Pessah is the holiday in the Jewish calendar that most involves advanced preparations. To help us prepare for the holiday in our congregation, here is a concise guide:
Pessah begins on Friday evening, April 03, and concludes after dark on Saturday, April 11. On Friday, April 03, after 11:00am, we are not allowed to eat “Hametz” anymore. We are also not supposed to eat matzah until the Seder, when we will be able to taste it afresh.
What is Hametz?
Hametz, or leaven, refers to food prepared from five species of grain (rye, wheat, barley, spelt and oats. The Ashkenazy rabbis added to this list rice, millet, corn and legumes.) that were allowed to leaven (water has been added to them, and the mixture was allowed to stand for more than 18 minutes). If any amount of this mixture becomes mixed with other food, it is called Ta’arovet hametz, and it is also prohibited during Pessah. Consumption, enjoyment, and even possession of leaven is prohibited during Pessah. For that reason, we remove the leaven from our homes and lives. This is a metaphor for the concept of liberation, in which we should be involved during the days of Pessah. We free ourselves from the hametz in our lives, in whatever forms they exist in our homes. The process of disposal and search for leaven symbolizes the letting go of old stuff, of the feelings and attitudes we have that can and should be thrown away.
How do we eliminate Hametz from our homes?
Eliminating the hametz from our lives is a complex process. We start by removing all leavened foods from our homes. As in previous years, we will donate all unopened non-perishable hametz foods to the Arlington Food Pantry. Please bring all your unopened hametz items to the Synagogue. Donations will be accepted until Thursday, April 2, at 8:00am. This is a firm deadline. Please do not bring any other food items into the building after that. We also have to make our homes fit for Pessah, or Kosher. If you have any questions, or want help with the cleaning and the preparations, please do not hesitate to call Rabbi Bass at the office. A Kashrut guide from the Rabbinical Assembly is found at: rabbinicalassembly.org/pesah-guide.
The next step is to do “mechirat hametz.” The words mean “the selling of the hametz,” and it is a legal fiction that permits us to hold on to expensive forms of hametz such as liquor, exquisite spices and condiments. Rabbi Bass will “sell” your hametz to a non-Jew for the duration of Passover. Since this is a legal transaction, Rabbi Bass needs to be explicitly appointed to perform such a sale on your behalf.
You can stop by the office during the weeks before Pessah, or you can send a written authorization to Rabbi Bass, prior to Thursday, April 1, after minyan, to perform the transaction, along the following lines:
I/we, _____________________________, residing at ____________________________
authorize Rabbi Lia Bass to sell my hametz according to the stipulations of
Jewish Law. Should the new owner decide to take possession of the hametz, it
will be found in a sealed closet in the ________________________ room of my
Signature _________________________________ Date______________________
At this time we combine the mitzvah of mechirat hametz with the mitzvah of maot hittim, literally money for wheat. When we sell our hametz, we think about those in our community that are not as fortunate, and we try to provide the means for them to enjoy the holiday. It is customary to donate $18 dollars for this purpose. Please make your checks out to the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund, marked for Maot Hittim. You may also donate a percentage of what you will spend on your Seder (around 3%) to Mazon, A National Jewish Response to Hunger, at 2940 Westwood Boulevard, Suite 7, Los Angeles, CA 90064. I will take mechirat hametz forms until April 1.
At the end of Pessah you may again enjoy the hametz you sold. Please give Rabbi Bass a half hour after the appearance of the three stars to open your cabinets. We will be able to eat from that hametz again this year on Saturday, April 11, at 9:00 pm. Pessah will end at 8:22 pm.
On Thursday, April 2, as soon as night has fallen, we continue the process of removal of hametz by doing Bedikat Hametz (the search for leaven) and Bitul Hametz (the nullification of leaven). We light a candle, say the benediction “Baruch ata…. vetzivanu al biyur hametz” and we search the house for little pieces of hametz that have been previously hidden. It is a lot of fun to go around the house, with a candle or a light, looking for hametz. After the search for the hametz is done, and all the pieces are found, we collect the pieces and the remaining leaven. We proceed with Bitul Hametz, and the formula for that can be found in any Haggadah.
The next day we will burn the leaven, in a ceremony called Biyur Hametz. On Friday, April 3, we will have services at 7:00am. During services we will finish a unit of Rabbinic text study. This is done because firstborns are to fast (in many opinions, first sons and daughters) in memory of the slain firstborns of the last plague in Egypt. To avoid the fast, we organize a Siyum (concluding a unit of Rabbinic text study), and we are then commanded to eat. After the service, we will burn our hametz. You do not need to be a first born in order to participate in the service, and all of us need to burn our hametz anyway, so please come! Passover Matchmaking: For the Seder, if you can accommodate some guests, please let our office know. If you need a place to go for Seder, do not be shy; contact the office, and we will do our best to find you a place for the Seder.
- Friday, April 3 – 7:00am, Morning service and Siyum.
- Friday, April 3 – There will be no Kabbalat Shabbat evening services in the congregation. Enjoy your
- Saturday and Sunday (April 4 and 5), Friday and Saturday (April 10 and 11) – Morning services at
10:00am. On Saturday, April 11 the service includes Yizkor.
- Thursday, April 9, 7:00am – morning minyan.