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Leviticus 23:1-5 “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the people of Israel, and say to them, The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy gatherings, these are My feasts. Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is the Shabbat of rest, a holy gathering; you shall do no work in it; it is the Shabbat of the Lord in all your dwellings. These are the feasts of the Lord, holy gatherings, which you shall proclaim in their seasons. In the fourteenth day of the first month at evening is the Lord’s Passover.”
This first month is Nisan, not Tishrei. Nisan is the month which begins the Biblical New Year, the New Year for Holidays. The detail of the Passover holy day was given back in Exodus 12: 1-8 “And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house; And if the household is too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the souls; according to every man’s eating shall you make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; you shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats; And you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, in which they shall eat it. And they shall eat the meat in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.”
From this Biblical account we deduce: Passover is to be celebrated on the 14th of Nisan, or Aviv, the first month in the spring, at night – that is already the 15th, can be a family festival or a communal, with your neighbor, must eat lamb with Matzah– unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs. Also, the Bible says that Passover is one of the three holidays of which it should be celebrated in Jerusalem. It is one of the Shalosh Regalim – the three pilgrimage festivals (the other ones are Shavuot and Sukkot). That is because the slaughtering of animals for sacrificial purposes had to be done at the Temple in Jerusalem.
That is all the Bible says about Passover, so let’s see what transpired to us in the Jewish community:
Anticipating the Passover - Preparations for Passover begin in the preceding month of Adar when select portions of the Bible are read in the synagogue calling attention to the coming holiday. The Shabbat before Passover is called Shabbat HaGadol– The Great Shabbat - because it is the Shabbat before Exodus and the Haftarah – Malachi 3 – speaks of God’s ultimate triumph.
Cleaning the Home - The Bible says that no leaven should be found in the home; therefore, every Jewish family undergoes a thorough home-cleaning prior to the festival. Not only is this done to remove all traces of CHOMETZ - LEAVEN, but also to add a spirit of freshness and festivity to the home. Special attention is given to the kitchen – all cupboards are clean thoroughly, the regular dishes are replaced with the ones especially for Passover, the utensils are koshered by boiling and the oven is cleaned with a blow torch.
The Selling of Leaven – All leaven is gathered and sold to a Gentile neighbor. The food could then be repurchased and used after the holiday. Today, in the spirit of the Talmud and for convenience sake, the rabbis devised a system called MECHIRAT CHOMETZ – which makes it possible to sell the leavened food to a Gentile neighbor, without removing it from the home, provided that it was all gathered and sealed into a special closet or cupboard. On this form one lists all leaven, the rabbi attest to it and signs it and then is given to a goy.
The Search for Leaven - Is called BEDIKAT CHOMETZ - and takes place on the night before Erev Pesach. To comply with the Torah command that no leaven should be found in the house, a search for crumbs is performed by candlelight with a feather and a little pan. A few crumbs are purposely scattered so that the commandment could be carried out, especially for children.
Burning of the Leaven – On the 14th of Nisan leaven can be eaten until about 11am. But, before noon, a ceremony is performed called BIUR CHOMETZ. In this ceremony the crumbs gathered the previous night are burned to indicate that there is no more leaven in the house.
Fast of the Firstborn - It is a reminder of the plague that killed the firstborn of the Egyptians and it is done by the firstborn except those under 13.
Passover Dishes and Utensils - All kitchen supplies used during the year were to be put away until the Passover festival was concluded. In their place, new dishes, or those kept exclusively for Passover purposes, were used. Silverware and other metal utensils used during the year could be used again provided they were properly cleaned or koshered, i.e., made correct for usage. This could be done by placing the silver in a container and allowing it to boil in hot water. Passover Food - Leavened food - CHOMETZ - is distinguished from unleavened food - MATZOTH - by its method of preparation, must be cooked for no more than 18 minutes. Food that is allowed to ferment is leavened and applies to bread and foodstuff made from the following species of grain: barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt. No leavening may be used in baking - eggs. Foods marked KOSHER SHEL PESACH - PROPER FOR PASSOVER are permitted for Passover use, since they are prepared under the supervision and sanction of rabbis and comply with the laws of Kashruth. The official in charge of such supervision is called a MASHGIACH - OVERSEER.
Passover proper is only one night with a festive meal called the Seder – order — but the Orthodox Jews, by tradition, celebrate it for two nights with the Seder on both. Some do a family Seder on the first night and a Community Seder on the second, but not in Israel, or by the Conservative and the Reformed Jews. By the arrangement of the calendar the Passover Seder cannot fall on Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday night.