Friday, August 27, 2010

Rosh Hashana Liturgy

Q: Dear Rabbi,

I have a few questions regarding piyutim (liturgical poems added to the prayer service on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur).

Where did the Minhag of saying Piyutim come from? Are Sephardim obligated to recite piyutim, or can they choose to study Torah after the prayers instead of continuing with Piyutim? If they are so important, why are they not officially incorporated into the service?

Correct me if I am wrong, but the custom of singing Piyutim is relatively new (few hundred years) and there seems to be no mention among the Rishonim (early post-Talmudic Rabbis) of such a custom. Furthermore, it seems in some instances to interfere with the structure of Yom Tov (the Holiday) as outlined by our Rabbis - namely, that half the day should be devoted to study and prayer, and the other half to eating and drinking (Chetzi L'shem/Chetzi L'Chem)?

The reason I ask these questions is because our minyan tends to be quicker than most and we have chosen to leave out many of the Piyutim because the small crowd of individuals would rather learn Torah as opposed to sing. I concede that there are ideas in the Piyutim but not necessarily easy ones to understand. Further, I believe many people's time can be better spent learning a subject than chanting drawn out melodies.

Ideally, ignoring community and political issues, what would be a better way to spend your Rosh Hashana - have a few hours hours of prayer and then learn Torah for a few more, or have prayers that lead directly up to (and for most) past midday, thus forfeiting the Torah study and beginning the festivities later than we are supposed to.

Thanks very much for your time. There are very few Sephardic rabbis that I have encountered who are willing to discuss this important issues open mindedly instead of just telling me it is Minhag (custom) and you can't ask questions.


A: Dear R.H.,

There is no halakhic (legal) obligation to say piyutim, and an individual may technically learn Torah during this time as long as he does so in a manner that will not cause offense to the community, but I believe there is great value in the recitation of piyutim - the rabbis who composed them were great thinkers and scholars who wrote them for good reason. Many of the ideas they convey are profound and I find that they deepen my appreciation of and immersion in the themes of the holidays.

The custom of reciting piyutim in the services is actually quite ancient. Rambam references them in his Moreh Nevuchim (Guide for the Perplexed), as does Ibn Ezra in his commentary to Qohelet. Ibn Ezra himself composed lots of piyutim with the intention of having them incorporated in the liturgy of Shabbat and Holidays, and his father was one of the most renowned paytanim (liturgical poets) in history. Rabbi Yehuda Halevi was an outstanding Paytan as was Rabbi Shelomo Ibn Gabirol. Rabbenu Bahya quotes stanzas from famous piyutim in Hovot Halevavot. Rabbi Yosef Ibn Migash, who was the Rambam's father Maimon's teacher, has a responsum in which he states that the inclusion of piyutim in the holiday liturgy is an old and universally accepted custom. Rav Saadiah Gaon, even earlier in history, includes piyutim in his siddur, and states that he has selected what were in his opinion the best ones (he implies there were many many others that had been composed and were in circulation in various communities). One of the classic piyutim in the Sephardic tradition - shema qoli asher yishma - was written by Rav Hai Gaon himself. And these are just the references and citations that I recall off the top of my head!

In short, the presence of piyutim in the liturgy, and halakhic give-and-take about the best texts to use, when to say them and when to omit them (for example, the question of whether to incorporate them into the repetitition of the silent Amidah or say them afterward), etc., are nothing new - they predate us by well over a millenium, perhaps 1500 years.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are days designated for achieving the mental state of Lifne Hashem - standing before God - so as to facilitate genuine repentance and refocus us on our purpose in life. This is why prayer is the central mitsvah practiced on both of the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) - the specific features of the holidays, blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashana and Confession on Yom Kippur, are literally embedded in the prayer service.

The reason for the link between repentance and prayer is a fundamental one. Prayer is essentially defined as "standing before God" and is inextricably tied to repentance, which the Rambam describes as "returning before God". In other words, the objective of repentance is to regain clarity as to our place in the Universe, deepen our awareness of our current stage of personal and communal development or lack thereof, and a increase our sense of resolve and commitment to live up to our ideals in the future - and these themes are what genuine prayer is all about! This differs from study of Torah in the sense that learning is the process of discovering the universal principles of knowledge and wisdom, while prayer is reflection on the implications of those principles for your own life.

The two mitsvot - study and prayer - operate hand in hand and complement one another. Torah study enables us to comprehend the ideas that we proceed to apply to the particulars of personal experience through prayer. And of course, repentance is more about realizing the ideals of Torah in the realia of my specific lifestyle than about understanding what those ideals should be - the latter is a prelude and prerequisite to meaningful repentance!

While I share your intellectual bent and emphasis on Torah study as the ultimate value, I am extremely skeptical about whether learning a piece of Talmud - generally a rather detached and abstract pursuit - would bring you to the level of personal awareness engendered by thoughtful prayer. This would be like learning through a complex and technical commentary on the Talmud on Tisha B'av instead of reading the graphic and very moving Kinnot (Elegies) - there might be intellectual progress in the sense of abstract understanding about the fast day observances, but no personal recognition of the loss and destruction that would eventuate in an emotional experience of mourning. And while knowledge per se is valuable, if it is disconnected from individual experience it is not likely to move a person to a higher level of perfection.

The processes of learning and praying are fundamentally different, and piyutim were added to the liturgy to provide support and enhancement to the prayer experience which is the cornerstone of the High Holidays. And in this case, yes, prayer is more fundamental than learning, which should be completed as preparation before the holiday. As the Rabbis say, it would be praiseworthy for a person to pray all day long, assuming that he possesses the knowledge and understanding he needs to "stand in the presence of the Creator" in an authentic manner.

Best Regards,


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Potpourri of Questions About Judaism


Q: Dear Rabbi,

Hi! I’m not Jewish, so I haven’t asked questions of a Rabbi before today. But for a long time there have been things I’ve been really wanting to know about Judaism.

Here are six questions I REALLY want to know the answer to. If you could help me, I’d really appreciate it.

1. Judaism is big on regularly-occuring holidays and observances that mark and/or remember various events in Jewish history (e.g. Passover, Hanukkah, Lag b’Omer). But Jewish history has been continuing even up to this day, and has included even more recent events that maybe are as significant as anything else in the history of the Jewish population – such as the Holocaust, or the founding of Israel as a modern nation state. So: why are the pre-existing holidays and observances the only ones considered “official” (if that’s the case)? Is it that those are the ones that are from the Bible? Is it that Judaism has already decided that the pre-existing holidays and observances are the only ones they’ll ever need? Is there any process by which other holidays and/or observances can become as an “official” part of the Jewish calendar as those that are already there?

2. The Hebrew alphabet has some uncommonly-used letters that have dot-markings close to them; perhaps I’m wrong, but I’m of the understanding that these are used to write out the Bible. Is this true? Are those letters ever used in writing out anything else? Do they have any religious significance? Would it be an offense to use them to write out anything mundane, such as a shopping list? Also (because my own name is Adam) I’d like to know: Is the name “Adam” written out in the Bible differently (like, using those letters) than it would be for any non-religious writing?

3. In the Bible, in Leviticus chapter 14, there are instructions about what is to be done if a Jewish person spots mold in their house and points it out to a Jewish cleric; that cleric is to inspect it and make a determination about the cleanliness (or not) of that dwelling. Is this still done nowadays? Do Jewish clerics still have mold-inspection as one of their tasks?

4. In the Bible, in Deuteonomy 13:6-10, it is instructed that anyone, (even a close relative), who suggests that you go along with them in serving other gods (other than the god of Judaism) is to be killed for making that suggestion. Jewish people don’t enact such a punishment anymore (not even in Israel, as far as I know) - why not? Not that I think such a punishment is at all a good idea (I’m more for unfettered freedom of religion for adults), but I want to know: What is the reason that Jewish people don’t do this anymore? Do they think it’s an old-fashioned idea, fit only for an ancient time? Do they simply think it’s a bad idea, or at least that allowing freedom of religion among adults is a better one? Are they simply conforming to current civic laws?

5. All the unleavened bread eaten during Passover that I’ve ever known to be used is of a dry, crispy kind, like a large cracker. Is this just a cultural thing, it being that it’s dry and crispy like a cracker? Is there any other kind of unleavened bread, such as one that is soft and pliable (were it even possible to bake such a thing) that would be acceptable to use during Passover?

6. Do Jewish people who permanently reside in Jerusalem say, at the end of the Seders they hold there, “Next year in Jerusalem.”?

Thank you for any help you might give me with this!

Adam S.


A: Dear Adam,

These are all excellent questions and I will do my best to answer them.

1. Although Jewish holidays all have an historical basis, the historical events that precipitated them represent stages or aspects of human development as well. For example, Passover is a commemoration of the Exodus, but we do not look at the Exodus merely as a specific set of events that took place at a specific point in time. Rather, it is representative of the notion of freeing oneself from the bondage of artificial human culture, expectations, ideologies and values in order to follow the principles of God's wisdom. This is really the first stage in any thinking person's growth - extricating himself from the physical and intellectual bondage that human society places upon him. Then he is ready to discover true ideas and the path of wisdom - not the ideas he is indoctrinated with, or that "everyone else" believes or accepts - in order to secure the most satisfying and enriching life for himself. This is commemorated on Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah, which is celebrated seven weeks after Passover. Finally, an individual must take the abstract understanding he has developed and transform his lifestyle in accordance with it, finding security not in the approval of human beings but in his knowledge that he is living in line with God's will, i.e., knowledge and wisdom. This is represented by Sukkot, which commemorates how the Israelites dwelled in the wilderness (and eventually settled in the Holy Land) in a manner that was utterly unconventional because it did not fit the accepted fashions of human civilization.

This is why we do not believe that, after the Bible, any truly official holiday can be created. Since the holidays are rooted in the nature of humanity, and the cycle of the holidays is designed to inspire us to continually revisit and refine our passage through these specific stages of development, there is no room for extra "mere commemorations" on our calendar. Purim and Hanukkah are exceptional in the sense that Purim is considered the conclusion of the Biblical saga of the war against the Amalekites and the completion of the embrace of the Torah by the Jews, and Hanukkah teaches that Judaism will survive regardless of the profound level of assimilation to which the Jews themselves might sink. Again, though, these events are remembered not just because they are interesting occurrences in our past, but because they represent fundamental ideas that we must review and reflect upon, year after year.

2. I am not sure exactly what you are referring to in your question about the alphabet. The letters are always the same, although when writing scrolls of Scripture we use a special kind of script, like calligraphy, and we omit the vowel points. In normal books a different form of script is utilized and vowel points are sometimes included.

3. This is a description of a supernatural phenomenon called "tsaraat", not mold. The Bible describes certain afflictions of garments, homes and skin that God would bring upon the people to make them aware of certain moral or ethical issues that required their attention and correction. Generally speaking, the terms "purity" and "impurity" are misnomers. In the Torah, these classifications mean "allowed to enter the Holy Temple/fit for a holy purpose" or "not allowed to enter/not fit", and are not a commentary on the physical goodness or badness of anything, although these terms are occasionally borrowed to refer to moral fitness/unfitness. The priest determines whether the discoloration of the person, garment or wall meets the criteria that indicate that it is in fact legally significant for these purposes - in other words, whether dwelling in that house, wearing that garment, etc., would render a person temporarily forbidden to enter the Temple or have contact with sacrificial offerings. We do not practice this today, since observance of the laws of purity and impurity is only relevant when the Holy Temple is in existence. Furthermore, these divine manifestations only occurred when the Jews lived in Israel and at a very high spiritual level, such that they would actually serve as inspiration for reflection and self improvement. Nowadays, they would not achieve this objective.

4. Capital punishment was only allowed (very rarely) under the auspices of the Sanhedrin - High Rabbinical Courts - during the times of the Temple. Nowadays we do not have rabbis who are qualified to judge such cases, thus we do not have courts qualified to administer such punishment. Judaism views idolatry as the worst evil for mankind, because it promotes the belief that the physical and material is the ultimate reality. This leads people to veer away from the intellectual and the abstract toward the superficial and the concrete, and undermines the development of individuals and civilizations. Without conviction in the notion that there is an abstract, metaphysical reality beyond the senses that can be apprehended by the mind alone, we would have no science, no philosophy, no principles of ethics or morality. In short, we would be primitive cavemen practicing superstition, astrology, etc., with no future.

5. Yes, such unleavened bread exists, and is generally found among Jews of Middle Eastern descent, although the average American Jew has probably never encountered it. I love it and make sure to have some on hand every Passover.

6. Yes, because "Next Year In Jerusalem" is not a reference to a physical location. It means that we hope that, by next year, our society will achieve the level of perfection and sense of direction that is represented by the ideal Jerusalem - a society devoted to the pursuit of wisdom, justice, and compassion above all other values. We hope that our celebration of Passover will be just one part of an ongoing communal/global process of intellectual and moral growth that is illuminated by the truth of the Torah. This is symbolized by the notion of being "in Jerusalem", i.e., living in the Messianic era and fulfilling the commandments as they were meant to be practiced.

I hope you find these answers helpful in your quest for knowledge.

Best Regards,

Rabbi Maroof

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Laws of Pesah 5770

Once again, I am happy to present this brief guide to the Laws of Pesah, revised and updated for 5770. Because of difficulties with GooglePages, the PDF is not currently available online. However, I can certainly email you a copy upon request.

As always, feel free to send me any comments, questions or other feedback you may have.

קיצור הלכות פסח
Essential Laws of Pesah by Rabbi J. Maroof

איסור החמץ - The Prohibition of Hametz

1. On Pesah we are not permitted to eat or to possess any hametz. This includes any food product that contains one of the five grains (wheat, barley, oats, rye or spelt) or one of their many derivatives, unless it has been properly supervised for Pesah use.

2. In addition to the prohibition of eating and possessing hametz, the Torah prohibits us to benefit from it in any way. Therefore, we may not sell it, present it as a gift or feed it to any animals on Pesah.

3. Containers of condiments and spreads like butter, cream cheese and fruit preserves that have been opened and used with hametz should be thrown out and new ones purchased for Pesah.

4. Since spices, oils and other additives are sometimes poured directly into a pot over the fire and may have absorbed hametz from its steam, one should purchase new, unopened ones for Pesah. However, the old ones do not need to be thrown out or sold, just put away.

5. The prohibition of hametz also requires us to treat all of the pots, pans, utensils and other cookware that have been used with hametz as non-Kosher for Pesah use.

6. In addition to the restriction on eating actual hametz, Ashkenazim also refrain from eating kitniyot (‘legumes’, such as rice, corn, and beans) during Pesah. However, they are permitted to possess kitniyot and may utilize pots, pans, dishes and utensils that have been used with kitniyot.

7. The restriction on kitniyot only applies to foods that are primarily made up of kitniyot. Food products that contain less than fifty percent kitniyot AND in which the kitniyot are not recognizable, like soft drinks that contain corn syrup, are permitted even for Ashkenazim on Pesah.

8. Sephardim who are accustomed not to eat kitniyot during Pesah may discontinue their custom if they want to. Ideally, they should ‘annul’ the custom before a Jewish court (bet din).

9. Nowadays, Sephardim who eat kitniyot such as rice that are packaged commercially are not obligated to check them for traces of hametz because the companies that prepare these products have already purified them. However, if one happens to find a grain of hametz mixed in with rice, it must be removed. If one has already cooked the rice, consult a Rabbi about how to proceed (many factors are involved).

10. Sephardim are permitted to eat ‘egg matza’ on Pesah, provided that it is prepared under proper supervision. Ashkenazim only allow egg matza for the sick and elderly who cannot digest regular matza.

11. Some authorities permit both kitniyot and egg matza even for Ashkenazim on Erev Pesah.

12. Items that are not edible, such as shoe polish, aluminum foil, glue, cosmetics, toiletries, shampoos and medicines do not need to be kosher for Pesah (or in general), because they are not foods. Pet food, however, must be kosher for Pesah, because it is considered an edible item.

13. The prohibition of eating hametz will begin on the eve of Pesah – Monday, March 29th - in Rockville, Maryland at 11:08 AM this year (in NYC, 10:56 AM). The prohibition to possess, sell or otherwise benefit from hametz will begin at 12:11 PM (in NYC, 11:59 AM).

בדיקת חמץ- The Search for Hametz

1. On the night before Pesah begins – this year, Sunday, March 28th - every Jew is required to search their property for any hametz. The search should be a genuine, serious inspection for hametz, not a ritualistic walk through the house with a feather and a candle.

2. The search for hametz should begin twenty minutes after sunset or as soon as possible thereafter.

3. Before the search, we recite the appropriate beracha (found either in the Haggada or Pesah prayerbook) and proceed to inspect all areas that we may have brought hametz into during the year. This includes our homes, cars, offices, coat pockets, etc.

4. A flashlight should be used during the search so that one can inspect all of the necessary areas with sufficient lighting.

5. There is no need for ‘spring cleaning’ during the search for hametz. One should concentrate on finding substantial pieces of hametz (like a cookie or pretzel) rather than sweeping up crumbs. If there is extra time, removing even smaller bits of hametz is an enhancement of the mitzvah.

6. After the search for hametz, one should gather all the hametz one intends to save for dinner or breakfast and keep it in one place.

7. When the search for hametz is concluded, one must say the nullification of hametz (‘bittul hametz’) formula found in the Haggada or Mahazor. The nullification statement is repeated in a slightly different form in the morning, right after one destroys or eats the last of one’s hametz.

8. If one is going away for the holiday before the night of the search but is leaving less than a month before Pesah one must conduct a proper search for hametz without a beracha on the last night that one is still home. One should recite the nighttime ‘bittul hametz’ formula immediately after the search, but should wait until erev Pesah to make the daytime “bittul” statement.

ערב פסח - The Eve of Pesah

1. On the eve of Pesah – this year, Monday, March 29th - it is prohibited to eat matza, so that the matza eaten at the seder will be special. Egg matza is permitted for Sephardim as well as for those Ashkenazim who are lenient in this matter on Erev Pesah.

2. It is customary that every firstborn male fasts on the eve of Pesah. The fast may be broken if one attends a ‘Siyum Masechet’, a celebration held when somebody completes the study of an entire tractate of the Talmud.

3. Where possible, first born females should attend the Siyum as well, since many authorities maintain that they are also obligated to fast.

4. One is not permitted to begin work projects that are very involved after midday on Erev Pesah so that one can fully devote one’s energy to preparing for the seder.

5. Beginning about two and a half hours before sunset on Erev Pesah, one is not permitted to eat the equivalent of a meal (even of egg matza), so that he/she will be hungry enough to enjoy dining at the seder. Snacks of fruits and vegetables are permitted.

ערוב תבשילין - Eruv Tavshilin

1. On Yom Tov, it is prohibited to make preparations for any other day. Therefore, When Yom Tov falls on a Friday we are required to create an Eruv Tavshilin in order to permit us to prepare for Shabbat. The Eruv must be prepared before the holiday begins.

2. The Eruv Tavshilin is made by taking a cooked dish (like a hard boiled egg) and a piece of matza and then reciting the beracha and declaration written in the machzor or haggada.

3. It is preferable to recite the Eruv declaration in a language that one understands.

4. When Yom Tov falls out on a Thursday and Friday, preparations for Shabbat may only be made on Friday, despite the fact that the Eruv was created on Wednesday.

5. When preparing for Shabbat on Yom Tov, one should complete one’s preparations early in the afternoon so that it is not obvious that one is using Yom Tov to prepare for Shabbat.

6. It is customary to eat the Eruv Tavshilin at Seudah Shelishit on Shabbat.

הכשר כלים - Kashering Vessels

1. Many people keep separate sets of cookware and utensils for Pesah use. If, however, one wishes to use one’s year-round kitchenware for Pesah, it must first undergo a process of ‘kashering’. In order to avoid complications, it is best to complete this process before hametz becomes prohibited (i.e., before 11:08 AM on March 29th this year).

2. Only metal, stone, wood and plastic vessels can be kashered. Items made from earthenware, such as china, cannot be kashered.

3. Sephardim do not require any kashering for glass and Pyrex vessels and are permitted to use them after a thorough cleaning. Ashkenazim treat these items like earthenware and prohibit their use for Pesah unless they have been used exclusively with cold food.

4. The method used to kasher an item is always based on the way in which the item is used. A vessel that is used for cooking liquidy substances, such as a pot, should be kashered by boiling water in it and then dropping a hot rock or hot piece of metal into it so that it boils over on all sides. Utensils such as soup ladles and carving knives that are placed directly into hot pots are kashered by completely submerging them in a pot filled with boiling water. Serving platters and strainers that have food poured onto them from hot pots are generally kashered in this way as well.

5. After kashering a vessel with boiling water, it is customary to rinse the item off with cold water.

6. Customs differ with regard to kashering vessels that are used for eating hot food but have no direct contact with hot cookware (for example, forks, spoons, knives, etc.) Sephardim may kasher these utensils by cleaning them thoroughly and then running them through a regular cycle in a kosher-for-Pesah dishwasher. Ashkenazim require all vessels that come into contact with hot food to be kashered through placement in a pot of boiling hot water.

7. According to Ashkenazic practice, a vessel must be left unused for 24 hours before being purged with boiling water for Pesah use. Sephardim are only required to observe this stringency in two cases: (1) when kashering a microwave and (2) when kashering meat and dairy vessels together in the same vat. However, it is meritorious for Sephardim to follow the stringent practice in all cases if possible.

8. Before a vessel can be kashered with boiling water, it must be totally clean. When cleaning a vessel to prepare it for kashering, one may come across food substances that adhere to it and cannot be removed. In such cases, simply apply a caustic cleaner such as bleach or detergent to the substance in order to render it inedible.

9. A vessel upon which dry food is directly placed to cook, like a grill or baking pan, should be kashered by cleaning it carefully and then heating it until it is red hot (libun). This is the most intense form of kashering, and vessels kashered in this way do not need to be left unused for 24 hours beforehand.

10. Vessels used for cold food only, such as goblets for Kiddush or cups used for cold drinks, need only to be rinsed with water and are permitted for Pesah use.

11. According to Sephardim, if a vessel is used in different ways at different times, the method of kashering that is applied will follow the primary usage. For example, if a pot normally used for cooking liquidy foods were used for dry cooking once or twice, it would still be kashered by boiling water inside. Similarly, if a fork normally used for eating was used to stir a pot over the fire a couple of times, it could still be kashered by a run through the dishwasher. However, if the vessel was used in a more intense way than usual during the past 24 hours, the more intense method of kashering must be applied.

12. Ashkenazim always kasher based on the most intense way that the vessel has been used with food, even if it has been used that way only once. Therefore, in the two cases mentioned in Law #11, the pot would need to be heated until red hot and the fork would need to be placed in a pot of boiling water.

13. If one carefully cleans one’s oven racks and covers all food placed in the oven with single sheets of tin foil, there is no need to kasher the oven because there is no way for food cooked in the oven to absorb hametz from it.

14. If one does decide to kasher an oven, self-cleaning is perfectly acceptable. If one’s oven does not have a self-cleaning option, one should carefully clean the racks and walls of the oven and then - after leaving it unused for 24 hours - place the oven on its highest temperature setting for one hour.

15. For Sephardim, the grates on which pots are placed on a gas or electric stovetop need only to be spotlessly cleaned to be kosher for Pesah. As an added measure of stringency, some Sephardim also place them into a pot of boiling hot water.

16. After cleaning the grates, Ashkenazim are required to heat them to the temperature at which a tissue that touched them would ignite.

17. Sephardim may kasher dishwashers, regardless of the material they are made of, by leaving them unused for 24 hours and then running them (without dishes inside) through at least one complete cycle with detergent. Ideally, for Ashkenazim, three complete dishwasher cycles should be run (only one needs to include detergent). The racks do not need to be changed.

18. For Sephardim, sinks, countertops and tabletops require nothing more than a careful cleaning to be kosher for Pesah (however, please be sure to consult Law #20.) Some Sephardim are stringent with sinks and, in addition to cleaning them, pour boiling hot water over them

19. Ashkenazim are advised not to use their sinks, countertops or tabletops without kashering them first. They should either (1) not use these items with anything hot for 24 hours and then pour boiling water over them OR (2) simply clean and then cover them.

20. If a sink, countertop, tabletop or stove grate is known to have had contact with hot hametz during the past 24 hours, then Sephardim are required to kasher them according to the same standards as Ashkenazim.

21. Dish sponges and toothbrushes should be cleaned thoroughly with hot water or replaced for the holiday.

22. A microwave can be kashered by leaving it over for 24 hours, cleaning the inside thoroughly and then heating a dish of water in the microwave until it is filled with steam.

23. Refrigerators and cabinets need only to be wiped down with water to be kosher for Pesah. Dish strainers on which clean dishes are placed to dry do not require any kashering at all.

24. If one is not planning on using a particular vessel or appliance for Pesah, it does not require any kashering. Non-Pesah vessels should be cleaned and put away, preferably in a cabinet that is taped up or locked.

ליל הסדר - The Seder Night

1. One may not begin the Pesah Seder until at least 45 minutes after sunset.

2. Men, women and children are obligated to fulfill all the mitzvot of the night. It is especially important for children to have the Haggada explained to them.

3. The custom of Sephardim is to use red wine for the Four Cups, even if superior white wine is available. The custom of Ashkenazim is to use red wine unless a superior white wine is available.

4. The minimum amount of wine that must be contained in each of the four cups is approximately 3 fluid ounces. One must drink more than half of each cup (about 1.6 fl. oz.) to fulfill the mitzvah.

5. Almost any vegetable may be used for karpas, provided that its blessing is bore peri ha-adama. One should make sure that any vegetables eaten at the Seder (and all year round) have been carefully inspected for bugs.

6. It is preferable to use handmade matza shemura for the Seder. However, machine-made shemura is also acceptable.

7. It is ideal to use Romaine lettuce for Maror.

8. Everyone participating in the Seder is required to lean to the left when drinking any of the four cups or eating the matza, korech, or the afikoman. If a man forgot to lean while performing one of the mitzvot he must go back and redo it. Women may be lenient and need not repeat the mitzvah.

9. Sephardim recite the beracha of Borei Pri Hagefen only on the first and third cups. Ashkenazim say a beracha on all four cups.

10. The most essential part of the Haggada is “Rabban Gamliel Haya Omer”, in which the special mitzvot of the night are explained.

11. The minimum amount of matza that must be eaten for each mitzva is a little more than one third of a medium size handmade matza. However, for motzi matza on the first night, one should eat at least half of a handmade matza.The minimum amount of maror one must eat for each mitzvah is approximately 28 grams.

12. One should make every effort to complete the entire Seder, including Hallel, before “midnight” (in Rockville this year, 1:14 AM; in NYC, 1:01 AM). If this is not possible, one should at least eat the afikoman before this time.