Passover: Inspiration, Resources & Prep Guide
Rabbi Aderet Drucker, Campus Rabbi & Director of Jewish Life and Learning
As Passover approaches this Friday evening, many of us are focused on the preparations: the cleaning, the shopping, the kashering, the cooking and for those of us going home for Passover Seders, we’re focused on our travel plans and getting home. While all of these preparations are important and part of the process of getting ready to observe and celebrate Passover, it is essential that we not lose sight of the essence of this festival, and why we go to all the trouble in the first place.
Before we dive in to the essence of Passover, it is helpful for this discussion, to first review the two different categories of Jewish Law (Halachot), which we observe during Pesach:
I) The first category is known as Issurei Hametz, prohibitions of hametz (leavened foods prohibited on Passover). These include laws of eating, deriving benefit from or possessing hametz. Thus, there are three basic ways of removing hametz from one’s possession:
1. Sale of Hametz (M’chirat Hametz)
a) You can fill out a form at Hillel w/ Rabbi Schwartz:
- Wednesday 10:30am-12:15pm, 8-9pm
- Thursday 9-9:30am
2. Searching (Bedikat Hametz) and eventually destroying by burning (Biyyur).
a) Search for hametz after 7:56pm on Thursday night, 3/29/18
b) Burn hametz by 12:09pm on Friday, 3/30/18
3. Nullification of ownership (Bitul Hametz). After searching for hametz, a formula, found in your Haggadah, is recited to nullify ownership: “All hametz or leavening which is in my possession which I have not seen or have not removed or whose existence I didn’t know about, I am making null and void as the dust of the earth.”
II) The second category of laws include the mitzvot (commandments) we are to take on in order to fulfill our Passover obligations. These include:
- Eating of Matzah (Achilat Matzah)
- Drinking of the 4 cups of Wine (Arbah Cosot), related to the 4 expressions of freedom in Exodus Chapter 6)
- Eating of Marror, the bitter herbs (Achilat Marror)
- The telling of the Exodus story leaving Egypt (Magid). This is based on the verse from Exodus 13:8 – “V’higadta L’vincha…, “And you shall explain to your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt.‘)
This last mitzvah, the telling of the story of our ancestors’ leaving Egypt is the foundation for the essence of Pesach, since the goal is that each of us should see ourselves as though we were slaves in Egypt, eventually freed from the physical and spiritual bondage. In our Pesach Haggadah, we recite Rabban Gamliel’s teaching: “Bechol Dor Va’Dor Hayav Adam Lirot Et Atzmo keilu hu yatzah miMitzrayim.” “In every generation, one must see themselves as if they have left from Egypt.” In this one sentence we understand the profound message that we must see beyond the self.
Therefore the essence of Pesach and the Pesach Seder is to allow for personal change and growth during this season of rebirth and renewal. When you sit down to your Passover Seders this year, I invite you to approach the Seder as an opportunity to elicit this type of personal growth and change. Each of us should arise from our Seders this year with a new perspective and awareness of ourselves, of our community and of the world around us. The major theme of Pesach relates to the transition of going from slavery to freedom, from a narrowed space (meitzar) to a place of opening. There is no coincidence that the Hebrew for a narrowed space, meitzar, is at the core of the Hebrew for Egypt, Mitzrayim.
What narrowed space have you emerged from this year? In looking at the world around us, there is much tikkun, repair and healing that is still needed. Approach the Seder this year with the following question in mind, “What one thing can I do to improve the life of at least one person this year?”
The cleaning, shopping, and cooking preparations for Passover can be seen as rituals, intended to not only assist us in being able to observe the Passover festival, but to get us to a place where we can fully embrace all that the Passover Seder has to offer. In so doing, they also create a space for us to be fully present and aware at our Seders so we can be open to personal renewal and growth – to get us to a place where we see beyond the self even more in this coming year.
I invite us to begin the process of readiness for Pesach in a spiritual and introspective place as well. May this Pesach bring each of us closer to our personal ideas of freedom and expansion. Let us become more aware of the ways that we can contribute to bringing more holiness to the world around us.
Wishes for a happy and healthy Passover.
Chag Kasher v’Sameach,
Passover 2018 Resources:
- Questions about what food to buy at the store, how to prepare your dishes and kitchen for Passover? Check out the Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative Movement’s) Passover Guide.
- A great resource for all things Jewish – especially Passover 2018
- Click here to find out candle lighting times to when the holiday begins and when you can eat pizza again