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Pesach – An Overview – By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

  1. The main reason that we observe Mitzvos is because it is the Ratzon Hashem.  Nonetheless, it is important to understand and appreciate some of the reasons that are brought down that explain the Mitzvos.  The Rambam writes that this is, in fact, an obligation.
  2. 2.       Pesach is known as the “Rosh Hashanah of Emunah”-the New Year for faith and belief in Hashem.  Chazal tell us that it was solely on account of our emunah in Hashem that we were redeemed from Egypt and that it will be solely on account of emunah in Hashem that we will be redeemed in the times of Mashiach.
  3. 3.       Since this is the essence of the Yom Tov of Pesach, one of the three main positive Mitzvos of Pesach is to plant and entrench Emunah – belief in Hashem.  The Emunah is planted within ourselves and within others through the Mitzvah called “sipur yetzias Mitzrayim-the telling over of the Exodus from Egypt, as it states, “V’higad’ta l’Bincha-And you shall relate it to your son.”
  4. 4.       Our Sages further tell us that the more we discuss the mitzvah, the more praiseworthy we are-kol ha’marbeh l’sapeir…harei zeh meshubach. Why is this so? In regard to all other Mitzvos, once the Mitzvah has been fulfilled, that is it-it ends. Here, however, the mitzvah continues. Reb Shalom Noach Berzovsky, zt’l, the Slonimer Rebbe, explains that the mitzvah is a continuous one precisely because it is the means of imbuing the heart of each and every Jew with emunah throughout the year.
  5. No matter who the person is, the mitzvah never ends: Afilu kulanu chachamim, kulanu nevonim…the greatest of sages are also obligated in this ever-continuous Mitzvah-because they too need the boost in emunah that is obtained from Pesach.
  6. There are infinite depths to emunah-thus the means of instilling this emunah is also infinite.
  7. 7.       What is Emunah?  The Nesivos Shalom describes three separate areas:
    1. a.       Belief in Hashem as Creator of the world, in which the righteous gentiles of the world also believe.
    2. b.      Belief in Hashem’s Hashgacha Pratis – Divine providence-that Hashem takes the time and “effort” to involve Himself in the details of our lives here on earth.
    3. c.       The fact that we, Klal Yisroel, have been chosen for a unique and Divine role and mission.
  8. 8.       All three aspects of emunah are part of the Pesach experience.
    1. All the Nissim we experienced point to Hashem as the Creator of the world
    2. The 10 Makos show that there is hashgacha Pratis.
    3. Yetzias Mitzrayim itself and the subsequent revelation of the Torah to the Children of Israel indicate Israel’s unique role and mission.
  9. We should utilize this special Yom Tov to increase our Emunah in all of the three areas. We must also remember that the Gemorah tells us (Sotah 11a) that it was in the merit of the righteous women that the Jewish people were redeemed.  What did they do?  They demonstrated remarkable Emunah and continued having children.
  10. The other two Positive Mitzvos are to get rid of all Chometz on the 14th of Nissan and to eat Matzoh on the night of Pesach, the 15th of Nissan. 
  11. 11.   Chometz figuratively represents the Yetzer HaRah.  The Yetzer HaRah tries to take us away from HaKadosh Boruch Hu and undermine our Emunah.  We should therefore get rid of anything within us that undermines Emunah.  This is one of the reasons suggested as to why Chometz is prohibited BeMashehu – in any tiny amount.  Rashi tells us that Chazal forbade Chometz in any amount because the prohibition of eating it involves an issur Karais.
  12. 12.   Matzah is described by the Zohar (Vol. II 183b) as a Michlah demehemnusah – a food of Emunah.
  13. We therefore see that all three positive Mitzvos of Pesach deal directly with Emunah.
  14. Moshe Rabbeinu enacted that we must study the halachos of Pesach thirty days before it begins as well as on Pesach itself.  A minority view has (Ran and Rashba) understood this to mean that if two students pose questions, one on Pesach laws and the other on another law, we answer the one on Pesach first – but there is no obligation to actually study this booklet 30 days before Pesach.  This view has been rejected by the majority of Poskim.
  15. During the month of Nissan we do not fast, even for the Yartzeit of a parent, we do not recite the prayer of Tachanun nor do we make eulogies at funerals. Also, the special funeral Kaddish is not said – only the regular Kaddish. All this is because most of the month is filled with days of Kedusha – holiness.  It may also be because the month of Nissan is when Mashiach will come.
  16. 16.   There is an obligation that begins in the month of Nissan to ensure that all other members of our community have funds so that they can purchase Matzah or flour for Matzah.  This obligation goes back to the time of the Gemorah.  Whoever does not give to this is considered as if he has spilled blood.  According to the Mishna Brurah the Ramah adds that there is a Minhag to give them the flour itself.  This Minhag is to make obtaining Matzah for them even easier. If one knows that his or her relative is poor – the relative is given funds before anyone else.
  17. 17.   Figuratively, since Matzah increases Emunah, we should look to ensure that all other members of the community have what they need to increase their Emunah.
  18. 18.   During the month of Nissan, the blessing on fruit trees is recited.  The blessing is –  “BAH EMH – shelo chaser beOlamo klum uvarah bo brios tovos ve’ilanos tovos lehanos bahem bnai adam..”  It may be recited on Shabbos or Yom Tov.  Women recite this bracha too.  Ideally, it should be said in the company of two other people because of BeRov Am Hadras Melech and ideally it should be said before two trees.  However, neither of these requirements is absolutely necessary.
  19. 19.   There is a Minhag not to eat Matzoh from Rosh Chodesh Nissan until Pesach itself.  This refers only to kosher Matzos.  Chametz Matzos are permitted.  Some have the Minhag not to eat Matzoh from 30 days before Pesach until the Yom Tov.  All people, however, are forbidden to eat Matzoh on Erev Pesach itself.
  20. 20.   Shabbos HaGadol is the Shabbos that comes before Pesach.  It is a minhag in Klal Yisroel to attend a shiur on this Shabbos that goes through the halachos of Pesach so that the holiday will be observed properly.  The main reason that it is called Shabbos HaGadol is because of the great miracle that occurred then. We had the sheep which the Mitzrim worshipped.  We were going to offer the sheep as a Korban, and that Shabbos the Egyptians said nothing.  This was a tremendous Nais.
  21. 21.   The Gemorah is Bava Metziah 32a discusses the Posuk that if one sees a friend with a heavy load – one should surely help him.  Certainly then, morally and philosophically, if you see your parents cleaning for Pesach you should certainly help them.
  22. 22.   The prohibitions of Chometz – There are five separate negative prohibitions regarding Chometz on Pesach.  All of these prohibitions have their own unique Pasuk. They are:
    1. a.       Not to eat Chometz from the designated time on the 14th of Nissan
    2. b.      Not to eat Chometz throughout the holiday of Pesach
    3. c.       Not to eat even a mixture of Chometz throughout the holiday of Pesach
    4. d.      Not to see any of your own Chometz on Pesach – Bal Yira’eh.
    5. e.      Not to find any of your Chometz on Pesach – Bal Yematzeh.
  23. 23.   One should likewise treat all issues that undermine our Emunah in the same manner as we treat Chometz:  Namely, we should rid ourselves of all issues that undermine Emunah before Pesach, throughout Pesach, even mixtures of it, not see anything that undermines Emunah, nor find anything that undermines it.
  24. 24.   By  Torah law we may rid ourselves of Chometz either by nullifying it (bitul chometz) or by destroying it (biur chometz).  The Rabbis, however, enacted that both methods be employed.
    1. a.       Bitul – Bitul chometz is the declaration that all Chometz that we own is declared to be ownerless.
    2. b.      Biur Chometz – is where we search out and set aside to burn any Chometz that we find.
    3. Sale – In the past few centuries, we have arranged for a gentile to purchase Chometz that we have.  The sale is conducted with six different types of Kinyanim – because there is debate among the Rishonim as to what types of transactions are effective under these circumstances.  Some people question this procedure since the gentile does not actually remove the Chometz from the Jew’s home – he just rents space there.  Many have the minhag not to sell real Chometz, but only items that do not really have a hechsher for Pesach- unless it would entail a huge loss.
  25. Baking Matzos – Baking Matzos is a complex procedure.  It requires removing everything that was used in making the dough that sat for more than 18 minutes to be completely removed and thoroughly cleansed.  The water that is used in the dough must be drawn earlier and left overnight.  This is called Mayim SheLanu – waters that slept.
  26. Erev Pesach has numerous halachos associated with it. On the night before Pesach we perform the Bedikas Chometz.  We do so immediately upon nightfall – generally 50 minutes after Shkiya, although some wait 42 and some wait until 72 minutes.
  27. One may eat Chometz until the end of the fourth halachic hour of the day.  A halachic hour is 1/12th of the daylight hours (total minutes from sunrise to sunset divided by twelve). It is the custom of Klal Yisroel to stop eating Chometz at the earliest calculation of the 4th hour of the day – according to the Mogain Avrohom’s time (the Mogain Avrohom calculates it from dawn until three stars come out – not from sunrise to sunset).  Generally speaking for Krias Shma during the day most people observe the later calculation of the Vilna Gaon (sunrise to sunset).
  28. One must dispose of Chometz either by selling it or by burning it by the end of the 5th hour of the day.  The head of the household then recites the Chol Chamira.  After the Kol Chamira is recited, even if done so earlier, no one in the house may eat Chometz.  This is a little known fact.
  29. It is the custom for firstborn men to attend a siyum or fast on Erev Pesach.  The reason for the fast  is to publicize the fact that the Jewish firstborn were saved during the plague of the firstborn. If the firstborn of a family is still under the age of Bar Mitzvah it is the custom for his father to fast for him.  If a person cannot get to a siyum, he may eat before dawn on that day.
  30. Matzah may not be eaten on Erev Pesach nor may products containing baked Matzoh meal be eaten.  Cooked Matzoh meal products may be eaten until 3 halachic hours before sunset, however.
  31. We do our Seder preparations on Erev Pesach too, in order to minimize any malacha to be performed on Yom Tov.  This includes: 1] roasting the z’roah meat, 2] cooking then roasting the egg 3] mixing the saltwater 4] preparing the charoses, 5] grating the horseradish, and 6] checking lettuce for bugs.
  1. There is a special Mitzvah of “Simcha” on Pesach.  This is on account of the Pasuk that states, “Vehayisa ach samayach.”   Fathers should therefore get their children and wife something special for Yom Tov.  For wives and teen-age daughters an article of clothing (the Mishna Brurah writes – at least new shoes) and for younger children– nosh.
  2. There is a relatively little known and little observed Mitzvah to give the children Nosh on the first night of Pesach.  The Gemorah (Psachim 109a) states that the reason is “so that they will not fall asleep and will ask.”  The Shulchan Aruch, however, adds the words (472:16), “so that they will see a difference and ask.”  There is a Machlokes whether this should be done before immediately before the Seder (Rav Shulchan Aruch 472:31 Kaf HaChaim 472:96) or immediately after Kiddush (Minhagei Chsam Sofer 10:16).  There is no need for the nosh to be eaten while leaning.
  3. Benching the Children – When the father comes home from shul there is a special inyan to bless the children since Yaakov was blessed on this night by Yitzchok.  This Minhag is important.
  4. Leaning –  During the time of the Gemorah it was the way of free men to lean. The Rambam (Laws of Chometz UMatzah 7:6-7) implies that in leaning we fulfill the biblical Mitzvah in the Torah of “VeZacharta Ki Even Haiisa. – And you shall remember that you were a slave.”  It is a question as to whether the Mitzvah of haSaiba is a condition in the fulfillment of the other Mitzvos of the night or perhaps its very own Mitzvah.  Women are exempt from this Mitzvah but many Sefardic women do perform it, nonetheless.
  5. For men, however, there is an obligation to lean during Matzah, drinking of the wine, korech, afikomen, and if it is not too difficult during the meal itself.  There is no leaning for Karpas and Maror.
  6. YaKNHaZ  This stands for Yayin Kiddush Ner Havdallah Zman.  This is the order that we
    do things when Pesach falls on Motzei Shabbos.  [When it falls during  the week – leave out the N&H]. If by accident one ended off with Bain Kodesh LeChol and not Bain Kodesh LeKodesh he has to rerecite Kiddush since he changed the manner in which Chazal enacted it.
  7. There is no bsamim on Yom Tov because we also have a Neshama Yesairah on Yom Tov and there is no need to reinvigorate ourselves (Rashbam Psachim 102b).
  8. Karpas – Since there is a machlokes whether to recite a Borei Nefashos on Karpas, we do not eat more than a kezayis.  Some, however do have a kezayis.  Nonetheless, a separate bracha Achrona is not said.  The prevailing minhag is to dip it in saltwater, not to dip it in other things.  One should have in mind to be Motzei the Marror also with the HaAdama. One should also have in mind that they will be going back and forth in the house (in the kitchen and back, upstairs downstairs etc.) whenever they want in between the karpas and maror .
  9. Maggid –  Just as there is a Mitzvah of vehigadeta LeBincha for a son – there is an obligation to do so for a daughter as well.  There is also a Mitzvah to say it to one’s grandchildren – beOznai bincha uben bincha.
  10. The Hagada was instituted by the Anshei Kneses HaGedolah.  The Mishna tells us: One must mention Pesach, Matzah UMaror at a minimum to fulfill the Mitzvah.  “Mention” in this context means it has to be explained.  “The Mitzvah”  refers to the Hagadah according to most meforshim.  Some say it refers to each of the individual three.  It may be heard, and not necessarily said because of the concept of Shomeah KeOneh – hearing is like saying.
  11. The Halachos of the Second Night – On the second night of Pesach we light candles with a bracha including the Shehecheyanu.  We do not make any preparations for the seder until nightfall. If one forgot to say Shehecheyanu in Kiddush one goes back and says it whenever it is remembered until Yom Tov is over.
  12. The Mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer starts on the second night of Pesach. Let us not forget that this was when we were redeemed on Purim.  Each night of the sefirah, according to Kabbalah is when the seven sefiros correspond to the seven subdivisions of sefirah.  The first night is chessed shebechesed.  This is especially appropriate for the redemption of Klal Yisroel on Purim – it was a chessed of chessed. The Mishna Brurah (490:2) quotes the achronim (see MA citing the Shla) that a special zecher to the seudah of Esther should be made in the day meal of the second day.  It seems this can be a song, a tune, a siman, or a food.  Do not have a chometzdike Hamantashen.

Erev Pesach that falls on Shabbos In case you were curious, Erev Pesach falls on Shabbos approximately once every 9 years.  It also occurs as frequently as every 3 years and as infrequently as every 20 years.  It did not occur between 1954 – 1974.

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Posted by on March 10, 2013. Filed under Jewish News,Slider. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.