Pesach Passover

pesach passover

What is Pesach?

Let us first give the usual translation. Pesach, as most folks know, is the Jewish name for Passover. It is called that because G-d “passed over” the homes of the Jews during the historical event of the plague of the first born. It is a holiday that commemorates the Exodus from Egypt, when G-d suspended the usual laws of nature in order to punish the Egyptians and to take the Jews out from their slavery in a miraculous Exodus that would stay imprinted on the world’s conscience forever.

However, there is another meaning to the name Pesach. Peh Sach – the mouth speaks. This is the night when we start our children off on a path of complete trust and faith in G-d. We do so by telling of our history of interacting with G-d and experiencing G-d. Ve’Heegadata Le’vincha – the lesson of chinuch of inspiration has special emphasis on this night.

Did you ever wonder why assimilated Jews, no matter how far they’ve crept away from the true path of our ancestors, will still hold onto Pesach and its Seder? Since children are given the attention they need, since the Seder is all about noticing and interacting with the kids, the lessons from that Seder stay long after the children might leave other religious rites and traditions. If only we were smart enough to take the lessons of Seder night into the year and make sure to give the children the attention and explanations they need to understand our rich tradition, we would ensure that other aspects of Judaism would also be equally imprinted for life.

Peh-Sach – open your mouths this year with praise and stories and lessons for the kids. But, let us remember to keep those lessons flowing, long

preparing for home

Preparing Your Home

Getting Rid of Chametz

Chametz refers to the fermentation of one of five basic grains (wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt). Any time one of these grains comes into contact with water for any length of time above 18 minutes, it is rendered Chometz. Hence, Matza is made, from start to finish, within 18 minutes.

We are forbidden on Pesach to own, find or eat Chometz. Hence, the frenzy before Pesach to get our homes “chametz free.”

Chometz is representative of illusions, imagination, bloated pipe-dreams and ego. It is about the Yetzer Harah – our worst inclinations. Matzah is bare-bones actual reality and the growth that comes from living fully cognizant of reality. Think about it. You have bread and Matzah – they both have equal amounts of flour and water. The bread doesn’t have more of a nutritional oomph to it. Ah, but it inflates itself, doubling, tripling, growing and growing in size, if you let it. Squash out all that inflated air, pop the air-bubbles inside, and your dough goes limp, back to its reality. Matzah doesn’t inflate itself. It is what it is – plain, pure flour and water.

As we remove our physical Chametz from our homes, we are told we must do the same for our emotional and spiritual Chametz forces. We must face ourselves—who are we really, when we take away our puffed-up ego and pride? Stripped of our designer duds and luxury cars, who are we, underneath it all? We must face our reality. Aren’t down-to-earth healthy marriages more stable and enjoyable than what the tinsel of Hollywood has blown into air bubbles that harm our marriages? And then there are the inflated ideas that create fights. So he said that, so what? Does it mean that much? Squash out those growing, festering air from it, and you realize there isn’t that much of a difference between you two. Once you’ve squashed out the Chametz, that is when you see how real you can be…and how great reality can make you become…for by stopping the imagination running away with illusions, we can see our way to G-d.

As Jews, we clean our homes in anticipation of being Chametz free for Pesach. No, you don’t have to whitewash your walls, although in previous times many a household did so. You MUST get rid of all the Chametz, have different dishes and pots just for Pesach and make sure no Chametz will be found in your home or business on Pesach.

First we clean. Focus on places you will be using extensively. Make sure your eating area is well-done.

After cleaning is all done, we can do something called Mecheeras Chametz. We can sell all Chametz we don’t want to destroy so that ownership is moved from us to a non-Jew for the duration of Pesach. In the contract, we get a buy-back clause, allowing the non-Jew to sell us back our Chametz after Pesach. The transaction is done by a rabbi on your behalf.

Then, after cleaning, after arranging for the sale of those things we would like to not destroy, the next step in getting rid of our Chametz is called Bee’ur & Bee’tul. The night before Pesach, we go on a Chametz hunt. We search our homes to make sure we’ve really made it Chametz-free. We declare that any Chometz still left behind is null and void, ownerless and not ours. The next morning, Erev Yom Tov, we burn any Chametz we had found the previous night, and do the declaration again.

In order that the search for Chametz (which includes a Bracha) not be for nothing, the custom is for ten pieces of chametz to be put out prior to the search so that when looking for that Chametz, ten bits are found. Bedikas Chametz instructions and Brachos.

Homes now Chametz-free, it is time to head to the crux of Pesach, which is the Seder.

Seder Night

Seder Night

What, Why and How

Seder, in literal translation, means order. There is an “order” to the night’s flow of tradition on the first two nights of Pesach. A 15-step program is set up for us to follow. The 15-step program is steps toward spirituality. In fact, in the Bais HaMikdash, there were 15 steps leading to the Holies. You see, in spiritual growth, just like in physical manifestations, there are ways to get someplace. It is not a big leap from point A to point B. It is a gradual ascension. You want to become someone great? Take the time to take the steps towards that greatness. We start off with Kadesh – with sanctification and purpose. We end with Nirtzah – with being beloved by G-d.

The first thing we do Pesach night is set the stage for what will be the discussions. Visual props for our teaching lessons. We are going to teach ourselves and our children, and visual teaching tools are put into place. We do this by setting up a Seder Plate that will be prominent on the table and show us what the night is all about.

Seder Plate: The Seder Plate is set up with three Matzas below a plate. The plate has six sections. There is a Zeroah, a shankbone (some folks use a chicken wing), that is roasted which is to remind us of the Pesach Karban, the Paschal lamb. There is Baytzah, an egg, that symbolizes the sacrifices brought in the times of the Temple. Them comes Marror, the bitter herbs. Charoses is a mixture made of wine, nuts, apples and ginger and made to look like mortar to remind us of the bricks made for the pyramids. Karpas is a bit of vegetable (often potato or celery is used). And the bottom place is for Chazeres – also bitter herbs. There are different customs and traditions how to place these items, but here is a link to the layout of your Seder plate according to the most widely used customs. The Seder Plate

Kadesh

we make the Kiddush of the night and drink Cup 1 of the 4 Cups of Wine

Urchatz

we wash our hands (and do NOT make a blessing)

Karpas

we take a bit of vegetable (such as boiled potato or a piece of celery) and we dip it into saltwater and say the blessing on the vegetable,

Yachatz

We break the “middle matzah” the second Matza in the pile of three Matzos. Half gets hidden away to become the Afikomin

wine

Magid

We recount the history of going into Egypt, starting with Father Yaakov and tell the story of how the miracles unfolded of G-d saving us. And we drink the 2nd of the 4 cups of wine.

Rachtzah

Rachtzah

We wash our hands again. This time we DO say the blessing Al Netilas Yadayim

Motzee

We say the blessing on the Matzah

Matzah

Matzah

We eat the Matzah

bitter herbs dipped in the Charoses

Marror

We eat the bitter herbs dipped in the Charoses

Koraych

We make a “sandwich” of matzah and marror

Shulchan Oraych

Shulchan Oraych

We have a wonderful festive Holiday meal

Tzafun

Tzafun

We “find” the Afikomin that was hidden away previously and eat it

Baraych

Baraych

We say the Birchas HaMazon, the Grace After Meals, and drink our 3rd Cup of Wine

Hallel

Hallel

We sing songs of praise and thanks to Hashem and drink the last of the 4 cups of wine.

Neertzah

Neertzah

We’ve gotten to the high point where we are spiritually elevated and beloved by G-d.

We are told Torah learning is a Pardes, a beautiful orchard. The letters of Pardes hint to the dimensions of each verse of Torah. There is the Pey which refers to Pshat – literal translation. Every verse in Torah has a literal translation. So, if it says, “and Avraham journeyed,” we know that literally Avraham journeyed. Then there is the next layer, the Raysh which alludes to Remez, the hints in the Torah. Torah verses hint at Oral Law and, at times, at events in history of Jewish  waiting to unfold. The next layer in Torah meaning is Daled – Drash, the deeper emotional and spiritual understandings in the verse. And the last layer is Samech which indicates Sod, the Kabbalah, hidden abstract/mystical meaning to the verse.

The word Seder incorporates three of those letters, but leaves one out. There is the Samech indicating Sod –telling us our Pesach Seder is redolent with high mystical meaning. There is the Daled signifying Drash that tells us that every step of the Seder night has deep emotional and spiritual understandings. There is the also the Raysh for Remez which alerts us there are hints and innuendos to future events yet to come for our people. But where is the Pshat – where is the literal aspect to the Seder?

The answer, my worthy friends, is WE are the Pshat on Seder night. We go through literal motions to set all the other things into place. We literally eat the Matzah. We literally drink the wine. We are the actual verse in its simple translation.

This Seder (and onward in our life) we must never forget it is we who often are asked to put the literal into being by doing the commandments. And through our being so literal, we put into motion real significant deep and mystical forces. Never shirk your duty of doing the actual literal — for, through it, so much more is put into play.

Pesach, Matza and Marror

We are told that at the Seder, the crux of the night is to remember to talk about PESACH, MATZAH and MAROR. If you don’t mention these three items and don’t explain these three items, you haven’t fulfilled your obligations of the night of Pesach. Pesach is about G-d saving us which was, in the times of the Temple, commemorated by the eating of the Paschal lamb. Matzah reminds us of the speed in which the miracles unfolded to get us out of that situation. Our Exodus was so quick, we had no time to bake bread. And Maror?! What is that doing here with those two – Maror is a symbol of the bitterness and suffering. Why is that lumped together with Pesach and Matzah…and why does it come last in the order of things?

Well, my friend, it is hard to know that at the time of suffering, but when we get past a crisis, we often do not regret having had to go through that pain. We often feel that the pain and challenges have made us better people, deeper emotional creatures, and able to appreciate the good times that much more. Therefore, after all is said and done, after the redemption of our people, we are thankful for the Maror, too.

Which brings me to a delightful old Yiddish song that talks about a lesson a Zeide taught his Jewish grandchild. The song, (in a nutshell but not an exact translation), says, ‘My grandfather Reb Yisroel told me…they kicked out the Jew from land to land and he took along his fiddle. When the heart hurts he takes “the Yidde’le, his fiddel’le, and plays a liddele/song with a lot of feeling. The fiddel’le tells that life is but a play.” And the fiddle goes on to tell him, “that Simchos [happy occasions] will yet be by the Jews and that the Jews will never disappear.”

“From here to there,” the fiddle goes on speaking from place to place, carrying the song of Jews in Diaspora and in every location.

That is the message, my folks, of the Maror, that even in the bitterest times, we carry the song, knowing we will rejoice again, someday, no matter what. As the song says, “let all our enemies know, Am Yisrael Chai!” We are alive, grateful for all our past challenges, for that is what has forged us into a beautiful people.

It is called post-trauma growth. After hard times, we often grow greater and more confident. That is why we put the Marror last, it is only after Pesach and Matza, after the redemption, that we can appreciate having gone through the hard times, too.

Download a printable version of The Pesach Haggadah

Pesach with the Rebbe of Belz

Pesach in Belz is an experience that gets engraved into the hearts and souls of anyone there and continues to inspire for many years even when celebrating the Yom Tov in another place. Witnessing age-old traditions makes one step back in time, back to the original shtetl, where life centered around Jewish tradition in the most meaningful ways.

Thousands of chasidim spend the special days of Pesach with the Rebbe. Many of them live in Yerushalayim close to the rebbe. However, many others will travel from other cities in Israel and from many other countries around the world to spend the holiday with the Rebbe Jerusalem sees an influx of committed Jews traveling to experience spirituality at the Center of the Universe.
There are also thousands of students studying in the Yeshivas who stay in Yerushalayim for Pesach to be close to the Rebbe. After all, even the most ancient of our Haggados tell the tale of the Sages of Israel teaching faith and Pesach thoughts well into the night, surrounded by their students. Here in Belz, too, the Torah scholars, sit and drink in words of Torah learning and of Emunah on Pesach.

We’ve created a pictorial, so our esteemed website viewer can also “take the journey” to Jerusalem to experience Pesach in Belz.

  • Kimcha De’pischa

    Pesach preparations start from Rosh Chodesh Nisan. In these days the Rebbe actually goes collecting to raise fund for the Kimcha D’Pischa fund which will provide food, clothing and other financial health for families that are struggling, to enable them to enjoy Pesach.

    There is a huge food distribution in the courtyard of the Rebbe’s house the week before Pesach. Similar food distributions take place in cities throughout Israel, where the needy can come and pick up food for their families.

    1. Kimcha De’pischa
  • Kimcha De’pischa

    Pesach preparations start from Rosh Chodesh Nisan. In these days the Rebbe actually goes collecting to raise fund for the Kimcha D’Pischa fund which will provide food, clothing and other financial health for families that are struggling, to enable them to enjoy Pesach.

    There is a huge food distribution in the courtyard of the Rebbe’s house the week before Pesach. Similar food distributions take place in cities throughout Israel, where the needy can come and pick up food for their families.

    Kimcha De’pischa
  • Mayim Shelanu

    In preparation to the baking the matzos on Erev Pesach, the Rebbe will prepare the water used for baking the matzos. There is a large well built in the courtyard of the Big Shul for this purpose and after Mincha thousand of chasidim will join the rebbe outside and watch the water being prepared. Then, with songs and dancing, the water is carried to the Matza bakery ocated in the basement of the Shul building. (And if you want the reason for the great joy, the dancing with hearts full of simcha, it is Chassidic thought that the sins previously thrown into water during the Ten Days of Repentance, are now taken out and converted into merits, wonderful Zechuyos.)

     

     

    3. Mayim Shelanu
  • Burning the Chametz

    The Rebbe will then go out to the street in front of his house where a fire has been burning since the morning and will throw the leftover chametz into it. Along with the Chametz, the remains of the Lulav from Sukkos, and the wicks of the candles lit on Shabbos and Chanuka are also burnt with the chametz. After the chametz has been completely burnt the Rebbe says “Kol Chamura” with great emotion, and a small Dvar Torah.

    Burning the Chametz
  • Bedikas Chametz

    Later on in the evening, a small group of chasidim will join the Rebbe while Bedikas Chametz is done. (There is a great inspiration of teshuva for all those present, as the searching and removal of Chametz refers to the removal of the Yetzer Hara from one’s heart). The Rebbe makes the Brachos and searches for the chametz in a few rooms in his house. Then other chasidim will spread out over the 10 floors of the huge Shul complex and complete the search. After everyone has returned, the Rebbe conducts a L’chaim and says a Dvar torah about Bedikas Chametz and preparing for Pesach.

    Bedikas Chametz
  • Bedikas Chametz

    Later on in the evening, a small group of chasidim will join the Rebbe while Bedikas Chametz is done. (There is a great inspiration of teshuva for all those present, as the searching and removal of Chametz refers to the removal of the Yetzer Hara from one’s heart). The Rebbe makes the Brachos and searches for the chametz in a few rooms in his house. Then other chasidim will spread out over the 10 floors of the huge Shul complex and complete the search. After everyone has returned, the Rebbe conducts a L’chaim and says a Dvar torah about Bedikas Chametz and preparing for Pesach.

    Bedikas Chametz 2
  • Siyum Bechorim

    Erev Pesach is one of the busiest day of the year in every Jewish household. The day in Belz starts early. Right after Shacharis, the Rebbe and his family members will make a siyum and eat the last Chametz meal before Pesach, finishing right before Sof Zeman Achilas Chametz, the latest time allowed for the consumption of Chametz.

    Siyum Bechorim
  • Selling the Chametz

    Then one of the Dayanim will come to the Rebbe’s house with the non-Jew who will buy the chametz of the Belz community in Yerushalayim.

    Selling the Chametz
  • Baking Matzos

    After midday the Rebbe will come join his chassidim who are baking the Matzos Mitzva which will be used for the Seder. There is a special custom of the Belz Rebbes to wear a white Bekeshe (chassidic long-coat) during matza baking on Erev Pesach. The rebbe will do a bit of each part of the matza baking process. During the baking, the rebbe leads the chasidim in the saying of Hallel with great devotion. (Those present with the Rebbe have the feeling they are reenacting the preparations for the Korban Pesach that was done in the times of the Temple.)

    Baking Matzos
  • Baking Matzos

    After midday the Rebbe will come join his chassidim who are baking the Matzos Mitzva which will be used for the Seder. There is a special custom of the Belz Rebbes to wear a white Bekeshe (chassidic long-coat) during matza baking on Erev Pesach. The rebbe will do a bit of each part of the matza baking process. During the baking, the rebbe leads the chasidim in the saying of Hallel with great devotion. (Those present with the Rebbe have the feeling they are reenacting the preparations for the Korban Pesach that was done in the times of the Beis Hamikdash.)

    Baking Matzos 2
  • Baking Matzos

    After midday the Rebbe will come join his chassidim who are baking the Matzos Mitzva which will be used for the Seder. There is a special custom of the Belz Rebbes to wear a white Bekeshe (chassidic long-coat) during matza baking on Erev Pesach. The rebbe will do a bit of each part of the matza baking process. During the baking, the rebbe leads the chasidim in the saying of Hallel with great devotion. (Those present with the Rebbe have the feeling they are reenacting the preparations for the Korban Pesach that was done in the times of the Temple.)

    Baking Matzos 3
  • Seder Night (Part 1)

    When night falls, many thousands of chasidim fill up the huge shul and the Rebbe leads the uplifting Tefila and Hallel. Afterwards the Rebbe goes up on the steps of the majestic Aron Kodesh and wishes all chasidim A Gut Yomtov (Chag Sameach), and the crowd disperses to begin their family Seder.

    The thousands of students who have come to spend Pesach with the Rebbe all run to their pre-assigned places in a huge hall that has been beautifully set up with and is brightly lit. Every place on the Parenches (multi-level bleachers) comes set with all needed for the Seder from the wine and Matzos to the Simanim, Karpas, Maror, etc. A hush falls as the Rebbe and his family enter the Seder hall. The Rebbe’s face is aglow with holiness and he is wearing a white Kitel (which is worn to resemble the Angels, whose level of Kedusha we ascend to while doing the Seder).The Rebbe calls on one of his younger grandchildren to recite “Kadesh”, (the first of the 15 parts of the Seder) with the customary Yiddish translation and and the Seder is started. >>>

    Seder Night 1
  • Seder Night (Part 2)

    As the Seder progresses and the Story of the Haggadah is being recited, the Rebbe expounds with short words of explanation and encouragement. The words of the Haggadah are alive and everyone feels the Yetzias Mizrayim in their personal way as it is happened right now.  These holy moments are a once in a lifetime experience and it stays etched in the hearts of all those present for the rest of their lives.

    Among those present are also many Balei Teshuva  who dont have any religous family and during the Seder the Rebbe will also speak in Hebrew so they can also understand. The Rebbe’s Seder is also know for the many salvations that people have merited from the Rebbe’s blessings during these holy hours. During the Seder those in need of Children, Refua or Shidduchim  will approach the Rebbe for a blessing.

    Just before midnight the Rebbe will eat the Matza and Marror and the Yom Tov meal and right afterward the Afikoman. Everything done and every food eaten during the Seder is according to the Minhag (Custom) of the previous Rebbes of Belz and there is much to learn from every small movement during this holy time. Before “Barech” (Birchat Hamazon) the Rebbe leaves the hall and the crowd goes to another large hall where they are served a special Yomtov meal. >>>

    Seder Night 2
  • Seder Night (Part 3)

    About 2 hours later the Rebbe returns for the last part of the Seder. By this time many families in the area have finished their Sedarim and are also able to join the Rebbe’s seder. A particularly emotional moment is when the door is opened for Eliyahu Hanavi. The Rebbe sheds many tears at this time and prays for the well-being of all Jews around the world.  In a heartfelt prayer, he begs we should merit seeing Eliyahu Hanavi speedily with the coming of Mashiach. At this time, those present also close their eyes and pray for themselves and their families, and for the many things they might need. Hallel is a highlight of the Seder and it can take many hours while the Rebbe speaks about the great miracles and wonders that Hashem has done and continuously does for us, for which we have to always be grateful.

    The closing of the Seder is a special Rikud (dance) which can last for a long time as all present express their happiness and joy of experiencing the Yetzias Mitzrayim with such holiness. By the time the Seder has been completed it is already in the wee hours of the morning, but the hearts are uplifted and the spirits are high. It feels as the last hours have been spent in another lofty world, far from  the reality of our normal world. This feeling has a long lasting effect  and is remembered forever.

    This year, you had a glimpse of Pesach in Jerusalem.  May it be His will that we all will celebrate in the rebuilt Jerusalem!

    Seder Night 3