What You Need to Know When Passover Arrives on Saturday Night

24 Mar 2008


Every year, Jews around the world anticipate hearing the pivotal four questions at their seder tables: this year they’ll be asking themselves a fifth one: Why is this Passover different from most others?

This year, Passover arrives immediately following Shabbat – a rare occurrence that creates unique circumstances, directly affecting the typical Passover preparations. (You may remember that this last occurred back in 2005. Take heart, it will not recur until 2021.) The key adjustments may sound daunting at first, but taken step by step, they are definitely doable.

On the eve of Passover (14th of Nissan), all firstborn males are required to fast, commemorating the final plague when God killed the firstborn Egyptians, while the firstborn Jews were saved. Since this year this date falls on Shabbat when fasting is not permitted, it will be observed on Thursday, April 17. The fast can be circumvented if the individual participates in a seudat mitzvah, such as a siyum, celebrating the completion of a portion of Torah learning, usually held in the synagogue following the shacharit service.

The search for leaven, known as Bedikat Chametz, will take place on Thursday night, the 13th of Nisan, April 17th. After the search is completed, one recites the Kol Chamira, the nullification declaration for any chametz that may have been missed. This mitzvah is performed with a blessing only if done on this night; if someone is traveling, he or she should conduct the search on the night of departure without reciting the blessing.

After the search is completed, the remaining chametz is carefully collected and put aside to be burned the following morning. Unlike other years, the second Kol Chamira is not said following the burning of the chametz, since chametz may be consumed until Shabbat morning, during the fourth hour.

Arrangements for the sale of chametz to a non-Jew must be made before Shabbat. This transaction won’t go into effect until after Shabbat, making it permissible to eat challah on Shabbat. If someone forgets to sell his chametz before Shabbat, a rabbi should be consulted.

The Shabbat Meals

Chametz may not be consumed after “the fourth hour,” on the eve of Passover, which is approximately 10:40 a.m. in New York City; check the OU Guide to Passover or consult your local Orthodox rabbi for the time in your area. You should cook only kosher for Passover foods for all the meals on this Shabbat and to serve them on Passover dishes. But since some bread must be eaten, here are two ways this can be done:

1. Eat the challah before the meal over a disposable napkin. The napkin with any leftover crumbs should be folded up and completely eliminated from the home (e.g., flushed down the toilet). Make sure to wash your hands before sitting down to the Shabbat meal.

2. Use egg matzah instead of actual challah. But egg matzah is only considered bread when eaten in sufficient quantities. Some rabbinic authorities rule that so long as it is eaten in the context of a filling meal it is considered bread. Because egg matzah is not chametz, there are differing opinions as to until what time it may be eaten on the eve of Passover, so a rabbi should be consulted.

Most synagogues will start Shabbat prayer services very early, leaving sufficient time to finish eating chametz before the end of “the fourth hour.”

Se’udah shlishit (the third meal) is eaten after midday. By that time, chametz, and, according to Ashkenazic practice, also egg matzah, may no longer be eaten. Here are some options:

1. You could omit bread altogether and eat just meat, fish, or fruit.

2. Since cooked matzah is permitted until the 10th hour of the day, the obligation can be fulfilled by eating matzah balls.

3. Rabbi Abraham Abele Gombiner, a leading Torah scholar of the 17th century, author of Magen Avraham, a commentary on the Code of Jewish Law, recommends eating two Shabbat meals with bread in the morning, relying on those opinions that allow the se’udah shlishit to be eaten before midday.

Since we are not permitted to make preparations on Shabbat for Yom Tov, all preparations for the seder (including setting the seder table) should be made after nightfall.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and kosher, joyous Passover!