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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

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 Shabbat occurs immediately following a festival -- as it does this year -- an "eruv tavshilin" (i.e., food for at least one "meal" that is set aside in advance for Shabbat) must be prepared prior to the festival, so that it should be permitted to prepare food for Shabbat during the festival.

For more on Eruv Tavshilin and how it is made click here

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

This is the impossible position He has put us in: The paradox of outrage.

We believe that at the core of reality there lies a G-d who is essentially good and cares for each one according to his or her needs, guiding each one to the right path, punishing wickedness and rewarding goodness in fair and equal measure. And so, over and over we are outraged--because what we experience flies in the face of this entire belief.

Yet, if we abandon either pole of the paradox, we might as well have never been born. If we learn to ignore the existence of the evil and the suffering, finding some justification for G-d or simply hiding our heads in the sand--then for what purpose were we placed in such a world? To leave it as we found it? And what kind of a G-d have our justifications created?

But if we should surrender our G-d, concluding that, "there is no Judge and therefore no justice"--then what value does my life have? What value does any life have? And what, then, is the point of all the outrage?

This is the drama created by a G-d entirely beyond any form of understanding--a drama powered by the agonizing tension of paradox.

They asked the Baal Shem Tov: "The Talmud tells usChulin 109b. that for every thing G-d forbade, He provided us something permissible of the same sort. He forbade us to eat blood and permitted the liver. He forbade milk and meat and permitted the cow's udder. If so, what did He permit that corresponds to the sin of heresy?"

The Baal Shem Tov replied: "Acts of kindness."Pardes Yosef, Terumah, chapter 25.

Because when you see a person suffering, you don't say, "G-d runs the universe. G-d will take care. G-d knows what is best." You do everything in your power to relieve that suffering as though there is no G-d. You become a heretic in G-d's name.