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Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


Recommended Passover Reading

Passover Resources

Passover… the season of matzah, maror and minding the minutes until you can get away from your family. Not anymore! Shimon Apisdorf’s fantastic Passover Survival Kit is the perfect solution for bringing meaning and movement to every Seder table.

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Passover Survival Kit

By Shimon Apisdorf

Shimon Apisdorf draws his readers in with a light, conversational style to his writing: not lecturing to his readers, but rather holding a friendly dialogue with them.

The Passover Survival Kit is a combination of Apisdorf’s survival guide and a Haggadah. The survival guide is for pre-Passover preparation. As all good Jewish books do, it starts with Passover questions such as why four cups of wine, why hide the afikomen, and why is so much time spent cleaning for Passover. The answers to these questions lead into a chapter long discussion about the concept of freedom and how Passover is the Jewish celebration of freedom. The first section of the Passover Survival Kit also contains guidelines for “how to survive the seder” whether you are guest or host, as well as an explanation of the fifteen sections of the seder.

The Passover Survival Kit is also equipped with an enhanced Haggadah. Not only does Apisdorf include the complete Haggadah in English, but also questions and answers, mini-essays and activity suggestions. Apisdorf also clearly marks important seder points with recognizable symbols such as stop signs and question marks. The Haggadah is enlightening for everyone — from the first-time seder participant to someone who has led the seder for the last ten years.

Shimon Apisdorf’s Passover Survival Kit is an essential addition to enhance everyone’s Passover.

Printed by Leviathan Press

Remember to Shop with Amazon Smile so that a portion of your purchase is donated to NJOP!

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Passover Recipes

Passover Resources

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


Passover Seder 101 Web Series

Passover Seder 101

Web Series

Welcome to NJOP’s new Passover Seder Web Series corresponding to the 15 steps of the seder. Featuring Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, Founder and Director of NJOP, these 15 short webisodes will walk you through the essential elements of the Haggadah in a fun, uplifting manner to help enhance the seder you are hosting or plan to attend. You will develop a keen understanding behind the rituals and customs underlying the text of the Haggadah and the seder experience.

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


Passover Around the World

Passover Around The World

Throughout the 2000 years of exile, the Jewish nation has dwelled in almost every corner of the world. England, Syria, Russia or Shanghai, no matter the country, Passover has been a time of sacredness to all Jews. Whether from an Ashkenazi or a Sephardi background, the matzah, the maror and the text of the Haggadah unify the Jewish nation. But distance between communities has spiced the flavor of every Seder. While njop.org has presented basic guidelines, below are some unique customs from communities around the world.

Charoset: A tasty food that represents the mortar the Jewish slaves used to build Pharaoh’s cities, the recipe varies between communities. Most Ashkenazic communities make their charoset based on walnuts, apples and wine. The Persian community mixes spices with such fruits and nuts as bananas, oranges, pistachios, pomegranates and dates. Another Sephardic charoset recipe is made by boiling dates into a thick liquid, straining it and adding chopped walnuts. Venetian Jews blend chestnut paste and apricots.

Gebrachts: In Yiddish, the word gebruchts means broken and refers to foods prepared by cooking or baking matzah or matzah meal with liquids. This stringency, adhered to by most Chasidic communities, as well as many non-Chasidic Ashkenazim, is based upon the fear that raw flour may still be found in the cooked matzah and, when mixed with a liquid, will become chametz. For those who choose to not eat gebrachts matzah balls and matzah brei, favorites throughout the Ashkenazi world, are off the menu.

Yachatz (The Breaking of the Middle Matzah): In some Sephardi communities, the Seder leader attempts to break the middle matzah into the shape of letters. Syrians break the matzah in the shape of the Hebrew letters dalet and vav. Maghreban break it to form the 2 components of the Hebrew letter heh. (Note: hiding and stealing the afikoman is an Ashkenazi, not a Sephardi tradition

Re-enacting the Exodus: A pervasive custom throughout the Sephardi communities is to dramatize the Exodus. Generally this takes place immediately following Yachatz, the breaking of the middle matzah, or after Ha Lachma Anya, the first paragraph of the Maggid section.

The basic script for this dramatization is as follows:

Person holding the afikoman: “Their remaining possessions tied up in their bags on their shoulders and the children of Israel did as Moses commanded.”

Other Seder Participants: “From where are you coming?”

Afikoman holder: “From Egypt.”

Participants: “Where are you going to?”

Afikoman holder: “To Jerusalem.”

Participants: “What are your supplies?”

Afikoman holder: “Matzah and Maror.”

This ceremony varies not only as to when it is said, but who says it (sometimes only the leader, sometimes one child gets up and knocks on door before the dialogue begins, and sometimes each participant of the Seder holds the afikoman in turn), and how the afikoman is wrapped and held (in a napkin or a bag, held on the right shoulder or thrown over the shoulder).

Re-enacting the Exodus–a second version: In the Yemenite community, the Seder leader rises, throws the afikoman bag over his shoulder like a knapsack and circles the table while leaning on a cane. As he walks about the room, the leader tells the other participants about his experiences and the miracles he witnessed as he came from Egypt.

Dayenu and Scallions: In Afghani, Persian, and other Sephardi homes, the singing of Dayenu is accompanied by the beating of scallions — Using bunches of scallions or leeks, Seder participants beat each other lightly on the back and shoulders to symbolize the taskmasters whip.

The End of Passover: The last day of Passover is the day on which G-d parted the Reed Sea. Many communities commemorate this great event by gathering together at midnight and reciting the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15).
This is a brief survey of some of the varying traditions within the Jewish community. If you feel NJOP has left off a valuable custom from your community, please email us at [email protected]

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


Passover Dictionary

Passover Dictionary

Wondering what all those Passover terms mean? Check out NJOP’s quick and easy Passover dictionary:

Chametz – Leaven and any product in which wheat, oat, barley, spelt or rye come in contact with water for 18 minutes or longer (without kneading or manipulating), is called chametz.

Charoset – A tasty mixture of chopped walnuts, wine, cinnamon and apples that represents the mortar the Jewish slaves used to build Pharaoh’s cities (recipes may vary by community).

Dayenu – One of the most famous of all Seder songs, Dayenu praises G-d for the many miracles and gifts He gave the Jews by stressing after each great miracle, “Dayenu – It would have been enough!”

Gebruchts – Foods containing matzah with liquid. Numerous communities have accepted upon themselves a stringency not to eat gebruchts for fear that additional fermentation may occur when the matzah and liquid are combined.

Haggadah – From the Hebrew infinitive l’haggid, to tell, the Haggadah is the special Passover guide book from which Jews fulfill the commandment of telling the story of the Exodus.

Hallel – Hallel is a collection of Psalms that are recited on the festivals and Rosh Chodesh (the new month).

Kitniyot – During the holiday of Passover, Ashekenazim (Jews of Western and Eastern European ancestry) follow the Rabbinic decree to not eat kitniyot, foods such as rice, corn, soy beans, string beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, mustard, sesame seeds and poppy seeds.

Maot Chitim – It is customary for every city to supply the poor with their Passover needs from a communal fund called Maot Chitim.

Maror – Bitter herbs, usually fresh ground horseradish or romaine lettuce leaves, which are eaten during the Seder.

Matzah – Unleavened bread that is permissible to eat during Passover. To be Kosher for Passover, the matzah must be made in under 18 minutes. Jews eat matzah at Passover to remind them of the unleavened bread which the Jews hastily took with them as they left Egypt.

Matzah Shmura or Shmura Matzah – Literally “guarded matzah,” shmura matzah has been specially supervised since before the wheat was cut so that it did not come in contact with chametz. This practice is based on Exodus 12:17, “And you shall guard the matzot…”. It is best to use shmura matzah for the Seder.

Passover – The English name of the holiday derives from the fact that G-d “passed-over” the Jewish homes during the plague of the first born.

Pesach – The Hebrew name of the holiday refers to the Pesach offering, the Pascal Lamb that was an integral part of the Seder during the time of the Temple. During the actual exodus, G-d commanded the Jewish people to take a lamb into their homes, slaughter it five days later, and put the blood on the doorposts of their homes to indicate that it was a Jewish home.

Seder – The festive Passover meal is referred to as the Seder. The word Seder actually means order, and the feast is called by this name to indicate that there is a certain order that should be followed.

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


Festival Facts

Passover Resources

Table of Contents

Matzah Baking

To guarantee that matzah is Kosher for Passover, it must be produced in under 18 minutes. That means from the moment the water and flour come in contact, through the kneading and rolling, until it is removed from the (degree) oven, no more than 18 minutes can have passed. When the 18 minutes are over, any unused dough is removed, the baking area is cleaned of left overs, and all workers scrub their hands to ensure that no dough is caught between their fingers.

Where is Moshe (Moses)?

Central to the story of the Exodus is the dynamic leader who spoke with G-d, confronted Pharaoh, led the Jews out of Egypt and guided them through the wilderness for forty years – Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our great teacher). As integral a part as Moshe played in the Exodus from Egypt, one would think that his name would be all over the Haggadah. But it isn’t. In fact, he is mentioned only once, and then merely in passing. Why isn’t Moshe part of the Haggadah?

While Judaism ranks no leader or teacher higher then Moshe, he is not, and cannot be deified, and this is why he is not part of the Passover Seder. On Passover we celebrate the fact the G-d brought us out of Egypt with “a strong hand and an outstretched arm.” As the Haggadah states: ” I [G-d] and not an angel. I [G-d] and not a messenger.”
No human being has ever come as close to G-d as Moshe, but in the end we must remember that he was still a human being. In fact, G-d recognizes the human capacity for deification and when Moshe dies, the location of his death and his burial site remains unknown to all. G-d wanted the Jewish people to understand that Moshe was a messenger of G-d, not the deity himself. The sages, therefore, when formalizing the text of the Haggadah, did not introduce Moshe into the text, out of fear that this could lead to Moshe’s deification.

How Pharaoh Enslaved The Children of Israel

Upon reading the Book of Exodus, one might wonder at the swift descent of the Jewish nation from the esteemed family of the Viceroy, Joseph, to slavery. Xenophobia, the fear of foreigners, is a common historic phenomenon, but one would think that transforming a nation into slaves would cause an uprising or take generations. The sages teach, however, that the Egyptians were cunning and enslaved the Jews through artifice. This is understood from Pharaoh, whose name can be broken up to mean peh rah, which means evil speech and can be understood to relate to peh rach, soft speech – Language is a powerful tool and even Pharaoh understood this. When he decided to enslave the Jews he declared a national week of labor on which all good citizens of the realm were to come and help in the building of the great store cities of Pithom and Ramses, with Pharaoh himself in the lead. The Jews, wanting to show their loyalty to their host country, joined in enthusiastically. The next day, however, when the Jews arrived to building sites, the Egyptians did not return. Shortly thereafter, the Jews found themselves surrounded by taskmasters who demanded that they produce the same amount of work that they had done under their own volition the day before. It was through soft, gentle and cunning words that Pharaoh lured the Jewish nation into slavery.

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


Passover Writings

Order in Ten Plagues- Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald

The great German rabbi and Biblical commentator (1808-1888), Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch offers a compelling interpretation of the 10 plagues. In the Haggadah we read that Rabbi Yehuda ha’yah notayn ba’hem see’maneem, “Rabbi Yehudah used to form acronyms (of the 10 plagues) by their initials”:

D’tzach, A’dash, B’ah’ch’av. Rabbi Hirsch asserts that Rabbi Yehuda’s breakdown of the plagues into three sets of three (Makkat B’chorot – the slaying of the first born is in a category of its own), is not at all arbitrary. In fact, it is based on the Brit Bayn Hab’tarim, the Covenant Between the Pieces (Genesis 15) where G-d tells Avraham: Ya’do’ah tay’dah, “You shall surely know that your children will be gerim, exiles, in a land that is not theirs,” va’avadum, ” they will be enslaved,” v’eenu otam “and they will be persecuted,” arbah may’ot shana, “400 years.”

Rabbi Hirsch underscores the three elements of the Covenant Between the Pieces: exile, enslavement and persecution. Elaborating on the structure of the 10 plagues, Rabbi Hirsch points out that the first plague of each triplet: dam, blood, arov,wild animals, and barad, hail, always takes place at the riverside. The first plagues of each triplet represent galut, exile. Just as the Jews in Egypt experienced exile, so the Egyptians must experience exile. The Nile is no loner the Nile. The most highly identified feature of Egypt is now a river of blood. The land is overrun with wild animals. It is no longer Egypt. Suddenly this country of hot climate is stricken with barad, hail. It is no longer Egypt.

The second of each triplet, says Rabbi Hirsch, always takes place at Pharaoh’s palace. Tz’pharday’ah, frogs, deh’ver, death of the animals, and a’rbeh, locust, all represent avdut, enslavement. The Egyptians are overrun by timorous frogs who control their lives and enslave the citizens. The plague of the animals requires the Egyptians to serve as clean-up laborers. And a’rbeh, locusts, the little bugs control and in effect enslave the Egyptians.

The final plague of each triplet always takes place without any warning to Pharaoh. Kinim, lice, sh’chin, boils, and cho’shech, darkness, represent the third aspect of the Covenant Between the Pieces — physical persecution. Physical persecution from lice, boils and darkness. The darkness, as the rabbis interpret it, was so fierce that the Egyptians were literally imprisoned, and they could not physically move.
Now we understand why Rabbi Judah would break the plagues up into three categories–because the 10 plagues truly served as a fulfillment of the Covenant Between the Pieces. We also see that there is magic to the structure of the Torah — what seemed to be ten arbitrary plagues have deep and profound meaning when understood in the proper context.

Demystifying...Bedikat Chametz (The Search for Chametz) - Sarah Rochel Hewitt

Tis the night before Pesach
and all through the place
we must search for our chametz,
in every corner and space.

We’ve emptied our pockets,
and vacuumed the floor,
every inch has been dusted,
we can clean no more!

With a feather and a candle,
in the dark of the night,
we look for any chametz
that was hidden from sight.

Next day after sunrise
all the chametz must be
burned out of existence
to set ourselves free.

On Passover, Jews are commanded to get rid of all “chametz” (see definition of chametz in overview) which may be in their possession. Weeks are spent cleaning and scrubbing. To confirm the effectiveness of these efforts, a special search for chametz, called Bedikat Chametz, is held on the night before Passover.

Shortly after nightfall, Bedikat Chametz begins. The search is conducted by the light of a candle, in order to look in all the nooks and crannies (if the candle might cause danger, for instance when searching near draperies, one may use a flashlight). It is also customary to “sweep” the chametz away with a feather.
Before the search begins, the following blessing is recited:

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzeevanu al Bee’oor chametz.
Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us concerning the removal of chametz.

From the recitation of the blessing until the search begins, there should be no talking. Likewise, during the search, conversation should be limited to matters which pertain to the search.

Sometimes getting into the right mind frame for the search may be difficult, especially if the house has already been thoroughly cleaned for Passover. It is the custom, therefore, to carefully “hide” ten pieces of chametz (for instance 10 pieces of pretzel) in the rooms which will be searched. The search will thus be more diligent, and will not conclude until all the rooms have been checked and the 10 pieces found.

All chametz that is found should be placed safely in a bag for disposal the next morning. You may, however, put aside chametz to eat for breakfast, making sure to clean up any leftovers and to add them to the chametz bag afterwards.

When the search is over, a general declaration is made stating that any unknown chametz is hereby declared ownerless:

“Any chametz or leaven that is in my possession which I have not seen, have not
removed and do not know about, should be annulled and become ownerless,
like the dust of the earth.”

On the morning before the Seder, all chametz found during Bedikat Chametz, or left over from breakfast, is burned. In larger communities, there are often communal chametz burning barrels.
After the burning of the chametz, since the time for eating chametz has passed, we make a more comprehensive declaration nullifying ownership.

“Any chametz, or leaven, that is in my possession, whether I know about it
or not, whether I have seen it or not, whether I have removed it or not, should
be annulled and become ownerless, like dust of the earth.”

The removal and destruction of chametz is now complete.

A Deeper Look at Bedikat Chametz

On Passover, the festival of freedom, we commemorate our liberation from slavery. In the 21st century, most people often think of freedom as a lack of restrictions and obligations. With the intensive cleaning and obligatory preparations, Passover seems to be in direct contradiction of freedom. After all, how can we be considered free, when we are obligated to “slave away” cleaning every corner of the house?

While our release from slavery occurred on Passover, the Jewish nation was not wholly free on the day they left Egypt. Although they were no longer subjugated to taskmasters, the Israelites retained the slave mentalities which they had acquired. Slavery, after all, denies a person free will. Lack of free will often causes a person to lose a sense of responsibility. Proof of this can be seen in the fact that throughout their journey in the wilderness, the Jews rebel and cry-out that it would have been better to still be slaves in Egypt! While in slavery, they did not have to choose how to act, their masters told them what to do.

Yes, the Jewish nation was redeemed from Egypt in order to be free, free to serve G-d! Thirty three centuries later, our mission has not changed. Passover is the time for setting ourselves free from that which today enslaves us. While the slavery of the 21st century is not the physical hardship we faced in Egypt, today’s bondage is even more subtle and powerful. Today many Americans are enslaved to their jobs, to money, to power and to technology.

How many Jews will miss attending a Sedera this year because they “just couldn’t get off work” (In America, one can’t really loose his/her job for taking time off for a religious holiday!!) How many Jews are aghast at the idea of no TV, pager or cell-phone for 25 hours on Shabbat. And how many Jews balk at the idea of keeping kosher because of the fear of appearing different from others? Is this freedom?
Perhaps the root of enslavement is pride. The popular idiom of modern life, “He who has the most toys, wins,” is, unfortunately, hardly a maxim for living life to the fullest. It is probably more a means of showing superiority over others. Does anyone really need a cell-phone/pager/internet with a video screen? The human race has survived without it for millennia. But oh, to be the first one on the block to own one!

Our sages tell us that Chametz (any combination of water and flour which is allowed to ferment) represents “pride,” comparing the “puffing-up” of the dough to the “puffing-up” of the ego. We are proud of our business accomplishments, our social coups, and even our “righteousness.” Pride and arrogance, however, are allies of the evil inclination, the Yetzer Harah. When a person places too high a value on him/herself, the importance of G-d is diminished and is more likely to sin. As the holiday of our redemption approaches, we are reminded that the People of Israel attained freedom by having faith in G-d and accepting that it is G-d who ultimately runs the world and performs miracles.

Searching for chametz is symbolic of battling the evil inclination. We search every corner of our souls for pride and arrogance. It is only then, when we have labored to rid ourselves of these negative character traits, that we are able to appreciate the freedom that was given to us when we left Egypt.

The actual search, during which pieces of chametz are “hidden” in the house, reminds us that we must still search even when we think that the cleansing is complete. One should never glory in one’s “righteousness,” after all, no one is ever completely cleansed of “chametz.” Isn’t the best Jew the one who is always trying to be a better Jew?
The Jewish concept of freedom is not a world without laws. Freedom is the removal of obstacles in the path of serving G-d. Free will is G-d’s gift to humankind, but the freedom to use it properly must be learned and earned.
May you have a successful search and a joyful Passover.

Pesach Sheni / The Second Passover

On the first anniversary of the exodus from Egypt, the Children of Israel prepared to celebrate their first Passover as free people. God decreed that they should eat matzah and maror (bitter herbs) in commemoration of the great event, and, most importantly, that the Israelites should all partake of the Passover sacrifice (lamb).

On the eve of the second Passover, Moses was approached by a group of distraught men. “We are unclean because of the dead body of a man; why are we being held back so that we cannot bring the offering of God in its appointed time among the children of Israel?” (Numbers 9:7)

Contact with the dead rendered a person tamei, spiritually impure, and any person who was tamei was forbidden to partake of the Passover lamb.

In response to their plea, Moses sought instruction from God. God responded that anyone who was tamei due to contact with death or who was on a distant journey at the time of the Passover offering (14th of Nisan), was then obligated to offer the Passover lamb one month later, on the 14th of Iyar. Those celebrating Pesach Sheni (the Second Passover) must eat the meat of the sacrifice together with matzah and maror, exactly as on a regular Passover.

Today, without a Temple, no one is able to bring a Passover sacrifice and everyone is in some state of tumah (ritual impurity). Thus the laws of Pesach Sheni have little practical effect in day to day Jewish life. However, there is a custom to eat some matzah on the 14th of Iyar to mark the date of Pesach Sheni for ourselves and for future generations.

Celebrating the Seder with Abba
by Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald

American Jews who have some traditional background usually speak of “conducting” a Seder. My friend, RL, once told me that most assimilated Jews who attend a Seder use a different expression: They “sweat it out!”

Abba’s vivid memories of Europe never seemed to leave him for even a moment of the 72 years he subsequently dwelt in the USA. My big sister, 12 years my elder, and my little sister, 2 years my elder, and I, watched with eyes aglow, as Abba, unusually late in February or early March, started taking down the special corrugated boxes marked “Pessach” in Hebrew, filled with the Passover dishes and utensils. By then, Abba had already prepared his special “Kosher for Passover sink” — a new wooden fruit box obtained from the local market. He built it to fit perfectly in the bathtub, where he washed each Pessach plate, glass, spoon, fork, knife and silver utensil with special care and heartfelt devotion.

Abba loved his Pessach dishware with a passion. Each year he would, on numerous occasions, excitedly call his wife and children into his Passover “kitchen” to kvell with him over the beautiful long stemmed exotically colored glass which he had just polished to a high sparkle. (Being one of America’s all time great bargain hunters, Abba had probably bought the glass for less than a nickel at Gimbel’s or Macy’s “double close-out basement remnant sale,” long before the cellar had become the fashionable boutique it is today.)

Mother prepared the Seder meal with great care, of course, according to Abba’s tastes and abundant instructions. There was a palpable sense of excitement when the Seder began, which is probably not uncommon in many homes. But Abba’s enthusiasm was so contagious, that each member of our family approached the Seder in an emotional state approaching ecstacy. We truly felt the Divine presence descending.

The Buchwald family did not “read” the Haggadah, we “chanted” the Haggadah text with the special chanting melody Abba had learned in Biala. All of us were expected to master that chant, and Abba would often repeat a portion of the Haggadah if one of the designated readers missed the proper intonation while leading the chanting. Many songs were sung, often in harmony, and amazingly Abba joyfully allowed his younger children to intrude on his Biala traditions by singing the Passover songs we had learned in the Soloveitchik Yeshiva choir. Everyone was expected to lead a portion of the Haggadah reading — even poor mother, whom my father often described as possessing the “dearest” (most expensive) Hebrew, having taken countless Hebrew Ulpan classes with limited success. Inevitably, we would convulse with laughter to tears when mother really savaged a particular Hebrew word in her assigned reading.

Each year Abba would tell the same stories — about the old widow who opened the door for Elijah the Prophet. The sudden light startled the bearded goat who was resting in the backyard. The goat jumped into the old lady’s hut, and made shambles of the table. The little old lady, who had already imbibed three cups of wine, begged the “guest”: “Reb Elya (Elijah), eat, drink — but please, don’t break the dishes!” Or the limerick about Pharaoh losing his pants. It was more than fun, it was more than spiritual, it was Fantasyland come true.

When we received a “slinky” or a climbing-ladder-man as a reward for returning the Afikoman — we children were ecstatic. (Much more excited by that gift, than the walkman or CD disc player kids receive today!)
We danced with great fervor at Leshana Haba’a Bi’rushalayim (Next Year in Jerusalem), and sang Adir Hu and Chad Gadyah until the wee hours of the morning. In his traditional steadfastness, Abba would announce each year that if he moved to Israel (which was his lifelong dream), he would insist on celebrating two Seders, because he did not feel that he could fully appreciate only one seder, being too exhausted from the preparations.

The last year of his life (1992), Abba celebrated his Pessach Seder for the first time without his beloved wife of 59 years. He refused to join me or my sisters in Israel, a hotel or at our homes. He wanted to be with his beloved Passover utensils. Sure enough, more than a month before Passover, he began his regular ritual of preparation — letting us know at each step how beautiful things looked. And so at age 88 1/2 years, he celebrated together with an elderly gentleman friend of his, whom he had invited over for the holiday, and regaled him with his customs, melodies, witticisms, Torah, and the delicious food he had cooked — the traditional Buchwald fare.

Pessach without Abba has never been the same — despite the wonderful traditions which he bequeathed to us as our legacy. When Moshiach comes, I have a sneaky suspicion that it will be Abba who will be called upon to lead the celestial Seder–making certain that the angels sing with the proper intonations when they chant the Haggadah.
Reprinted from Bereshith, the Beginners newsletter, March 1993.

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


The Counting of the Omer

Passover Resources

We begin counting the days towards the next festival, Shavuot.

Sefirat HaOmer – Counting the Omer The departure of the Jews from Egypt was only the beginning of our redemption. The Exodus actually culminated in the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which is commemorated by the holiday of Shavuot. This connection is clearly marked through the Sefirat HaOmer, the counting of the Omer.

I. Leviticus 23:15 instructs us to count the 49 days immediately following the first night of Passover. Seven weeks (49 days) after Passover is the holiday of Shavuot.

A. Every night, starting with the night of the second Seder, a blessing is said and the new day is counted.

1. The blessing is as follows:
Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzeevanu al s’feerat ha’omer.

Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us, regarding the counting of the Omer.

a. “Omer” refers to the barley offering that was brought to the Temple on Passover.

2. The blessing is followed by the actual counting of the day. For example: “Today is day one of the Omer”….”Today is eight days, which are one week and one day, of the Omer.”

3. The official counting of the day is followed by a prayer for the restoration of the Temple: “The Compassionate One! May He return for us the service of the Temple to its place, speedily in our days. Amen, Selah!”

B. If a person misses the counting of a complete day, counting may be continued on subsequent nights, however, the blessing is no longer recited.

II. The Omer is a Period of Mourning

A. In the times of the Romans, the great Rabbi Akiva, one of Israel’s greatest sages, took a group of students with him into hiding so that they could continue to learn Torah, even though it was banned by Roman law. The students, each brilliant in his own right, argued amongst themselves. They stopped treating each other with respect and began showing off their Torah knowledge in order to “one-up” their fellows. As a punishment for this disunity and disrespect, the students all died during the period of Sefirat HaOmer. For this reason, 33 days of Sefirah are considered days of mourning.

1. Depending on custom, the first 33 days of Sefirah, or the last period of Sefirah, starting at the beginning of the month of Iyar, are days of mourning.

B. Restrictions of Sefirah: During the appropriate period of mourning, people refrain from:

1. Cutting hair
2. Buying new clothing
3. Going to live performances of musical entertainment
4. Getting Married

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


The Seder

The Sedar

The highlight of Passover is the Seder, and for many, the Seder evokes powerful childhood memories. But what exactly is a Seder?
The Seder is the festive meal of the first night (first 2 nights outside of Israel) of Passover. More than just a meal, the Seder is the ritual recounting of the Exodus from Egypt.

Because Passover is a celebration of freedom from slavery, it is customary to vary our normal habits in order to represent our freedom

At specified occasions during the Seder, participants recline towards their left to eat and drink as an ancient symbol of freedom. Many people have a pillow on which to lean.
Four cups of red wine or grape juice are drunk at the Seder as a sign of liberation. It is customary that we treat ourselves like royalty and have someone else fill our glasses. Each person, therefore, pours for their neighbor.

      • Red wine is generally considered to be a higher quality wine.
      • The red color reminds us of the blood the was spilled in Egypt and the blood of circumcision, the identifying mark of the Jewish nation.
      • If one strongly prefers white wine or if the white wine is a much better quality, then one may use white wine.
      • One should use wine rather than grape juice. If, however, one cannot drink 4 cups of wine for medical reasons or because one has a low tolerance for alcohol, grape juice is permitted. However, some wine should be added to the grape juice if possible.

In order to express our elevation from slaves to free-people, the wine used for the Seder should be red.
The Haggadah is the guide book for the Seder. Haggadah actually means a story that is told, and it is through the Haggadah that Jews fulfill the mitzvah of remembering the Exodus from Egypt.

The word Seder is Hebrew for “order.” Indeed, the importance of the Haggadah is that it guides participants in following the correct order of the Seder. The Haggadah should be read aloud in a language that is understood by the Seder participants. The following is the order of the Seder:

Kadesh – (Kiddush) Blessing over the first cup of wine sanctifying the holy day.

Please note that when Passover begins Saturday night, Havdalah is added to the Festival Kiddush. The necessary addition can be found in the Haggadah.

Ur’chatz – A ritual washing of the hands without a blessing, in preparation for Karpas.

There are two customs followed for Ur’chatz. In some households, only the Seder leader performs the hand washing, and in some households, all Seder participants wash their hands.
We wash our hands without a blessing:
When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, everyone was required to do a ritual washing of the hands before eating wet foods. Since the next step in the Seder is to dip the vegetable into salt water, we wash our hands in commemoration of the purity laws of the Temple times, but without a blessing.
By washing hands without a blessing and without the matzah which would normally follow, children are inspired to ask why this is done. The Passover Seder is meant to involve the children in all aspects.

Karpas – A piece of vegetable is dipped in salt water and eaten after reciting the appropriate blessing.
The vegetable appetizer: Karpas represents a sign of our freedom. Many of the Seder activities are meant to symbolize freedom and comfort. In slavery, meals are simple and sparse. In freedom, meals can be more elaborate.

    • Eating vegetables as an appetizer inspires children to ask questions.
    • Eating vegetables highlights the fact that Passover is a Festival of Spring.

Dipping food into in salt water is a dual representation. On the one hand, it is a symbol of freedom, for in ancient times only the wealthy had condiments in which to dip any of their food. On the other hand, the salt water reminds us of the tears of the Jewish slaves.

Yachatz – The middle matzah is broken in half. The larger half, the afikoman, is wrapped in a napkin or placed in special afikoman bag and placed under the leader’s cushion or pillow. At some point later in the meal, it is customary for the children to “steal” and hide the afikoman, only to return it (for a handsome ransom, of course) at the end of the meal during Tzafon.
The middle matzah is broken so that the story of the exodus, which is about to be recited, is told with lechem oni, bread of affliction (i.e. not even a whole matzah), on the table.
The custom of placing the afikoman under the leader’s cushion is derived from the obligation “to guard the matzot” (Exodus 12:17).
Placing the afikoman under the cushion does not mean that the leader should actually sit on the matzah.

Maggid – Mah Nishtana, the Four Questions, are recited or sung at the beginning of the Maggid section.
Further Outline of Maggid

Maggid concludes with the drinking of the second cup of wine, after the proper blessing is recited.

Rachtzah – The ritual washing of hands before eating matzah, (same as washing for challah on Shabbat.)
After washing the hands and saying the blessing, one should not speak until one has eaten a piece of matzah after the blessing over matzah.

Motzee – The first blessing over the matzah (same blessing as over bread).

Just as on Shabbat and festivals one is required to make a blessing over two whole challahs, on Passover, one is required to make the motzee over two whole matzot. However, a second opinion is that one should make the motzee over the lechem oni, the bread of affliction, which is the broken matzah. In order to fulfill both opinions, the motzee is made on all three matzot.

One should continue to remain silent until the next blessing and the eating of the matzah.

Matzah – A special blessing over the matzah is recited, and a double portion of matzah is eaten.
For the blessing on eating matzah, the bottom matzah should be put down while the leader continues to hold the top two matzot.
After the blessing is recited, the Seder leader should break the top two matzot and distribute pieces amongst the participants. Everyone should receive a piece of both matzot.

    • In order to fulfill the requirement of eating matzah, one must eat the amount of a k’zayit (literally–like an olive). One should check with their local rabbi as to the appropriate amount.
    • Since everyone should receive pieces of the both the top and middle matzot, but must also eat a specific amount, other matzot may be used to supplement. (Do not use the bottom matzah.)
    • The k’zayit of matzah should be completely eaten in a short period of time. Therefore, one should not leave the k’zayit of matzah to nibble at it through the rest of the meal.

Maror – A blessing is said, and the bitter herbs are dipped in charoset and eaten.

Maror, the bitter herb (usually fresh ground horseradish or romaine lettuce), is symbolic of the bitterness of slavery. We do not, however, eat the maror alone, but temper it with a small amount of charoset. Some people have the custom of dipping the maror in charoset and then shaking the charoset off.
One may look at this mixture of the bitter herb, a reminder of slavery, with the sweet charoset as symbolic of the fact that not all that one considers bitter lacks sweetness, and vice-versa. It was only through the bitterness of slavery that the Jews were able to recognize and accept the freedom inherent in the Torah and to unite into one nation.

Koraich – A sandwich is made with the matzah and the maror.

When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, Jews came from everywhere to participate in the Passover offering as part of their Seder. In remembrance of Hillel’s (one of the great sages) practice of eating a sandwich of matzah, maror and the Passover lamb together, a sandwich is made from the bottom matzah, a k’zayit (a biblical measurement the size of an olive-please ask your local rabbi for the exact amount) of maror, and, according to some opinions, a small amount of charoset.
Including charoset in the sandwich is not a universal custom. Many do not put any charoset into the sandwich and some dip the maror in charoset and then shake it off.

Shulchan Oruch – The festival meal is served.

  • Chicken soup with matzah balls! ….You’ve earned this feast of freedom! But remember to leave room for the afikoman!
  • It is customary to begin the festive meal with a hard-boiled egg dipped in salt water.
    • Several reasons have been offered by the rabbis as to why one should eat an egg:
    • The Egg represents the Korban Chaggigah, the Festive Offering, which was eaten on Passover.
    • The Egyptians did not eat animal foods and eating an egg symbolizes the liberation from Egypt (Ibn Ezra).
    • Eggs signify the beginning of life, just as the Exodus represented the beginning of the Nation of Israel (Torat Emet)
    • The egg is eaten as a reminder of the Passover offering, since Ashkenazic custom prohibits one from eating roasted meat at the Seder (Vilna Gaon).

Tzafon – The afikoman, which was hidden earlier, is now brought out and eaten as dessert.

At some point during the course of the Seder and the meal, someone steals and hides the afikoman. Traditions vary from family to family as to how this is handled: whether the kids hide and the adults seek or an adult hides and the kids seek. Either way, the search for the afikoman is fun for all who participate and a very good way of keeping the children interested in the Seder. Whoever has the afikoman at Tzafon has the right to negotiate its redemption with the leader of the Seder (This often results in the successful negotiator receiving a much desired gift of his/her choice after Yom Tov!)
Once the afikoman is found, it is broken up and distributed for all the Seder participants as “dessert.” Again, all participants are obligated to eat a k’zayit of matzah, so everyone should receive a small piece of the afikoman and supplement the rest with other matzah.
The afikoman must be eaten by (Jewish) midnight.

Baraich – The Grace After Meals is recited.

The traditional grace after meals is recited, including the addition of Y’aleh V’Yavo, “He will go up and he will come…” for the Passover holidays, and Harachaman for the holiday.
Baraich concludes with the drinking of the third cup of wine, after the proper blessing is recited.

Hallel – The reciting of the festival Psalms.

Hallel concludes with the drinking of the fourth cup of wine, after the proper blessing is recited.

Nirtzah – The close of the Seder, traditional Passover songs, such as Chad Gadyah, are sung.

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


Maggid

Maggid

Table of Contents

Maggid, the section of the Seder where we fulfill the mitzvah of telling the story of the Exodus, is a beautifully woven compilation of questions, answers, Talmudic discourse, and hymns of praise.

(Fulfilling the Mitzvah of) Telling the story of the Exodus.

It is important that all in attendance should be involved in the retelling of the Passover story, and that the Haggadah be recited in a language that is understood by all participants. (However, even if participants do not understand Hebrew, there should be an attempt to incorporate the sacred tongue as much as possible, even via transliteration. This may be accomplished simply by reading only the blessings in Hebrew or by reading the paragraph headings in Hebrew and then continuing in English.)

Some families have the custom of having every participant read a paragraph while others prefer that only the leader reads. Whatever one’s family custom, remember: creativity is welcome. If the participants of the Seder are particularly theatric, a short skit can be added to keep those present alert and inspired. If those gathered at the Seder enjoy debate, prepare discussion points beforehand and give everyone a chance to air their views.

The following outline of the Maggid section is meant to help you understand the text as well as to inspire conversation. Remember the Seder is designed for questions and discussions
(Please bear in mind that there are hundreds of different Hebrew-English Haggadot and translations of the following texts may vary slightly)

Ha Lachma Anya – This is the bread of affliction

The Ha Lachma Anya passage was added to the Haggadah after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) and is written in Aramaic. Before telling the story of the redemption, an invitation is extended to anyone unable to celebrate on their own, underscoring the unity of Israel. (The Talmud ascribes the destruction of the Second Temple to lack of unity.)
“This year we are slaves, next year – free people!” How can one understand this passage today, especially in America where it seems that our freedoms are limitless? The Haggadah, however, is talking about spiritual freedom–when one is freed from the bonds of materialism and from the many fears that beset modern society.

Mah Nishtana – The Four Questions

The Four Questions are an essential element of a successful Seder because they underscore the importance of the children’s participation and of asking questions.

While in Ashkenazi communities the Four questions are traditionally recited by the youngest capable Seder participant, one should not assume that the Four Questions are meant only for the children. Asking questions is everyone’s duty. In fact, according to the Talmud, even if one is alone, one should ask the Four Questions aloud.

i) Judaism puts great value on questioning because questions demonstrate a sincere interest in learning answers.
ii) Since the Four Questions emphasize the participation of children at the Seder, it is important to remember to have discussions on a level that they can understand.

The order of the Four Questions varies between Ashkenazic and Sepharic communities. The text of the questions, however, is the same.

Many Sephardic communities lead into the Four Questions or into The Maggid section itself with an interactive dialogue. View more on the varying customs of the Passover Seder.

Avadim Ha’yinu…/We Were Slaves In Egypt and the discussion of the Rabbis
The response to the Four Questions is found in the section that begins with Avadim Ha’yinu. Why is this night different from all other nights? Because “we were slaves in Egypt…”

What does the Haggadah mean when it says that had G-d not brought out our ancestors from Egypt, then we, our children and our children’s children would still be enslaved to Pharaoh? It is difficult to assume that this means physical slavery. We must therefore understand that the Haggadah is referring to a spiritual enslavement:
The sages teach that had the Jewish nation remained in Egypt even a few moments longer, they would have lost any ability to be redeemed. Had they remained in Egypt they would have become inextricably mired in the idol worship of the Egyptians, and enslaved to the deity of Pharaoh.
“Even of we were all wise…all knowing the Torah, we would still be obliged to tell about the Exodus…” The Haggadah uses this verse in Avadim Ha’yinu to segue into a discussion of 5 great rabbis who stayed up until dawn discussing the Exodus and why they spent the night retelling the Passover story.

Baruch HaMakom/Blessed is the Everpresent

Baruch HaMakom is a paragraph of praise.

HaMakom is one of the names of G-d which implies that G-d is everywhere (makom can also be translated as place). Baruch HaMakom reminds us that even in what seems to be the ultimate downfall – slavery – G-d was there, for G-d is everywhere.

The Four Sons – This section opens with a description of four children (the wise, the wicked, the simple, and the one who does not know how to ask), how they react to the Seder and how one should respond to their questions.

While translated as Four Sons, it must be remembered that Hebrew has no gender neutral language and the masculine is used for the general. Thus this section refers to both sons and daughters.
The section of the Four Sons reminds us that one must treat each child as an individual and pay attention to their particular needs.

The Four Children:

The Wise Child asks “What are the commandments which G-d has ordained for us?” This child includes him/herself with those who are commanded. This child is considered wise because (s)he recognizes his/her relationship to the Exodus and to G-d.

The Haggadah advises that the Wise Child should be answered by being instructed in all the laws of the Seder. Once a child is ready to study more, the Haggadah stresses the fact that all of Torah should be open to probing. Judaism welcomes and respects questions, and encourages probing minds to seek more and more knowledge and understanding.

The Rebellious Child asks “What does this service mean to you?” This child does not look upon the Seder, the redemption from Egypt or a relationship with G-d as having relevance to him/herself.

The Haggadah instructs that the Rebellious Child’s teeth be blunted, meaning that it may be appropriate to answer this child sharply, in order to jar him/her from apathy and self-absorption and make him/her recognize that even in Egypt, to be redeemed one needed at least to recognize him/herself as part of the community of Israel.

The Simple Child asks for the meaning of the Seder. Unlike the Wise Child who has learned and is instructed in laws, the Simple Child seeks to understand the basic facts.

The Haggadah instructs that the Simple Child be told that G-d took the Jews out with a strong hand, so that such children will feel the security of G-d’s love.

The One Who Does Not Know How To Ask must also be addressed, for very often this is the child most threatened with disappearing from the Jewish community. When one asks questions, one expresses some level of interest. Where there are no questions, there is likely to be no interest.

The Haggadah instructs that the child’s interest must be stimulated, even if it means that the question is asked by someone else. The commentators add that the tone of the response must be appropriate for each particular child.

 Mit’chee’lah Ovdei Avodah Zarah/In the Beginning Our Ancestors Were Idol Worshipers:

Having defined the Four Sons, the Haggadah begins the Passover story anew, this time moving back in history to before the enslavement in Egypt. By referring back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Haggadah reminds participants that the Jewish forefathers earned the special love and protection that the Jews receive from G-d. Following right after the Four Sons, it is important to remember that this history must be shared with all participants so that they understand that they too are part of the redemption.
“And he said to Abram: Know that your children will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they shall serve them, and they shall treat them harshly for four hundred years, but I will also judge the nation that they shall serve and afterwards they shall come out with great wealth” (Genesis 15: 13-14). This quote reminds Seder participants of the fact that the Jewish enslavement in Egypt was all part of a predefined Divine plan and that history must be looked upon as a complete unit in order to recognize the Divine element.

V’hi Sheh’amdah/And it is this that has stood

This paragraph praises G-d for protecting the Jews throughout the generations.
And it is “this” – What is the “this” that is referred to? Some sages say that “this” refers to the Torah, which is the contract between the Jews and G-d. From the logical sequence of the words, however, one could also assume that “this” refers to G-d’s promise to Abraham to redeem the Jews from slavery.

T’zei Ul’mad/ Go and Learn

Having praised G-d for protecting the Jewish people throughout the generations, the Haggadah returns to the Passover story by examining the wickedness of Laban and the story of the Jewish people through their journey to Egypt, slavery, and redemption.
After introducing this section with the charge of “go and learn,” the Haggadah presents four verses from Deuteronomy and proceeds to elaborate on the meaning. In doing so, the story of the Exodus is studied in depth. The four verses are:

      • “The Aramean sought to destroy my father (Jacob) and the latter went down to Egypt and sojourned there, with a family few in number; and he became there a nations, great, mighty and numerous.” Deuteronomy 26:5
      • “The Egyptians ill-treated us, oppressed us and laid heavy labors upon us.” Deuteronomy 26:6
      • “We cried to the L-rd, the G-d of our ancestors and the L-rd heard our voice. He saw our ill-treatment, our burden and our oppression.” Deuteronomy 26:7
      • “G-d brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, with an out-stretched arm, with great fearfulness, with signs and with wonders.” Deuteronomy 26:8

Dam, Va’aish, V’timrot Ashan/ Blood, Fire and Pillars of Smoke
After discussing the meaning of “with wonders,” which introduces the ten plagues (wonders meaning blood, the first of the plagues), the Seder participants recite “Dam, Va’aish, V’timrot Ashan/ Blood, Fire and Pillars of Smoke.”

The Haggadah elaborates on the first plague by quoting from the prophet Joel who foresaw blood, fire and pillars of smoke as signs of the final redemption. However, it is also understood that when the Nile turned to blood, it boiled and emitted pillars of steam.

As one says “Dam,” “Va’aish,” and “V’timrot Ashan” drops of wine are spilled from the full cup.

While there are varying opinions as to why the wine is spilled, the great Spanish commentator, the Abrabanel, explained that one should remove wine from the cup because wine is a sign of rejoicing, and one should not rejoice when an enemy falls.

How the wine is spilled varies from family to family: some pour the wine out directly from the cup and some flick the wine out with their finger.

The removal of wine drops is repeated for the ten plagues and the mnemonic for the ten plagues.

The Ten Plagues – During the reading of the Ten Plagues, drops of wine are spilled from the full cup for each plague.

Dam – Blood – During the plague of blood the waters of Egypt turned to blood. This plague had two separate features: (1) the Nile, which the Egyptians worshiped, turned to blood, and (2) all the water that the Egyptians kept in containers in their homes also turned to blood, while the Jews still had water to drink.

Tze’far’day’ah – Frogs – There was no place for the Egyptians to escape from the frogs. They were everywhere, in the Egyptians’ beds, in their pockets, and even in their ovens.

Kinim – Lice – To initiate the plague of lice, G-d commanded Aharon via Moshe to hit the ground with his staff and the dust turned to lice and spread everywhere.

Arov – Wild Beasts – The plague of wild beasts trapped the Egyptians in their homes, for they dared not go out in the streets in fear for their lives.

Dever – Pestilence – The Egyptian cattle that had survived the ravaging of the wild beasts were struck by pestilence and died. No Jewish owned cattle died, even those in close proximity to the Egyptian cattle. The first five plagues taught the Egyptians that their possessions were lost and their wealth ephemeral.

Sh’chin – Boils – Even with all of their land and cattle destroyed, the Egyptians continued to deny G-d and to treat the Jews unfairly. The plague of boils struck them personally, showing them that ultimately they had no control over anything, not even themselves.

Barad – Hail – The plague of hail was two-fold in its actions: (1) it destroyed the physical structures of Egypt, and (2) it was a “fireworks” display of the power of G-d. For those who needed to be impressed by the awesomeness of G-d, the seventh plague consisted of giant hail that contained fire encased in ice. The hail killed much of the surviving Egyptian cattle and destroyed many agricultural crops.

Arbeh – Locusts – Not much was left of Egypt by the time the plague of locust arrived. The cattle were dead, the buildings destroyed, morale was low and then the locusts came in an enormous swarm which darkened the sky and devoured anything that remained of the crops.

Choshech – Darkness – For three days, total darkness descended on Egypt. The Sages taught that the darkness of choshech was so intense that it served as a physical restriction as well, leaving the Egyptians unable to move. The Jews, however, could see where they were going and had full range of motion.

Makkat B’chorot- Death of the First Born – The final plague was the only one for which the Jews needed to prepare. In order to be “passed-over,” Moshe instructed the Jews to mark their doorposts with lamb’s blood. And in the darkness of the midnight hour, G-d smote all of the first born in the land of Egypt.
*A SPECIAL ESSAY FROM R’ BUCHWALD ON THE 10 PLAGUES!

D’tzach, A’dash, B’ah’ch’av – The mnemonic device

The Haggadah relates that Rabbi Yehuda, a Talmudic Sage, grouped the plagues by their initials, which underscores the importance of not only remembering the plagues, but of remembering them in order.
As one says “D’tzach,” “A’dash,” and “B’ah’ch’av,” drops of wine are spilled from the full cup.

Rabbi Yose the Galilean…

Following the Ten Plagues, the Haggadah discusses the varying opinions of the Rabbis as to how mighty and numerous the plagues actually were. Each opinion serves to glorify the deed done by G-d and leads the Seder participants into Dayenu.

Dayenu
One of the most famous of all Seder songs, Dayenu praises G-d for the many miracles and gifts He gave to the Jews.

The format of Dayenu: Dayenu is a song that builds upon itself. Each verse starts with the end of the preceding verse, and ends with an enthusiastic call of the word Dayenu! Dayenu means “It would have been enough!” This song reminds Seder participants how much for which there is to be grateful.

An example of the structure:
If G-d had brought us out of Egypt, but had not executed judgement upon the Egyptians, it would have been enough — (Dayenu)!
If G-d has executed judgement upon the Egyptians, but not upon their gods, it would have been enough — (Dayenu)!

An excellent Yom Tov day activity with older children is to go through Dayenu and then to encourage them to think about how Dayenu applies to their lives.

Pesach, Matzah and Maror

The next section of the Haggadah, introduced by a quote of Rabban Gamliel, defines the key ingredients of Passover: Pessach (The Pascal Offering), Matzah and Maror.
While one does not point to the shank bone when discussing the Passover offering, since it is only a representation, the matzah and Maror should be held up for all to see as they are discussed.

B’khol Dor Va’Dor/In Every Generation…
Having displayed the Maror and Matzah, and referred to the Passover offering, the Haggadah reminds Seder participants that they are not simply recounting an ancient tale: “In every generation one is obliged to regard him/herself as though he/she had actually gone out from Egypt.”
This is the perfect opportunity for the Seder leader to encourage all Seder participants to think about their own dependencies and how they can perhaps free themselves spiritually.

L’phi’chach…/Therefore it is our duty…
The paragraph beginning with “Therefore is it our duty” begins the conclusion of Maggid. From this point until the blessing on the second cup of wine, various psalms, part of the Hallel service, are recited.

The Second Cup of Wine
The Maggid section concludes with the drinking of the second cup of wine, after the proper blessings are recited.
The cup should be refilled before the blessing, since some wine (even if only a few drops) were spilled when reviewing and discussing the Ten Plagues.

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


The Seder Plate

The Sedar Plate

With today’s vast variety of Passover products, grape flavored matzah, chocolate covered matzah, and other assorted flavors of matzah may be readily available. For the Seder, however, plain matzah, made only of flour and water, must be used.

Several items can be found on all Seder tables:
Three Matzahs
Three unbroken matzahs are placed on a plate and covered.

Why Three?

Three matzot are placed on the Seder table in order to properly fulfill two separate mitzvot (commandments). Two whole, unbroken matzot are necessary to make the Festival motzee (blessing over bread). The mitzvah of eating matzah, however, is fulfilled with a piece from a broken matzah, symbolizing that matzah is “the bread of affliction.”
Traditionally, the three matzot represent the division of the Jewish nation into Kohain (priests), Levi (priestly assistants) and Israel (the remaining tribes). By representing all Jews at the Seder, one is reminded of the importance of Jewish unity.

Wine (grape juice) and wine glasses – All participants should be given a glass or cup (minimum size of 3.3 ounces) from which to drink the required Four Cups of Wine (preferably, or grape juice if necessary). Of course, only Kosher for Passover wine should be used. While many are only familiar with the wine sold in supermarkets before Passover, there are many exotic varieties of kosher wine available appealing to all wine drinkers’ tastes.
The requirement of four cups of wine at the Passover Seder is based on the four stages by which G-d redeemed the Jews from slavery, as described in Exodus 6:6-7: “Therefore say to the Children of Israel: ‘I am G-d and I will take you out from beneath the burdens of Egypt, and I will save you from their servitude, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great judgements, and I will take you for Me for a people…'”

One must drink each of the four cups in its appropriate place in the Seder:

The First Cup – is designated for Kiddush, the prayer said over wine or grape juice to sanctify the holiday.

The Second Cup – is consumed after maggid, the section in which we tell the story of the exodus, as a way of praising G-d. A second blessing on the wine is made because significant time has passed since the first cup.

The Third Cup – is blessed after bentching (birkat hamazon), the Grace After Meals. It is customary that after bentching as a group, a cup of wine or grape juice is blessed and consumed by the person who leads the bentching, but only at the Seder does everyone drink the wine.

The Fourth Cup – is consumed at the conclusion of Hallel, the section psalms praising G-d.
A fifth cup of wine, known as the Cup of Elijah, is filled towards the end of the Seder, representing the fifth language of redemption, “and I will bring you to the land” (Exodus 6:8).
If kosher wine varieties are not available in your locale, visit www.kosherwine.com.

The Shank Bone – The ancient Egyptians considered the lamb to be a holy (Divine) animal. Before the tenth plague, the slaying of the first born, Jews were instructed to prepare a lamb for a feast and to smear some of its blood on the doorpost of their house so that they would be “passed over.” This symbolizes the people’s trust in G-d and rejection of idol worship. The offering brought to the Temple on Passover was, therefore, a lamb. Because we do not have the Temple today, we place the shank bone of a lamb or the bone of another kosher animal or fowl on the Seder plate to symbolize that offering.

Charoset – A tasty mixture of chopped walnuts, wine, cinnamon and apples that represents the mortar the Jewish slaves used to build Pharaoh’s cities (recipes may vary by community).

Karpas – A vegetable, usually a piece of celery, parsley or potato, which is dipped in salt water as required for the Seder ritual.

Salt Water – in which to dip the Karpas. The Talmud states that a main reason for dipping the karpas is to stimulate the children to ask questions. Salt water also represents the tears of the Jewish slaves.

Roasted (hard boiled) egg – The egg is included as a symbol of the cycle of life, because of its rounded shape. Passover marks the formation of the Jewish nation, as well as the beginning of spring and a new cycle of the earth’s growing seasons. It is also symbolic of the nature of the Jewish people — the more you boil it, the harder it gets. The more the Jewish people are persecuted, the more resistant they become, and their loyalty to G-d increases.

Maror – Bitter herbs are part of the Seder to remind participants of the bitterness and pain of slavery. On the Seder plate, many people place both fresh horseradish and romaine lettuce (which has a bitter tasting root).

Elijah’s Cup – Not actually part of the Seder plate, Elijah’s cup is a central feature of the Seder ritual. It represents the fifth language of redemption cited in Exodus 6:8 “and I will bring you to the land.” Toward the end of the Seder, this cup is filled with wine, the door is opened, and Elijah the prophet, the harbinger of the Messianic age, is invited to come and begin our final redemption.

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


Observance and Prayer Outline

Passover Observance
and Prayer Outline

The Seder night, when family and friends gather together to commemorate our redemption from slavery in Egypt, is more than just a festive meal – the Seder is a crucial vehicle for understanding the Exodus. For those experiencing the Seder night for the first time, or as a reference for those who want a refresher, this page is an outline of what to expect.

YOM TOV – The First Festival Days
Passover is a 7 day (8 days outside of Israel) holiday. The first day (first two days outside of Israel) are Yamim Tovim – days which are observed with the same rules as the Sabbath. (Cooking from an existing flame and carrying, however, are permitted).

Candle Lighting
Shabbat and all Jewish holidays always begin the evening before. When Passover begins on Saturday night (immediately following Shabbat), candles are lit no earlier than one hour after sunset on both the first and second night of Yom Tov.
Because one may not create a fire on Shabbat or Yom Tov, the candles must be lit from a pre-existing flame. For this reason, many people light a yahrtzeit candle (25 hour candle) before Shabbat, or leave a burner lit on the stove before Shabbat.
The procedure for lighting candles for a holiday varies slightly from Sabbath candle-lighting:

    • The blessings are said before lighting the candles.
    • The end of the blessing is changed to represent the Yom Tov [festival] and includes Shabbat, when applicable:
      Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech Ha-olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzeevanu l’hadlik ner shel [Shabbat v’] Yom Tov.
      Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of the [the Sabbath and] Yom Tov [festival].

Evening services are held in the synagogue.

The Seder
Changes in the morning synagogue service

    • During Shacharit, the morning service, the Festival Amidah is recited.
    • Hallel
        1. Hallel is a collection of Psalms that are recited on the festivals and Rosh Chodesh (the new month).
        2. Hallel can be found in the siddur (Jewish prayerbook).
        3. Full Hallel is recited on the first two days of Passover. Half-Hallel is recited on the remaining days of the holiday.
    • The Torah Reading
        1. On the first day of Passover, Exodus 12:21-51 is read in synagogue.
        2. On the second day of Passover, Leviticus 22:26-23:44 is
          read in synagogue.
        3. The maftir (additional reading) on both days is Numbers
          28:16-25.
        4. The haftorah (prophetic message) on the first day is from the Book of Joshua, 3:5-7, 5:2-6:1, and 6:27.
          The haftorah on the second day is from Kings II, 23:1-9 and 23:21-25.
    • The Prayer for Dew
        1. On Passover, the prayer for rain, which began on Shmini Atzeret (the final days of Sukkot), is discontinued and the prayer for dew is now recited.
        2. The cantor recites the prayer for dew during the repetition of the Mussaf (additional) service on the first day of Passover.
        3. In the Silent Amidah, morid ha’tal, “He who makes the dew descend,” is inserted. Morid ha’tal is added to each service until Shmini Atzeret. Many congregations, however, merely omit the previously said mashiv ha’ruach u’ morid ha’geshem.
        4. In the weekday Amidah, v’ten bracha, “and give blessing,” replaces v’ten tal u’matar liv’racha, “and give dew and rain for a blessing,” in the 9th blessing.

The Festive Lunch

    • The Festival day Kiddush (blessing over wine), found in the siddur (prayer book), is recited.
    • Ha’Motzee – After a ritual washing of the hands, the blessing is made over two whole matzot, the pieces of which are sprinkled with salt.
    • A festive meal is eaten, followed by the Grace After Meals with the addition of Y’aleh V’Yavo, “He will go up and he will come…” for the Passover holidays and the holiday insertion towards the conclusion of “Harachamon.”

Mincha
The afternoon service is recited with the special Festival Amidah (and the special insertions for Shabbat, when applicable).

Havdalah
At the conclusion of the second day of Yom Tov, Havdalah, separating holy days from week days, is recited in the evening Amidah. This Havdalah is followed by the formal Havdalah, which consists of only the blessing over grape juice (HaGafen) and the Havdalah blessing (HaMavdil), which can be found in the prayer book
One may not prepare on the first day of Yom Tov for the second day of Yom Tov. One should wait until after nightfall to set the table, prepare the Seder plate, or any other activity not meant for the enjoyment of the first day itself.

CHOL HAMOED – The Interim Days

Passover is a 7 day holiday (8 days outside of Israel). The first day and the last day (first two days and last two days outside of Israel) are Yamim Tovim – days which are kept like Sabbath (Cooking from an existing flame and carrying, however, are permitted). The in between days are known as Chol HaMoed – weekday of the festival.

    • During Chol HaMoed, it is customary to continue the holiday spirit and avoid unnecessary work. Many people do not go to work, avoid shopping, and try to refrain from such chores as laundry, except for that which is essential for the holiday.
    • The prohibition of eating chametz continues throughout the holiday.
    • In the synagogue, the Torah is read and Half-Hallel (festive Psalms) and Mussaf (the additional service) are added to the daily service.
    • On Shabbat of Chol HaMoed (or if Shabbat falls on the seventh day of Passover), Shir HaShirim, Song of Songs, is read before the Torah Reading. This is an Ashkenazic custom.

THE LAST TWO DAYS

Candle lighting

    • Shabbat and all Jewish holidays always begin at sunset of the evening before. On the Sabbath and Yom Tov [festival] candles are lit 18 minutes before sunset to welcome the holiday. On the second night of Yom Tov, candles are lit no earlier than one hour after sunset.
    • Two candles (minimum) are lit, then both hands are waved towards the face, symbolically drawing in the light of the candles and the sanctity of the Sabbath/Yom Tov. The eyes are covered and the blessing is recited. On the second night, Saturday night, the blessing is said first, without the Shabbat addition, and only then are the candles lit (from a pre-existing flame).

On Friday night, insert the bracketed words:
Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech Ha-olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzeevanu l’hadlik ner shel [Shabbat v’]Yom Tov.
Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of [the Sabbath and] Yom Tov (festival).
On the last days of Passover one does not add the additional blessing, sheh’heh’cheh’yanu, as one does on other festivals.

Evening services are held in the synagogue.

A festive meal is eaten, preceded by the Festival Kiddush, ritual washing of the hands and Ha’Motzee, which is made over two whole matzot. The meal is followed by the Grace After Meals with the addition of Y’aleh V’Yavo, “May there rise and come…”, in honor of the holiday, and the Harachamon for the festival.

Because Yom Tov and Shabbat overlap, be sure to include all the Shabbat additions on Friday night and Saturday. On Saturday night, the festival Kiddush is altered to include Havdalah for the conclusion of Shabbat.

Changes in the morning synagogue service
During Shacharit, the morning service, the Festival Amidah is recited.

Hallel

Hallel is a collection of Psalms that are recited on the festivals and Rosh Chodesh (the new month). Only the Half-Hallel is recited after the first (two) days of Passover.
Hallel can be found in the siddur (Jewish prayerbook).

The Torah Reading

    • On the seventh day of Passover, Exodus 13:17-15:26 is read in synagogue.
    • On the second day of Passover, Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17 is read in synagogue.
    • The maftir (additional reading) on both days is Numbers 28:26-31.
    • The haftorah (prophetic message) on the seventh day is from the Samuel II 22:1-51.
      The haftorah on the second day is from Isaiah 10:32-12:6.

Yizkor – The Memorial Service

    • The Yizkor Memorial Service is recited on the last day of all festivals — Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot and on Yom Kippur.
    • While those who have passed away are no longer able to effect their own spiritual growth, the deeds of their children may result in additional merit for their souls.
    • According to some Ashkenazic customs, those whose parents are both living leave the sanctuary during Yizkor. In Sephardic custom, everyone remains in the sanctuary while the cantor recites Yizkor.

A festive meal is eaten, preceded by the daytime festival Kiddush, ritual washing of the hands and HaMotzee, which is made over two whole matzot. The meal is followed by the Grace After Meals with the addition of Y’aleh V’Yavo, “May there rise and come…”, in honor of the holiday and the Harachamon for the festival.

Mincha
The afternoon service is recited with the special Festival Amidah (and the special insertions for Shabbat, as well as including the weekly Torah reading for Shabbat Mincha, when applicable).

Havdalah
At the conclusion of the second day of Yom Tov, Havdalah, separating holy days from week days, is recited in the evening Amidah. This Havdalah is followed by the formal Havdalah, which consists of only the blessing over grape juice (HaGafen) and the Havdalah blessing (HaMavdil), which can be found in the prayer book.

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


Passover Preparations

Passover Preparations

“And this day will be for you as a memorial and you will celebrate it as a festival for G-d. Throughout your generations you shall keep it a feast for an everlasting statute. Seven days you will eat only matzah, but on the first day you shall have put away your Chametz (leaven) from your houses…” (Exodus 12:14-15)

Chametz
The Torah teaches that by the beginning of the holiday of Passover, no Chametz should be left in one’s house. To fulfill this directive, the house (and other spaces where one spends significant time, i.e. one’s office or car) is thoroughly cleaned. Many begin their Passover cleaning immediately after Purim, thus giving themselves a month to prepare. The following is a guide to the special actions taken to eliminate chametz from one’s possession:
What is Chametz?

Chametz is defined as leaven and is any product in which wheat, oat, barley, spelt or rye come in contact with water for 18 minutes or longer (without kneading or manipulating).

Kitniyot – Legumes
During the holiday of Passover, Ashekenazim (Jews of Western and Eastern European ancestry) follow the Rabbinic decree to not eat kitniyot, foods such as rice, corn, soy beans, string beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, mustard, sesame seeds and poppy seeds.

Kitniyot products are often stored together with chametz grains and it is difficult to insure that there is no chametz mixed with the products. Also, when kitniyot are ground into flour, the untrained eye could mistakenly think that this it is real flour and, therefore, accidentally come to use prohibited flour.

In the house – While the decree prohibits one to eat products containing Kitniyot, they do not need to be removed from one’s possession, as does chametz.

Peanut oil and other derivatives — a commonly noted Passover item on the supermarket shelf is peanut oil. There is a difference of opinion about using kitniyot-based oils. Please check with your local rabbi as to whether or not you may use these products.

Please note that while many Sephardim are permitted to eat kitniyot, the food must be thoroughly checked that it is not mixed with chametz.

Getting Rid of Chametz – Cleaning the House
The home and place of business are thoroughly cleaned in an effort to get rid of chametz, which one is forbidden to possess.

It is important to thoroughly clean the kitchen and dining room areas, where food is generally eaten. Be sure to brush or vacuum out crumbs from drawers and cabinets.
In living rooms and other rooms where food, especially snacks, is eaten, be sure to vacuum carpets and couches.

“Turning the House Over” – Perhaps you have heard this phrase uttered by a friend, or you remember your grandmother using such language. “Turning the House Over” means changing the kitchen from Chametz to Pesachdik (ready for Passover) and vice versa after the holiday.

  • During Passover, one may not use dishes, silverware or pots and pans that are regularly used with chametz foods. It is customary to have separate sets of dishes, cutlery and cookingware for Passover.
  • For those who are just beginning to observe the Passover laws or who are on a strict budget, paper, plasticware and aluminum are easy and affordable.
  • The non-Passover dishes, cutlery and cookware should be stored away so that they will not mistakenly be used. One may either box them and put them in another room, or tape the cabinet closed.
  • Appliances used for chametz should be removed from the counters and not used during Passover.
  • Because counters and table tops often come in direct contact with chametz during the year, one should cover them. A tablecloth is sufficient for the table and foil, plastic sheeting or contact paper (being cautious that it is removable without damage) to cover counters.

The Removal of Chametz

Any item which contains wheat, wheat, oat, barley, spelt or rye should be consumed before Passover, given away, thrown out or sold (see below).

Any item that does not contain chametz, but is not specifically labeled Kosher for Passover, should be stored in a cabinet and the cabinet should be taped closed.

During the holiday, one should only eat food specifically marked Kosher for Passover. While a product may not appear to contain chametz, according to Jewish law it may still be chametz since the US FDA does not require any ingredient under 2% to be listed on the label. There are also some production techniques that use chametz based oils in packaging or canning products, which would not be listed on the labels.

Selling the leftover Chametz
In cases of significant monetary loss, it is customary to sell certain types of chametz to a non-Jew, for instance unopened economy size boxes of cereal or bottles of scotch.*
For details on selling chametz, please see Passover Writings.

Bedikat Chametz – The Final Search for Chametz
The evening before the Seder,* a final search for chametz is conducted using a candle or flashlight and a feather to make sure that the house has been cleared of chametz. Any chametz found should be put in a small bag to be disposed of in the morning.

The following blessing is said before the search begins:
Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu Melech Ha-olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzeevanu al Bee’oor chametz.
Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us concerning the removal of chametz.
*When the first Seder is Saturday night, Bedikat Chametz is performed on Thursday night.

  • While the house is cleaned, chametz may still be set aside for breakfast, lunch and the Shabbat meals (challah). Any chametz set aside should be eaten in a restricted area so that the chametz is not spread through the house.
  • The morning after Bedikat Chametz, no chametz may be eaten after the fourth hour after sunrise.
  • Please note that all chametz must be eaten by the fourth hour of daylight.

When the search for Chametz is complete, a declaration is made stating that any overlooked chametz is null and void of ownership. The text for this declaration can be found in most prayer books.

Burning of Chametz
Before the end of the fourth hour of daylight, all remaining chametz (except that set aside for Friday and the Shabbat meals), found during the search or left over from breakfast, is burned. A second, and more comprehensive, declaration is then* made stating that any chametz that one owns or possesses is null and void and ownerless. The text of the second nullification may be found in most prayer books.
*When Passover begins after Shabbat: Although chametz may be purchased and eaten all day Friday, the custom is to sell and burn all chametz on Friday morning before the end of the fourth hour since burning it later may lead to confusion in subsequent years. The comprehensive declaration nullifying ownership of the chametz is made on Shabbat morning.
Because the removal of chametz is taking place a day earlier than usual, one should be certain on the day of the Seder (Saturday), not to eat any chametz after the fourth hour of daylight.

Prohibition of Eating Matzah
One may not eat matzah the entire day before the Seder in order to increase the pleasure of eating matzah at the Seder.

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


The Story of the Exodus

Going Down to Egypt

Passover celebrates G-d’s taking the Israelites out of slavery from Egypt and bringing them to the Promised Land. But what were the Israelites doing in Egypt in the first place, and how did they get there?

The children of Israel’s trek down to Egypt actually begins with their forefather, Abraham. Abraham was the first person to acknowledge a purely monotheistic G-d. As a consequence, G-d promises to make his descendants into a great nation. The making of a great nation, like the making of anything great, is a complex process. So G-d tells Abraham that in order to become one united nation, his children must experience common suffering that is to include exile, enslavement and persecution in a land that is not theirs. Only then will they come into their inheritance–the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:13).

Three generations later, the descent to Egypt begins with Joseph. Life is often an intricate weave of seemingly negative experiences that in hindsight end up being the perfect solution. When Joseph’s brothers sold him to a band of Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt as a slave, they certainly could not have foreseen that two decades later he would be the Egyptian Viceroy who would save all of Egypt and his own family from starvation. Once all the brothers were reunited, with five more years of famine still ahead of them, Joseph brought his father and the rest of the children of Israel to Egypt (a total of 70 souls) and resettled them in Egypt in the land of Goshen.

Slavery

In Egypt, Joseph was widely acknowledged as the people’s savior. After Joseph’s death, however, the Bible reports that a new Pharaoh came to power who “did not know Joseph.” Now saying that this new Pharaoh did not know who Joseph was, is like saying a person born in the 1970’s does not know who John F. Kennedy was. Rather it implies that Pharaoh chose not to acknowledge Joseph’s contributions to Egypt’s survival. He and his advisors set out to destroy the Jews, who were flourishing in the land of Goshen. They protested that the Jews were growing far too numerous and that, should there be a war, the Jews would be a fifth column, fighting against them from within.

How does one go about enslaving an entire nation with subtlety? Pharaoh called for a “National Unity Program” in which everyone was to volunteer to help build the new store cities of Pithom and Ramses (something along the lines of a community barn raising). At the beginning of the program, everyone came. Later on,however, only the Israelites came, perhaps to demonstrate how loyal they were to Pharoah. Over time, the one-time volunteers became forced laborers, and Pharaoh demanded of them the same yield that they had produced previously. Thus they were enslaved.

The Israelites lived in Egypt for 210 years, serving for many of those years as slaves. The Egyptians were harsh taskmasters, who relished in being cruel to the Israelites. Beyond the physical labor, the Israelites suffered moral degradation…men were forced to do the work usually done by women, and women were forced to do the work of men. Pharaoh’s astrologers predicted that the Israelites would be saved by a Hebrew boy yet to be born. Pharaoh could not allow this to occur. First he ordered the midwives that when an Israelite woman gives birth, “if it is a boy, you shall kill him, but if it is a girl, she may live” (Exodus 1:16). But the midwives refused to kill the children and told Pharaoh that the Jewish women gave birth without assistance. Pharaoh, however, then took the matter into his own hands and declared to his people: “Every boy that is born, you shall cast into the Nile, but every girl you shall keep alive” (Exodus 1:22).

The Israelite slaves were often forced to stay in the fields, separated from their families, but the women refused to allow their families to be torn asunder. When the men were exhausted from the physical labor and afraid to have children lest their children be killed, the women went out to the fields and “seduced” their husbands so that Israelite children would continue to be born, ensuring the continuity of the people.

Despite the Egyptian efforts to destroy them, the Jewish people continued to grow.
Into this desperate situation, Moses was born. Moses’ parents, Amram and Yocheved were both from the tribe of Levi. Before the decree to murder the male children, they already had two children, Aaron and Miriam. After the decree to drown every male child was issued, a second son was born, Moses. To save the life of their son, Yocheved put the babe Moses in a basket covered with pitch and set the basket in the Nile. Miriam followed her baby brother as the current carried him toward the bathing pool of Pharaoh’s daughter.
When Pharaoh’s daughter saw that the basket contained a baby boy, she knew that it was a Jewish child, but nevertheless decided to keep him and raise him as her own child. Miriam immediately hurried forth to volunteer Yocheved as a nursemaid for the baby. Thus until he was weened, Moses was raised by a Jewish nursemaid, who was really his mother, before returning to Pharaoh’s daughter.
Moses was a full member of the Egyptian court and was regarded by Pharaoh as a grandson. But Moses was also sensitive to the injustices that were being done to his brethren, the Jews. One day, Moses witnessed an Egyptian taskmaster mercilessly beating a Jew. He saw that there was no one about, and killed the taskmaster in order to save the Israelite’s life. Quickly, before there were any witnesses, he buried the body in the sand. The very next day, however, when he came upon two Jews arguing and tried to stop them, they threatened Moses by saying: Do you wish to kill us as you killed the Egyptian? Realizing that if even these two Israelite slaves knew of his actions, then so did Pharaoh.

Moses fled Egypt to Midian where he met Tzippora, the daughter of Jethro (a former high priest of Midian who had turned to monotheism). After marrying Tzippora, Moses became one of Jethro’s shepherds and lived a pastoral and peaceful life…but not for long.

One day, while shepherding the flocks, Moses followed a stray lamb and came upon a bush surrounded by flames, yet the bush was not consumed by the fire. At the burning bush (which was located on Mount Sinai), G-d first spoke to Moses and instructed him to return to Egypt and lead the Israelites out of slavery. Moses, however, did not believe that he was the right person for the task…after all, he had a speech impediment, and he had an older brother who was perhaps more appropriate for the job. But G-d had chosen Moses, and so Moses went back to Egypt where his older brother Aaron served as his spokesman.

Redemption From Slavery

Taking the Jews out of Egypt was no easy task. G-d warned Moses that Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened. In fact, after Moses and Aaron’s first visit to Pharaoh’s palace, Pharaoh ordered an increase in the workload of his slaves. The slaves would now be responsible for supplying their own straw for the manufacture of bricks. The Israelites groaned under the weight of their oppression and accused Moses and Aaron of making things worse.

But G-d strengthened Moses, and told him that now he would soon see the strength of G-d, which would result in Pharaoh’s freeing the Hebrews.

Now that Pharaoh had hardened his heart and refused to let the Israelites go, G-d could bring down his wrath upon Egypt. While it is true that G-d had told Abraham that his descendants would serve another people, and the Egyptians were therefore only fulfilling G-d’s command, they had gotten carried away with their divine role and were wicked and vicious beyond the call of duty.

When Moses and Aharon next went to the palace to request freedom for their brethren and were refused, G-d turned the Nile River into blood. Each of the subsequent nine plagues followed the pattern: Moses and Aharon requested permission to leave, Pharaoh refused, Egypt and the Egyptians were smitten with a plague, while the Israelites were spared. The Egyptians would then cry out, and Pharaoh would beg for mercy and agree to let the Israelites go. Then Pharaoh would change his mind, and the next cycle would begin.

What exactly were the ten plagues?

BLOOD – The Nile River turned to blood. But it wasn’t just the river that turned to blood, it was all the water in Egypt. People would go to get something to drink from their barrels of stored water, but it had turned to blood. People would take a drink from what they thought was a clean source, and it would be blood. However, when an Israelite took water from the same source, it would remain water. The plague of blood was particularly distressing to the Egyptians because they worshiped the Nile.

FROGS – The land of Egypt was overrun by frogs. This may not seem like a big deal at first glance, after all, some people think frogs are cute, but the frogs were truly everywhere! There were frogs in the beds, frogs in the cupboards, frogs in the pots, even frogs in the oven. And whenever the Egyptians would hit a frog in order to kill it, the Midrash tells us, that the frog would split into two, producing even more frogs.

LICE – To initiate the plague of lice, G-d commanded Aharon via Moshe to hit the ground with his staff. The dust on the ground turned to lice and spread throughout Egypt.

WILD BEASTS – “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” Wild animals of all sorts crossed over the borders of Egypt and ravaged the land. The Egyptians couldn’t leave their homes, for fear of being attacked, yet the wild animals would walk right past the Israelites without harming them.

PESTILENCE – The Egyptian cattle that had survived the ravaging of the wild beasts, were struck with pestilence and died. No Jewish owned cattle died, even those in close proximity to the Egyptian cattle. The first five plagues taught the Egyptians that their possessions were lost and their wealth ephemeral.

BOILS – From head to toe, the Egyptians were covered with painful boils.

HAIL – The hail storm of the seventh plague was a “fireworks” display of G-d’s power. The hail consisted of baseball-sized chunk of ice accompanied by fiery lightening. The physical destruction was immense.

LOCUSTS – Not much was left of Egypt by the time the plague of locust arrived. The cattle were dead, the buildings destroyed, morale was low, and then the locusts arrived. An enormous swarm darkened the sky and devoured anything that remained of the crops.

DARKNESS – For three days, total darkness descended on Egypt. The Sages taught that the darkness was so intense that it served as a physical restriction as well, leaving the Egyptians unable to move. The Jews, however, could see where they were going and were unaffected by the darkness.

DEATH OF THE FIRST BORN – By the time Pharaoh was threatened with the final plague–the death of all the firstborn of Egypt, his nation was begging him to release the Israelites. But Pharaoh was obstinate, and would not let them go. The night that the first born Egyptians died is the first night of Passover. Indeed, this was the only plague for which the Jews needed to prepare themselves so that they would not be harmed. In order to be “passed-over,” Moses instructed the Israelites to mark their doorposts with lamb’s blood. And in the darkness of the midnight hour, G-d smote all of the first born in the land of Egypt.

Crossing the Sea of Reeds

Pharaoh now demanded that Moses lead the Israelites out of his land immediately! The people quickly gathered their belongings, including the bread that had not had sufficient time to rise, the matzah, and hurried forth into the wilderness.

Once the Israelites had left, however, Pharaoh, looking out over his destroyed land, grew angry, and changed his mind. Calling forth his army of chariots, he set out after the Israelites.

Three days later, the Israelites were stopped dead in their tracks. Before them lay the waters of the Sea of Reeds (also called the Red Sea). Mountains loomed on either side. And behind them was the swiftly approaching army of the Egyptians. There was nowhere to turn, there was simply nowhere to go, so the Israelites…screamed at Moses.

“Aren’t there enough graves in Egypt? We should have stayed there,” they shouted. Indeed some of the people even suggested turning around and returning to Egypt. Moses pleaded with G-d for assistance, and G-d instructed him to tell the people to travel forth. When they arrived at the water, G-d told Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea and it would split. Moses did so. He instructed the people to go forward, but they hesitated. One man, Nachshon ben Aminadav, from the tribe of Judah, stepped forward and waded into the sea. The water came to his waist, to his shoulders, to his chin, but he continued forward as Moses stretched out his arm over the water. As the water reached Nachshon’s lips, the sea burst apart, providing a stretch of dry land on which the Israelites were able to cross.

The Israelites hurried across the sea, but the Egyptians were close behind. No sooner had the last Israelite stepped out of the sea, when G-d instructed Moses to once again stretch out his hand over the sea, and the water came crashing down.
The Egyptians, in their mighty chariots, were crushed in the swirling waters. According to the Midrash only one Egyptian survived, Pharaoh. The sea spit Pharaoh out on the far side of the water so that he could witness both the destruction of his own people, and bear testimony to the redemption of the Israelites.

Moving Forward

From the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, the Israelites continued into travel into the wilderness of Sinai. There, gathered at the base of Mount Sinai, the same spot when G-d appeared to Moses in the burning bush, the People of Israel received the Torah from G-d and were forged into a great and a holy nation….
And that is why we celebrate Passover.

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.


Beginners Haggadah

Beginners Haggadah

NJOP’s Beginners Haggadah includes concise commentary and provocative questions to inspire further thought, as well as proposed answers. The Haggadah has English, Hebrew and user-friendly translations and transliteration.

To order your copy of the NJOP Beginners Haggadah send an email to Rivka or call us at (800) 44-HEBREW.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Print the Sample Beginners Haggadah or use the interface on this page to view or download.

Passover

The holiday of Passover commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt which led to the birth of the Jewish nation at Sinai. The Passover Seder, which is held on the first (and second night outside of Israel) of Passover, is perhaps the most widely observed Jewish practice. This outline will provide you with the basics of the Passover holiday, laws and customs.

Learn more

Programs and Classes

Host or attend the exciting Passover programs and classes provided by NJOP and find out how you or your community can participate.

Resources

Discover, read and download our comprehensive guides and walkthroughs, watch videos and learn about the various aspects of Passover.

Articles

Browse our collection of Passover Jewish Treats, filled with interesting stories and articles about the histories and traditions of Passover.