Countdown to Pesach

Passover plate n the table with a glass of wine

Pesach

Passover commemorates when God freed the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The first two days and last two days are called Yom Tov, and the middle four days are called Chol Hamoed.

To sell your chometz, please download the attached form and return to the Central Office.

We look forward to seeing you at the Central Synagogue for our services over Pesach.

There will be Kiddushim after our morning services.

What does Pesach mean?

The festival has a number of names:

  • Chag Hamatzot – Festival of Matzot.
  • Passover – The word means “to pass over” and is related to the passing of the Angel of Death over the homes of the Israelites to slay the Egyptian firstborn.
  • Zeman Cherusaynu – Season of Our Freedom.
  • This describes the freeing of the Jews from the Egyptian slavery.

What are the customs of Pesach?

Chometz

The word “chometz” means fermented or leavened. Wheat, spelt, barley, oats, and rye are the five grains that are considered to be chometz. So any product made with these grains cannot be used on Passover. Chometz includes items such as beer and whiskey.

We are forbidden to eat and drink, possess, or even derive benefit from chometz.

We are required to thoroughly clean the house in the days before Pesach to eliminate any chometz. Most people take this as a chance to spring clean.

We then search any place that chometz might have been brought into during the year. This search is called Bedikat Chometz, “Searching for Chometz”, and it takes place after nightfall on the night before Pesach. The following morning one must destroy all chometz that remains in one’s possession. The preferred manner of destroying the chometz is burning. This is called Biyur Chometz, “Burning the Chometz.”

Since destroying all the chometz in one’s possession can be a financial worry, the rabbis have established a procedure in which a Jew can transfer ownership of his or her chometz to a non-Jew.

In addition to the prohibition against chometz, some Jews do not eat kitniyos. Kitniyos refers to products such as rice, millet, beans and lentils. Sefardi Jews are allowed to eat Kitniyot but Ashkenazi Jews are not.

Matzah

“From the 14th day of the first month in the evening , until the night of the 21st day of the month, you must eat Matzot.”(Exodus: Chapter 12 Verse 18).

Matzah is the only form of bread which is permitted on Pesach. The dough for matzah can only be made from flour and water.

The Seder

On the first night of Pesach (or, outside of Israel, the first two) we are required to perform the Seder. The Seder is an orderly process by which we fulfil the special commandments of the Pesach night.

The Seder is written down in a book called the Haggadah. The Haggadah as we know it was compiled during the 7th and 8th centuries. The oldest version appears in the prayer book of Saadia Gaon in the 10th century.

The Haggadah includes the telling over of the story of the Exodus from Egypt. During the Seder we also drink four cups of wine and eat maror (a bitter vegetable such as horseradish).

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