Dear B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends:

Although the joyous and festive holiday of Purim has only just concluded, we nonetheless turn our attention (as always) to the custom-filled and traditionally-rich holiday of Passover immediately.

I share the following with you to try to make the upcoming Pesach holiday as meaningful and pleasant as possible.

The night before the first seder, we conduct the “Bedikat Chametz,” the “Search for Leaven.” It is interesting to note that the bracha (blessing) before the search is on the “destruction” of the chametz and NOT on the “searching” because the point of this ritual IS on the symbolic “destroying/disposing” of the chametz. The search for the chametz is simply a means to the end through which we make the point of disposing of the chametz by its destruction.

Other than that which would be helpful or instrumental in the search, there should be no extraneous conversation during the search since the search itself is the aforementioned means towards completing the mitzvah of “destroying” (disposing of, in a permanent manner…) the chametz.

Although there is the time-honored tradition of the fatigue creation of “knocking one’s self out to clean for Pesach,” without my implying any disrespect and certainly not discouraging others from fulfilling the customs and traditions of their families in cleaning for Pesach, one should know, and can rely on the formula recited at the end of the search for the chametz, (and again at the burning of the chametz), that any chametz found during Pesach that was NOT discovered during the traditional search for chametz is “… nullified and ownerless as the dust of the earth.”

Therefore Jews need not “knock themselves out” in the cleaning of the home. I should also remind those who are EXTRA zealous in their Pesach cleaning that dust does not = chametz. The Pesach cleaning does NOT need to be a more comprehensive “Spring cleaning” of the home.

Aside from reciting the formula for the search for chametz which is in Aramaic, because this directive and important tradition is to be understood, it can and should be said in language of understanding, presumably English for most of us.

Although in many shiurim (classes) and in bulletin articles such as this one, I have pointed out that there are four names
for the holiday of Pesach, in the Kiddush of the Seder nights, we recite two of the identified names of this holiday: “Chag
HaMatzot,” (the holiday of matzah) and “Z’man Cheruteinu,” (the time of our freedom). These are both fundamental
signs and symbols of the Pesach holiday.

When we drink the wine at the Seder and when we eat the matzah, we lean to our left side. This is a sign of our freedom;
that we do not need to sit straight up, erect in conforming to the commands of the task masters, controlling every aspect of our daily lives as slaves.

The leaning to the left, as opposed to the right, is a health matter, helping digestion and avoiding coughing or choking.

We do NOT lean when eating the maror (the bitter herbs) since they do NOT represent our freedom but rather, a reminder of our slavery before our freedom.

After we complete the portion of the Seder where, within the text, we explain the Pesach (represented by the shank bone), the matzah, and the maror (the bitter herbs), we should continue with the same focus and intentionality to the very next portion, in which we declare: “V’higadta L’vincha,” “…and you shall speak about the Passover episode to your children,” assuring that throughout the epochs of every family, the importance and the meaningfulness of the entire Passover story will be handed down from one generation to the next. This is just as much as a part of the previous symbolic obligations of explanation.

Typically, red wine is considered the most preferred by the Sages since red wine has been the traditional sign of joy and celebration throughout the years. However, if one enjoys a different type of wine, even a white wine, it is acceptable for use throughout the seder for each of the four cups of wine. This is especially true if the alternative type of wine will be enjoyed at a much higher level than if one forced oneself to consume the less-enjoyed red wine.

A person who CANNOT drink wine or any alcoholic beverage can fulfill his/her obligation for the consumption of the four cups throughout the Seder with kosher for Passover grape juice. This would not be the first choice of selection for someone who is capable of drinking wine but certainly is a viable option for those who cannot drink wine or alcoholic beverages.

The Shabbat prior to Pesach is always known as “Shabbat HaGadol,” “The Great Shabbat,” which we celebrate with special prominence as the day on which the reality of the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt was revealed and realized.

B’ezrat Hashem, Robin and I plan on being in Eretz Yisrael for Pesach this year but with our B’nai Shalom family for two Shabbatot before then, not including this year’s Shabbat HaGadol. At that time, at the conclusion of Shabbat, we hope to wish everyone a Chag Kasher V’Sameach.

If Moshiach comes BEFORE that time, we hope to wish everyone a Chag Kasher V’Sameach on the streets of Yerushalayim instead.

With Torah blessings always,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin