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Friday, April 15, 2022

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Erev Pesach ('Eve of Passover') - First Seder tonight
Jewish History

Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, Talmudist, Halachist, physician, philosopher and communal leader, known in the Jewish world by the acronym "Rambam" and to the world at large as "Maimonides", was born in Cordova, Spain, on the 14th of Nissan of the year 4895 from creation--1135 of the Common Era [more...]

Laws and Customs

Firstborn males over the age of Bar Mitzvah (13) are obligated to fast on the 14th of Nissan, in recognition of the fact that during the "Plague of the Firstborn" (which occurred at midnight of Nissan 15) G-d "passed over" the Jewish firstborn when He killed all firstborn Egyptians. If there is a firstborn male in the family under 13, the obligation to fast rests with the father. The prevailing custom, however, is for the firstborn to exempt themselves from the obligation to fast by participating in a seudat mitzvah (a meal marking the fulfillment of a mitzvah), such as a siyyum--a festive meal celebrating the conclusion of the study of a section of Torah).

The Torah (Exodus 12:15, as per Talmud, Pesachim 5a) sets midday of Nissan 14--today--as the deadline for the destruction and/or removal of all leavened foods ("chametz") from our possession in preparation for the festival of Passover, which begins this evening at nightfall. In practice, Torah law mandates that we desist from eating chametz two hours before midday, and that no leaven remain in our possession an hour before midday. These are not clock hours but "proportional hours", defined by Jewish law as a 12th part of the time between sunrise and sunset.

Click here for the chametz eating deadline for your location.

From this point until the end of the festival of Passover, it is forbidden to eat leaven, or anything containing even the slightest trace of leaven.

Links: What is Chametz; A Speck of Flour; The Escape Hatch

Chametz is disposed of by: a) selling it to a non-Jew; b) burning the chametz found in our search on the previous evening (see entry for Nissan 13); c) "nullifying" the chametz that has not been found by declaring it ownerless.

The deadline for selling, burning and nullifying chametz is one "proportional hour" before midday.Click here for the precise time for your location. From this point until the end of the festival of Passover, it is forbidden to eat leaven, derive benefit from it in any way, own it or have it in one's possession.

See the Getting-Rid-of-Chametz Wizard for more detailed instructions.

Links: More about Leaven

When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, the Passover offering was brought there on the afternoon of Nissan 14. Today it is commemorated by our recitation of the "Order of the Passover Offering" this afternoon, by the "shankbone" placed on the seder plate this evening, and the afikoman -- a portion of matzah eaten in its stead at the end of the seder meal.

Links: About the Passover offering

The 8-day festival of Passover--also called "The Festival of Matzahs" and "The Time of Our Freedom"--begins tonight at nightfall.

In the evening, we conduct a seder ("order") -- a 15-part ritualistic feast that encompasses the observances of the Passover festival: telling our children the story of the Exodus as described and expounded in the Haggadah; eating the matzah (unleavened bread), the bitter herbs dipped in charoset, and the afikoman (an additional portion of matzah eaten as "dessert" in commemoration of the Passover offering); drinking the four cups of wine; and numerous other symbolic foods and rituals commemorating both our slavery in Egypt and our liberation on this night.

Links:
www.Passover.org includes a Seder guide, text of the Haggadah, in-depth studies, and more
The Seder Wizard is a step-by-step guide to conducting the Seder

Daily Thought

When the Divine Light began its awesome descent—a journey of world to lower world for endless worlds, condensing its unbounded state again and again into finite packages until focused to a fine, crystallized resolution—it did so with purpose: to bring forth a world of continuous ascent.

Since that beginning, not a day has passed that does not transcend its yesterday.

Like a mighty river rushing to reach its ocean, no dam can hold it back, no creature can struggle against its current. If we appear to fall backward, to take a wrong turn, to lose a day in failure—it is only an illusion, for we have no map to know its way. We see from within, but the river knows its path from Above. And to that place Above all is drawn.

We are not masters of that river— not of our ultimate destiny, nor of the stops along the way, not even of the direction of our travel. We did not create the river—its flow creates us. It is the blood and soul of our world, its pulse and its warmth.

Yet of one thing we have been given mastery: Not of the journey, but of our role within it.

How soon will we arrive? How complete? How fulfilled? Will we be the spectators? Or simply the props?

Or will we be the heroes?

Iyar 19, 5712, after the seven day period of mourning for his brother.