rise. That is what “leaven” refers to.

The Hebrew word for “leaven,” or for “leavened” is “chometz.”

Without the addition of yeast, dough will become leavened, i.e, it will rise, if left alone for eighteen (18) minutes. For Pesach we make matzos from dough that contains only flour and water, and nothing else, and we roll out the matzos and bake them before 18 minutes have passed.

This is why we do not allow any water or any moisture to touch the grains or the flour at all, except when we are actually making the matzah. Then, of course, we pour specially prepared water onto the flour and knead it into dough, roll it into matzos, and bake it, all very quickly. This is done in a special Pesach matzah bakery. I have observed dough from the time water touches it until the time it is a finished matzah, in such a Pesach matzah bakery, and it took about five minutes from start to finish. No chance of it becoming chometz!

And since the Torah tells us to guard the matzos, we very carefully guard the matzos from the harvest until we eat them – to keep them away from any unacceptable moisture.

Another reason that we eat matzah on Passover is because when we were slaves the Egyptians fed us matzah instead of bread. Matzah takes longer to digest, and that way they felt they didn’t need to feed us as often.

Matzah was eaten by poor people. Rich people had slaves to do their work. Poor people did not have the time to let the dough rise, and had to bake it immediately. So they wound up eating matzah most of the time. This is one reason we refer to matzah as “Bread of the Poor.”

What is Chometz?

The Torah defines chometz as any mixture that contains flour and water that has been allowed to rise.

When dough rises, it undergoes a process called “leavening.” Whenever bread is baked, the dough is allowed to rise for at least an hour or two, to improve the taste, texture and volume. Once it has begun to change, it becomes leavened bread. In Hebrew, this is called “chometz.”

If you mix such with water, and leave it undisturbed, under optimum conditions it will become chometz in eighteen minutes. If, however, the flour touched hot water, or salted water, it becomes chometz INSTANTLY. And adding yeast to the dough makes it rise immediately, and more efficiently. (Yeast is one of several substances that are called “leavening agents.”)

Also, if flour touches water that is mixed with another type of liquid, it becomes chometz instantly. Ironically, things like apple juice cannot cause flour to ferment, but apple juice mixed with water causes the mixture to ferment and become chometz instantly.

However, if the dough is completely baked before it begins to rise, it is called “matzah.”

Not all grains can actually rise that way. The Torah defines five types of grain that can become chometz when mixed with liquid: grain: wheat, spelt, oats, barley, and rye, or any of their derivatives. (Those are also the only five types of grain from which we may make Passover matzah to eat the first two nights of Passover.)

During the entire Holiday of Passover, it is forbidden to own, eat or handle chometz in any way. It is even forbidden to drive any benefit from chometz during Passover, such as making profiit from it, using it for fuel, or feeding it to your animals. Any benefit whatsoever is forbidden during Passover.

Instead, throughout the entire Holiday of Passover, we eat matzah. However, it is impossible to bake matzah that is kosher for Passover on your own.

You cannot simply buy flour from the store and make matzah with it. In the first place, flour today is processed. It is often washed, which makes it chometz. Grain is usually tempered, which means it is soaked in water to soften it. Many flours are bleached. Any one of these processes make the grain chometz. There are other problems as well.

What about special flour from health food stores? Well, the Torah says “And you shall guard the matzos…” (Exodus 12:17). In other words, you must guard them carefully so that they do not become chometz. Also, we are supposed to guard it during the entire process, even stating out loud that it is being processed for the purpose of making matzah for Passover use.

So even if you buy flour that the miller claims has never been processed with water, you are nevertheless buying flour that has not been guarded by the Torah’s standards.

In point of fact, the flour used for proper Passover Matzos is usualy guarded even before it has been ground into flour. It is guarded from water from the very moment the stalks of wheat are harvested. If they touch water at any time after that, they are not used for Passover. Throughout every step of the process, the flour and the water are carefully (and separately) guarded. They are transported and stored with the same exacting measure of care. They are kept from any warmth until the actual baking takes place, because heat can speed up the chometz process, which we want to avoid.

Every utensil used in baking the matzah, the table, the kneading bowl, the cup that pours the water, the rolling pins, from beginning to end, absolutely every tool is carefully made kosher for Passover each and every eighteen minutes while the matzah bakery is being used. You can read about this process in greater detail at an article called “More on Chametz,” and also in my article “Baking The Passover Matzah.”

Extracts from chometz are also forbidden. Alcoholic fermentation from chometz is forbidden. Many of the foods and snacks you eat all year are chometz. The obvious ones are bread, cake, crackers, pretzels, cereal, noodles (except pure egg noodles prepared entirely with Passover utensils), beer, malt, whiskey, and so forth. Even a food in which chometz has been very diluted on Passover is forbidden. Even non-chometz food prepared in utensils that have been used for chometz are chometz (because some of the taste of food previously cooked in that utensil may get into new food cooked in that utensil) and may not be eaten on Passover, even if you wash the pots first.

During Passover, we may not use any items that have chometz in them. Even a mixture of chometz and permissible products is forbidden. Moreover, it is forbidden to derive any benefit whatsoever from chometz, and even from chometz derivatives. Lists of permissible and forbidden items are available in an number of publications, including Rabbi Blumenkrantz’s Digest of the Laws of Pesach. This book is updated every year, based on careful research, or so I am told. To purchase this guide, call (718) 337-6056, or (718) 337-6144.

However, some things may be made usable for Passover, even though they have been used for chometz during the year. The process is complicated, and that is a subject for another article.

The History of the Exodus

This article has been expanded and improved in my new book, now at the publishers:

The Beginner’s Guide to Making the Seder

The first man, Adam, knew G-d, and prayed to G-d. But as time went on, most of his descendants began to forget G-d, and worshipped idols and stars instead. Some kept the proper Tradition, however, and passed it along to their children. Fifteen hundred years later, Noah was faithful to G-d. When G-d sent the Flood, He saved Noah and his family.

After the Flood, Noah divided up all the land between his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Canaan, son of Ham, along with other descendants of Ham, stole from Shem the choice land that came to be known as Canaan.

Two hundred ninety-two years after the Flood, Abraham was born. Abraham was a descendant of Shem, and was also righteous.

Abraham’s father was also an idol worshipper, and he tried to teach Abraham to follow in his footsteps, but Abraham knew better. Abraham realized that there is a Creator Who directs the entire universe. Abraham set about teaching the world about the Creator, and that the Creator wants everyone to do acts of charity and loving-kindness to everyone else in the world. Abraham dedicated himself entirely to the service of G-d, and he elevated himself to an unprecedented level of holiness. G-d therefore granted Abraham divine experiences and prophecy.

On the fifteenth day of the month that was later to be called Nisan, in the year 2018 after Creation, G-d made a covenant, an agreement, with Abraham, called the Covenant Between the Parts (see Genesis 15:1-19). In this agreement G-d promised Abraham that he would father a new nation that would continue Abraham’s work, and that eventually he would have so many descendants they would be uncountable. However, they would have to undergo many hardships, including exile, slavery, and oppression. Eventually, his descendants would be rescued from slavery, on that very same day of the year—the fifteenth of Nisan—and G-d would bring them to the Land of Canaan.

Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Only Isaac obeyed G-d, and so G-d chose Isaac to continue Abraham’s Tradition. Isaac also had two sons: Jacob (also called Israel) and Esau. Only Jacob obeyed G-d, and so Jacob was chosen. All of Jacob’s children were righteous, and they obeyed G-d.

G-d caused a famine in the land they were occupying (Canaan), so that they would move down to Egypt. They settled in the district known as Goshen. Being descended from Jacob, who was also called Israel, they called themselves the Children of Israel. The Children of Israel numbered only seventy men and women at the time they entered Egypt. In just a few generations they increased until they became a vast nation.

They were recognizably a different nation because they lived a distinctly different life. They labored hard to retain their national identity so that they would not assimilate. They did this in three primary ways: They spoke their own language, they wore distinctively Jewish clothing, and they gave their children only Jewish names. And of course, they never married a non-Jew.

The Children of Israel had not intended to stay in Egypt very long, but before long the Egyptians enslaved most of them.

The Egyptians forced upon the Israelites cruel and demeaning work. They were determined to decimate the Israelites, and they arranged it so that the men would be forced to stay away from their homes for long periods of time. But the Israelite women were righteous, and they secretly visited their husbands at night, despite the hardships this caused the women. And so, the more the Egyptians attempted to reduce the Israelites, the more the Israelites multiplied.

Many harsh and horrible decrees were passed against the Children of Israel during their long slavery.

Astrologers told the Pharaoh that an Israelite male child born at that time would grow up to overthrow Pharaoh, so Pharaoh decided to kill all the male children born to the Israelites. He ordered them thrown into the Nile River.

Pharaoh was stricken with a skin disease. His doctors told him that only baths of blood could cure his disease. So Pharaoh bathed in the blood of Israelite babies.

When the subjugation was at its worst, the Egyptians forced upon the Israelites an unreasonable quota of bricks. If the Israelites failed to fill the quota of bricks, their children were killed in front of them, and the bodies were mixed into the brick-mortar.

This is but a small sampling of the horrors perpetrated against the Israelites in Egypt. That is the reason we eat bitter herbs at the Seder—to recall the bitter torments we suffered at the hands of the Egyptians, and thus better appreciate G-d’s rescuing us from Egypt.

Finally, G-d spoke to Moses and told him to tell the Children of Israel that G-d was ready to take them out of Egypt. «I am G-d, and I will take you away from the oppression of Egypt, I will free you from their slavery…» (See The Four Cups of Wine.) G-d referred to the Children of Israel as «My son, My firstborn, Israel.» G-d told Moses to tell Pharaoh to allow the Children of Israel to leave Egypt. If Pharaoh refused, G-d would punish him and all recalcitrant Egyptians.

Pharaoh refused to listen to Moses’ warnings, and so G-d sent the Plague of Blood. All the water belonging to Egyptians turned into blood, and the Egyptians had to buy water from the Israelites if they did not want to die of thirst. The plague lasted for seven days. Pharaoh still refused to release the Israelites.

Moses warned Pharaoh that there would be more plagues, if he refused to release the Israelites. For three weeks, Moses warned Pharaoh about the Plague of Frogs, but Pharaoh refused to listen. So G-d sent the Plague of Frogs. Frogs overran Egypt, and their incessant, deafening croaking drove the Egyptians mad. They were everywhere, in their houses, on their tables, in their beds, even in their food. In revulsion and despair, Pharaoh promised to release the Children of Israel, and begged Moses to pray to G-d to stop the plague. But after G-d stopped the plague, Pharaoh still refused to release the Israelites. So G-d sent more plagues.

After the ninth plague, the Plague of Darkness, G-d gave the Israelites two Commandments: Circumcision, and the Passover Sacrifice. Both symbolized complete loyalty to G-d. Circumcision signifies that a man will so devote himself to G-d that he holds even his strongest physical desires in check (though does not deny its needs). Circumcision is a sign one makes on one’s body, signifying that one will use one’s body only in such a manner as G-d allows.

The Passover Sacrifice was also a great act of devotion. The Passover Sacrifice was brought from lambs or goats, animals worshipped by the Egyptians. The lamb was one of the Egyptian deities. To kill and eat the oppressor’s G-d was the greatest act of devotion to the True G-d, the Creator of heaven and earth. It showed that the Israelites repudiated any association with false G-ds. It showed that they were willing to risk their lives to obey G-d, despite the fear that the Egyptians might get angry and take revenge.

To highlight this, the Children of Israel were commanded to keep the body of the Passover lamb intact. They were forbidden to break any of the bones. The next morning they were required to place their lamb skeletons—intact—on display in the public marketplace, so the Egyptians would see what they had done.

Some of the Egyptians did indeed get angry, but they were afraid to take revenge against the Israelites.

G-d commanded the Children of Israel to eat the Passover Sacrifice on the fifteenth night of the month of Nisan. (Since in Judaism the night precedes the day, this is the night before the fifteenth day of Nisan. The fifteenth of Nisan therefore starts at the beginning of the night, and ends at nightfall around twenty-four hours later.) The Children of Israel were commanded to do a number of things that night: to eat the Passover sacrifice, to eat matzah, to eat bitter herbs, and to tell their children the miracles G-d had performed for them. This was the Passover Seder—the same Seder
Jews have performed every year since then. In addition, the Israelites were forbidden to have any leavened bread in their possession or on their property from the day before Passover throughout the entire Holiday of Passover.

Just before the tenth plague, the Plague of the Firstborn, many firstborn Egyptians rose up in rebellion, insisting that Pharaoh release the Israelites. They had heard Moses warn Pharaoh and the Egyptians of the Plague that was to come, the Slaying of the Firstborn, and they were frightened. Pharaoh refused to release the Israelites, and the firstborn took their swords and began to kill everyone they met. Eventually, Pharaoh put down the rebellion with his army.

At exactly midnight, on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan, G-d passed through Egypt, killing all the firstborn and oldest in each and every household, except those of the Israelites who had prepared and eaten the Passover Sacrifice. G-d «passed over» the houses of the Israelites, and thus we call this Holiday «Passover.» The Holiday Sacrifice which was eaten during the Seder when there was a Holy Temple was called the Passover Sacrifice, so that we would remember and thank Hashem for passing over our houses during the Plague of the Firstborn.

Not only the firstborn were struck. Every idol in Egypt was disintegrated as well. Not a single idol remained intact, with the exception of the idol known as Ba’al Tzefon, because it stood just outside the borders of Egypt. This idol was allowed to continue to exist so that the Egyptians would have the free choice to choose between G-d and an idol.

Only after the Plague of the Firstborn began did Pharaoh agree to let the Israelites leave Egypt. Pharaoh was also a firstborn, and he suddenly feared death. Pharaoh begged the Israelites to leave immediately, during the night, while the firstborn were still dying.

Moses told him that they refused to leave in the dead of night, like thieves, or like escaped slaves. The Children of Israel would leave during the day, and everyone would know they were being released.

The next morning, on the fifteenth day of Nisan, Pharaoh ordered the Israelites to immediately leave Egypt. Moses told the Children of Israel to visit all the Egyptians they knew and ask them for their gold and jewelry. The Children of Israel obeyed, and the Egyptians hurriedly gave them their valuables.

Rushed as they were, the Israelites did not have time to bake their bread, nor prepare any food, and the dough they kneaded did not have time to rise. The Children of Israel wrapped up their dough and their leftover matzah and bitter herbs in their clothing, placed the bundles over their shoulders, and walked joyfully out of the land of Egypt.

They trusted in G-d, and they obeyed G-d’s orders and walked into the desert without sufficient provisions. Though they took along with them many animals, they carried the matzah on their own shoulders; they cherished G-d’s Commandment so much that they would not allow their donkeys to carry the matzah.

G-d performed a miracle for the Children of Israel, and they traveled a great distance in a very short time. When they arrived, their dough had still not risen, so they baked the dough as matzos—unleavened (i.e. unrisen) bread. This is the reason we eat matzah during the Passover Seder—to remember that when the time came to leave Egypt Hashem took us out so quickly that there was no time to let the dough rise for proper bread.

The little bit of matzah each Israelite took out of Egypt miraculously lasted them thirty-one days.

The Exodus took place on the fifteenth day of the month of Nisan—the first day of Passover. It was precisely four-hundred-thirty years to the day since G-d had promised Abraham his children would be released from Egypt. G-d had said that the descendants of Abraham would be in exile for four hundred years. G-d had mercy and counted the exile from the birth of Isaac, the son of Abraham, who lived in exile all his life. The Israelites were in the Land of Egypt for only two hundred ten years.

The next day, on the sixteenth of Nisan, G-d told Moses to inform the Israelites that they would soon be receiving the Torah: G-d’s Commandments and the wisdom with which they would live their lives. In excitement, they began counting the days until they would be at Mount Sinai and receive the Torah from G-d. Because of that reaction, G-d granted the Children of Israel yet another Commandment: each year we count from the second day of Passover until Shavuos, the time we received the Torah. This counting later came to be called Sefiras Ha’Omer.

Very soon thereafter, Pharaoh regretted his decision to release the Israelites. He gathered his army and they began chasing the Israelites through the desert. They chased them until the Sea of Suf, the Sea of Reeds. On the seventh day after the Children of Israel left Egypt, the twenty-first of Nisan, G-d split and dried the Reed Sea so that the Israelites could walk through it on dry land. The Israelites did not cross to the other side, but circled around and came back to the same side further along the shore. When the Egyptians attempted to follow, G-d sent the sea back to drown them. This took place on the seventh day of Passover.

The death of the Egyptians was not a simple drowning. The Egyptians were paid back in full for all the horrors they had perpetrated upon the Children of Israel. The worst Egyptians were tossed up and down like straw, and suffered many punishments while drowning. Some sank like stones, and experienced some extra punishments. The best of the Egyptians, those that inflicted less pain on the Israelites, sank like lead and were drowned almost immediately.

The Egyptians were punished with many more plagues at the sea than they received in Egypt.

When the Israelites saw the magnitude of their rescue, they were catapulted into an elevated state of holiness, and each and every one of them began to prophesy. Together they sang the «Song at the Sea,» in which they praised G-d for all the might and power He had shown them.

The Exodus therefore did more than simply release the Israelites from slavery. It also brought them into an exalted level of holiness. To be sure, they did not remain at that extremely high state of prophecy, but the Exodus gave to the Children of Israel of all generations the special status of G-d’s Chosen People and G-d’s holy nation of priests. From then on the Children of Israel have been a people with a holy mission, and special to G-d.

Why were the Israelites chosen by G-d? Because of the great merit of the three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This merit, the Torah declares, will last us forever.

G-d promised us that we would always be the Chosen People, and that no matter how badly we sinned, no matter how badly we would be punished, we would never be rejected or forsaken by G-d. After all, we were not chosen in our own merit, so our sins cannot lose us that status.

G-d warned us that we might have to undergo many exiles, and many troubles, but we would always be G-d’s People.

Other nations have been freed from slavery. None have been freed from slavery with overt miracles, signs and wonders performed by visitations of G-d. No other nation has ever witnessed en masse miracles that declared them the chosen of G-d. This has happened only for the Children of Israel.

It was necessary, however, for the Children of Israel to raise themselves up by their own efforts, so that they could receive the ultimate treasure—the Torah. They used the counting of the Omer to lift themselves up step by step until they were ready to receive the Torah.

The Israelites did not travel immediately to the Sinai Desert. From the Reed Sea they traveled to the Shur Desert, where they stopped at a region called Marah There G-d taught them some of the Commandments, such as the Sabbath, the honoring of one’s parents, and various civil laws, including the humane treatment of slaves. G-d promised the Children of Israel, «If you observe My Commandments, you will be spared from the diseases I visited upon the Egyptians.»

They left Marah, and traveled to Ailam, where they stayed a while. From Ailam, they traveled to the Seen Desert, and arrived there on the fifteenth of Iyar, exactly one month after they had left Egypt. At that time, the matzah and bitter herbs they had brought with them from Egypt, which had miraculously lasted them until then, came to an end. The next day, G-d gave them Manna to eat. The Manna fell from heaven every day except on the Sabbath. On Friday, twice as much Manna fell. The people would then collect twice as much Manna, so that they would not have to violate the Sabbath by collecting the Manna during the Sabbath. The Children of Israel ate Manna for all the forty years they were in the Sinai Desert, no matter where they traveled in the desert.

From the Seen Desert traveled to Refidim, where Amalek ambushed them. The Children of Israel strengthened their trust in G-d, and G-d helped them win the battle. After the battle, they traveled to the Sinai Desert, and camped at the foot of Mount Sinai.

Meanwhile, the Children of Israel continued to count the days until the receiving of the Torah. On the fiftieth day after they began counting the Omer—that is, fifty-one days after the Exodus, all of the Children of Israel: men, women and children, over two million people, stood at Mount Sinai and received the Torah amidst great miracles and heavenly fire.

They saw no form or picture of G-d, but they saw many miracles that proved that G-d is the Creator of heaven and earth. They heard G-d’s voice as He spoke and commanded Moses to instruct the Children of Israel on how to prepare to receive the Torah. Then they heard G-d speaking directly to them, the Children of Israel, and commanding them to keep the Torah. The Children of Israel accepted the Torah and all its Commandments, and they said: «We agree to obey, even before we hear the actual Commandments.»

At Mount Sinai, G-d gave us all of the Torah, with six hundred thirteen Commandments. Ten of them, the basic ten categories of the Commandments, were written on the Two Tablets. (These «Ten Statements» are often mistakenly called the «Ten Commandments.»)

G-d also commanded the Children of Israel to build the Tabernacle. That was the Sanctuary, the place where G-d showed His Holy Presence daily, and to where everyone had to bring all their sacrifices. There were also daily sacrifices brought there by the priests on behalf of the Children of Israel. The Tabernacle was a sort of mobile Sanctuary, which the Levites took apart whenever Israel traveled, and reassembled whenever the people camped.

The Children of Israel were in the Sinai Desert for forty years. At the end of the forty years, Moses and most of that generation passed away. Joshua the son of Nun was now the leader, and he took them into the land of Canaan and took back the land from the descendants of Ham. They renamed the land «Israel.»

Almost five hundred years later, they built the Holy Temple, the stationary Sanctuary.
Unfortunately, it was destroyed by the Babylonians when the Israelites sinned four hundred ten years later. The Children of Israel went into exile in Babylon for seventy years. Afterwards, many returned and rebuilt the Holy Temple. This one stood for four hundred twenty years, until it was again destroyed, this time by the Romans, when the Israelites sinned.

Now that we have no Holy Temple in Jerusalem, we are forbidden to make a Passover Sacrifice. Yet G-d has promised us that though we would experience many exiles we would always be

G-d’s Chosen People, and we would never be rejected or forsaken by G-d. G-d has promised us the Messiah, who will come and reinstate the Kingdom of Israel. Then we will all go to the rebuilt Jerusalem and offer the Passover Sacrifice and hold the Seder as we really should.

Thus, in past, present, and future, the story of the Exodus is one of special relationship between G-d and His people. Throghout the Hagadah, no mention is made of the role of any individual human being on behalf of the Children of Israel. Therefore, it is a mistake to place any importance on any personalities during the Seder, as important as they were. The Redemption was G-d’s doing, and solely G-d’s doing.