With Pesah quickly arriving it is time to
begin with our preparations. The following pages will explain some of the basic
concepts and laws of Pesah. This guide is meant to be an overview of Sephardic
laws and customs for Pesah. It should be clear to the reader that a competent
Rabbi is still necessary in deciding specific questions. Please also keep in
mind that customs amongst Sepharadim vary slightly from community to community.
What is Hametz?
The Torah in a number of places prohibits the possession
and consumption of Hametz.
Only the five types of grain can become Hametz. These
grains include wheat, barely, oats, spelt, and rye.
When mixed with water, if these grains are not baked
within 18 minutes they become Hametz and are forbidden on Pesah.
There are a number of factors that speed up the
fermentation process. These include warm
water, and dough that is left standing.
Mazah therefore is made by using special flour (guarded to
make sure it has never been in contact with water) that is mixed with cold
water, the dough is constantly kneaded until it is placed in the oven and baked.
The entire process takes less than 18 minutes.
As mentioned earlier only the five grains can become
Legumes such as beans, lentils, and rice can never
During Pesah Sepharadim eat these types of foods.
It should be noted that amongst different Sepharadic
communities there are different customs in regards to legumes. Each person
should check the customs of their communities
Kitniyot are forbidden to Ashkenazic Jews. Although as
mentioned they cannot become Hametz, since they can be ground into flour a
decree was accepted in Ashkenazic communities not to eat Kitniyot.
more details on Rice
Nevertheless Ashkenazim may eat in the homes of
Sepharadim during Pesah as long as they do not eat Kitniyot. They are permitted
to eat from the same plates, and from the same cooking utensils used by
Sepharadim as long as there are no Kitniyot in the food they are eating.
and disposing of Hametz ( Also search for your
Before the eve of the 14th of Nissan the home
must be cleaned thoroughly so that all Hametz is removed.
On the eve of the 14th of Nissan the searching
for Hametz is performed.
The search should be performed at nightfall
The entire house must be searched. This search is not a
symbolic one, rather it must be done thoroughly.
The custom is to place ten pieces of Hametz wrapped in
paper around the house. It should be noted that these ten pieces do not
constitute the entire search. As mentioned the entire home must be searched
The search is performed with a candle, which is used to
check all the various places. If one is unable to find a candle then a
flashlight is also permitted.
Before the search begins the appropriate blessing (found
at the beginning of most Hagadot) is recited.
If you have an office then it to must be cleaned and
searched for Hametz, the same applies for ones car.
At the conclusion of the search, the prayer to nullify the
Hametz is recited.
The following day on the eve of Pesah the Hametz is burned
and the prayer of nullification is once again recited.
Question: What if I do not intend
on being home all of Pesah, do I still have to search my house for Hametz?
What you will
Red wine is preferred over white wine
In a case where it is difficult to drink wine then grape juice is
Seder it is
preferable that special handmade "Shemurah Matza" be used.
handmade Matzot then there are many who permit machine made Shemurah Matza
For the Sedder plate there should be three Matzot. Remember the final
amount of how many Matzot you will need will depend on the amount of guests you
For the measurements of how much Matza must be eaten, see section on
Matza under “The Seder Step by Step”.
This is a vegetable that we dip into salt water or
It is preferable to use celery or parsley.
Maror (bitter herbs)
The code of Jewish law lists five varieties of Maror
Only three are known to us today, they include lettuce, endives, and
The most common one used is Romaine Lettuce.
In many Ashkenazic communities horseradish is used.
Maror is eaten twice
at the Sedder.
Haroset is used to remind us of the mortar the Jews were forced to make
in order to make bricks in Egypt.
There is no standard recipe for Haroset and customs vary.
Many use a mixture of ground fruits such as apples, nuts, cinnamon and
Some communities use date
with walnuts called "Haleq" or “Silon”.
for more click here
On festivals there was a special
was offered in the Temple.
sacrifice was known
as the "Haggigah".
Since today we no longer have a Temple to offer the
place we place an egg on the Sedder plate to remind us of this
In Temple times Pesah
revolved around the
Sacrifice. Each family was commanded to
slaughter a lamb and eat it roasted with Matza and Maror, this was known as the
"Korban Pesah". Since we no longer can perform the commandment of the
Pesah Sacrifice we place a piece of meat on the Sedder plate to remind us of the
Pesah sacrifice. It is customary to use a shank bone, one of the reasons we use
a shank bone is because it is also symbolic of G-ds outstretched hand.
The Sedder Plate
Hazeret (Lettuce for the sandwich)
Haggadah as to how
these items are to be arranged on the Sedder plate. In Sepharadic communities it
is customary to follow the arrangement of the "Ari".
On this night we are
to feel complete freedom. Our status is that of nobility feeling as our
ancestors felt as they left Egypt. The Seder has a built in way for us to feel
this freedom and sense of nobility, both through the foods we eat and the way we
eat them. One such practice is reclining, this was a common method used by
people of nobility when eating their meals. Because on this night we are free we
recline at specific points in the Haggadah.
One must recline for the drinking of all four cups of wine.
When eating the Matzah and Afikoman one must recline
Reclining is always
done on the
If one did not
any of the above then they did not fulfill the obligation and the act must be
If one forgot to recline for the first cup of wine then he must drink an
additional cup but without reciting the blessing.
The Seder Step by Step
The Seder begins as all other festivals with
The first cup of wine is poured and the Kiddush is recited.
The blessing of
is said at the completion of the Kiddush.
Remember that when drinking the
reclining is necessary.
It is also obligatory to drink a
of wine. A
approximately 86 grams.
There are various opinions as to the amount in a Reviit, the most lenient
is approximately 3.3 fluid ounces.
It is preferable that the amount be drunk in one time, if this is not
possible then it should be drunk within two minutes (there are even authorities
that allow up to eight minutes).
In case where it is difficult to drink a Reviit, then one is permitted to
drink the majority of a Reviit (44 grams)
Although on other festivals and Shabbat one is permitted to recite the Kiddush
before nightfall, on Pesah it is customary to wait until nightfall.
more on Kadesh
Before the eating of the Karpas all participants wash their hands.
This washing is done exactly as one would before eating bread, the only
exception is that a blessing is not recited.
Question: Why do
we wash our hands before eating Karpas?
The answer to this
question has to do with a law that applies all year round. In Jewish law food
can be rendered impure through contact with our hands. It is for this reason we
wash our hands to purify them. Liquid is considered to transfer the impurity
from our hands to the food. Therefore any food which is wet can receive
impurity. The Rabbis therefore decreed that when one is about to eat any fruit
or vegetable that is wet then washing of the hands is required. For example if
you wash an apple and want to eat it without drying it then you are obligated to
wash your hands before eating it. Since at this point in the Sedder we are about
to eat the Karpas that is dipped in a liquid (vinegar or salt water) then this
law of washing hands applies.
A small piece of Karpas is taken.
is dipped into vinegar or salt water.
The blessing is recited and then it is eaten.
Reclining is not necessary but one who wishes to recline may do so.
more details on Karpas
The leader of the Seder takes the three Matzot which are on the plate.
He then takes the middle Matza and breaks it in half.
The smaller of the two pieces is returned to the plate placed between the
two whole Matzot.
The larger of the two halves is placed aside to be used as afikoman
at the end of the Seder.
Are those who have a
custom to wrap it and place it over their shoulders. They act out the Exodus.
The participants ask him where have you come from, he replies from Egypt, they
then ask him where are you going to, he replies to the land of Israel, everyone
then responds next year in Jerusalem.
We are now prepared to begin the recitation of the Haggadah.
The Sedder plate is raised and everyone recites "Ha Lahama Anya".
a second cup of
wine is poured then the "Mah Nishtanah" is recited preferably by a child.
Haggadah is read. It should be done joyously. The text should be elaborated upon.
During the recitation of the ten plagues it is customary to pour from
ones cup into a broken vessel. This is done for each of the ten plagues, for the
abbreviation of Rabbi Yehudah and for the three mentions of the signs in the
In my home we have a custom that during the recitation of the ten plagues
the leader pours some wine into a vessel for each plague, at the same time
someone else simultaneously pours some water into the same vessel. This custom
is to remind us of how the water turned into blood.
The Maggid section concludes with the drinking of the second cup of wine.
Note: the Sepharadic custom is not to recite a blessing (boreh
peri Hagefen) over the second cup of wine.
After the second cup we wash our hands in preparation of “Hamotzi”.
This is the second time in the Seder that the hands are washed; this time
a blessing (Al netilat yadayim) is recited.
Many have a custom that the water and basin are brought to the table so
that participants can wash at the Seder table.
Before the blessing the two whole Matzot on the Seder plate are held,
with the broken piece of Matza in between the two whole ones.
The leader recites the blessing over the Matza (Hamotzi
lehem min ha-aretz)
The leader then recites the special blessing that is said for the eating
To fulfil the obligation of eating Matza, the amount required to eat is “Kazayit”
Ideally one should eat two Kezetim but if it is difficult then the
obligation is fulfilled by eating only one.
A Kazayit is
roughly about 29 grams, which is about the size of one machine made Matza.
Remember on this night it is important to use special “Matza Shemura”.
Since each person must eat a “Kazayit” you will have to figure out
based on the amount of guests you have how much Matza to purchase.
In case of physical weakness one can rely on opinions that say a
“Kazayit” is only 20 grams.
The Matza should be eaten within a span of no more than four minutes.
Remember when you eat Matza you must recline on your left side.
After the eating of Matza we eat Maror (bitter herbs)
Here too one must eat a “Kazayit” about 29 grams, within four
The Maror is dipped into “Haroset” or “Haleq”.
So as not to overpower the bitterness of the Maror some of the Haroset is
The special blessing over the Maror is recited. Because the Maror
symbolizes the bitterness of Egypt reclining is not performed for the eating of
A sandwich is made using one Kazayit of Matza and one
Kazayit of Maror.
For this sandwich the third Matza which was at the bottom of the three on
the Seder plate is used.
The sandwich is dipped into “Haroset” and eaten while reclining.
There is no blessing said over it, but a short text appears in the
Haggadah which is said before eating the Koreh.
J) Shulhan Orekh
The meal is served so sit back relax and enjoy.
Remember that at the end of the meal the Afikoman must be eaten.
The requirement of the Afikoman is to not be satiated before eating it,
so leave some room for the Afikoman!
The piece of Matza which was set hidden is now
taken out to be eaten as the Afikoman.
Once again each person is obligated to eat a “Kazayit” in less
than 4 minutes, reclining on the left
After the eating of the Afikoman one is not permitted to eat anything
Even drinking (except the two remaining cups of wine) is forbidden,
although one is permitted to drink water.
read more on eating Afikoman
(Blessing after the Meal)
We return to the Haggadah with the recitation of “Birkat Hamazon”
the “Grace after the Meal”.
At the completion of “Birkat Hamazon” the blessing over wine is
made and the third cup of wine is drunk.
Remember you must recline to the left when drinking this cup.
The fourth cup of wine is filled and the remainder of the
Haggadah is recited starting with the Hallel.
At the conclusion of the Haggadah after the blessing of “Yishtabah”
the fourth cup of wine is drunk, remembering to recline on the left side.
The Sepharadic custom is not to recite the blessing over wine on
After drinking the wine, the appropriate after-blessing for wine is said.
May our prayers find favor (Nirzah) in the eyes of G-d.
Next year may we all merit to celebrate as a united people in the holy
city of Jerusalem.
Wishing everyone a very happy Pesah
Year in Jerusalem!
Compiled by: Rabbi
Yosef Benarroch, Sephardic Educational Center Jerusalem