Sephardic Educational Center Jerusalem presents
A Guide to Pesach
Easy Printable Version, only 7 pages
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 Hametz
– Legumes such as beans, lentils, and rice can never become Hametz
– 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.
Searching and disposing of Hametz ( Also search for your Ego!)
– 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?
Answer: If one intends on leaving their home before Pesah and returning after the holiday, then the search is dependent on a number of factors.
a If one leaves after the 14th of Adar (within 30 days of Pesah) then the night before leaving the house must be searched. In this case a blessing is not recited.
b If one leaves before the 14th of Adar then a search is not required. If there is Hametz in the house then it must be sold to a non-Jew.
Preparing the House and Utensils for Pesah
Utensils and appliances that are used during the year for Hametz cannot be used on Pesah. The reason for this is because during the year they absorb the taste of Hametz, this taste is Hametz and is prohibited on Pesah. Our Rabbis set down a number of rules as to how these utensils can be made Kasher and hence their use would be permitted on Pesah.The following is a list of each item and the proper method of how to make it Kasher.
China and earthenware: Since they are considered to be extremely porous, if they were used during the year for hot Hametz then they cannot be used during Pesah.
Glass: This includes Pyrex. The Sepharadic custom is to regard glass as non-porous. For this reason glass used during the year just has to be cleaned and washed very well. If there is no trace of food on it then it may be used on Pesah. Ashkenazim follow the view of “Ramah” who says that glass is porous. According to this view glass must be cleaned and soaked in water for three 24-hour periods, changing the water every 24 hours.
Metal cutlery: Cutlery used during the year may be used on Pesah after Hag-alat Kelim is performed. The method of Hag-alah is as follows. The cutlery must be cleaned thoroughly so that there is no trace of food on it. It must then not be used for a 24-hour period. At the conclusion of this 24 hours it is dipped into a pot (itself Kasher) of boiling water (bubbles must appear in the boil) after it is dipped it should be run under cold water. The cutlery is then permitted on Pesah.
Note: If handles can be removed this must be done. If handles cannot be removed a competent Rabbi should be asked.
Metal Pans used for cooking: The same method used on cutlery is done here.
This includes all pots used on a stovetop.
Frying pans: If they are used with oil then they are treated as any other metal pot. If one fries without any oil then it may not be used on Pesah.
Baking Pans grates etc.. : Any utensils used in the oven cannot be made Kasher by Hag-alah. They must be heated until they become red hot (Libun) if this cannot be done then new ones should be purchased for Pesah.
Dishwasher: If it is lined with plastic or metal then it must be cleaned thoroughly. It must then be left to sit idle for 24 hours, after this it should be run through a hot cycle while empty using soap. If the racks cannot be cleaned completely then separate racks should be purchased for Pesah.
Refrigerator and Freezer: They should be emptied and cleaned thoroughly. Some have a custom of lining the shelves as well.
Stovetop: Should be cleaned thoroughly. The grates should be dipped in boiling water. The element should then be turned on high for a few minutes.
Shabbat hotplate: It should be cleaned thoroughly and then left to sit for 24 hours. At the conclusion of the 24 hours boiling water should be poured on it.
Microwave ovens: It should be cleaned thoroughly. A glass of water should then be placed into it. The glass should be brought to a boil so one can see steam in the oven, it is then permitted to use the oven.
Sink: The sink should be cleaned thoroughly and then boiling water should be poured into it covering the entire surface. This also includes porcelain sinks.
Countertops: They should be cleaned thoroughly, then boiling water should be poured on them. As an added precaution they can be covered.
Tabletop: It should be cleaned thoroughly. As an added precaution it can be covered for the holiday. Note that tablecloths should be laundered before the holiday.
Ovens: The Sepharadic custom is to clean the oven very well (preferable to use a cleaning agent). The oven is left for 24 hours without being used. The oven is then turned on at its highest heat for one hour. It is then permitted to use on Pesah. For self-cleaning ovens the only step necessary is to run it through a self-cleaning cycle.
The Sale of Hametz
As mentioned earlier it is not only forbidden to consume Hametz, possession of Hametz is also forbidden. Understanding that it may be difficult or financially difficult for individuals to dispose of all Hametz, the Rabbis allowed for Hametz in ones possession to be sold to a non-Jew. It is customary today that any Hametz that one cannot dispose of be sold. This sale must be done by a competent Rabbi before Pesah. With this sale one is allowed to keep the Hametz in their home. It is important however that the Hametz be placed in an area that can be sealed so that it is out of sight and reach on Pesah. At the conclusion of Pesah the Rabbi purchases in return these goods. Contact your synagogue for further details on the sale of Hametz. To Sell you Hametz, click here!
The Fast of the Firstborn
The last plague to strike the Egyptians was the death of the first born. In this plague the first born of the Jewish people were spared. To remember this it became a custom that on the eve of Pesah first born males fast. This fast is considered to be a minor fast. Because of the difficulty in fasting on the eve of Pesah (the Sedder being that night), it has become a custom for firstborn to attend a Seudat Mizvah (meal of Mizvah) and thus be exempt from the fast. A Seudat Mizvah includes a “Brit Milah”, Bar/Bat Mizvah, or the completion (Siyum) of a Talmudic tractate (in case of need Mishna is accepted). Many synagogues today have a “Siyum” so that firstborn attending can partake of the meal at its conclusion and thus be exempt from fasting.
Some Miscellaneous Laws for Sephardim
– As mentioned earlier Sephardim did not accept the stringency of “Kitniyot” legumes. Since the customs do vary amongst communities check to see what the customs in your community are.
– So too there is absolutely no prohibition to wet Matzot on Pesah.
What you will need
- A) Wine
– Red wine is preferred over white wine
– In a case where it is difficult to drink wine then grape juice is permitted
- B) Matzah
– For the Seder it is preferable that special handmade “Shemurah Matza” be used.
– If one cannot obtain 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 have.
– For the measurements of how much Matza must be eaten, see section on Matza under “The Seder Step by Step”.
- C) Karpas
– This is a vegetable that we dip into salt water or vinegar.
– It is preferable to use celery or parsley.
- D) 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 horseradish.
– The most common one used is Romaine Lettuce.
– In many Ashkenazic communities horseradish is used.
– The Maror is eaten twice at the Sedder.
- E) Haroset
– 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 wine
– Some communities use date syrup mixed with walnuts called “Haleq” or “Silon”. for more click here
- F) Egg
– On festivals there was a special sacrifice that was offered in the Temple.
– This sacrifice was known as the “Haggigah”.
– Since today we no longer have a Temple to offer the “Haggigah” in its place we place an egg on the Sedder plate to remind us of this sacrifice.
- G) Shank Bone
In Temple times Pesah revolved around the Passover 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.
- H) The Sedder Plate
– Shank bone
– Hazeret (Lettuce for the sandwich)
– Three Matzot
Note: Refer to your 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”.
- I) Reclining
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 left side.
– If one did not recline for any of the above then they did not fulfill the obligation and the act must be repeated.
– If one forgot to recline for the first cup of wine then he must drink an additional cup but without reciting the blessing.
– Women are also obligated to recline, but in a case where they forgot they need not repeat the Mizvah.
– Reclining is not performed when the Maror and Karpas are eaten.
– One who wishes to recline for the entire meal can do so.
– If you forgot! click here to see what to do
The Seder Step by Step
- A) Kaddesh
– The Seder begins as all other festivals with “Kiddush“.
– The first cup of wine is poured and the Kiddush is recited.
– The blessing of “Shehehyanu” is said at the completion of the Kiddush.
– Remember that when drinking the Kiddush reclining is necessary.
– It is also obligatory to drink a “Reviit” of wine. A Reviit is 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)
– Note: 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
- B) Urhatz
– 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.
- C) Karpas
– A small piece of Karpas is taken.
– It 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
- D) Yahatz
– 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.
– There 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.
- E) Magid
– We are now prepared to begin the recitation of the Haggadah.
– The Sedder plate is raised and everyone recites “Ha Lahama Anya”.
– After “Ha Lahama Anya a second cup of wine is poured then the “Mah Nishtanah” is recited preferably by a child.
– After “Mah Nishtanah” the entire 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 wilderness.
– 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.
- F) Rohzah
– 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 of Matza
– 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 minutes.
– The Maror is dipped into “Haroset” or “Haleq”.
– So as not to overpower the bitterness of the Maror some of the Haroset is shaken off.
– The special blessing over the Maror is recited. Because the Maror symbolizes the bitterness of Egypt reclining is not performed for the eating of Maror.
– 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 (Meal)
– 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!
- K) Zafun
– 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 else.
– Even drinking (except the two remaining cups of wine) is forbidden, although one is permitted to drink water. read more on eating Afikoman
- L) Barekh (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 this cup.
– 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
Next Year in Jerusalem!
Compiled by: Rabbi Yosef Benarroch, Sephardic Educational Center Jerusalem
with additions from DesiretoShare.com