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Printable Passover Guide - 2017

Printable Passover Guide - 2017


Operation Zero Chametz

Passover is a holiday that mandates our complete involvement, not just during its eight days but for weeks before. Aside from the regular holiday obligations, we are also commanded (Exodus 13:3–7): “No leaven shall be eaten . . . For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread . . . and no leaven shall be seen of yours [in your possession].”

We accomplish this by cleaning and inspecting our homes well before Passover, and gradually eliminating chametz from every room and crevice. This intensive cleaning takes place in Jewish homes throughout the world.

What Is Chametz?

The Very Short Answer

Chametz is any food product made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that has come into contact with water and been allowed to ferment and “rise.”

In practice, just about anything made from these grains—other than Passover matzah, which is carefully controlled to avoid leavening—is to be considered chametz. This includes flour (even before it is mixed with water1), cake, cookies, pasta, breads, and items that have chametz as an ingredient, like malt.

The Biblical Basis

Just before the nation of of Israel left Egypt, G‑d commanded them to sacrifice the paschal lamb and then eat it with unleavened matzah and bitter herbs.2 G‑d then told them that they should replicate this feast every year on the anniversary of the Exodus: “It shall be for you a remembrance . . . seven days you shall eat matzah, and on the first day you should remove all se’or (sourdough, a leavening agent) from your homes. Anyone who eats chametz (leaven) from the first day to the seventh day shall be cut off from Israel.”

When Is It Forbidden?

According to Jewish law, it is forbidden to eat chametz after the fourth halachic hour3 on the morning before Passover. It is forbidden to derive any benefit from chametz at the fifth hour, and all chametz should be burned before the sixth hour. From then until after Passover, chametz is completely forbidden.

Why does the prohibition start before Passover begins?

The Torah states: “You shall slaughter the Passover sacrifice to the L‑rd, your G‑d. . . . You shall not eat leaven with it.”4 Tradition interprets this to mean that the prohibition of chametz starts from the time when the Passover sacrifice could be offered: from midday of the 14th of Nissan.5

To prevent people from transgressing the prohibition inadvertently, the sages decreed that the prohibition of eating chametz starts two hours before midday, and the prohibition of deriving any benefit starts one hour prior to midday.

To see the relevant halachic times for your area, click here.

Getting Rid of Chametz

Long before Passover begins, we clean our homes, offices, and any other place that belongs to us to rid our homes of chametz. Although it’s praiseworthy to be stringent on Passover, keep in mind that dust isn’t chametz. The main purpose of cleaning and searching for chametz is to remove any chametz that one may come to inadvertently eat or derive benefit from during Passover. This obligation of getting rid of chametz does not extend to inedible chametz or tiny crumbs or particles of chametz that are soiled or spoiled. So the key areas to focus on are things that may come in contact with food, since we are forbidden to eat anything with even a trace of chametz.

The kitchen should be thoroughly cleaned, and all surfaces should be covered or koshered. Additionally, if you’re using your regular utensils or appliances for Passover, they will need to be koshered. If finances permit, it is better (and easier) to simply buy a set of Passover utensils. For more on the specifics of getting rid of chametz and koshering your kitchen, click here.

Some non-food items, such as vitamins and cosmetics, may contain chametz and will need to be disposed of or sold (see below). Please consult with a rabbi for a list of permissible and prohibited items.

The Search

On the eve of the 14th of Nissan, with just 24 hours to go to the Seder, we search our property—including home, office and car—for any chametz that may have been missed in the cleaning process.

The custom is to conduct the search using a candle, feather, wooden spoon and a (paper) bag for collecting any chametz found. Have someone place 10 pieces of bread throughout the house to be found during the search.6

Before we start the search, we recite the blessing (found here). No interruption should be made between reciting the blessing and the start of the search. Additionally, during the search, we only discuss that which pertains to the search for chametz.

In order to ensure that we remember to conduct the search on time, it is forbidden to eat or even learn Torah after nightfall until after the search has been completed.

The Nullification

Following the search for chametz, we recite a “nullification statement” renouncing all ownership of any chametz that, unbeknownst to us, may still be in our possession. The nullification statement should be said in a language that you understand, and can be found here.

Through nullifying our chametz, we consider it as no more than dust and thus ownerless, thereby fulfilling the mitzvah of removing chametz from our possession.

The Sale

Utensils used for chametz (and chametz itself that you are reluctant to dispose of) may be sold to a person who is not Jewish for the duration of Passover. (Some have the custom not to sell any real chametz, although this is not the Chabad custom.)

The sold chametz and utensils should be set aside in a designated place (e.g., closet or cabinet), which is rented to the non-Jewish buyer until after Passover. This storage place should be clearly marked, so no one can take anything from there through force of habit.

The sale of chametz to the non-Jew is not a symbolic sale, but a legally binding transaction, and must therefore be conducted by a competent rabbi.

After writing a bill of sale, one may leave the chametz in his home without transgressing the prohibitions of not seeing or having chametz, since the chametz no longer belongs to him.

For more about the sale of chametz, click here.

To arrange for the sale of your chametz, click here.

The Burning

On the 14th of Nissan, before the sixth hour of the day, we burn any chametz that we still have. This includes the bag of chametz from our search the previous night.

After the chametz is burned, we again recite a nullification statement. However, this nullification statement has a slightly different wording than what was said at night after the search for chametz. The statement recited at night includes only chametz that was missed in the search, but doesn’t include chametz set aside to be sold or eaten in the morning. When we burn the chametz, the statement includes all chametz that may still be in our possession, and serves as a final “safety measure” for a chametz-less Passover.

The text can be found here.


Due to the gravity of the prohibition of chametz, the medieval Ashkenazic rabbis also forbade the consumption of any kitniyot (very loosely translated as “legumes”) on Passover, since they can be confused with the forbidden grains. This includes (but is not limited to): rice, corn, soybeans, stringbeans, peas, lentils, mustard, sesame and poppy seeds. This ban was accepted as binding law by Ashkenazic Jewry.

The prohibition extends only to the consumption of kitniyot; there is no obligation to destroy or sell kitniyot products before Passover, and we can derive benefit from kitniyot products (e.g., pet food) during Passover.

For more on kitniyot, click here.

Chametz After Passover

Due to the severity of the prohibition of owning chametz on Passover, the rabbis of the Talmud established an after-the-fact penalty for owning any chametz products during Pesach. This prohibition is known as chametz she’avar alav haPesach. One may not consume or even derive benefit from such chametz, and if chametz is found either on or after Passover that was owned by a Jew during Passover, it needs to be destroyed.

So, what does that mean on a practical level? When you’re purchasing chametz products after Passover from a Jewish-owned store, the owner cannot have owned that chametz during Passover. If he did, you’ll need to refrain from purchasing any chametz products there until it is deemed that a sufficient amount of time has passed for all of those chametz products to have been sold. Consult your local rabbi with any questions regarding stores in your area.

This prohibition does not apply to kitniyot, since one is permitted to own it on Passover.

On a Spiritual Note

Chametz and matzah are almost the same substance, containing the same ingredients of flour and water. The one key difference is that while chametz bread rises, filling itself with hot air, the matzah stays flat and humble.

Thus, chametz represents that swelling of ego that enslaves the soul more than any external prison. It is for this reason that once a year on Passover, when we celebrate our freedom from slavery and our birth as a nation unto G‑d, we are extremely careful to eradicate any chametz that we may have.

The flat, unpretentious matzah represents the humility, self-effacement and commitment that are the ultimate liberators, enabling us to connect to G‑d without our egos getting in the way. And that is why eating matzah on Passover is so fundamental to our faith.


The medieval Jewish sages placed a ban on eating legumes (kitniyot) on Passover, because they are similar in texture to chametz—even bread can be made out of their flour—so people might assume that if, for example, cornbread can be eaten on Passover, wheat or rye bread can be eaten too. This prohibition includes rice, beans and corn. This injunction was unanimously accepted by Ashkenazic Jews; many Sephardic Jews, however, continue to eat kitniyot on Passover. If you are Sephardic, speak to your rabbi to determine your family and community tradition.

The prohibition is only with regards to consumption of kitniyot; there is no obligation, however, to destroy or sell kitniyot products before Passover.

Getting Rid of Chametz

Search and Destroy
Any area where one can reasonably suspect that chametz might have been brought throughout the year must be thoroughly cleaned. This includes the home, office, cars, garage, etc. Check carefully to ensure that no crumb is left behind: check and clean desks, drawers, closets, clothing pockets (especially the children’s), pocketbooks, briefcases and attache cases, beds, dining and living room furniture, bookcases, etc.

If You Can’t Destroy it, Sell It
Chametz that you don’t want to destroy, and utensils used throughout the year (and not koshered for Passover), should be stored in closets or rooms which will be sealed for the duration of Passover. The chametz should be sold to a non-Jew through a rabbi. Click here to sell your chametz online.

Preparing the Kitchen

Every part of our homes is cleaned for Passover, but we pay special attention to the kitchen, because (a) that’s where most of our chametz hangs out during the year, and (b) we will be using our kitchens to prepare our Passover food.

Dishes and Utensils
Today, most Passover-savvy homes have a special set of dishes, silverware, pots, pans and other utensils for Passover use only. If necessary, certain year-round utensils can be used—provided they are koshered for Passover. This gets rather complex—you’ll need to consult a competent rabbi about your particular utensils, but you can click here for the basic koshering procedures.

Thoroughly clean and scour every part of the stove. Heat the oven to the highest temperature possible for 1–2 hours. Heat the grates and the iron parts of the stove (and the elements, if electric) until they are red-hot. It is suggested that the oven and the stove top should be covered with aluminum foil afterwards for the duration of Passover.

Microwave Ovens
Clean the oven thoroughly. Fill a completely clean container, that was not used for 24 hours, with water. Turn on the microwave and let it steam heavily. Turn it off and wipe out the inside.

To use the microwave during Passover, use a flat, thick, microwave-safe object as a separation between the bottom of the oven and the cooking dish. When cooking or warming, the food should be covered on all sides.

For 24 hours before koshering the sink, do not pour hot water from chametz pots into it. Meticulously clean the sink, boil water in a clean pot which was not used for 24 hours, and pour three times onto every part of the sink, including the drain stopper. Then line the sink with foil or liner.

Refrigerator, Freezer, Cupboards, Closets, Tables, and Counters
Thoroughly clean and scrub them to remove any crumbs and residue. Afterwards, place a heavy covering over those surfaces that come into contact with hot food or utensils.

Tablecloths and Napkins
Launder without starch.

Cars, Garages, etc.
Vacuum your car or van; thoroughly clean your basement, garage, or any property you own. Special care should be taken with items you will be using, or rooms you will be accessing, during Passover.

Passover Shopping

While shopping for Passover we must be careful that the foods we buy are not only kosher, but are also kosher for Passover—that is, chametz-free.

Starting “From Scratch”

All fruits and vegetables, as well as all kosher cuts of meat and kosher fish, are kosher for Passover, provided they have been prepared in accordance with Jewish law and have not come into contact with chametz or chametz utensils.

The prevailing custom in Ashkenazi communities is that on Passover we do not eat rice, millet, corn, mustard, legumes (beans, etc.) or food made from any of these.

Commercially Prepared Products

Today there are many kosher-for-Passover packaged foods available. However, care must be used to purchase only those packaged foods that have reliable rabbinical supervision which is valid for Passover.

Obviously, all leavened foods made from—or that contain among their ingredients—wheat, barley, rye, oats, or spelt are actual chametz and are prohibited on Passover. Examples are bread, cake, cereal, spaghetti, beer and whiskey.

Check That Medicine Cabinet!

Many medicines, sprays, and cosmetics contain chametz. Consult a competent rabbi as to which ones may be used on Passover. The same applies to pet food.

Click here to to purchase your Passover essentials from our store.

The Passover Calendar—2017

Sunday April 9—13 Nissan

Did you remember to sell your chametz? Your local Chabad rabbi can help, or complete an online “Authorization for the Sale of Chametz” form by clicking here.

Search for the chametz after dark (click here for the exact time). Recite the blessing prior to the search, and the nullification of the chametz (Kol Chamira) following the search. Click here for more information on the search and removal of chametz.

Monday April 10—14 Nissan
The day before Passover

Fast of the Firstborn. For a male firstborn to be exempt from fasting, he must participate in a meal marking the fulfillment of a mitzvah; such a meal is generally held in a synagogue after morning prayers on this day.

Have you sold your chametz? Final call! Your local Chabad rabbi can help, or complete an online “Authorization for the Sale of Chametz” form by clicking here.

Stop eating chametz before the end of the fourth seasonal hour (click here for the exact time).

Burn your remaining (unsold) chametz before the fifth seasonal hour (click here for the exact time).

It is customary to recite the “Order of the Passover Offering” after the afternoon Minchah prayer. All Seder items and food for the holiday meals must be prepared before the onset of the holiday.

Light the Passover candles, reciting blessings 2 & 4. Click here for the blessings, and here for local candle-lighting times. Click here for a summary of the laws of Yom Tov.

According to Chabad custom, complete Hallel is recited during Maariv (evening) services.

First Seder: The Seder contains the observance of many biblical and rabbinical mitzvot, including: eating matzah, eating maror (bitter herbs), drinking four cups of wine, relating the story of the Exodus to our children, reclining as a symbol of freedom, etc. (Click here for a How-To Seder guide.)

To locate a public Seder near you, please click here.

The first night of Passover is referred to as leil shimurim (a night of guarding), based on Exodus 12:42.

Tuesday April 11—15 Nissan
1st day of Passover

Morning service. Full Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark.
Torah reading: Exodus 12:21–51 and Numbers 28:16–25.
Haftorah: Joshua 3:5–7, 5:2–6:1, 6:27.

Beginning with the Musaf Amidah, we recite morid hatal, the prayer for dew, and we omit the prayer for rain. This practice continues until Shemini Atzeret, the day after Sukkot.

The priests bless the congregation with the priestly blessing during the Musaf prayer.

Festive lunch meal.

According to Chabad custom, complete Hallel is recited during Maariv evening prayers, followed by the “Counting of the Omer.” We count the 1st day of the Omer. The counting of the Omer is recited during each of the next 49 days, leading up to the holiday of Shavuot on the 50th day. The 49 days embody the 49 steps of self-improvement—beginning with the departure from our “personal” Egypt, until our arrival at Mount Sinai, when we are ready to accept the wisdom of the Torah.

After dark, light candles for the second day of Passover, using an existing flame, and recite blessings 2 & 4. Click here for the blessings, and here for local candle-lighting times.

Second Seder: The Seder contains the observance of many biblical and rabbinical mitzvot, including: eating matzah, eating maror (bitter herbs), drinking four cups of wine, relating the story of the Exodus to our children, reclining as a symbol of freedom, etc. (Click here for a How-To Seder guide.)

Havdalah is incorporated into the Kiddush prayer. We look at the holiday candles for the blessing on fire and do not recite the blessing on spices.

Wednesday April 12—16 Nissan
2nd day of Passover

Morning service. Full Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark.
Torah reading: Leviticus 22:26–23:44 and Numbers 28:16–25.
Haftorah: II Kings 23:1–9, 21–25.

The priests bless the congregation with the priestly blessing during the Musaf prayer.

Festive lunch meal.

After nightfall, count the 2nd day of the Omer.

Celebrate Passover’s intermediate days. Between now and the last two days of Passover, we may resume much (not all) of our regular workday activities; but, of course, we continue to eat Kosher for Passover foods exclusively. It is customary to drink a glass of wine each day, in celebration of the festival. After evening prayers, perform the havdalah ceremony, omitting the blessings on the spices and candle.

Thursday April 13—17 Nissan
3rd day of Passover
1st day of Chol Hamoed (intermediate days)

Morning service: In many communities, throughout the intermediate days of Passover, tefillin are not worn.

Half-Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark. Torah reading: Exodus 13:1-16 and Numbers 28:19–25. The Musaf Amidah is recited. During all of the intermediate days, “Yaaleh Veyavo” is inserted during all prayers and in the Grace After Meals.

The intermediate days are observed with limited work restrictions.

After nightfall, count the 3rd day of the Omer.

Friday April 14—18 Nissan
4th day of Passover
2nd day of Chol Hamoed (intermediate days)

Morning service: In many communities, throughout the intermediate days of Passover, tefillin are not worn.

Half-Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark. Torah reading: Exodus 22:24–23:19 and Numbers 28:19–25. The Musaf Amidah is recited. During all of the intermediate days, “Yaaleh Veyavo” is inserted during all prayers and in the Grace After Meals.

The intermediate days are observed with limited work restrictions.

Light candles for the Shabbat and recite blessing 1. Click here for the blessings and here for local candle-lighting times. Shalom Aleichem is recited quietly.

After nightfall, count the 4th day of the Omer.

Shabbat April 15—19 Nissan
5th day of Passover
3rd day of Chol Hamoed (intermediate days)
Torah reading: Exodus 34:1-26 and Numbers 28:19–25.
Haftorah: Ezekiel 37:1-14.

Morning service: Half-Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark. During all of the intermediate days, “Yaaleh Veyavo” is inserted during all prayers and in the Grace After Meals.

Shabbat festive lunch.

In some communities it is customary to read the Song of Songs

After nightfall and evening prayers, count the 5th day of the Omer.


Sunday April 16—20 Nissan
6th day of Passover
4th day of Chol Hamoed (intermediate days)

Morning service: In many communities, throughout the intermediate days of Passover, tefillin are not worn.

Half-Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark. Torah reading: Numbers 9:1-14 and Numbers 28:19–25. The Musaf Amidah is recited. During all of the Intermediate Days, “Yaaleh Veyavo” is inserted during all prayers and in the Grace After Meals.

The Intermediate Days are observed with limited work restrictions.

Light candles for the 7th day of Passover, and recite blessing 2. Click here for the blessing, and here for local candle-lighting times.

Evening prayers. After the Amidah, count the 6th day of the Omer.

Festive holiday meal, complete with the holiday kiddush.

It is customary in many communities to remain awake all night, studying Torah, in commemoration of the great miracle of the splitting of the sea, which occurred on the 7th day of Passover.

Monday April 17—21 Nissan
7th day of Passover—Shevi’i Shel Pesach

Morning service. Half-Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark.
Torah reading: Exodus 13:17–15:26 and Numbers 28:19–25.
Haftorah: II Samuel 22:1–51.

The priests bless the congregation with the priestly blessing during the Musaf prayer.

Festive lunch meal.

Evening prayers. After the Amidah, count the 7th day of the Omer.

Light candles for the 8th day of Passover before sunset, using an existing flame, and recite blessing 3. Click here for the blessing, and here for local candle-lighting times.

Festive holiday meal, complete with the holiday and Shabbat kiddush.

Tuesday April 18—22 Nissan
Final Day of Passover—Acharon Shel Pesach

Morning service. Half-Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark.
Torah reading: Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17 and Numbers 28:19–25.
Haftorah: Isaiah 10:32–12:6.

The Yizkor memorial service is recited following the Torah reading.

The priests bless the congregation with the priestly blessing during the Musaf prayer.

Festive lunch meal.

On this final day of Passover we strive for the highest level of freedom, and focus on the final redemption. Following the Baal Shem Tov’s custom, we end Passover with “Moshiach’s Feast”—a festive meal complete with matzah and four cups of wine, during which we celebrate the imminent arrival of the Messiah. The feast begins before sunset and continues until after nightfall.

Evening prayers. After the Amidah, count the 8th day of the Omer.

After nightfall, perform the havdalah ceremony.

Nightfall is the official end of Passover (for the exact time, click here). Wait an hour to give the rabbi enough time to buy back your chametz before eating it.

Wednesday April 19—23 Nissan

The day following the holiday is known as Isru Chag. It is forbidden to fast on this day.

Passover Candle-Lighting Blessings

Note: Please refer to the Holiday Calendar above to determine which blessings are recited on which holiday and Shabbat nights.


Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the holy Shabbat.


Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Yom Tov light.


Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Shabbat and Yom Tov light.


Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

The Seder Ingredients

Matzah, the “Food of Faith”
When our forefathers left Egypt, they were in such a hurry that there was no time to wait for the dough to rise. They therefore ate matzah, unleavened bread. With only this food (but with great faith), our ancestors relied on the Almighty to provide sustenance for the entire Jewish nation—men, women and children. Each year, to remember this, we eat matzah on the first two nights of Pesach, thereby fulfilling the Torah’s commandment, “Matzot shall you eat . . .”

The Humblest of Foods
Matzah symbolizes faith. In contrast to leavened bread, matzah is not enriched with oil, honey or other substances. It consists only of flour and water, and is not allowed to rise. Similarly, the only “ingredients” for faith are humility and submission to G‑d, which come from recognizing our “nothingness” when compared with the infinite wisdom of the Creator.

One of the holiday’s primary obligations is to eat matzah during the Seder. It is strongly recommended to use shmurah matzah to fulfill this commandment.

Matzah is eaten three times during the Seder:

  1. After telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt (Maggid), washing our hands for bread (Rachtzah) and reciting the blessings (Motzi Matzah), 1¾ ounces of matzah are eaten.
  2. For the sandwich (Korech), ¾ of an ounce of matzah is eaten.
  3. For the afikoman at the end of the meal (Tzafun), a minimum of ¾ of an ounce (and ideally 1½ ounces) of matzah are eaten.

In each instance, the matzah should be eaten within 4 minutes.

How much is one ounce of Matzah?
Half a piece of shmurah matzah is generally one ounce.

If store-bought matzot are used, the weight of the box of matzot divided by the number of pieces shows how much matzah is the equivalent of one ounce.

Shmurah Matzah

Shmurah means “watched,” and it is an apt description of this matzah, the ingredients of which (the flour and water) are watched from the moment of harvesting and drawing.

The day chosen for the harvesting of the wheat is a clear, dry day. The moment it is harvested, the wheat is inspected to ensure that there is absolutely no moisture. From then on, careful watch is kept upon the grains as they are transported to the mill. The mill is meticulously inspected by rabbis and supervision professionals to ensure that every piece of equipment is absolutely clean and dry. After the wheat is milled, the flour is again guarded in its transportation to the bakery. Thus, from the moment of harvesting through the actual baking of the matzah, the flour is carefully watched to ensure against any contact with water.

The water, too, is carefully guarded to prevent any contact with wheat or other grain. It is drawn the night before the baking, and kept pure until the moment it is mixed with the flour to bake the shmurah matzah.

Also in the bakery itself, shmurah matzot are under strict supervision to avoid any possibility of leavening during the baking process. This intensive process and careful guarding gives the shmurah matzah an added infusion of faith and sanctity—in fact, as the matzah is being made, all those involved constantly repeat, “L’shem matzot mitzvah”—“We are doing this for the sake of the mitzvah of matzah.”

Shmurah matzot are round, kneaded and shaped by hand, and are similar to the matzot that were baked by the Children of Israel as they left Egypt. It is thus fitting to use shmurah matzah on each of the two Seder nights for the matzot of the Seder plate.

Click to order your own shmurah matzah.

Passover Wine

For each of the four cups at the Seder, it is preferable to use undiluted wine. However, if needed, the wine may be diluted with grape juice. (One who cannot drink wine may use grape juice alone.)

One drinks a cup of wine four times during the Seder:

  1. At the conclusion of kiddush.
  2. After telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt, before eating the matzah of Motzi Matzah.
  3. At the conclusion of the Grace After Meals.
  4. After reciting the Hallel.

It is preferable to drink the entire cup each time. However, it is sufficient to drink only the majority of each cup.

How large a cup should be used? One that contains at least 3½ fluid ounces.

What Is Maror?


Though the central mitzvah of the Seder night is remembering the Exodus from Egypt,7 the night includes three individual mitzvahs as well: eating matzah, maror and the paschal lamb (the lamb is no longer eaten).

Let’s delve into the mitzvah of maror, the bitter herbs.

The Source for Maror

Do you wonder why we are eating this stuff? You’re on to something. During the Passover Seder, we ask that very question. The text of the Haggadah answers by quoting a verse from the Torah: “They embittered our lives with hard work.”8 The bitter taste of the herbs reminds us of the bitterness of our slavery in Egypt.

The actual source of the biblical commandment to eat maror is found in a later verse, where G‑d commands us to make the paschal lamb: “Eat [the lamb] with the matzahs and maror.”9 The phraseology of this command is very precise: eating the maror is a part of the mitzvah of the paschal lamb.10 Rather than being an independent mitzvah, it is merely a prerequisite for the paschal lamb.11 Accordingly, since we no longer have the obligation to offer the paschal lamb, there is no biblical command to eat maror. However, even though the biblical notion of eating maror to remember our slavery no longer applies,12 the rabbis decreed that we should eat maror anyway to remember what we did in Temple days.13

What Is Maror?

By definition, maror is something bitter. But what?

The Mishnah lists five herbs that fit the bill.14 There is some discussion as to how to translate the Hebrew/Aramaic words of the Mishnah,15 but it is generally accepted that romaine lettuce, horseradish and endives (escarole) are included in the list.16 The Chabad custom is to use romaine lettuce and horseradish together.17

The Mishnah continues that both the stalk and the leaves (if using an herb that has leaves) may be used, and they may be fresh or dry. The Talmud, however, points out that this allowance for dry herbs is only regarding the stalk; the leaves must be fresh.18 The herbs may not be cooked, or even soaked for 24 hours,19 since that would cause them to lose their bitter taste.

How to Eat Maror

Now we get into the specific details of how to eat the maror.

During the Seder nights (one in Israel and two in the Diaspora), after we have eaten the matzah, we prepare to eat maror. First, we take a kezayit (the volume of an olive) of the maror and dip it into charoset,20 a traditional concoction of apples, nuts, wine and other sweet ingredients. This was originally done to kill a dangerous worm that could be found in the herbs.21 Some say that the reason we still do it nowadays is because charoset resembles the cement we were forced to use in building the Egyptian cities.22 Although we dip the bitter maror in the sweet charoset, be sure not to let the maror linger in the charoset so as not to dilute the taste, and shake off the charoset straight away.

Once this is done, we make the blessing of al achilat maror (“Blessed are You . . . who has commanded us regarding the eating of maror”). There is no need to say the blessing of ha’adamah, since we’ve already said it over the karpas (the veggies we dipped in salt water).23

Once the blessing is made, eat the maror straight away. You should not speak between making the blessing and eating the maror. If you did speak, if it was about a topic that was not related to the meal, you repeat the blessing.24

Even though we’ve been leaning luxuriously all evening when we drank our wine and ate our matzah, we don’t lean when eating the maror25—although you can if you want to.26

Ideally, the maror should be eaten in one mouthful.27 If that proves too difficult, you can eat it at your own pace, as long as it’s eaten in the allotted time (about 2–4 minutes). Even as you rush to eat your maror, however, slow down enough to chew it,since tasting the bitterness is an integral part of the experience. Swallowing it whole without tasting it does not count.28

Take Two

After we eat the maror, the herbs are used one more time for what is known as the korech, a sandwich comprised of matzah and maror.29 To understand why we do this, it’s necessary to take a moment to explain a dispute among the rabbis about how the paschal lamb, matzah and maror were eaten when the Temple was standing. Most of the rabbis were of the opinion that each was eaten separately. Hillel, however, held that one would make a sandwich of the three and eat them together. To fulfill all opinions, we do both. We first eat the matzah and maror separately, and then we eat them together as the korech sandwich.

This is done as follows: First, one takes a kezayit of the matzah and snaps it in half to make two parts of a sandwich (if you have a Seder plate, use the third matzah for this30). Next, take a kezayit of maror and place it between the two slices of matzah. There is some debate in halachah whether or not to dip the maror again in the charoset. The Chabad custom is to dip, but those who are careful not to place any moisture on their matzah should instead place a small piece of wineless charoset on the maror.31

Then, say, “Kein asah Hillel . . .” (“So Hillel did . . .”), as quoted in the Haggadah, and eat the matzah and maror together while leaning to the left side.32

Lessons from Maror

At the beginning of this article,33 we stated a few things that seem to be difficult to understand. Firstly, we stated that maror is merely a “preparation” for the paschal lamb. Why is that? True, the Torah does connect them in the verse, but why does the Torah make one dependent on the other? We then said that nowadays, since there is no paschal lamb, there is no biblical commandment to eat maror—and there is therefore no reason to eat maror in remembrance of the slavery. Instead, we eat it only to remind us of the Temple. Once again, this seems difficult to understand—just because we have no biblical commandment, we shouldn’t eat maror to remind us of the slavery? Our slavery in Egypt is surely something worth remembering!

To explain this, it’s necessary to take a moment to analyze the Seder night—and to embark on a path towards a deeper understanding of maror. Externally, the Seder seems split into two distinct parts. First we gather our family together and recount the tale of our time in Egypt, reliving once again one of the most defining chapters of our history. Then, when that is done, we return to the present and fulfill the physical mitzvahs of the night—eating matzah and maror. These two parts seem to have little in connection with each other.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, explains however that this viewpoint is superficial. Once we begin to analyze the Seder, we realize that these two parts share a common thread; they are the two acts of a single play, each one working in sync with the other to bring about the theme of the Seder night. That theme is remembering Egypt. First, we sit down for maggid, the step of the Seder when we use our gifts of speech, creativity and imagination to recount the story of our slavery and redemption. But that’s not enough; the story is still limited solely to our mind. So when we’re done, we take out the Passover foods to internalize that feeling of freedom through our very actions. When we eat the maror, the bitter taste grants us an appreciation for the hardships our forefathers endured, and ideally, if we were able to savor the paschal lamb, its rich sweetness would show us the freedom that followed.

This is why the maror is so important. We must sense the bitterness of slavery to really taste the joy of freedom. Freedom is meaningless if one has never felt confined. Therefore, the maror is considered a preparation for the paschal lamb—its bitterness lends an appreciation for the value of the paschal lamb.

Nowadays, however, we do not have the freedom of the paschal lamb. We are still confined to exile. Therefore, the bitterness of maror will not grant us a greater appreciation of our freedom—we do not yet have such freedom. On the contrary: its bitterness will only greater emphasize the bitterness of our current state. Therefore, there no longer exists a commandment to remember the bitterness of Egypt.

Instead, we eat maror solely in remembrance of the Temple.

Key Takeways

  • Maror nowadays is a rabbinical decree, instituted to remind us of the Temple.
  • Common herbs for maror are horseradish and romaine lettuce. Chabad uses both.
  • Before eating the maror, dip it into the charoset and then shake it off.
  • Make only an al achilat maror blessing, and not a ha’adamah.
  • You do not have to lean.
  • Eat it within 2–4 minutes.
  • Eat it again between two pieces of matzah.

Introduction to the Seder Plate

Preparing the items for the Seder plate requires some time. It is best to prepare all the Seder foods before the onset of the holiday, in order to avoid halachic questions.

Three matzot are placed on top of each other on a plate or napkin, and then covered. (Some also have the custom to separate the matzot from each other with interleaved plates, napkins or the like.)

The matzot are symbolic of the three castes of Jews: Priests, Levites, and Israelites. They also commemorate the three measures of fine flour that Abraham told Sarah to bake into matzah when they were visited by the three angels (Genesis 18:6).

On a practical level, three matzot are needed so that when we break the middle matzah, we are still left with two whole ones to pronounce the hamotzi blessing (as required on Shabbat and holidays).

On a cloth or plate placed above the three matzot, we place the following items:

The Shank Bone

A piece of roasted meat represents the lamb that was the special Paschal sacrifice on the eve of the exodus from Egypt, and annually, on the afternoon before Passover, in the Holy Temple.

Since we can’t offer the Paschal sacrifice in the absence of the Holy Temple, we take care to use something that is relatively dissimilar to the actual offering. Accordingly, many communities have the custom to use a roasted chicken neck or the like.

Called the zeroah, it alludes to the verse which states, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm (zeroah) . . .”

Preparation: Roast the neck on all sides over an open fire on the stove. Afterwards, some have the custom to remove the majority of the meat of the neck.

Role in the Seder: The shank bone is not eaten. After the meal it is refrigerated, and used a second time on the Seder plate the following night.

The Egg

A hard-boiled egg represents the holiday offering brought in the days of the Holy Temple. The meat of this animal constituted the main part of the Passover meal.

Preparation: Boil one egg per Seder plate, and possibly more for use during the meal.

Role in the Seder: Place one egg on each plate. As soon as the actual meal is about to begin, remove the egg from the Seder plate and use during the meal.

A popular way of eating these eggs is to chop and mix them with the saltwater which was set on the table. The eggs prepared this way are then served as an appetizer before the fish.

The Bitter Herbs

Bitter herbs (maror) remind us of the bitterness of the slavery of our forefathers in Egypt. Fresh grated horseradish, romaine lettuce, and endive are the most common choices.

Preparation: This must be done before the holiday begins. Peel the raw horseradish roots, and rinse them off well.

Note: Dry the roots very carefully, since they will be eaten with the matzah later on for the korech sandwich; to avoid gebrokts, not even a drop of water should be left on the horseradish.

Next, grate the horseradish with a hand grater or electric grinder. (Whoever will be grating the horseradish will begin to shed copious tears or cough a lot. Covering the face with a cloth from the eyes downwards helps prevent inhalation of the strong, bitter odor.)

The lettuce or endive leaves must be washed, carefully checked for insects, and thoroughly dried. You can instead use just the stalks, which are easier to clean and check.

Place the horseradish on the Seder plate, on top of a few cleaned, dried leaves of romaine lettuce.

Role in the Seder: After the recital of most of the haggadah comes the ritual handwashing. Then matzah is eaten, followed by some maror, followed in turn by a sandwich of matzah and maror.

The Paste

A mixture of apples, nuts and wine which resembles the mortar and brick made by the Jews when they toiled for Pharaoh.

Preparation: Shell walnuts and peel apples and chop finely. Mix together and add a small amount of wine.

Role in the Seder: This is used as a type of relish into which the maror is dipped (and then shaken off) before eating.

The Vegetable

A non-bitter root vegetable alludes to the backbreaking work of the Jews as slaves. The Hebrew letters of the word karpas can be arranged to spell “perech samech.”

Perech means backbreaking work, and samech is numerically equivalent to 60, referring to 60 myriads, equaling 600,000, which was the number of Jewish males over 20 years of age who were enslaved in Egypt.

Preparation: Peel an onion or boiled potato. Cut off a slice and place on Seder plate. On the table, next to the Seder plate, place a small bowl of salted water.

Role in the Seder: After recital of kiddush, the family goes to the sink and ritually washes hands, but without saying the usual blessing.

Then the head of the household cuts a small piece of the root vegetable used, dips it in saltwater, and gives each person at the table a very small piece over which they say the appropriate blessing. Care should be taken that each person eats less than 17 grams (about ½ ounce).

The Lettuce

The lettuce symbolizes the bitter enslavement of our fathers in Egypt. The leaves of romaine lettuce are not bitter, but the stem, when left to grow in the ground, turns hard and bitter.

So it was with our enslavement in Egypt. At first the deceitful approach of Pharaoh was soft and sensible, and the work was done voluntarily and even for pay. Gradually, it evolved into forced and cruel labor.

Preparation: Romaine lettuce is often very sandy. Wash each of the leaves separately, checking very carefully for insects. (Pat gently with a towel and let sit until completely dry, so that there will be no moisture to come in contact with the matzah.)

Depending on how much romaine lettuce is needed, it can take several hours to prepare. This task should be completed before candle-lighting time on the first night. Prepare enough leaves for both nights and store in the refrigerator. Soaking of the romaine leaves may not be done on the holiday.

Role in the Seder: The lettuce is used in conjunction with horseradish. It is used when eating the maror and when eating the matzah-and-maror sandwich.

Place the leaves in two piles on the Seder plate, one under the maror and one separately at the bottom.

Keep a stack of extra cleaned leaves handy in the refrigerator in case additional leaves are needed.

The Seder Service in a Nutshell

Click here for a more detailed Seder wizard, and here for a spiritual guide to the Seder.

In Our Forefathers’ Footsteps

At the Seder, every person should see himself as if he were going out of Egypt. Beginning with our Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we recount the Jewish people’s descent into Egypt and recall their suffering and persecution. We are with them as G‑d sends the Ten Plagues to punish Pharaoh and his nation, and follow along as they leave Egypt and cross the Sea of Reeds. We witness the miraculous hand of G‑d as the waters part to allow the Israelites to pass, then return to inundate the Egyptian legions.

Kadesh—the Benediction

The Seder service begins with the recitation of kiddush, proclaiming the holiness of the holiday. This is done over a cup of wine, the first of the four cups we will drink (while reclining) at the Seder.

The Four Cups of Wine

Why four cups? The Torah uses four expressions of freedom or deliverance in connection with our liberation from Egypt (see Exodus 6:6–7). Also, the Children of Israel had four great merits even while in exile: (1) They did not change their Hebrew names; (2) they continued to speak their own language, Hebrew; (3) they remained highly moral; (4) they remained loyal to one another.

Wine is used because it is a symbol of joy and happiness.

Why We Recline

When drinking the four cups and eating the matzah, we lean on our left side to accentuate the fact that we are free people. In ancient times only free people had the luxury of reclining while eating.


We wash our hands in the usual, ritually prescribed manner as is done before a meal, but without the customary blessing.

The next step in the Seder, Karpas, requires dipping food into water, which in turn mandates, according to Jewish law, that either the food be eaten with a utensil or that one’s hands be purified by washing. On the Seder eve we choose the less common observance to arouse the child’s curiosity.

Karpas—the “Appetizer”

A small piece of onion or boiled potato is dipped into saltwater and eaten (after reciting the blessing over vegetables).

Dipping the karpas in saltwater is an act of pleasure and freedom, which further arouses the child’s curiosity.

The Hebrew word karpas, when read backwards, alludes to the backbreaking labor performed by the 600,000 Jews in Egypt. [Samech has the numerical equivalent of 60 (representing 60 times 10,000), while the last three Hebrew letters spell perech, hard work.]

The saltwater represents the tears of our ancestors in Egypt.

Yachatz—Breaking the Matzah

The middle matzah on the Seder plate is broken in two. The larger part is put aside for later use as the afikoman. This unusual action not only attracts the child’s attention once again, but also recalls G‑d’s splitting of the Sea of Reeds to allow the Children of Israel to cross on dry land. The smaller part of the middle matzah is returned to the Seder plate. This broken middle matzah symbolizes humility, and will be eaten later as the “bread of poverty.”

Maggid—the Haggadah

At this point, the poor are invited to join the Seder. The Seder tray is moved aside, a second cup of wine is poured, and the child, who by now is bursting with curiosity, asks the time-honored question: “Mah nishtanah ha-lailah hazeh mikol ha-leilot? Why is this night different from all other nights?” Why only matzah? Why the dipping? Why the bitter herbs? Why are we relaxing and leaning on cushions as if we were kings?

The child’s questioning triggers one of the most significant mitzvot of Passover, which is the highlight of the Seder ceremony: the haggadah, telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The answer includes a brief review of history, a description of the suffering imposed upon the Israelites, a listing of the plagues visited on the Egyptians, and an enumeration of the miracles performed by the Almighty for the redemption of His people.

Rochtzah—Washing Before the Meal

After concluding the first part of the haggadah by drinking the second cup of wine (while reclining), the hands are washed again, this time with the customary blessings, as is usually done before eating bread.

Motzi Matzah—We Eat the Matzah

Taking hold of the three matzot (with the broken one between the two whole ones), recite the customary blessing before bread. Then, letting the bottom matzah drop back onto the plate, and holding the top whole matzah with the broken middle one, recite the special blessing “al achilat matzah.” Then break at least one ounce from each matzah and eat the two pieces together, while reclining.

Maror—the Bitter Herbs

Take at least one ounce of the bitter herbs. Dip it in the charoset, then shake the latter off and make the blessing “al achilat maror.” Eat without reclining.

Korech—the Sandwich

In keeping with the custom instituted by Hillel, the great Talmudic sage, a sandwich of matzah and maror is eaten. Break off two pieces of the bottom matzah, which together should be at least one ounce. Again, take at least one ounce of bitter herbs and dip them in the charoset. Place this between the two pieces of matzah, say “kein asah Hillel . . .” and eat the sandwich while reclining.

Shulchan Orech—the Feast

The holiday meal is now served. We begin the meal with a hard-boiled egg dipped into saltwater.

A rabbi was once asked why Jews eat eggs on Passover. “Because eggs symbolize the Jew,” the rabbi answered. “The more an egg is burned or boiled, the harder it gets.”

Note: The chicken neck is not eaten at the Seder.

Tzafun—Out of Hiding

After the meal, the half-matzah which had been “hidden,” set aside for the afikoman (“dessert”), is taken out and eaten. It symbolizes the Paschal lamb, which was eaten at the end of the meal.

Everyone should eat at least 1½ ounces of matzah, reclining, before midnight. After eating the afikoman, we do not eat or drink anything except for the two remaining cups of wine.

Berach—Blessings After the Meal

A third cup of wine is filled and Grace is recited. After the Grace we recite the blessing over wine and drink the third cup while reclining.

Now we fill the cup of Elijah and our own cups with wine. We open the door and recite the passage which is an invitation to the Prophet Elijah, the harbinger of the coming of Moshiach, our righteous Messiah.

Hallel—Songs of Praise

At this point, having recognized the Almighty and His unique guidance of the Jewish people, we go still further and sing His praises as L‑rd of the entire universe.

After reciting the Hallel, we again recite the blessing over wine and drink the fourth cup, reclining.


Having carried out the Seder service properly, we are sure that it has been well received by the Almighty. We then say “Leshanah haba’ah bee-rushalayim—Next year in Jerusalem.”

Useful Passover Links

Technically, flour need not be chametz. However, common practice is that before the milling process begins, the wheat kernels are tempered (sprayed) with water and left to stand until the moisture penetrates it. Therefore, the custom is to treat flour as chametz.
Exodus 12.
A halachic hour is calculated by dividing the daytime hours into twelve equal parts.
For more on this, see Why scatter 10 pieces of bread?
Pesachim 120a; Minchat Chinuch 6:3; Shulchan Aruch HaRav 475:15. (The Talmud explains that although based on this verse matzah seems dependent on the paschal lamb, it has a separate command from Exodus 12:18.)
Talmud, Pesachim 90a.
Tzofnat Paane’ach, quoted in Likkutei Sichot, vol. 22, p. 46.
Shulchan Aruch HaRav 475:15.
Pesachim 2:6. See Necessities That Have to Be Prepared for the Seder for an overview of this topic.
Talmud, Pesachim 39a.
See the E-Mishnah translation.
Sefer Haminhagim, Pesach: The Seder and the Haggadah.
Talmud, Pesachim 39b.
Ba’er Heitev 475:6.
Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 475:1; Shulchan Aruch HaRav 475:11.
Ba’er Heitev 475:5; Shulchan Aruch HaRav 475:11.
Shulchan Aruch HaRav 475:11.
Tur, ibid.
Shulchan Aruch HaRav 475:18.
Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 475:1; Shulchan Aruch HaRav 475:13.
Beit Yosef, Orach Chaim 475:1; Shulchan Aruch HaRav ibid.
Shulchan Aruch HaRav 475:14.
Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 475:3; Shulchan Aruch HaRav 475:25.
See Shulchan Aruch HaRav 475:15–18 for a detailed explanation of this paragraph.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s notes to the Haggadah.
Whether or not to lean is a debate in halachah (see Tur ibid.; Shulchan Aruch HaRav 475:20.) However, the halachah is that we do (Shulchan Aruch and Shulchan Aruch HaRav ibid.) See Shulchan Aruch HaRav ibid., and Beit Yosef 475, s.v. Katav Achi, for the reasoning.
For the remainder of this section, see Likkutei Sichot, vol. 32, pp. 47–50.
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Discussion (2)
April 17, 2016
If it were not for Chabad I would never have found my way back to who I am. Chabad is a blessing for all Israel כל ישראל .
Blairsville, PA
April 12, 2014
Or the unopened chametz products can be given to charity.
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