Approximately once every nine years, Passover begins on Saturday night. This means that erev Pesach, the day before Passover 2021, coincides with Shabbat, bringing with it a number of unique laws and guidelines. Let’s address them chronologically.

Click for a handy fridge poster for this year

Fast of the Firstborn

It is an ancient tradition for the firstborns to fast on the day before Passover. Since we (generally) do not fast on Shabbat, which is a day of feasting, or on Friday which may interfere with our Shabbat joy, this fast is observed on Thursday, 12 Nissan. The widespread custom is for firstborns to participate in a siyum or another celebratory event that overrides the fast and allows them to eat for the remainder of the day. This, too, is done on Thursday.

More About Fast of the Firstborn

Search for Chametz

On the night before Passover we search for chametz (which we are forbidden to own or eat on Passover) by candlelight. Since this cannot be done on Friday night, which is Shabbat, we do it after nightfall on Thursday.

How to Search

Destroying Chametz

The last bits of chametz must be burned the day before Passover, before the fifth halachic hour of the day. Since this cannot be done on Shabbat, the burning of the chametz takes place at the same time on Friday, even though we keep just enough chametz to eat at the Friday night and Shabbat morning meals.

Burning the Chametz

The Sale of Chametz

All chametz that we wish to save for use after Passover must be sold to a non-Jew and then repurchased after the holiday has passed. This sale typically takes place on the morning before Passover. Since buying and selling are forbidden on Shabbat, the sale is transacted (by the community rabbi on behalf of his community) on Friday.

Sell Your Chametz Online

Eating Chametz on Shabbat

Since the house cannot be cleaned on Shabbat, all the cleaning must be finished on Friday. Yet it is a mitzvah to eat bread at the Friday night and Shabbat morning meals.

It is also forbidden to eat matzah at this time, in order that we enjoy it on Passover eve with gusto. (It is possible to eat kosher-for-Passover egg matzah, since one may not use this matzah for the seder. According to Ashkenazi custom, all healthy people must finish eating egg matzah before the latest time to eat chametz, like bread. For more on this, see Is Egg Matzah Kosher for Passover?)

In practice, we retain a small quantity of chametz, carefully kept away from our food and utensils, all of which are strictly kosher for Passover by this time.

On Shabbat morning, services are held early so that the Shabbat meal, which requires two challah loaves (which are chametz), can be concluded before the deadline.

On a practical note, it is advisable to prepare small rolls, one per meal for each participant, which can be distributed and eaten without the use of a knife.

Make sure that you eat all the chametz that has been left for Shabbat before the deadline (which you can calculate here), as chametz cannot be sold, burned, or taken out to the street on Shabbat. Any remaining challah pieces and crumbs should be flushed down the toilet. At this point, we say the second Kol Chamira declaration, disowning any leftover chametz.

Shabbat Hagadol

The Shabbat before Passover is known as Shabbat Hagadol, “the Great Shabbat” (read why this is so). It is the Chabad custom to only read the special Shabbat Hagadol Haftarah1 in years like this, when Shabbat Hagadol is the day before Passover.

Like every Shabbat Hagadol, after the Minchah services on Shabbat afternoon, it is customary to read a selection of texts from the Haggadah, beginning from the words, avadim hayinu, “We were slaves…”

Print a Haggadah Here

Preparing for the Seder

Shabbat is a day of rest, and we may not start preparing on Shabbat for after Shabbat. As such, setting the table, cooking, and preparing can only be done once night has fallen on Saturday night. Before these tasks may be commenced, one should say bah-rookh hah-mahv-deel bayn koh-desh leh-koh-desh, “Blessed is He Who divides between the sacred (Shabbat) and the sacred (holiday).”

Even though cooking is allowed on yom tov (with certain caveats), it is forbidden to kindle a fire from scratch. So if you wish to have your oven and/or stove on over yom tov, be sure to make sure the fire is on before Shabbat, even though no cooking is allowed on Shabbat itself.

How to Prepare the Seder Items