Pesach Guide 2022

Prepare for Pesach:

This day shall be to you one of remembrance: you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Eternal throughout the ages; you shall celebrate it as an institution for all time. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the very first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day to the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. …. You shall observe the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day throughout the ages as an institution for all time. In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. No leaven shall be found in your houses for seven days. For whoever eats what is leavened, that person— whether a stranger or a citizen of the country—shall be cut off from the community of Israel. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your settlements you shall eat unleavened bread. —Exodus 12:14–20

The above verses from the Torah establish the holiday of Passover and command that we should eat matzah and refrain from eating chametz, leavened bread, for seven days. The Rabbis define chametz as five grains—wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats[1]—that are exposed to water for more than eighteen minutes.

In a regular year, the entire household is thoroughly cleaned from any products that may contain chametz and often all dishes, pots, and utensils are switched to sets reserved for Passover use. Depending on how you decide to observe the Kosher for Passover rules, we suggest the following steps to prepare Pesach at home:

  • Put bread into your freezer or any other place you can store it for the week of Pesach.
  • Oats, biscuits and such should be stored away with other products, not Kosher for Passover and not needed during the 7 days, into one cupboard of your kitchen and sealed (clear tape helps to not open the cupboard accidently.
  • Even though you might follow the traditional Ashkenazi custom of not eating kitniyot (corn, rice, beans and lentils) on Pesach, there is nothing wrong having them in the house. Kitniyot are acceptable food, also during Pesach[2]
  • Have a Pesach-Putz, meaning a cleaning for Pesach. The key is that spring cleaning is not Passover cleaning. You only need to remove actual edible chametz residue, not dust, and only from places where you could have conceivably put chametz in the first place.
  • If you use your regular dishes and cutlery, just rinse them an additional time before you use them during Peach. Please try not to use plastic, it is just not good for the enviroment.

What supplies do I need?

Here’s what you’ll need for the Seder:

  • Matzah

One is obligated to avoid chametz throughout Passover, but the obligation to eat matzah is limited to fulfilling the rituals of the first/second night seder alone. If you’re alone, three matzahs for the seder will cover you just fine. You should factor in an additional two matzahs per additional participant, as well as some extra for snacking during the meal. You can also make your own Matzah:

https://reformjudaism.org/jewish-holidays/passover/video-how-make-18-minute-matzah

  • Wine or grape juice

Every individual needs to drink four cups of wine or grape juice. If you have small shot glasses at home, a single bottle should just be enough for the seder.

  • Maror (bitter herbs, typically romaine lettuce and grated horseradish)

Each person needs to have two portions of maror (one eaten alone and one as part of the korech sandwich), each one at least a teaspoon. Preparing two teaspoons per person will have you covered.

  • Vegetable for dipping (karpas)

Many use celery, radish, or parsley as karpas, but you can also use carrots, onions or potatoes.

  • Zeroa or “shank bone”
    The zeroa is not eaten at the Seder. Some use a forearm of a lamb, or else a neck bone, leg of a chicken or an actual shank-bone. Whichever you use, it should be well-roasted. Not only vegetarians have started to substitute it with red beet.
  • Charoset
    There are many recipes available on the internet, but here is one link to give you an idea:

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/jewish-and/7-charoset-recipes-to-give-passover-an-international-flair/

  • Eggs

One hardboiled egg per Seder plate is fine. Some have the custom for all participants to eat an egg during the meal. If this is the case, prepare one for every participant.

  • Orange

A newer addition to seder plates, originated by Suzannah Heschel, the orange represents our need to be inclusive of all who feel marginalised within the Jewish community. One orange per Seder plate is fine. Some have the custom for all participants to eat one orange during the meal. If this is the case, have one for every participant.

  • Sunflower seeds

This year many add sunflower seeds to the things we place on our seder plates as a sign of solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Sunflower seeds are kitniyot, so you might not want to eat them during Pesach, but it is kosher to have them on your tables.

Ritual objects at the seder

  • Seder Plate

The seder plate shows the symbols talked about in the story of Passover as told in the Haggadah. If you don’t have a Seder Plate at home, use a regular plate.

  • Three matzoth

There are two explanations for this: matzah is the food of poor slaves or there was no time for our bread to rise in our hurried escape from Egypt. Three matzoth are covered with a cloth and placed under or next to the seder plate.

  • Salt water

We dip the greens in salt water. This represents the tears of the Israelites, whose sons were taken from them by the Pharaoh. You may need minimum one bowl so all can easily dip.

  • Cup of Elijah

A large cup filled with wine is placed in the centre of the table for Elijah.

  • Cup of Miriam

A modern custom is to fill a cup with water and place it next to the cup of Elijah. Miriam, the prophetess, has many connections to water. She watched over her baby brother Moses as he floated in a reed basket in the Nile and led the women in song after the miracle of the splitting of the sea. A well is said to have followed the Israelites as they travelled through the desert because of Miriam’s faith.

  • Pillows

Reclining while eating was a sign of freedom in the ancient world. The Haggadah tells us to recline when we drink the four cups of wine, eat matzah, the Hillel sandwich and the afikomen. Pillows make reclining easier!

  • Afikomen

Afikomen is the Greek word for dessert. Near the beginning of the seder, the middle of the three matzoth is broken and only one part is returned to the plate. The other half is designated as the afikomen, the last thing to be eaten at the meal. There is the tradition of hiding the afikomen during the meal and to ask children to search for it. It is a wonderful tradition, whether that takes the form of a real hiding of the afikomen or an internet wordsearch or a Where’s Waldo?-style picture or a Wikipedia hunt.

  • Hand-washing stations

In emulation of the ancient priests, ritual hand washing is performed twice during the evening. This may be done at the kitchen sink or with a bowl and pitcher placed near the table.

Let all who are hungry come and eat

Last but not least: No seder is complete without honouring the holiday’s essential command: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”  The rising costs for energy and food have created for many households in the UK a difficult situation and more and more rely on foodbanks on a regular base. If you can, please consider a donation to one of the food banks around you. Let us spead the joy of the holy day to all around us.

Chag Pesach Sameach

Rabbi Adrian M Schell, April 2022


[1] BT P’sachim 35a

[2] https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/assets/public/halakhah/teshuvot/2011-2020/Levin-Reisner-Kitniyot.pdf