Mark Twain and the Pesach Blues

Pesach is over and many see it’s chometz avoidance requirement as a chore and are relieved to see it over. Obviously that is not what Hashem intended in the mitzvah. Here is a comment from David Linn on a past post which may help us gain some perspective

I also think it helps if you focus on the mitzvah aspect of the cleaning, prep and carefullness. One of my favorite literary scenes is of Tom Sawyer painting the fence. For those who aren’t familiar, Tom has been punished and must whitewash the fence. He would, of course, rather be fishing or swimming or whatever else the other boys would be doing on a summer day. He devises a plan to make the other boys think that he wants to paint the fence and that they should only be so lucky. Before you know it, the boys are begging for a chance and actually giving Tom their respective prized possessions to get a chance to paint the fence.

Twain then writes:

“He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign.”

Now, I don’t think you’re going to have your friends paying you to help clean and prep for Pesach, if you do, please contact me so I can get the recipe. But, I do think that we build up the cleaning and prep to such a point of drudgery that we often fail to realize that there are mitzvos involved. Losing sight of that adds to the drudgery and exhaustion.

This won’t make it easy but maybe, just maybe, it will help us focus and see the gain from the pain.

The Making of a Passover Seder

Chapter 1 The Great Pesach Divide

I don’t think there are many days in the year that can cause greater strife in BT-Familial relations than Pesach. I think the reason for that is twofold. First, Pesach is a holiday that involves a high level of kashrus scrutiny. Second, many non-religious people take Pesach seriously on their level and a BT’s unwillingness to eat in their home often comes across as offensive.

Growing up, one seder was always held at my Aunt’s house, approximately 45 minutes away by car. Although my Aunt and Uncle weren’t religious, they were fairly traditional and they took Pesach seriously. My Aunt is one mean cook and my Uncle (he should rest in peace) always prepared the entire seder, complete with written explanations for each participant to read at the appointed time and his strawng awshkenawzi pronawnciation. He also freshly grated horseradish that could clear a stuffed nose from across the room. Other than my eternal fear of botching the four questions, I actually looked forward to those Seders every year. I was one of the few youngsters who stayed with the older men to complete the hagadah long after the others had retired to watch a post-meal hockey game. The seder at my Aunt’s was also pretty much the only time of the year that my extended family would get together.

So, it was with great trepidation that I approached my parents when I was approximately 16 and told them that I was no longer willing to ride in the car on Passover. At the time, I thought I might have more easily launched the first missle of WW III but, though my Aunt was not pleased, my parents handled it as well as could be expected and my Aunt, I think, eventually forgave me.

Chapter 2 A Teenager’s Seder
To my parents’ credit, they decided that if I wasn’t willing to go to my Aunt’s, they would stay home as well. That meant that I would have to prepare the Seder. Every year I would meticulously prepare my father’s hagadah with notations, explanations and parts so that he could “lead” the Seder. My father a’h, mother, brothers and any guests bravely persevered as we completed the entire hagaddah both nights for years. Knowing that this experience would not be the most pleasant one for the others, I did everything I could to try to make the seder relevant to them. I would spice it with history, family remembrances, riddles, jokes, etc. (One year we went through an entire scientific analysis of the process of leavening, another year I contacted the seder participants and asked them to submit advance questions about pesach the answers to which I researched and presented at the seder)

Chapter 3 The Seder in My Own Home
Though I am only in my mid-30s, I have been preparing a seder for the past 20 years. I think that my early seder experiences have helped fashion the seder I presently run. I am blessed with my own children now and I try to prepare a seder that is fun, interesting and relevant to them and any guests. Our seder is becoming well known for our children’s Ten Plagues skit (especially the famous water into blood scene, a must see), mixed minhagim (I have incorporated many of my Father In Law’s sephardi minhagim), interesting niggunim (kadesh, urchatz… to the tune of the Egyptian National Anthem) and the signed, notarized statement I procured from my wife and mother-in-law promising that they will not stay up all night the day before Pesach. I still think the time my father-in-law, already in his 70s, stood on his chair like a little boy to recite the Four Questions so he could get a chocolate covered marshmallow was the best.

Though my decision to break from my extended family’s passover seder was a difficult one that had relationship reprecussions, it forced me to develop a deeper understanding of the Hagadah and to (I hope) prepare a seder that is interesting and meaningful to its participants.

First posted on April 10, 2006

TEN WAYS to help you and YOUR CHILDREN have a more Meaningful and Inspiring PESACH SEDER

Use these suggestions to infuse new meaning and excitement into your seder and create a lasting experience for you and your family.

1.Make the most of your Seder and best fulfill the mitzvah of V’higadita L’vincha by staying focused on telling the actual story of Yetzias Mitzrayim; concentrate on the events and their lessons.

2. Transform Yetzias Mitzrayim from a story into a reality by celebrating the Seder like you celebrate a Simcha in your own family. Speak about it vividly, personally and enthusiastically…you’ll inspire yourself and your children.

3. Prepare for the Seder! Spend time studying books and Midrashim that elaborate specifically on the details of each miracle to help your children appreciate the extent of Hashem’s kindness.

4. Make Pesach personal and relevant to your children. Use your discussion about the amazing miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim as a means of opening their eyes to the miracles Hashem performs for us every day.

5. Show your children how so much of the Pesach Seder revolves around them, demonstrating how much Hashem cares about every child and values each one as an essential member of Klal Yisroel.

6. Involve your children in the Pesach Seder. Prepare stimulating and challenging questions that will guide them to understand the lessons of the Haggadah and be an active participant in the Seder.

7. Practice the lesson of the Four Sons during your Seder by making a particular effort to involve each child (and adult!) in a way that best suits his or her unique personality, style and level.

8. Take the time to patiently answer your children’s questions. If you don’t know the answer, create a powerful Chinuch experience by asking a rabbi and exploring the issue… together with your child.

9. Reinforce their Emunah through the Pesach Seder by explaining that the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim irrefutably demonstrated Hashem’s complete control over the world to millions of eyewitnesses. We attest to this truth every year on the Seder night.

10. Inspire yourself by remembering that tonight Jewish parents around the world are passing on a glorious 3,320 year old legacy to their children as their parents and ancestors have done before them. Realize that the Seder that you create for your children will inspire them for the rest of their lives and shape the future Seder that they will make for their children.

The Pesach Seder:
A Unique Opportunity to Instill Emunah in Our Children

The Mitvah of telling the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim is primarily focused on our children and family. Its main purpose is to instill in their hearts the full knowledge of Hashem’s sovereignty and the magnitude of His strength and miracles. One should explain the story to them in the language that they understand to make them aware of the extent of the wonders that Hashem performs. It is not sufficient to explain just the main points of Yetzias Mitzrayim written in the Haggadah. Instead, we should describe all of the miracles vividly as they are depicted in the Gemara, Midrashim and other Seforim. (Based on Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’avoda 9:6)

COURTESY OF THE COMMUNITY TRAINING INITIATIVE OF PRIORITY-1
Under the auspices of Harav Reuven Feinstein, Shlita

For additional copies of this poster or for more information about Priority-1’s training programs, resources and consultations for parents and educators, please call 800-33-FOREVER

Inspiring Ideas for the Pesach Seder

In the hope of trying to create an inspiring, interesting and educational leil Pesach, we have often attempted to create activities that can be used to keep the kids (and adults) awake and involved. Please share with us any creative ideas, thoughts or activities that you have used at your seder or seen used at other seders.

Any contributions geared to any age group and/or ability or learning level will be great.

Please try to indicate weather the idea is best for pre–school, elementary school, high school, adult or all ages and/or weather it is best for beginner, intermediate, or advanced level.

Include as much detail as possible so that we can all benefit from each other’s experiences.

Here’s a starter from Aish: Family Fun with the Ten Plagues.

Gebroks or Non-Gebroks…That is the Question

This blast from the past first published on April 06, 2006. Shayna was one of original contributors and if you’re still checking, we hope everything is going well with you and your family.

Being kosher seemed like a good way to be a true Jew, so I called the local Chabad House, and a nice man came and did the job. He finished, turned to go, and I asked him what I was allowed to eat. He sketched out the basic symbols and wrote “cholev yisroel” and “pas yisroel” on the bottom. I had no clue what they meant, but na’asai v’nishma: knowing nothing, I was machmir to only buy products listing those words.

Then Pesach approached. I called the same friendly man who told me to only buy things that said “non-gebroks.” End of conversation.

Thus began my Pesach minhag.

Although less naive about minhagim, my husband’s approach is always, when in doubt, you can’t go wrong by following the strictest guidelines.

Living in Monsey, it’s no problem being cholev yisroel. But gebroks gets us down year after year after year.

Pesach is the most resonant Yom Tov for most of us. I grew up gleefully eating on Yom Kippur, oblivious to Shabbos, but with a strangely nostalgic attitude about Pesach. We always had some facsimile of a seder. In speedy English and occasional bouts of broken Yiddish, my father attempted to imitate his father’s seder, while the kids snuck more and more Manishewitz. I didn’t really “chup” the point of this strange ritual. What lasted and lasted in my memory was the matzoh meal pancakes.

What an utter disappointment to make teshuva and resurrect Passover, and then find that the totem of my memory was taboo on the Yom Tov itself!

The concept of minhagim is an uncomfortable one for a BT. We all have them, but they were buried in the generation(s) of assimilation. Who knew what would be lost back when my great-grandfathers davened next to the FFBs’ great-grandfathers in the shtetl shul? Who knew that I would be only one out of dozens of my ancestors’ progeny who would regret history, and devote her life to piecing back together the broken line?

What of our history is “kosher”? Yes, I grew up eating gebroks, but I also grew up eating BLTs and dating non-Jews, practices that I am most definitely not going to pass down to my children.

How can BTs sort out our legitimate fossils? Knowing that my grandparents emigrated from there, is it okay to research Lithuanian Jewry and then adopt the customs of those frum Jews? How much has survived in my DNA? Is it because I’m a “yekkie” that I’m on time, or because I grew up inculcated with the Protestant Work Ethic?

Does aping the actions of mentors or emulating the habits of sages create a meaningful tradition? What about when there are several legitimate practices? Why do I have to tough out the “minor” fast days–my FFB female friends eat or only fast half the day, just like their mothers did. Must we also shun garlic on Pesach because two centuries ago it was transported alongside grain, and so it became some families’ practice not to use it? At what age should I put away the bobby socks and hold my pre-schooler up to the tznius standards of the big girls? How do we answer with conviction when our kids ask which way our family holds?

It’s kind of scary: at what point does twisting open the soda bottles on Shabbos morph from a habit to a tradition to an immovably holy practice that will be passed down from generation to generation?

Pre-Pesach Potpourri of Posts

Over the last few years, we have had some interesting Pesach posts here on Beyond BT. In case you might have missed some, here are some highlights:

Rabbi Rosenblum reminds us that everyone needs to pitch in when it comes to Pesach cleaning in Who’s Cleaning for Pesach?

David Linn wrote about how he came to make my own seders fairly early in life inThe Making of a Pesach Seder

Here is the link for the Beyond BT Guide to the Seder compiled by Mark Frankel.

The Haggadah relates that:

In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had come out of Mitzrayim, as it is says: “You shall tell your child on that day, it is because of this that Hashem did for me when I left Mitzrayim.” Mark Frankel asks Is it Possible to Really See Ourselves as Leaving Mitzrayim? and in this mp3 Rabbi Moshe Gordon explores some of the classical approaches to understanding and fulfilling this Mitzvah.

The Fifteen Steps of the Pesach Seder serve as the framework for our fulfillment of the mitzvah to tell the story of our exodus from Egypt. They have been compared to the 15 Steps leading up to the Beis Hamikdash in that both sets of stairs are used to bring us to a greater level of unity with Hashem. The haggadah has been called the most commented upon work of liturgy. Commentary on the haggadah serves many purposes: it broadens our understanding of the mitzvos of the night; it brings greater appreciation for the miracles Hashem performed for us; and it makes the Seder night and all of Pesach more relevant to us. Join us as we climb the fifteen steps together by presenting a short vort/dvar torah by different bloggers/commenters. Let’s Climb.

Climbing the Fifteen Steps of the Seder (Steps 1-3) – David Linn

Yachatz (Step 4) – A Taste of Things to Come – Rabbi Yonason Goldson

Maggid – (Step 5) The Lesson of the Simple Son – A Simple Jew

Rachtza (Step 6) – The Washing of the Hands Preceding the Eating of the Matzah – Daivd Linn

Motzi (Step 7) – Uplifting a Jew to Near Perfection – Rabbi Lazer Brody

Matzah (Step 8) – Training in Emotional Gymnastics – Mark Frankel

Maror (Step 9) – The Eating of the Bitter Herbs – Aryeh Leib Ecker

Korech (Step 10) – The Sandwich Generation – David Linn

Shulchan Orech (Step 11) – Food for Thought – David Linn

Tzafun (Step 12) – Halachic Approach to a Common Problem – Steve Brizel

Barech (Step 13) – A Special Opportunity To Elevate An Everday Mitzvah – Mark Frankel

Hallel (Step 14) – Time to sing! – Rabbi Gershon Seif

Nirtzah (Step 15) – Bringing it all Home – Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz

Chag Kasher ve’Sameach.

The Ramchal on Pesach from Derech Hashem

The significance of matzah is related to the Exodus from Egypt.

Until the Exodus, Israel was assimilated among other peoples, one nation in the midst of another. With the Exodus, they were redeemed and separated.

Until that time, every aspect of the human being was darkened by the spiritual opaqueness and pollution that overcame it. With the Exodus, the Jews were set aside so that they would have the opportunity to purify their bodies and prepare themselves for the Torah and for dedication to God. In order for this to be possible, they were commanded to rid themselves of leaven (chametz) and eat matzah.

Bread which is designated as man’s primary food, is appropriate to the state that God desired for man in this world. Leaven is a natural element of bread, making it more digestible and flavorous, thus adding an element of pleasure and desire to its primary purpose of nourishment. This element feeds the Evil Urge (yetzer ha-ra) which is a necessary component of man in this world.

At a particular determined time, however, Israel was required to abstain from leaven, and be nourished by matzah, which is unleavened bread. This reduced the strength of each individual’s Evil Urge and inclination toward the physical, thus enhancing his closeness to the spiritual.

It would be impossible, however, for man to constantly nourish himself in this manner, since this is not the state desired for him in this world. This practice is therefore observed only on certain designated days, when he must be on an appropriately higher level. This is the main concept of Pesach as the Festival of Matzos.

The other rituals of the Seder night are also all details paralleling various particular aspects of the redemption from Egypt.

Five Minute Passover Seder

Some people want to have a very fast seder. This guide is for them.

1) Kaddesh – Sanctify the day with the recitation of Kiddush
*Leader says Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen and 2 other blessings whose text can be found in the Hagadah
*Drink the 1st cup of wine. Lean to your left while drinking.

2) Urechatz, – *Wash your hands before eating Karpas.

3) Karpas – *Eat a vegetable dipped in salt water.
*Leader says Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ho-adomah –
*Everybody eats the vegetable Lean to your left while eating.

4) Yachatz. -* Break the middle Matzah. Hide the larger half for Afikoman.

5) Maggid – *Tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt
Here is a summary of the story. (Alternatively go around the room reading in English from a translated Haggadah.)

The main mitzvah of the night is telling about the Exodus from Egypt.
*Pour the 2nd Cup of Wine
*Four Questions are asked

*The answer to the four questions is given.

It’s broken up into 6 parts based on the verse in the Torah which describes the mitzvah of telling the story at the Seder:
“And you shall relate to your child on that day saying: it is because of this Hashem acted for me when I came forth out of Egypt.”

a)– And you shall relate to your child – four types of chidren/people with different belief levels

b)– on that day – explains when we should tell the story (the answer is on Passover night)

c)– saying – the actual story:
Our ancestors were idol worshippers;—– through Abraham;—– Egyptian Enslavement;—– We cry out;—– G-d hears our cries
G-d saves us with the 10 plagues;—– We express our thanks for G-d saving us
Dip your finger in the wine for the 10 plagues
1) Water, which turned to blood and killed all fish and other aquatic life (Exodus 7:14–25)
2) Frogs (Exodus 8:1–8:15)
3) Lice (Exodus 8:16–19)
4) Wild animals (Exodus 8:20–30)
5) Disease on livestock (Exodus 9:1–7)
6) Incurable boils (Exodus 9:8–12)
7) Hail and thunder (Exodus 9:13–35)
8) Locusts (Exodus 10:1–20)
9) Darkness (Exodus 10:21–29)
10) Death of the first-born of all Egyptian humans and animals. To be saved, the Israelites had to place the blood of a lamb on the front door of their houses. (Exodus 11, Exodus 12)

d) — It is because of this — “Rabban Gamliel explains why use the Passover offering, Matzah and Maror.
The Passover lamb, represented in our times by the roasted bone, recalls the blood on the doorposts and the terror and anticipation of the night of the plague of the first born.

Matzah is what we ate in the morning when Israel was rushed out of Egypt with no time to let their dough rise.

Maror captures the bitterness of the enslavement.

e) — Hashem acted for me…” – “In every generation, we should see ourselves as having gone out from Egypt.

f) – when I came forth out of Egypt.” –We recite 2 songs of praise to G-d similar to the songs recited when we left Egypt.

*Leader of Seder recites Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Drink the 2nd cup of wine. Lean to your left while drinking.

6) Rachtzah – *Wash the hands prior to eating Matzah and the meal.
*After washing and before drying say
*Say Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melcch Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov V’tzivonu Al N’tilas Yodoyim.

7) Motzi – *Recite the Hamotzi blessing over eating Matzah before a Meal
*Say Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Hamotzi Lechem Min Ho-oretz.

8) Matzah – *Recite the blessing over eating Matzah
*Say Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov Vtzivonu Al Achilas Matzah.

*Eat the Matzah. Lean to your left while eating.

9) Maror – *The Maror is dipped in Charoscs
*Say Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov Vtzivonu Al Achilas Maror.
*Eat the Maror.

10) Korech – *Eat a sandwich of Matzah and Maror.
*Eat the Sandwich.

11) Shulchan Orech – *Eat the festival meal

Find the Afikoman.

12) Tzafun – *Eat the Afikoman which had been hidden all during the Seder.
*Pour the 3rd cup of wine

13) Barech – Recite Birchas Hamazon, the blessings after the meal
*Leader of Seder recites blessing Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Drink the 3rd cup of wine. Lean to your left while drinking.

*Pour the 4th cup of wine;
*Pour the cup for Elijah

14) Hallel – Recite the praises of G-d
*Leader of Seder recites Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Drink the 4th cup of wine. Lean to your left while drinking.

15) Nirtzah – Pray that G-d accepts our praise speedily sends the Messiah.
Sing the songs of the Haggadah

Revisiting The Pesach Hotel Controversy

It started with this article by Rabbi Jonathon Rosenblum titled Five Star Pesach:
I will never forget an address by Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman at an Agudath Israel of America convention on the topic “Living a Life of Ruchnios amidst Gashmius.” I had never before heard Rabbi Wachsman, and I practically jumped out of my seat when he thundered: This topic represents a fundamental mistake. There is no ruchnius amidst gashmius. To the extent that a person is living in the world of gashmius he is removed from ruchnius!

I was reminded of those words recently on a recent trip to Los Angeles, where I had a rare opportunity to speak with a rav whose wisdom has always impressed me. In the course of our conversation, he asked to me, “What would you say is the greatest threat to Yiddishkeit today?” I leaned forward eagerly, confident that he would mention one of my favorite subjects. But I must admit that his answer would not have been on my top ten-list.

“Pesach in hotels,” turned out to be the winning answer. And my friend’s central criticism was similar to that of Rabbi Wachsman: the Pesach hotel industry takes what should be one of the ultimate spiritual experiences of every Jew’s life and encases it in a thick wrapper of materialism. Read the advertisements, he told me: “No gebrochts” right next to “24 hour tea bar;” “Daily daf hayomi” next to “Karate, go-carts, and jeeping for the kids.”

Rabbi Horowitz had his own take on this in The Greatest Threat to Yiddishkeit:

My dear chaver and colleague Reb Yonoson Rosenblum (#204; Five-Star Pesach) describes how he “practically jumped out of his seat,” listening to Rabbi Wachsman “thunder” that there is “no ruchniyus amid gashmiyus.” Well, I practically jumped out of my seat when I read Reb Yonoson’s quote of a Rav who claimed that Pesach programs are “the greatest threat to Yiddishkeit today.”

I do not know which Rav he was referring to, but I will gladly forward my home phone calls and those of Project YES to that Rav for a month. After listening to the terrible and very real challenges that we face individually and communally for thirty days and sleepless nights, I dare say that he may reconsider his thoughts as to what “the greatest threat to Yiddishkeit” is.

Rabbi Rosenblum continued with Pesach Hotels: A Second Look and Rabbi Horowitz published an opposing opinion in Rabbi Horowitz, I Beg to Differ.

Which leads to Azriella Jaffe’s take on the subject in a Yated letter to the Editor:

5/5/08
To: Letter to the Editor, Yated

I felt I needed to respond to the strongly worded sentiments of late that sounds something like: “I-would-never-go-to-a-hotel for Pesach! What is the frum world coming to, that Jews with money pay to escape the workload of preparing for Pesach, and thus, miss the entire spiritual meaning of the holiday?”

Until this Pesach, I was one of those who felt something between envy, disdain, and plenty of negative judgment towards the hotel-Pesach crowd. I’ve done a 180 degree turn, and I hope that Hashem will forgive me for my regrettable, previous inability to give benefit of the doubt. Allow me to explain.

I am an author and speaker on Jewish topics by profession, and I was contacted by the organizer of a Pesach hotel program with this offer: “If you’ll give over workshops/speeches for our attendees on the Shabbos and Yomim Tovim of Pesach, we’d love to have your family join us as well.” Now, I had a dilemma. This was a magnificent opportunity for a professional and family experience we would never have otherwise; how could I turn it down? But I was philosophically against the hotel scene, so what should I do? After consulting with my husband and my Rav, we agreed to give it a try this year. Not only were we all pleasantly surprised, I see the entire scene differently now.

What I didn’t realize until I met, and talked with, numerous guests, is that none of the guests in the hotel that I met were there because they are lazy. They are there with a story. A mother with cancer who can’t possibly make Pesach. A divorced father whose kids are with their mother for Pesach. A Bubbe in her late seventies who realizes that she can no longer handle 27 extended guests in her home for the Yomim Tovim, and they have the financial means to treat the family for a gathering at the hotel instead, so why not? Elderly couples whose married children are now making Sederim with their inlaws. Older singles who don’t want to be spending all of Pesach at relative’s homes who look with pity and disdain at their single status. Houses under renovation, Jews who had some kind of major nisayon this year, (or in some cases, two or three major nisyonos!) and they just “need a break.” Jews who find the shiurim and nightly entertainment particularly uplifting, and they realize that their spirits need an infusion of “spark.”

Yes, the food is delicious, and it’s superb not to have to wash a dish, or scrub the house down before Pesach. It certainly is a vacation. Yes, the Sederim are different when you aren’t in the privacy of your own home, and perhaps not ideal for some families. No question about it – there is truth to the concern that we mustn’t abandon our responsibility to pass along to our children how Pesach, (and all of its relevant mitzvos), is prepared in one’s own home. The hotel scene may not be necessary, appropriate or even enjoyable for many of us. But I urge all of us, as a community, to withhold judgment. I now understand that for many in our community, Pesach in a hotel does not substitute for a spiritual Pesach experience, but rather, it makes a kosher, meaningful Pesach possible.

Originally Published June 2, 2008

Deep Into Darkness Peering, See the Light of the Intermediary Disappearing

This weeks installment is dedicated l’iluy nishmas Gitel Leah a”h  bas Menachem Mendel Hy”dMrs. Lidia Schwartz nee’ Zunschein whose yuhrzeit is this week.

Did the plague of darkness cross the boundaries of Goshen?
Why is the plague of darkness the only one in which the Torah reveals that the opposite was happening to the Israelites?

Moshe lifted his hand towards the sky and there was obscuring darkness throughout the land of Egypt for three days. People could not see one another nor could anyone rise from beneath [the palpable, immobilizing darkness] for [another] three days. However, there was light for all of the Bnei Yisrael in their dwellings.

—  Shemos 10:22,23

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the HaShem shines upon you. For, behold, darkness covers the earth and dark thick clouds [covers] the peoples; but upon you HaShem will shine, and His glory will be seen upon you. Nations will walk by your light and kings [will march] by the radiance of your shine.

— Yeshaya 60:1-3

No longer will the sun provide you with daylight and radiance, nor will the moon illuminate [the night for you]; but HaShem will be an everlasting light for you, and your Elokim will be your brilliance.

— Yeshaya Ibid:19

Even the darkness is not too dark for You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness is as the light.

—  Tehillim 139:12

HaShem will plague Egypt, plaguing and healing …

— Yeshaya 19:22

“Plaguing” the Egyptians and “healing” the Bnei Yisrael-the Children of Israel.

— Zohar commenting on the above pasuk

As in the days of your exodus from land of Egypt I will display miraculous things.

—  Michah 7:15

Rabi Yehudah combined and split up the makkos-plagues of Egypt; into simanim- mnemonics: Dtzac”h, Adas”h, B’acha”v

—  Haggadah shel Pesach

The Midrash says that wherever a Jew would sit down things would become illuminated for him. Rav Leibeleh Eiger explains that the Midrash deduces this from the difference in the Torahs description of the Bnei Yisrael being unaffected by makkas choshech- the plague of darkness; compared to the makkas barad-plague and hail.  When describing the plague of hail the Torah writes: “It was only in the Goshen where Bnei Yisrael were, that there was no barad” (Shemos 9:26). If makkas choshech had been identical to makkas barad what we should have had was a pasuk reading something along the lines of “No darkness dimmed the land of Goshen” or “there was abundant light throughout the boundaries of the Bnei Yisrael.” Instead the pasuk emphasizes the dwellings of the Bnei Yisrael rather than a particular area on the map of Egypt.

In fact, darkness lay on the land uniformly and respected no boundaries.  Darkness fell into pharaoh’s palace and land of Goshen equally.  The dichotomy between the Egyptian and the Israelite experience during this plague was not geographically rooted.  Instead, it derived from the difference between the Israelite an Egyptian soul. As the Jewish soul cleaves to HaShem, the dynamic that allowed the Bnei Yisrael to be untouched by this plague was that the Ohr Ein Sof Baruch Hu-the Light of the Endless One – Blessed is He [alternatively the Endless Light– Blessed is He]; was with them and, perhaps, diffusing through them.

While we’re all very familiar with the simanim of the Haggadah: Dtzac”h, Adas”h, B’acha”v , dividing the 10 plagues of Egypt into two sets of three followed by a final set of four, Rav Leibeleh Eiger introduces another way of categorizing the plagues.  He asserts that only during the first nine of the plagues, of which darkness is the final one, did the Egyptians have the opportunity of exercising their free will to liberate the Bnei Yisrael and dismiss them from the land.  The final plague, makkas bechoros-the smiting of the firstborn; forced their hands.  At that point they had they no longer had any choice in the matter.  Viewed in this way the makkos are divided into 9+1.  Makkas chosech was the final plague while makkas bechoros was something qualitatively different altogether.  As such, makkas chosech was the beginning of geulah-redemption; of the Bnei Yisrael from the Egyptian exile.  As darkness engulfed the land the salvation began.

In Jewish eschatology one of the hallmarks of the ultimate Geulah at the end-of-days, is that the presence of G-d will be palpable and manifest and that all powerless idols and false ideologies will be exposed for the obscuring mirages they are. Their smoke —their pollution — will blow away, scattered by the fresh winds of truth.  The Geulah will be a kind of cosmic reboot where everything is reset and recalibrated to the Manufacturer’s factory settings.  In order to get a glimpse of the ultimate Geulah it is instructive to study the sources describing how these “factory settings” where first fiddled with and misaligned.

Read more Deep Into Darkness Peering, See the Light of the Intermediary Disappearing

Mish Nisht

By Yakov Spil

From my earliest memories, Pesach was special. I remember my mother a’h making her own chicken soup (which she did a few times a year) and watching her make chopped liver. I watched. I couldn’t eat that, then at least. My taste buds matured and have come to enjoy it and all the memories associated with it.

When I was in Yeshiva, I had a rebbe who I spent many sedorim with. His minhag was to eat only what was made at home. In Yiddish, this is called not to “mish”. Later on, I had friends who only squeezed their own juices and sauces for the duration of the chag. I must admit how enchanted I was this purist approach to Pesach. As much as it is an expression of one’s zehirus in kashrus for Pesach, I feel that this minhag is a confession of “I don’t want to possibly subject anyone else to my own kashering shortfalls, should there be any.”

But not having grown up with this minhag and only observed it, albeit for quite a few years, I confess my inadequacy in having adopted it the past few years and worry about winging it.

Of course, right away the question should be asked, “is your wife on board?” To that I say, yes, but. The but is, she didn’t grow up this way either so even though it’s unfamiliar to her, we are navigating it together. That makes me proud.

When we were discussing this change, because when we were first married we ate by our friends since it was unfeasiable to make our own, I told her how I was moved by a particular argument against the eating out or hotel scene. All fine and good to make Pesach a little easier, but we all know what happens to the next generation! We saw what happened to our grandparents or parents as they were the next generation, and what was lost. What would or could be watered down by not making our own Pesach from beginning to end? We decided that we wanted our son to see us work hard to “make Pesach.”

Of course, everybody works hard to make Pesach, either through the hard earned money saved up to go away or to make Pesach at home, a considerable expense as well. But what would our imprint be on our son when he sees us making as much as we can from scratch? We hoped it would be excitement and a willingness to contribute to the family effort. We were right, boruch Hashem. He is quite into it and we hope we added that extra hislahvus, fervor for mitzvos for Pesach and in general. We think it carries over.

The reason I wrote was to elicit your thoughts about the strength of a mesora that we ourselves don’t have, and trying to keep to it, when it’s just as easy to say, “hey, we’re making this up, so we can fudge it here and there.” But we all know that’s not mesora nor would it carry the weight of responsibility to a mesora had we both adopted a traditional mesora from previous generations and the ability to hand it over with as much detail as possible to the succeeding generations we raise.

Now, please your thoughts. No one need feel cast aside in any way that you personally make Pesach. To those who don’t “mish”, make Pesach from scratch, how do you do it and what do you avoid? Or do you go all the way? To those who do mish, how does the idea of mesora impact your Pesach as you keep it and absorbed from your families?

One Minute Guide To Passover

The Events of the Exodus
The process of the Exodus began when our forefather Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, and his family settled in Egypt as the honored guests of the Pharaoh at that time. The process continued through the Jewish enslavement by the Egyptians; the 10 nature-defying plagues prophesized by Moshe and activated by G-d over a period of 12 months; the subsequent release of the approximately 3 million Jews to freedom after the plague of the death of the first born; the splitting of the Red Sea 7 days after their release; and the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai 7 weeks after their release.

The Centrality of the Exodus
The centrality of the Exodus in Judaism is predicated on the fact that the Jewish people were freed and separated as a unique nation through the clear actions of G-d Himself. Besides the physical freedom achieved, G-d chose us to be the world’s spiritual leaders by giving us the mitzvos of the Torah at Mount Sinai The mitzvos free us from a purely animal-like physical existence, to one in which we can elevate all our actions to be spiritual and G-d connected. Passover is a time where we commemorate the Exodus and renew our spiritual focus.

The Seder
The Seder with its centrality of the telling of the story enable us to experientially reconnect with the slavery and freedom of the Exodus and express our appreciation to G-d for our redemption and selection as His chosen people. The salt water in which the green vegetable is dipped and the bitter herbs are associated with our bondage. The four cups of wine and the festival meal help us relive our freedom.

The Holiday of Matzah
The Matzah is the central component of both the Seder and the 8 days of Passover. Matzah, consisting of just flour and water was our no frills food when we were slaves in Egypt. It’s also a symbol of our freedom because we hastily left Egypt without time to bake bread.

On a spiritual level, the leaven in bread makes it more digestible and flavorous. This is appropriate for the rest of the year when our main challenge is to integrate the physical into the spiritual. On Passover, we eat only Matzah and abstain from the physically oriented leaven. This allows us to keep spiritually focused as we recharge our spiritual mission and focus during the holiday of Passover.

Passover Seder Guide

The purpose of this guide is to highlight the structure, Mitzvos and some insights to the Passover Seder. The halachos and measurements were mostly culled from the Kol Dodi Haggadah by Rabbi David Feinstein.

Mitzvos of the night
Biblical Mitzvos are mitzvos that are found in the Torah (five books of Moses)
Rabbinic Mitzvos are mitzvos that our Sages enacted. There is a Biblical Mitzvoh that the Rabbis can enact Rabbinic Mitzvos and we follow them just as if they were Biblical Mitzvos

In the times of the Talmud and before (before the year 500 C.E), there was a Sanhedrin composed of 70 of the leading Rabbis of the time. Every Rabbi had to be ordained by a Rabbi who had been previously ordained with the chain going back to Moses and the giving of the Torah by G-d at Mount Sinai. To be ordained, the Rabbi had to know all the laws of the Torah. After the period of the Talmud, this ordination process ended, mostly due to the dispersion and persecution of the Jewish People.

The Biblical Mitzvos on Passover are:
— Eating Matzah – “In the evening you shall eat unleavened bread”.
— Relating the Story of the Exodus from Egypt – “And you should relate to your son (the story of Pesach) on this day”.

The Rabbinic Mitzvos on Passover are:
— Drinking four cups of wine
— Eating Bitter Herbs
— Reciting the Hallel – Songs of Praise

Seder Plate
— Three Matzahs – two normally required for Yom Tov and Shabbos in remembrance of the two portions of Manna that fell before Yom Tovim and Shabbosim in the wilderness. The Middle Matzah is for the Biblical Commandment of Eating Matzah.
— Karpas – Dipping foods and the eating of greens before a meal was the sign of wealthy men in the past. Another reason we eat it tonight is that it is not a normal procedure and children will notice the difference and ask questions.
— Maror – Two types. Romaine Lettuce and Horseradish; Romaine Lettuce – bitter taste symbolizes our bondage in Egypt. The Romaine lettuce initially tastes sweet and then turns bitter like the life of our forefathers in Egypt who were first paid workers and then oppressed slaves. Horseradish – sharp taste symbolizes our bondage in Egypt. When we eat the Maror (by itself and in a sandwich) you can use either one.
— Charoses – symbolizes mortar used to make bricks. Also counteracts the taste of the Maror.
— Shankbone – recalls the Pesach Offering. The Pesach Offering was in remembrance of the lamb that was put aside and then eaten on the night of Passover. In the times of the Temples, a major part of the holiday was the eating of the Pesach Offering. Since the destruction of the Second Temple, we no longer bring offerings and the Shankbone represents the Pesach Offering but is not eaten at the Seder.
— Egg – recalls the Festival Offering. On all Festivals there would be a special offering. As mentioned above, since the destruction of the Second Temple we no longer make offerings so the egg represents the Festival Offering. The egg was chosen since it is a mourner’s food and symbolizes our mourning for the Temple and our inability to offer the Pesach and Festival Offerings.

Reclining
We are required to act as if we ourselves had just been freed from Egyptian Bondage. Therefore, when we dine on the night of Passover, we eat and drink while leaning – in the manner of free men and royalty. We lean when we drink the four cups, eat Karpas, and eat Matzah. Women don’t lean since it was not the practice for most women to lean while eating.
Four Cups of Wine
Symbolizes the 4 terms of redemption mentioned in Torah.
— 1st Cup – Kiddush -I will take you out from the burdens of Egypt.
— 2nd Cup – over the Story -I will save you from their servitude.
— 3rd Cup – over Grace after meals -I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.
— 4th Cup – over Psalms of Praise -I will take you for Me for a people.
We drink at least 1.7 ounces while leaning to left (women don’t recline). Beverage preference; wine, wine with grape juice, wine with water, grape juice, grape juice with water, raisin wine. People should pour the cups for each other to feel like royalty. We drink it in less than 9 minutes, preferably within 2 minutes.

*The first cup of wine is poured.

1) Kaddesh – Sanctify the day with the recitation of Kiddush.
Leader of the Seder recites Brocha over Wine, Brocha over Kiddush and a Brocha thanking G-d for bringing us to this time.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Kiddush Brocha – See the Hagaddah
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Shehecheyonu V’kiymonu V’higi-onu Lazman Hazeh
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this time (season).
* Everyone answers – Amen. Do not talk until you drink at least a half a cup.
* Everyone drinks first cup of wine; men lean to the left.
This is the cup of wine over the mitzvah of reciting Kiddush.

2) Urechatz, – Wash the hands before eating Karpas.
In the times of the Temple, when people were able to observe the laws of spiritual purity in full they washed before eating a vegetable dipped in a liquid that is still moist to wash away spiritual impurity. According to many opinions in our times, we don’t do this since we are unable to reach this level of purity. At the Seder, we wash because it reminds of the times of the Temple and it expresses the hope that we will soon be required to follow it again, with the coming of Mashiach. It also represents a royal custom in keeping with the special dignity with which we dine tonight. It also arouses the curiosity of the children so they should ask questions.
*Pour water over right hand twice and then over left hand twice. Do not make a Brocha. Dry your hands.

3) Karpas – Eat a vegetable dipped in salt water.
In olden days, banquets were started with such appetizers. The custom was preserved to make the children ask questions and to serve as a sign of freedom.
The dipping of the food is also a sign of comfort and indulgence.
The salt water represents the tears of the Jewish People in their suffering.
The vegetable is dipped in salt water and everyone takes a piece. (Don’t eat it yet.)
*The leader says the Brocha or you can make your own Brocha:
This Brocha is intended to also include the Maror that we will eat later and the person making the Brocha should have that in mind when making the Brocha.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ho-adomah
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who creates fruits of the earth.
*Everyone eats the green vegetable. Eat a small amount so that there is no requirement to say an after Brocha.

4) Yachatz. – Break the middle Matzah. Put away larger half for Afikoman.
We are about to recite the story of our Exodus and the Torah tells us to do this when Matzah is before us. The Matzah is often referred to as the bread of poverty and affliction and a poor man does not feast over a whole loaf since he is never sure he will have food for the next meal.
We hide the Afikoman to insure that it will not be mixed up with the other Matzahs and inadvertently eaten and not to shame it, so to speak, since it will not be eaten till the end of the meal.
Hiding it keeps the children awake by encouraging them to try and steal it.
The leader breaks the middle Matzah and puts away the larger half for the Afikoman.

5) Maggid – Tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
The central mitzvah of the night is telling about the Exodus from Egypt.
We are supposed to remember the Exodus from Egypt everyday, but at the Seder we must tell the full story from bondage to deliverance, in the form of question and answer with as much elaboration as possible.
Bread of Affliction – Draws attention to the bread of poverty over which the Hagadah is to be told.
This paragraph does not appear in the earliest sources but was composed after the destruction of the Second Temple. In exile, we can not fulfill the Torah commandments of Pesach and Maror so that Matzah is left as the preeminent obligation of the evening. But Matzah is special since it symbolizes both freedom and bondage, with the hasty departure of our forefathers from Egypt, it became a symbol of freedom. Originally, however it was their food when they were slaves and therefore it is a symbol of bondage. We stress the bondage aspect of the Matzah at this point so that it will trigger the recollection of the events in Egypt, and help us to project ourselves into the situation of our forefathers so that we can better feel the relief and joy of deliverance. This is the goal of the Seder, to fell like we personally were redeemed from Egypt.

*Second Cup of Wine is poured to stimulate the asking of questions.

*Four Questions are asked by youngest child, if there are no children an adult asks, if a person is alone he asks the questions to himself. Only someone who is bothered by a question is really interested in the answer. We are particularly eager to pass on the message of Pesach because the assurance of our national continuity lies within this passing on from one generation to the next.
There are four questions, two about Biblical commands (Matzah and Maror) and two about Rabbinic commands (dipping and reclining) to show the equal validity of both types of commands. Another reason for these four questions is to highlight the paradox of the evening in that it reflects both a sense of enslavement (Matzah, saltwater, Moror and Charoses) and freedom (beautiful table selling, while kittel. wine, reclining and dipping).

According to the Malbim the structure of the narrative portion of the Haggadah is based on the verse in the Torah from which the obligation to tell the story is derived:
And you shall relate to your child on that day, saying “It is because of this that Hashem acted for me when 1 came forth out of Egypt.”

This source verse is broken up into six parts corresponding to the six sections of the story in the Haggadah.
— And you shall relate to your child
— on that day
— saying
— It is because of this
— Hashem acted for me
— when I came forth out of Egypt.

And you shall relate to your child…The first eight paragraphs correspond to this verse and teach us about this obligation to tell the story
— “We were enslaved unto Pharaoh and G-d freed us”– tells us we should relate this to our children who would also still be enslaved had G-d not taken us out.
— “It once happened that Rabbi Eliezar..” –shows that our greatest sages told the story, since the main function is to recount it for our children.
— “Rabbi Elazar, son of Azaryah, said…” –shows the duty to do so at all times.
— “Praised be the Ever-Present, praised be He…” –shows how every type of child is to be instructed at the Seder.
— “What does the wise son say…” –shows how to teach the wise son
— “What does the wicked son say…” –shows how to teach the wicked son
— “What does the naive son say….” –shows how to teach the naive son
— “And regarding the one who does not know how to ask a question…” –shows how to teach the son who can’t ask a question

–“on that Day…” –The next paragraph tells us when the obligation to tell the story applies
— “One might think that the obligation to talk…” –explains when the special duty applies.

–“saying…” — The next paragraphs contain the actual saying of the story of the Exodus
— “In the beginning our fathers were worshippers of idols…” –shows the deeper roots of the exile and the Exodus as the way to spiritual redemption.
— “Blessed is he who keeps His promise…” –shows that G-d kept His promise to Abraham that we will be enslaved and redeemed
— “It has stood firm…in every generation there are those who rise against us..” –shows that G-d continually redeems us
— “Go and ascertain what Lavan the Aramite intended to do…” –describes the beginning of the Exodus when Jacob went down to Egypt
— “And he went down…And he sojourned there…With few people…And he became there a nation…” –Great, mighty…And formidable…describes how we became a great nation in Egypt
— “And the Egyptians made evil of us…” –And the tormented us…And laid hard labor upon us…describes how the Egyptians enslaved us
— “And we cried out unto G-d… And G-d heard us…And He saw our distress… And our travail… And our oppression…” — describes how G-d heard our pleas
— “And G-d took us out of Egypt…With a strong hand…And with and outstretched arm…And with great terror…And with signs…And with wonders…” –describes how G-d redeemed us
— “Blood, and fire and smoke…An alternative explanation…These are the ten plagues…Rabbi Yosi the Galiliean says…Rabbi Eliezer says…Rabbi Akiva says…” –describes the miracles and wonders G-d did for us during the redemption
— ‘How indebted are we…How multiple, then is our debt to G-d…” –describes additional accounts of G-d’s benevolence which were not yet mentioned

–“It is because of this…” –can be read this is because of…Rabban Gamliel reads it this way…this refers to Pesach, Matzah and Maror
— “Rabban Gamliel used to say…” –explains the concrete Mitzvos ordained for the Seder: Pesach, Matzah and Maror.
— Pesach… Matzah…Maror…explains the reason for these Mitzvos

–“Hashem acted for me…” –The next paragraphs describe how we should consider it as if Hashem took us out of Egypt
— “In every generation, one is obliged to regard himself…” –emphasizes that, in celebrating the Seder, we must see ourselves as having gone out from Egypt.

–“when 1 came forth out of Egypt.” — The next paragraphs are the introduction and recitation of Hallel songs of praise, similar to the songs of praise that were recited when we left Egypt.
–“Therefore it is our duty to thank, praise…” — since Hashem took us out from Egypt, we praise Hashem for his kindness ending the Haggadah with a Bracha.
–“Praise G-d…” — When Israel went out of Egypt…is the beginning of Hallel which describe the going out from Egypt

This is the first part of Hallel, which are Psalms of Praise, and declarations of our faith in Hashem.
We will say the second part of Hallel after the Seder. Hallel is not normally said at night. It is normally said in the Morning Prayer service on Yom Tovim and Rosh Chodeshim (the first of the Jewish Months). Daylight is normally the time when we see G-d’s kindness in action and sing His praises. Night usually stands for trepidation and calls for faith rather than jubilation. The night of Pesach is different from all other nights of the year. In the 132nd Psalm it says that on Pesach G-d ‘lit up the night like the day’ through his great self-revelation (with the last plague and our redemption) so it is appropriate that we should say Hallel at night
The first part of Hallel deals with the deliverance from Egypt and therefore belongs to the part of the Seder preceding the meal.
The second part looks ahead to the Days of the Messiah and our ultimate redemption, which is the theme of the Seder after the meal.
Also, by bracketing the Seder meal between hymns of praise of G-d, we mark it as a Divine service, rather than an ordinary supper.

*Leader of Seder recites blessing of Boray Pri Hagofen.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Everyone answers – Amen. Do not talk until you drink at least a half a cup.
*Everyone drinks the second cup of wine, men leaning to the left.
*This is the cup of wine over the mitzvah of telling over the Haggadah.

6) Rachtzah – Wash the hands prior to the meal.
Whenever we eat bread (or Matzah) at a meal we wash our hands.
*We wash by pouring twice over the right hand and then twice over the left hand.
*Before we dry our hands we say the Brocha, then we dry our hands.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melcch Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov V’tzivonu Al N’tilas Yodoyim.
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us concerning the washing of hands.
*We do not talk until we eat the Matzah.

7) Motzi – Recite the blessing, Who brings forth, over Matzah as a food.
Before we eat any food we say a Brocha, but before we eat bread (or Matzah) at a meal we say the Brocha ‘Hamotzi’ which covers all foods we will eat at the meal.
At meals on Shabbos and Yom Tovim (Holidays) we always use two loaves of bread (or Matzah) to commemorate the double portion of Mannah that fell before Shabbosim and Yom Tovim when the Jews were in the Wilderness.
The stringent amount of Matzah is a piece measuring about 6” by 7” (2/3rds of a round Matzah). The lenient measurement is 4” by 7”. Measure out the proper amounts for all participants at this point.
*The leader of the Seder says the Brocha while holding the two Matzahs and the broken Matzah between them.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Hamotzi Lechem Min Ho-oretz.
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
*Everyone answers – Amen. Do not talk until you finish eating the Matzah. Do not start eating until the Matzah brocha.

8) Matzah – Recite the blessing and Eat the Matzah.
The Matzah represents both our bondage (bread of poverty) and our freedom (hasty departure from Egypt). We say an additional Brocha over the Mitzvoh on this night to eat Matzah.
*The leader of the Seder says the Brocha while holding the upper Matzah and the broken Matzah.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov Vtzivonu Al Achilas Matzah.
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us concerning the eating of Matzah.
*Everyone answers – Amen. Do not talk until you finish eating the Matzah.
Everyone eats the required amount of Matzah, men lean to the left. Take a piece from the upper two Matzahs.

9) Maror – The Maror is dipped in Charoscs and eaten.
The Maror represents the bitterness of our enslavement. The charoses represents the mortar with which we built bricks. The Maror is dipped in charoses but the majority is shaken off so as not to mask the taste of the Maror.
The amount of Romaine Lettuce required for this eating is an 8” by 10” piece if you are eating the full leaf and 3” by 5” if only eating the stalks. If using Horseradish, the amount is 1 ounce of a grated Horseradish, equal to a full plastic shot glass.
*The leader says the Brocha or you can make your own Brocha:
This Brocha is intended to include the Maror that we will eat in a sandwich.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov Vtzivonu Al Achilas Maror.
Blessed Are You Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us concerning the eating of Maror.
* Everyone eats the Maror dipped in Charoses. Do not lean for this Mitzvah since the Maror symbolizes bondage and not freedom

10) Korech – Eat the sandwich of Matzah and Maror.
The reason we eat the sandwich is because the great sage Hillel (Who said: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’) took the view that the Pesach offering, Matzah and Maror must be eaten in a sandwich rather than separately. The rest of the Sages ruled otherwise but the Talmud, which was written after the destruction of the Temple, does not rule on who we follow. This is because after the destruction of the Temple, the Pesach Offering was no longer made and the Maror is now a Rabbinic command instead of a Biblical command. Matzah is still a Biblical command. To preserve a reminder of Hillel’s practice during Temple times we eat Matzah and Maror together even though we already ate them separately.
The amount of Matzah for this eating is a piece measuring about 4” by 7”. The amount of Romaine Lettuce required for this eating is an 8” by 10” piece if you are eating the full leaf and 3” by 5” if only eating the stalks. If using Horseradish, the amount is 1 ounce of a grated Horseradish, equal to a full plastic shot glass. Measure out the amounts and include a piece from the bottom Matzah
We will use part of the bottom Matzah for this Mitzvah. The Maror is dipped in charoses but the majority is shaken off.
*The leader (or everyone) recites the paragraph- In remembrance of the Temple…
*Everyone eats the sandwich of Matzah and Maror; men lean to the left.

11) Shulchan Orech – The Festival meal is served.
*Everyone eats the Festival Meal.
It is a custom to start with a hard boiled egg because it is a symbol of mourning. It has no opening or mouth, just as a mourner is struck silent by his fate; at the same time it offers encouragement: it signifies the turning of the wheel of destiny which hopefully will bring joy instead of sadness. The absence of the Pesach Offering evokes a sense of mourning for the destroyed Temple, which hopefully will be rebuilt in our time. Roasted meat is not served, since the Pesach Offering was roasted.
The meal must end by Halachic Midnight in time for the Afikoman. One should not overeat. We must have some appetite leftover for the Afikoman.

12) Tzafun – Eat the Afikoman which had been hidden all during the Seder.
There are two opinions about the Afikoman. One is that it is a memorial to the Pesach Offering which was eaten at the end of the meal. The other view is that the Afikoman represents the Matzah that was eaten with the Pesach offering and it is this Matzah which represents the actual Mitzvah of eating Matzah.
The eating of the Afikoman completes the eating of the Middle Matzah which represents the “Bread of Affliction” and therefore symbolizes our ultimate redemption from all affliction and oppression. This in effect introduces the second part of the Seder which is dedicated to the redemption to come, that of Mashiach.
The stringent amount of Matzah for this Mitzvah is a piece measuring about 6” by 7” (2/3rds of a round Matzah). The lenient measurement is 4” by 7”. Measure out the proper amounts for all participants at this point.
*Everyone eats the Afikoman; men lean to the left.
We don’t eat after the Afikoman except for water, tea, or the like.

*Third Cup of Wine is poured.

13) Barech – Recite Birchas Hamazon, the blessings after the meal.
It is a Biblical commandment to give thanks to G-d after we eat a meal. There are several blessings, the first is thanks to G-d for giving food to all and was composed by Moses; the second is for the gift of land and was composed by Joshua; the third is to Jerusalem and Israel which gives the land special goodness and was composed by Kings David and Solomon. The text of the third was changed after the destruction of the Temple. The Sages added a fourth blessing when the Romans permitted the burial of the victims of the Bar Kochba rebellion in the third century. It teaches us to be grateful, even in bitter times and for favors that might not evoke rejoicing.
*Everyone should read the Blessings out loud in a low voice.
*Leader of Seder recites blessing of Boray Pri Hagofen.
Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Everyone answers – Amen.
Do not talk until you drink at least a half a cup.
*Everyone drinks third cup of wine; men lean to the left. This is the cup of wine over the Birchas Hamazon.

*Fourth Cup of Wine is poured. The extra cup for Elijah is poured.

14) Hallel – Recite the Hallel – Psalms of praise and declarations of our faith in Hashem
As mentioned above (at the end of Maggid) we now recite the second part of Hallel. This part of Hallel deals with our ultimate redemption with the coming of Moshiach.
*Everyone recites Hallel out loud. At the part “Thank Hashem for He is good” we recite it responsively. At the part of “Hashem save Us”… we recite it responsively.
*Leader of Seder recites blessing of Boray Pri Hagofen. Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Everyone answers – Amen. Do not talk until you drink at least a half a cup.
*Everyone drinks fourth cup of wine; men lean to the left.
This is the cup of wine over the Hallel.

15) Nirtzah – Pray that G-d Accept our observance and speedily send the Messiah.
We ask G-d, that just as we were worthy to perform the Pesach service this year so may we be worthy to perform it in the future.

Sing the songs of the Seder.

The Five Minute Seder

Some people want to have a very fast seder. This guide is for them.

A few years ago a non-observant friend asked if I could put together a five minute seder. I pared down the Beyond BT Guide to the Seder and produced the instructions below. Pass it on to anyone for whom it might be helpful.

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1) Kaddesh – Sanctify the day with the recitation of Kiddush
*Leader says Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen and 2 other blessings whose text can be found in the Hagadah
*Drink the 1st cup of wine. Lean to your left while drinking.

2) Urechatz, – *Wash your hands before eating Karpas.

3) Karpas – *Eat a vegetable dipped in salt water.
*Leader says Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ho-adomah –
*Everybody eats the vegetable Lean to your left while eating.

4) Yachatz. -* Break the middle Matzah. Hide the larger half for Afikoman.

5) Maggid – *Tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt
Here is a summary of the story. (Alternatively go around the room reading in English from a translated Haggadah.)

The main mitzvah of the night is telling about the Exodus from Egypt.
*Pour the 2nd Cup of Wine
*Four Questions are asked

*The answer to the four questions is given.

It’s broken up into 6 parts based on the verse in the Torah which describes the mitzvah of telling the story at the Seder:
“And you shall relate to your child on that day saying: it is because of this Hashem acted for me when I came forth out of Egypt.”

a)– And you shall relate to your child – four types of chidren/people with different belief levels

b)– on that day – explains when we should tell the story (the answer is on Passover night)

c)– saying – the actual story:
Our ancestors were idol worshippers;—– through Abraham;—– Egyptian Enslavement;—– We cry out;—– G-d hears our cries
G-d saves us with the 10 plagues;—– We express our thanks for G-d saving us
Dip your finger in the wine for the 10 plagues
1) Water, which turned to blood and killed all fish and other aquatic life
2) Frogs
3) Lice
4) Wild animals
5) Disease on livestock
6) Incurable boils
7) Hail and thunder
8) Locusts
9) Darkness
10) Death of the first-born of all Egyptian humans and animals. To be saved, the Israelites had to place the blood of a lamb on the front door of their houses.

d) — It is because of this — “Rabban Gamliel explains why use the Passover offering, Matzah and Maror.
The Passover lamb, represented in our times by the roasted bone, recalls the blood on the doorposts and the terror and anticipation of the night of the plague of the first born.

Matzah is what we ate in the morning when Israel was rushed out of Egypt with no time to let their dough rise.

Maror captures the bitterness of the enslavement.

e) — Hashem acted for me…” – “In every generation, we should see ourselves as having gone out from Egypt.

f) – when I came forth out of Egypt.” –We recite 2 songs of praise to G-d similar to the songs recited when we left Egypt.

*Leader of Seder recites Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Drink the 2nd cup of wine. Lean to your left while drinking.

6) Rachtzah – *Wash the hands prior to eating Matzah and the meal.
*After washing and before drying say
*Say Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melcch Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov V’tzivonu Al N’tilas Yodoyim.

7) Motzi – *Recite the Hamotzi blessing over eating Matzah before a Meal
*Say Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Hamotzi Lechem Min Ho-oretz.

8) Matzah – *Recite the blessing over eating Matzah
*Say Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov Vtzivonu Al Achilas Matzah.

*Eat the Matzah. Lean to your left while eating.

9) Maror – *The Maror is dipped in Charoscs
*Say Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Asher Kidshonu B’mitzvosov Vtzivonu Al Achilas Maror.
*Eat the Maror.

10) Korech – *Eat a sandwich of Matzah and Maror.
*Eat the Sandwich.

11) Shulchan Orech – *Eat the festival meal

Find the Afikoman.

12) Tzafun – *Eat the Afikoman which had been hidden all during the Seder.
*Pour the 3rd cup of wine

13) Barech – Recite Birchas Hamazon, the blessings after the meal
*Leader of Seder recites blessing Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Drink the 3rd cup of wine. Lean to your left while drinking.

*Pour the 4th cup of wine;
*Pour the cup for Elijah

14) Hallel – Recite the praises of G-d
*Leader of Seder recites Boruch Atoh Ado-noy Elo-haynu Melech Ho-olom Boray P’ri Ha-Gofen.
*Drink the 4th cup of wine. Lean to your left while drinking.

15) Nirtzah – Pray that G-d accepts our praise speedily sends the Messiah.
Sing the songs of the Haggadah

photo credit: dcJohn via photopin cc

Seder Challenges

Rabbi Mordechai Scher
www.kolberamah.org

Sometimes it’s worth knowing someone has been here before me. So many of us, as hozrim beteshuvah, want to share the light of Torah with family and friends. Pesach is one of those prime times. We may be the first for generations to do a complete, traditional seder. We want to offer the opportunity to family or neighbors. We enter into this with mind and heart. What will be interesting? How do get a message across? The logistics in place – seats, pillows to lean on (if you use them), haggadot (all the same? or varied, on purpose? with explanations? without?) ,enough food? We all know the idea.

The anticipation and trepidation builds up as Pesach approaches. People are invited; more places added. Then, the big night and ‘big show’ arrives. And what happens?

Well, that often depends on the invitees.

My first such experience, while a young student at Bar Ilan in the late seventies, was to help make seder for soldiers on reserve duty at Neot Hakikar, by the Dead Sea. The truth is, I didn’t know what I was getting into. As it was, many of the soldiers knew more than me, and we had a great though quick seder with a nice atmosphere. That entire Pesah was really enjoyable. Later, I spent Pesach on reseve duty myself several years in a row. Despite the field conditions and dangers, everyone always took it in good spirit and made it as good a holyday together as we could, no matter what sort of lives we had back at home.

I didn’t do anything like that again for a few years. Then we had my parents once or twice for seder when we came to work in America. They were thrilled to be with their kids and grandkids, and polite about it all; but clearly the whole seder night thing was a bit much. Much longer than during my childhood when every year we met for an extended family joint-effort meal where the haggadah occupied a short and fast part of the evening, and everyone got home at a late, but still decent hour. What’s with this two in the morning stuff?

Next, I had to do a community seder at least one night for our shul. I put a lot of thought and effort into preparing interesting explanations and ways to engage the congregants (about 50 people) in learning something during the seder. About 30 minutes into the seder, on of the older participants loudly inquired ‘when are we going to eat? People are getting hungry!

The last time we tried this was about eight years ago. My wife and I had come to a new community for her work. Still here. There are almost no traditional households in the entire town. So, of course we decided to make Pesah at home and invite people for seder. (My approach is to keep one seder night just for family. We need it for our sanity, and to enjoy a seder without pressure.) We invited my mother in from the East Coast (my father had died the year before), and some people who were marginally involved in our marginally functioning (since defunct) shul. About 30 minutes into the seder, you guessed it; one of the guests asks ‘when are we going to eat.’ Although Jewish, and originally from the New York area no less, he (a gentleman probably in his 50s or maybe 60) had no idea that there was much more than kiddush and a meal. He had come emotionally and physically unprepared for even a moderate length seder before getting to some real food. That, with the fact that my elderly mother (may she live, be well, and have much satisfaction from her children) was fading, led us to speed things up quite a bit. One more reason we were glad to have the next night to ourselves.

So, the seder is a big part of the Jewish experience; and making seder with challenges is a part of the teshuvah experience. I suspect that some of us have had greatly rewarding and enjoyable times; and some of us have found it to be a bit more challenging and even frustrating.

Originally Published March 18, 2009

Cleaning for Pesach; from Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg – z”tl

These notes are based on the responsa of Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva Torah Ore, to questions posed by women attending his regular chizuk talks. They have been compiled by a group of his Talmidim.

PREFACE:
In former times, wealthy people who had large houses also had many servants who did their every bidding, while poor people, who could not afford servants, lived in small homes with one or two rooms. Understandably, the pre-Pessach chores of the rich were performed by the servants, while the poor, who had only their one or two rooms to clean, a few pieces of furniture, a minimum of utensils, and some clothing, took care of their needs themselves. In those days, the cleaning was hard. Tables were made of raw wood, requiring them to be scrubbed or even to be shaven to ensure that no pieces of food were hidden in the cracks. Earthen or wooden floors also needed to be thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed.

Today, we seem to be caught in a trap. The average modern home is larger than formerly. Furniture, utensils and clothing are much more plentiful. The average home today could compare with the more affluent homes of previous generations. However, we do not have the servants that they had, so that, today, all the chores fall on the housewife. At the same time, she feels obligated to clean and scrub as they did formerly, even though she has laminated furniture and tiled floors, making this type of cleaning unnecessary.

As a result of this, the pressure of pre-Pessach cleaning has reached unnecessary and overwhelming levels. The housewife often becomes overly nervous, unable to enjoy the Simchas Yom Tov of Pessach and unable to perform the mitzvahs and obligations of the Seder night.

INTRODUCTION:
Pessach, like every other Yom Tov, must be enjoyed by every member of the family, including women. This is an obligation clearly defined in the Torah as explained by Chazal zt”l. We can understand a person dreading Tisha B’Av but Pessach is to be looked forward to and anticipated with joy. Every woman should be well rested, relaxed, and alert at the Seder table so that she can fulfill all the Torah and Rabbinical obligations and follow the Hagadah with the rest of the family. Clearly, the performance of her pre-Pessach duties must be balanced against her Pessach obligations.

Pre-Pessach cleaning is required to avoid the danger of transgressing any Torah or Rabbinical prohibition of having chometz in the house on Pessach. It is evident from the responsa of the Rosh HaYeshiva, shlita, that this need not be excessive.

It is not the intention here to abolish Minhagim which have been passed down by Klal Yisroel from generation to generation. Nevertheless, some practices adopted by women in the Pessach cleaning today, are not an actual continuation of the old Minhagim. For example, if a person does not sell his chometz, of course it is necessary to check his utensils and to wash off any chometz left on them, or render the chometz inedible. But, if the chometz is sold, then washing the pots and pans and dishes which are going to be locked away is not necessary. One might be tempted to insist on doing the extra work anyway-to be “machmir” (stringent). However, in these stringency’s lies the grave danger of causing many laxities and brushing aside many mitzvahs completely, Torah and Rabbinical obligations which women are required to do on Pessach and particularly during the Seder. Many women like to do more “cleaning” than the bare minimum, to such an extent, that some even incorporate their general “spring cleaning” into the required Pre-Pessach chores. These extra exertions should not prevent them from fulfilling their obligations on Pessach, and particularly, on the Seder night.

GENERAL NOTES:
A. All property and possessions must be cleaned and checked to make sure that they are free of all chometz, except in the following cases:
B. If, during the year, chometz is not brought into a place, that place does not have to be cleaned out or checked for chometz.

C. Any article which is not used on Pessach does not need to be checked for chometz provided it is put away properly and the chometz is sold.

D. Crumbs which have been rendered completely inedible to the extent that they are not fit to be eaten by a dog are not considered chometz.

E. The general obligation to check for and destroy crumbs does not apply if the crumbs are less than the size of an olive (kezayis) and are dirty or spoiled enough to prevent a person from eating them.

F. The household cleaner mentioned below must spoil the crumbs slightly to the extent that people would refrain from eating them.

PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS:
1. CLOTHING CLOSETS: If there is some significant possibility that chometz went into them, they should be checked for fully edible crumbs of chometz, besides large pieces of chometz foods. If the probability that chometz entered these places is remote, a Rav can be consulted to clarify the conditions under which they do not have to be checked. This includes chests, dressers, basements, and all other similar cases (See General Note E).
2. FLOORS: In our times we don’t have earthen floors with deep cracks in them. It is sufficient for tiled or covered floors to be swept and washed with a household floor cleaner. The small cracks do not have to be checked if the cleaning solution reaches into them.

3. FOOD CABINETS: If the cabinet is not going to be used on Pessach see General Notes C & E above. If the cabinet is going to be used on Pessach, take out all of the food, and wash it with a rag soaked in a household cleaner. Be sure the cleansing agent reaches into all the cracks and soaks into any crumbs that might be left there. The usual practice is to line the cabinets.

4. REFRIGERATOR: Take the food out, and wash it with a rag soaked in a household cleaner. The racks are usually covered. (It is advisable to leave holes for air circulation.)

5. KASHERING SINKS: Clean the sinks, and pour a kettle of boiling water into them and on their sides. Some people pour hot water mixed with bleach down the drain. The usual practice today is to line the sinks (e.g. aluminum foil, contact paper) or to use an insert—if not difficult, this practice should be followed.

6. FAUCETS (TAPS): Cleaning, without any other kashering procedure, is sufficient.

7. MARBLE AND STAINLESS STEEL COUNTERS: If they were used for hot chometz they should first be cleaned well. Then either boiling hot water should be poured on them, or they should be completely covered so that nothing Pesach’dik touches them. Some people do both.

8. TABLETOPS: Wash them with a household cleaner. The usual practice is to cover the tables.

9. KASHERING RANGE/OVEN/STOVE-TOP: Wash the top and side surface areas with a rag soaked in a household cleaner. Some people cover it with aluminum foil. Old grates can be kashered by first cleaning them and then lighting all the burners, raising them to their maximum heat, and preferably putting on a “blech” while the burners are on. This spreads the heat over the whole top and intensifies the heat on the grates. Let it burn for 5-10 minutes.

OVEN: If the oven is going to be used:

(A) Wash out any edible chometz with a rag soaked in a household cleaner. If you suspect that there are any inaccessible crumbs or particles of chometz, then clean the oven with any of the regular oven-cleaners (e.g. Easy-Off). (After using the oven-cleaner, there is no need for further cleaning). Then heat the inside of the oven by turning the oven on the highest temperature for about one hour. (On electric ovens it should be determined whether the highest temperature is on “roasting” or “broil” (“Grill”). However, if a closed oven insert for baking and roasting is available, this would be preferable. In this case, only washing and cleaning are necessary.
(B) Do not use the chometz-dik oven racks for Pessach. If this is too difficult, then one can kasher the racks with the same procedure as for the oven.

(C) Chometz-dik baking and roasting pans should not be used for Pessach. In a case of extreme difficulty, where one can not obtain Pessach-dik pans, the procedure for kashering an oven (see (A) above) may be used on the pans if they have not been used for 24 hours. However, care must be taken to clean any chometz which may be embedded under the lip or rim, etc. If the oven is not going to be used: None of the above is necessary. Just make certain that there is no edible chometz inside, tape it closed well and see below #10.

10. POTS, PANS, DISHES, & SILVERWARE (CUTLERY): Whatever is not going to be used for Pessach should either be locked up, or put away and sealed in a manner which will remind you not to use them on Pessach. If there is a possibility of actual chometz in them, the chometz should be sold (See Gen. Note C.). If you do not sell chometz, then they should either be washed or soaked in a household cleaner; it is not necessary to scrub them. (Concerning Kashering utensils for Pessach consult a Rav.)
11. FOOD PROCESSOR/MIXER: A Rav should be consulted.

12. DISH TOWELS: If one does not have a Pesach’dik set of dish towels, then one’s regular dish towels may be used if they are washed with detergent and no food remains attached to them. (It is customary to have a set of Pesach’dik dish towels).

13. PESACH TABLECLOTHS: These can be ironed with the same iron as is used during the rest of the year.

14. CLOTHES, BLANKETS, POCKETS, ETC.: If they have been washed in detergent or dry cleaned, then there is no need for them to be checked (see General Note E). Otherwise, they need to be cleaned and checked thoroughly by brushing or shaking them out well. However, if there is a possibility of crumbs between the stitches or in a hidden crevice which cannot be shaken out, then they must be wiped with a rag which has been soaked in a detergent. Clothes which will not be worn on Pessach do not have to be checked, but they should be put away and the chometz in them sold ( see General Note C. And Sec. 10 on Pots and Pans).

15. SIDDURIM, BENCHERS, SEFORIM, & BOOKS: If there is a chance that they contain chometz crumbs, then they should either be put away and sold with the other chometz utensils (See General Notes C.), or cleaned and checked well.

16. TOYS: If there is edible chometz, then it should either be removed, or rendered inedible (See General Notes E). There is no need to scrub them.

17. TECHINA AND OTHER KITNIYUS: May be used after the house has been cleaned for Pessach. They should not be cooked in utensils that will be used on Pessach, and certainly not on Pessach itself ( according to the Askenaz Minhag).

18. CHECKING THE ROOMS: If it is too difficult to check all the rooms on one night, then the work may be divided and done on other nights (according to all the Laws of Bedikas Chometz). No chometz should be left in any room that has been cleaned and checked properly. Since the brocha is not recited before the night of the l4th, therefore, at least one place that has chometz should be left unchecked. Then, the mitzvah of Bedikas Chometz can be performed with a brocha on the night of the 14th on that area. If the whole house has already been completely cleaned before the l4th, then the l0 pieces of chometz (according to the Minhag) should be hidden by somebody else so that proper bedikah can be made.

19. FOOD THAT FALLS onto a chair or onto the floor on Pessach should be washed off for hygienic reasons. The food does not become chometz even if the food is hot.

20. LAST MINUTE PREPARATIONS: For example, setting the table, etc., should be completed early enough in the day, so that you will be able to rest a little bit. Be ready to start the Seder immediately after Maariv, to ensure that the children won’t fall asleep at the Seder.

21. ENJOY PESACH! Try to make the Pessach chores easy for yourself. Don’t do unnecessary hard work. Don’t do unnecessary cleaning. YOU can be like a Queen and you must enjoy Pessach.

BASIC LAWS OF THE SEDER

INTRODUCTION:
Some women have a habit of taking a bite of matzo, then running back and forth to the kitchen taking a few more bites in between. In this way, it takes them too long to eat the matzo, and they do not fulfill the mitzvah properly. The same is true about the wine, maror, korech, and afikomen. Therefore, do not leave the table until you have finished eating the required amount. Sit like a Queen! Relax and be calm while eating and drinking the matzo and wine within the time limit. The cooking can be checked after completing the mitzvahs. Remember..these are mitzvahs that can be done only once a year, so enjoy them and enjoy the whole Seder.
There are many laws about which there exist numerous opinions. It is beyond the scope of this pamphlet to encompass all of the opinions. Many people choose to be more stringent on various issues. Much can be written about each and every detail. The laws contained herein are the basic requirements to fulfill the Halachic obligations. If this is difficult, a Halachic authority should be consulted.

MATZOH AND MAROR:
SIZE: The size of a kezayis is a measurement in volume equal to the volume of half an egg. There is a difference of opinion if our eggs are smaller than those at the time of the Talmud. According to the Chazon Ish zt’l the size of kezayis d’oraisa is 45-50 cc. And according to the Hagaon Harav A. Chaim No’eh zt’l it is 25.6-28.8 cc. According to the Mishna Brura for a Mitzvah d’Oraisa we should measure according to the larger shiur (size) and for a Mitzvah d’Rabbonon it is permissible to rely on the smaller shiur.
It is very hard to give an exact standard shiur for the amount of hand matzo that one has to eat for a kezayis d’Oraisa and a kezayis d’rabbonon; therefore a Rav should be consulted. However, one can rely on the fact that by breaking the matzo into small pieces an then filling up one’s mouth with as much as possible (remaining relaxed) leaving minimal room for chewing afterwards, one will have eaten enough to fulfill one’s obligation of the Mitzvah of eating Motzei Matzo.

It should be noted that:

1. Hand matzo should be used for Motzei Matzo, Korech, and afikomen. If this is impossible then a Rav should be consulted.
2. Korech is a Mitzvah d’Rabbonon and requires a kezayis of matzo and a kezayis of maror.

3. Elderly people or those unable to meet these requirements should consult a Rav.

4. Afikomen is a Mitzvah d’Rabbonon and requires a kezayis of matzo. It would be preferable to eat 2 kezaysim.

TIME LIMIT:
1. If possible it is preferable to try and swallow one kezayis at one time. Otherwise, it is preferable that the kezayis for the Mitzvah d’Oraisa of Matzo should be eaten within two minutes, or at least four minutes.
2. 5-6 minutes is acceptable by some Rabbinical authorities.

3. Relax, chew well and then begin swallowing. The time limit starts from when you begin swallowing.

4. Under very exceptional circumstances, 9 minutes is also acceptable.

5. If one encounters difficulty, a small amount of water may be sipped while chewing.

THE FOUR CUPS:
WHAT TO DRINK:
1. Red wine is preferable.

2. If one cannot drink wine he may use grape juice.

3. Those allergic to wine and to grape juice may use a “Chamer Medina”, for example tea and coffee.

SIZE: 1. The cup used must contain at least a revi’is.

To avoid drowsiness: (a) use a cup that does not exceed a minimum shiur (size). (When the Seder falls out on Friday night, a larger shiur or revi’is should be used for the First Cup. (B) One may drink a glass of water immediately after swallowing the wine. (The water should be on the table at the time that one says the brocha of Borei Pri Hagafen so that the water is included in the brocha on the wine.

2. Preferably, one should drink the entire cup.

3. If this is very difficult, then drinking most of the cup is sufficient.

Under exceptional conditions, drinking most of the revi’is is acceptable, even if the cup is much larger than a revi’is.

TIME LIMIT: Preferably, two swallows. If this is difficult then up to 4 minutes is acceptable. If necessary 5 or 6 minutes is also acceptable by some Poskim.

HAGADAH: The proper time for starting the Seder is right after tzeis hakochovim. Upon arriving home from Maariv one should start the Seder promptly in order that the children should not fall asleep before eating the Matzo and Maror and the meal. Therefore, one should say the Hagadah as quickly as possible, and save the commentaries for later on.

LEANING: The mitzvah of “Hasaivah”, is to give one a feeling of freedom; one must lean on the left side, however, one should not lean in an uncomfortable manner. The Minhag is that women do not lean.

This document may be copied and distributed freely.

Must You Blog Thirty Days Before Pesach about Pesach?

Rabbi Welcher gave a shiur last week about “Thirty Days Before the Chag” and three ways that Gemora is understood. Go download it and give it a listen when you have the chance.

Pesach is the holiday which requires the most preparation, has the most mitzvos, and affords us the opportunity to make significant spiritual strides. Like most valuable things in life it requires preparation and right now we’re at the 21 days mark and counting.

Spiritual growth requires effort, but if we put in the effort, the connection and growth will come. The main thing that prevents us from making smart efforts is the world of distraction that we live in. Even if we can’t overcome all the distractions, we can choose to gather some moments and invest them in learning and preparing for Pesach.

Amazon has a great selection of Haggadahs, that can be delivered to your door this week. Why not pick one up and start your Pesach spiritual preparation today.

60 Second Guide to Passover

The Events of the Exodus
The process of the Exodus began when our forefather Abraham was told by G-d that his descendents would be enslaved in Egypt and subsequently freed. It was two generations later when Jacob, the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham, and his family settled in Egypt as the honored guests of the Pharaoh at that time.

The process continued through: the subsequent Jewish enslavement by the Egyptians; the ten nature-defying plagues prophesied by Moshe and activated by G-d over a period of twelve months; the subsequent release of the approximately three million Jews to freedom after the plague of the death of the first born; the splitting of the Red Sea seven days after their release; and the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai seven weeks after their release.

Our Focus on the Exodus
The centrality of the Exodus in Judaism is predicated on the fact that the Jewish people were freed and separated as a unique nation through the clear actions of G-d Himself. In addition to the physical freedom achieved, G-d chose us to be the world’s spiritual leaders by giving us the mitzvos of the Torah at Mount Sinai The mitzvos free us from a purely animal-like physical existence, to one in which we can elevate all our actions to be spiritual and G-d connected. Passover is a time where we commemorate the Exodus and renew our spiritual focus.

The Seder
The Seder, with its primary mitzvah of the telling of the story, enables us to experientially reconnect with the slavery and freedom of the Exodus and express our appreciation to G-d for our redemption and selection as His chosen people. The salt water, into which the green vegetable is dipped, and the bitter herbs are associated with our bondage. The four cups of wine and the festival meal help us relive our freedom.

The Holiday of Matzah
Matzah is a prime component of both the Seder and the eight days of Passover. Consisting of just flour and water, matzah was our no-frills food when we were slaves in Egypt. It is also a symbol of our freedom because we hastily left Egypt without enough time to bake bread.

From a spiritual perspective, the leaven enhances breads physical aspects by adding flavor and digestibility to its life sustaining core. As such, bread is appropriate for the rest of the year when our main challenge is to integrate the physical into the spiritual. On Passover, however, we eat only matzah and abstain from the physically oriented leavened bread. A matzah diet allows us to keep spiritually oriented as we refocus on our mission of spiritual leadership of the world.

Sederim Without Extended Family

My children, ages 10 – 13, feel sad every year when Pesach comes around, because they are in yeshivas where they are surrounded by friends who talk about their excitement about Pesach Sederim, and all the extended family who will be there. My children have grown up with their grandparents never at the Seder table, or any extended family for that matter, and this is how it will be until Moshiach comes. Sometimes I would try to console my children with the tried and true BT speech: “Some day you’ll be grown up with children, and I’ll be the Bubbe at your Seder table!” Lately, I don’t give that speech. I just hug them and say, “I understand. I miss having family at the Seder table too. I wish Grandma and Grandpa, and Nana and Papa, and your cousins could be there too.”

The key is, I miss the concept of having family at the Seder table. It’s a beautiful, sentimental idea that belongs with Pesach, like it was written into the script. But I don’t miss having my family at the Seder table, or my husband’s family either for that matter. That’s when the rosy picture breaks down. When I wrote the book, “What Do You Mean, You Can’t Eat in My Home, a Guide for Newly Observant Jews and Their Lesser Observant Family Members,” I had a conundrum when I got to the chapter on Pesach. First I tackled Pesach as a cheerleader: You can do it, you can have Seders even in your mother’s non-observant home, or you can join together with your secular sister and her kids. Here’s how! And for some families, these compromises and adjustments are a small price to pay for the pleasure of being with family on Pesach, and it is a goal that can be accomplished and relished. To those families who have figured out how to bring together observant and non-observant (or lesser observant) families at the Sederim, G-d bless you. In some families, compromises won’t work, and true harmony is only reached by making a mutual decision that on this holiday, or for this simcha, or in this circumstance, we just can’t be together. We still love each other, but we have to separate from each other at this time. And so it is, in our family, for Pesach.

I remember when my husband pointed out to me that all of my life, I had never actually experienced a Pesach Seder on Pesach. When we were growing up in our secular home, we knew we were Jewish because we celebrated Hanukkah instead of Christmas, and Passover instead of Easter. Our Seder took all of twenty minutes. We used a booklet produced by the Reform movement called, “The Concise Family Seder”, and my mom cooked a delicious (non-kosher of course) brisket and bought a box of matzoh. We dipped the parsley, recited the plagues, ate the horseradish, sang “Dayenu”, and got right to the meal. Every Seder, and its accompanying meal, was over before Passover actually began, because who’s going to wait until 9 PM to start? I’m sure we were eating bagels the next morning, and there was no meaningful discussion at the table. What was meaningful was that this completely secular family was still holding on to this annual ritual of the Passover Seder. It wasn’t what the Seder stood for that really mattered; what mattered is that we still identified as Jews, who therefore, did three things: circumcised our babies, avoided Christmas, and then sat around a Seder table reading stories of our ancestors to remember that we are Jews. Even when I was away at college, and an adult in my twenties before marrying my husband, I came home for the Seder.

For the past fifteen years, my husband and I have been conducting the Pesach Seder in our own home. We don’t join with other BT families (as many do, to relieve the sadness of loss of family and to celebrate together in friendship), but instead, we give our three children ample time at the Sederim to share over the volumes of learning they have brought home from Yeshiva. Getting together with family is not an option for us. Going there is impossible because there would be nothing kosher about it, and no willingness to accommodate to the extent we’d need. So then, why not invite family to our Sederim? We’ve always done so, but the answer is always no, and I understand. To them, it looks like a punishment. You don’t start until 9 PM? You spend two hours with all of the rituals before you get to the meal? Instead of nachas over the children’s excitement and learning, there is something between distaste and disdain, and who needs that at the Seder table?

I feel sad when I see the children’s excitement at the Seder table, and I know that their grandparents are missing out on all this nachas. I feel sad when I know that all of our family members choose to separate from us on the most family-centric holiday of the year. I feel sad when I’m going through the sometimes-exhausting Pesach preparations, and I dream about what it would be like to have a mother or sibling to share it with, or at least someone who could even relate. It can be a lonely time, Pesach, one that really reminds me how far we have moved away from our families of origin.

I’m not going to end this essay with a “rah rah” sentimental speech about how good my husband and I feel as observant Jews, and how this makes up for all of the sadness, etc. This is what is true for me. Sometimes the path of the BT is a lonely one, especially when it comes to family. Sometimes I ache for my family to join me. Sometimes I’m angry that they aren’t here. Sometimes they are angry that I am not there. Sometimes I miss the good old days when I didn’t know any better, and I didn’t have to clean out the whole house for Pesach, and the Seder was over in twenty minutes. . . let’s eat. But there’s no going back. What there is, after fifteen years on this path, is increased pride and conviction of where my husband, children, and I have gone – no turning back – and increased acceptance that this has meant a necessary separation from our families of origin. This is what it is. It isn’t perfect, but this is it, so we live with it and make the most of it. And sometimes we cry. While my husband’s eyes are brimming over from too much horseradish, mine are sometimes teary from being lonely for observant family to join us. G-d receives all of our tears, whatever their origin. A very famous alcoholic came up with an expression I find very true everytime Pesach rolls around: “G-d grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Amen!

First Published April 14, 2008

It’s Rosh Chodesh Nisan, a Good Time to Continue Preparing for Pesach

Here is the Beyond BT Guide to the Seder which goes through the basic halachos of each step of the seder.

While getting ready for Pesach, you might want to give Rabbi Welcher’s Preparing for Pesach, Insights in the Haggadah and Pesach Renewal shiurum a listen.

Check out YU Torah’s Pesach to Go.

Don’t forget Torah Anytime’s Pesach Shiurim.

The Haggadah relates that:

In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had come out of Mitzrayim, as it is says: “You shall tell your child on that day, it is because of this that The Haggadah relates that:

In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had come out of Mitzrayim, as it is says: “You shall tell your child on that day, it is because of this that Hashem did for me when I left Mitzrayim.”

In this mp3, Rabbi Moshe Gordon explores some of the classical approaches to understanding and fulfilling this Mitzvah. You can download it here.

By the way, Rabbi Gordon is opening his own Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel in Elul Zman. Here’s the link http://www.yishrei.org/faculty/

And here is an amazing series of Shiurim by Rabbi Gordon on the Seder and the Haggadah which covers the major Rishonim, Achronim and Poskim on the mitzvos of Pesach night and the Hagaddah.

Seder
Kadesh and Arba Kosos
Urchatz Karpas Yachatz
Hallel Rachtza Matza Heseiba
Maror Korech Shulchan Orech
Afikomen Barech End of Hallel Nirtza after Seder

Haggadagh
Intro to Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim
HaLachma Anya Akiras HaShulchan Intro to Ma Nishtana
Ma Nishtana
Avadim Hayeinu Arami Oved Avi
Arami Oved Avi 2
Makos End of Magid

TEN WAYS to help you and YOUR CHILDREN have a more Meaningful and Inspiring PESACH SEDER

Use these suggestions to infuse new meaning and excitement into your seder and create a lasting experience for you and your family.

1.Make the most of your Seder and best fulfill the mitzvah of V’higadita L’vincha by staying focused on telling the actual story of Yetzias Mitzrayim; concentrate on the events and their lessons.

2. Transform Yetzias Mitzrayim from a story into a reality by celebrating the Seder like you celebrate a Simcha in your own family. Speak about it vividly, personally and enthusiastically…you’ll inspire yourself and your children.

3. Prepare for the Seder! Spend time studying books and Midrashim that elaborate specifically on the details of each miracle to help your children appreciate the extent of Hashem’s kindness.

4. Make Pesach personal and relevant to your children. Use your discussion about the amazing miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim as a means of opening their eyes to the miracles Hashem performs for us every day.

5. Show your children how so much of the Pesach Seder revolves around them, demonstrating how much Hashem cares about every child and values each one as an essential member of Klal Yisroel.

6. Involve your children in the Pesach Seder. Prepare stimulating and challenging questions that will guide them to understand the lessons of the Haggadah and be an active participant in the Seder.

7. Practice the lesson of the Four Sons during your Seder by making a particular effort to involve each child (and adult!) in a way that best suits his or her unique personality, style and level.

8. Take the time to patiently answer your children’s questions. If you don’t know the answer, create a powerful Chinuch experience by asking a rabbi and exploring the issue… together with your child.

9. Reinforce their Emunah through the Pesach Seder by explaining that the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim irrefutably demonstrated Hashem’s complete control over the world to millions of eyewitnesses. We attest to this truth every year on the Seder night.

10. Inspire yourself by remembering that tonight Jewish parents around the world are passing on a glorious 3,320 year old legacy to their children as their parents and ancestors have done before them. Realize that the Seder that you create for your children will inspire them for the rest of their lives and shape the future Seder that they will make for their children.

The Pesach Seder:
A Unique Opportunity to Instill Emunah in Our Children

The Mitvah of telling the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim is primarily focused on our children and family. Its main purpose is to instill in their hearts the full knowledge of Hashem’s sovereignty and the magnitude of His strength and miracles. One should explain the story to them in the language that they understand to make them aware of the extent of the wonders that Hashem performs. It is not sufficient to explain just the main points of Yetzias Mitzrayim written in the Haggadah. Instead, we should describe all of the miracles vividly as they are depicted in the Gemara, Midrashim and other Seforim. (Based on Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’avoda 9:6)

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Under the auspices of Harav Reuven Feinstein, Shlita

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