Matzah

It is a Biblical obligation upon men and women to eat matzah on the night of Pesach. In the Diaspora this refers also to the second night. At present there are two types of matzot available: Machine-made matzot, and hand-baked round shemurah matzot. One should make an effort to use the latter throughout the entire Yom Tov or at least for the Sedarim.

At three points in the Seder it is necessary to eat at least a kezayit — a measure formally described as the size of one olive and traditionally determined as one ounce, 27 grams. The prevailing Lubavitcher custom is to eat two kezeitim for the initial consumption, then one kezayit for koreich and again two kezeitim for the afikoman. This requires a large quantity of matzah to meet the needs of all those present at the Seder table, so ample provisions should be prepared before the Seder begins.

For the initial eating of matzah, akezayit — one ounce — is one half of the average hand-baked matzah. If one finds it difficult to consume two zeitim of this size, one may use a smaller amount for the second kezayit; namely, two-thirds of an ounce, since it is only miderabanan — a Rabbinic precept.

The matzah used for koreich is also miderabanan; thus, here too, if it is difficult to follow the stricter measure of approximately one ounce, one may suffice with just two-thirds of an ounce of matzah.

For afikoman, one should ideally consume two kezeitim of one ounce each. If this is difficult, one may suffice with the smaller size of two-thirds of an ounce for each. If this, too, is difficult, one kezayit can suffice.

In each of the three cases, the consumption of the required amount should be completed in less than four minutes. If one should find this difficult, the eating of matzah for koreich and afikoman can extend to a maximum of 6 or 7 minutes.

(שו"ת צמח צדק שער המילואים ח"א סי' ט, וספר שיעורי תורה להגרא"ח ז"ל נאה)

Matzah, according to the Zohar (II, 183b) is ‘meichla d’atvata’ and ‘meichla demeheimenuta’ — the ‘food of health’ and the ‘food of faith.’ It is evidence of the absolute trust of our ancestors in Divine Providence, and our similar trust, and it has the quality of strengthening this faith. Observing this holy mitzvah in its true spirit, the Zohar states, increases the inner faith in Hashem which is in the heart of every Jew. Nowadays, more than ever, it is necessary to foster this faith, which is the basis of all the mitzvot and of true Jewish life in general. Fulfilling this mitzvah according to the best and fullest requirements of the Torah will surely bring increased vitality in the observance of Torah and mitzvot all year round; and a healthy year spiritually must also bring with it a healthy year physically and materially.”

(כ"ק אדמו"ר, שבמ"ח ניסן תשי"ד)


Wine

During the Seder on both nights each of the participants, both men and women, are required to drink four cups of wine. Although some halachic authorities question the validity of grape juice for theSeder, according to most opinions it is acceptable, although mixing at least a small quantity of wine with the grape juice is suggested. Each cup must contain at least a revi’it (approximately 3.5 fluid ounces).

According to Rabbi Avraham Chaim z”l Noe in Sefer Shiurei Torah, a revi’it is 86 grams. Since 1 ounce equals .03527 grams a revi’it is equivalent to a bit more than 3 ounces. Incidentally, the numerical value of the word kos — cup (כוס) — is 86.

Ideally, one should drink the whole cup each time. If this is difficult, one should drink at least a little more than one half of a revi’it (approximately 2 ounces). For the fourth cup however, one must drink a full revi’it (3.5 ounces), even if one made do previously with less, in order to be able to recite the Berachah Acharonah — Concluding Blessing.

(שו"ע הרב סי' תע"ב, י"ט)


Maror

Maror should be eaten by all participants, men and women, for the initial mitzvah and again forkoreich (“the sandwich”). For maror it is popular to use either romaine lettuce or pure horseradish (chrein). It is important to carefully wash and check the romaine lettuce to assure that there are no bugs or insects on it. The Lubavitcher custom is to use romaine lettuce and horseradish together, on both occasions. In addition to the grated horseradish, some eat a whole piece.

Although preferably the amount consumed should be a kezayit — one ounce — if one finds it difficult, the smaller measure, namely two-thirds of an ounce, will suffice, since it is only miderabanan — a Rabbinic precept.

For both maror and koreich one should complete the consumption of the required amount in less than four minutes. If this should prove difficult, one can extend the time to a maximum of 6 or 7 minutes.


Zeroa — Shankbone [lit., arm or shoulder bone]

The prevailing Lubavitcher custom is to use the neckbone of a chicken and to make a point of removing as much of the meat as possible in order to avoid any resemblance to the Pesach-offering, which it commemorates at the Seder.


Charoset

Charoset is a mixture of ground apples, pears, and nuts, which is placed on the Seder plate and to which red wine is added during the Seder. The prevailing Lubavitcher custom is not to mix in cinnamon or ginger.


Beitzah

A hard boiled egg is used to commemorate theChagigah-offering. It is the prevailing Lubavitcher custom that the egg be placed on the Seder plate unshelled and eaten at the beginning of the meal dipped into the salt water.


Karpas

A vegetable placed on the Seder plate. The most commonly used are raw onion and boiled potato.


Custom Of Not Eating Gebrokt

Many have a custom of eating shemurah matzah on Pesach. “Shemurah” means “guarded.” The wheat is guarded from any moisture from the time of harvest until it becomes the end product — the baked matzah. Some are careful to guard the finished product from moisture as well, in case a small amount of the flour was not mixed well and is still subject to becoming chameitz. Though this is highly unlikely, they go to great lengths to avoid the most remote possibility of chameitz. Thus, on Pesach the matzah is kept covered, and they are careful not to dip matzah into water or any liquid to which water has been added. In Yiddish it is called “gebrokt,” which means “breaking up the matzah into pieces and dipping it in.”

On the eighth day of Pesach the matzah is uncovered and dipped into water, soup, etc. The reason for this leniency is because in the Diaspora our Sages added this day to the seven Biblical days ofPesach. Since it is only miderabanan — a Rabbinic ordinance — therefore, for the sake of simchat Yom Tov — happily enjoying ourselves on Yom Tov — one may be lenient and not worry about stringencies based on highly unlikely possibilities.

(שו"ת בסוף שו"ע הרב סי' ו)

When the eighth day of Yom Tov falls on Shabbat, one may prepare gebrokt, e.g. cook soup with kneidelachmatzah balls — on Friday.

(עי' ספר נטעי גבריאל, ואוצר מנהגי חב"ד, ואודות שמהדרין לשרות באחש"פ עי' לקוטי שיחות חכ"ב ע' 30)


Four Cups

QUESTION: Why do we drink four cups of wine at the Seder?

ANSWER: They correspond to the following:

1) The four expressions of redemption, “I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt, I shall rescue you from their service, I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm, I shall take you to Me for a people (Shemot 6:6-7).

2) The four times “kos” — “cup” — is mentioned in the conversation between Yosef and the butler (Bereishit 40:11, 13).

3) The four empires who subjugated the Jewish people — Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

4) The four cups of retribution Hashem will make the nations of the world drink in the days of Mashiach for treating the Jews badly.

5) The four cups of consolation Hashem will give to the Jewish people.

(ירושלמי פסחים פ"י הל"א, מדרש רבה בראשית פ"ח:ה)

Alternatively, the four cups correspond to the four matriarchs: Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, and Leah.

The first cup corresponds to Sarah, who together with Avraham, converted many people and brought them close to Hashem (Bereishit 12:5, Rashi). Over this cup we recite Kiddush and say Asher bachar banu mikol am” — “Who has chosen us from among all nations.”

The second cup corresponds to Rivkah, who rose to spiritual heights, regardless of her family of idol worshippers. Over this cup we recite the passage in the Haggadah about the confrontation between Lavan (Rivkah’s brother) and Yaakov.

The third cup corresponds to Rachel. It is filled at the conclusion of the meal, and we recite Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meal) over it. It was Rachel’s son Yosef, who supplied everyone with food in Egypt.

We say Hallel over the fourth cup, which corresponds to Leah. She was first to thank Hashem (Berachot 7b): Upon giving birth to Yehudah she declared “Hapa’am odeh et Hashem” — “This time I will offer praise to Hashem” (Bereishit 29:35).

(של"ה)

* * *

QUESTION: 1) Why did Hashem utter four expressions of redemption when seemingly one would have been sufficient? 2) Why drink four cups because of the four expressions when basically they all concern one redemption — the Exodus from Egypt?

ANSWER: The four expressions represent four independent phases of the redemption.

“Vehotzeiti” — “I shall take you out” — means that the burden of slavery was removed before they were even permitted to leave the country. Slavery ended in Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah 11a) and the actual departure took place six months later in Nissan.

“Vehitzalti” — “I shall rescue you” — was a promise to the Jewish people that the subjugation to Egypt would be formally ended and that wherever they would be, they will be totally emancipated and free of any obligation, such as paying taxes, to the Egyptian government.

“Vega’alti” — “I shall redeem you” — alludes to the splitting of the sea when the Egyptians experienced their ultimate destruction. Until then the Jews feared that their former masters would pursue them and return them to slavery.

“Velakachti” — “I shall take you to Me for a people” — refers to Hashem making us His chosen people through the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai.

(רבינו בחיי)

Alternatively, in Bereishit we learn of four generations that angered Hashem with their behavior. The first was the generation of Enosh, who were the first to commit idolatry (Bereishit 4:26, Rashi). The second was the Generation of the Flooddor hamabul — of which it is written, “Hashem saw the earth and behold it was corrupted for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth” (6:12). The third was the Generation of Dispersion — dor haflagah — with which Hashem was angered because they built the Tower of Babel and contemplated an ascent to heaven and revolt against Him. Hashem punished them by “dispersing them from there over the face of the whole earth” (11:8). The fourth was the generation of Sodom, of which Hashem said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gemorrah has become great, and their sin has been very grave” (18:20).

These four generations were reincarnated in the people enslaved in Egypt, and the Egyptian bondage was a form of elevation for them. Thus, the four expressions of redemption are not just a redundancy; they correspond to the redemption of these four generations that needed to become spiritually elevated through being in Egypt.

In fact, the first letters of the words of the first expression of redemption, “Hotzeiti etchem mitachat sivlot” “[I] shall take you out from under the burdens” (הוצאתי אתכם מתחת סבלות) — are an acronym for Haflagah — dispersion — (הפלגה), Enosh (אנוש), Mabul — flood — (מבול), Sodom (סדום).

(מגלה עמוקות, ואתחנן אופן רל"ו)

* * *

QUESTION: Why are the four cups of wine necessarily?

ANSWER: Four times the words “kos yayin” (כוס יין) — “cup of wine” — equals six hundred and twenty-four, which is the same numerical value as the word “cheirut” (חירות) — “freedom.”

(הגש"פ מוצל מאש – בית אהרן – בפי' פאר אהרן מר' אברהם אהרן ז"ל פריעדמאן, טשאפ, רוסיא, תש"ב)


Candlelighting

On Pesach, as on the Shabbat throughout the year, Jewish women and girls are granted the privilege and the responsibility of lighting the candles to usher in the holiness of the holiday into their homes. Preferably, the holiday candles should be lit on the afternoon of the 14th of Nissan, 18 minutes before sunset. Unlike candlelighting on the Shabbat, however, if the candles are not lit before sunset, they may be lit afterwards. In such a situation, however, the candles must be lit from an existing flame, since it is forbidden to create a new fire by striking a match or lighter, etc., on the holiday.

The following two blessings are recited when lighting candles:

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the (Shabbat and) festival lights.

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

On the second night of Pesach, the candles are lit from an existing flame after the appearance of three stars, and the same two blessings are recited. When the 15th of Nissan (1st day ofPesach) falls on the Shabbat, candlelighting for the 2nd day is delayed until the appearance of three stars. Before lighting the candles, the women should recite the phrase, “Baruch hamavdil bein kodesh lekodesh” — “Blessed is He Who made a distinction between the holy and the holy.” The candles are lit from an existing flame.

When there is a Shabbat among the intermediate days of Pesach, candlelighting is carried out before sunset, in the same manner as on Shabbat throughout the year.

For the seventh and eighth days of Pesach, the procedure is the same as for the first and second days, except that on these two days the blessing Shehechiyanu — “Who has granted us life...” — is not recited.