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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

Joseph had spent an entire year in prison when one morning he noticed that two Egyptian prisoners seemed more unhappy than usual.

So he asked them what was wrong. And out of that question, years later, emerged not only his own release from prison, but the rescue of all Egypt, indeed all the known world, from a famine of seven years.

Everything Joseph did defied human nature.

These were, after all, former officials of the royal court. It was just such an Egyptian official who had thrown him in the dungeon to begin with. It’s only human to harbor prejudice against the ilk of those who have caused you harm.

And why shouldn’t they be miserable? They’re in a dungeon, where hope dims every day as the ugly claws of despair suffocate the human spirit.

Indeed, by human nature, Joseph more than anyone else should have long ago succumbed to bitter apathy, as a helpless victim of a cruel and unjust world.

He was imprisoned despite his excellent service only because he stuck to his principles in the face of overwhelming temptation. And before that, he had been sold by his own brothers as a slave as a direct result of faithfully carrying out his father’s request.

Yet when Joseph saw two of G‑d’s creations were unhappy with how G‑d had made them and where He had put them, he felt it was his responsibility to do something. G‑d’s world was his world, and if any creature’s sadness reached out to him, it was a mission handed to him from Above.

When your world looks dim, when you feel you are stuck in a prison and all is unjust, do yourself a favor. Look up and see what’s going on with the people around you. Do something, however small it may be, for a fellow human or two.

You will liberate yourself, perhaps even your entire world.

Miketz 5734