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Beth El's Passover Guide

03/27/2018 02:59:38 PM


Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is one of the three major pilgrimage festivals of ancient Israel and commemorates the Jews' Exodus from Egypt. Its name comes from the miracle in which God “passed over” the houses of the Israelites during the tenth plague. Centered on the family or communal celebration of the Seder (ritual meal), Passover is one of the most beloved of all Jewish holidays.

To help prepare for this meaningful holiday, please enjoy Beth El's Guide to Passover.

Cleaning Chametz

Preparation for Pesach begins with cleaning your house of chametz, any food product made from wheat, barley, rye, or oats that have come into contact with water and been allowed to ferment and “rise.” Some families do a deep clean, some do a more cursory cleaning, but you'll want to pay particular attention to your kitchen. One way to remove chametz from your home is to arrange for a non-Jewish buyer to purchase your chametz. You can authorize Beth El to do this for you by filling out a form in the office or sending an email to Ritual Director Ben Kreshtool ( The form must be signed, and emails received no later than 11:00 AM on Friday, March 30th.


The Passover Seder is one of the most observed Jewish rituals. In 2018 (or 5778 on the Hebrew calendar), the Passover Seders fall on Friday night March 30th and Saturday night April 1st. Many people have beloved family traditions at their Sedarim, but it's not hard to make your own Seder and start some new traditions. Here are just a few cherished Passover customs to get you started:

  • Elijah's Cup: In addition to drinking four cups of wine, we also pour a fifth, ceremonial cup and leave it untouched to honor Elijah, who, according to tradition, will arrive one day as an unknown guest to announce the coming of the Messiah. We wouldn't want Elijah to go empty handed, would we?
  • Reclining on Pillows: Jews are instructed to lounge on a couch, an armchair, or on pillows while observing the Seder. Maimonides writes: “One is required to see himself as if he had just now left Egyptian slavery. Hence, when a person eats on this night, he is required to eat and drink while reclining, as a sign of freedom.”
  • Three Matzot and the Afikomen: At the Seder, before we begin to tell the story of the Exodus, we take the middle of the three matzahs that are stacked under the Seder plate and split it into two parts. We return the smaller half to its place between the other two matzahs, and we place the larger half in a bag, or wrap it in a cloth, and then set it aside. The matzah that is set aside is called the Afikomen, and it is eaten for “dessert” after the Seder meal in commemoration of the paschal sacrifice. The Afikomen represents our liberation from Egyptian exile. That redemption, however, was not a complete one, as we are still awaiting the final redemption with the coming of Messiah. Setting aside or hiding the larger half of the matzah reminds us that the best, the real redemption, is yet to come, still hidden in the future.

The Passover Seder begins with the following invitation: "All who are hungry, come and eat; all who are needy come and celebrate Passover." One of the most beautiful Passover traditions involves inviting strangers into your home to join your Seder. If you're interested in hosting someone from our community at your Seder, or are looking to join a Seder, please email Josh Bender (


No Seder is complete without the Haggadah, the traditional book which helps us navigate this important ritual meal and commemorates the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt. The Haggadah includes various prayers, blessings, rituals, fables, songs, and information on how to perform the Seder. The point of the Seder is to ask questions and learn more about the holiday; your Haggadah is sure to give you some great ideas. In the diaspora we observe two Sedarim so, if you wanted, you could have two completely different type of Sederim, using a different Haggadah each night.

Yom Tov Festival Days

This year, the Yom Tov festival days occur on March 31st, April 1st, April 6th, and April 7th. As with all Jewish festivals, there are special prayers and services. In the Torah, we will read about the Exodus from Egypt, chant the special Song of the Sea, learn about the calendar of sacred time that governs our holiday observances, and recite Hallel, the Psalms of Praise. On the eighth day of Passover, we observe Yizkor, the memorial service observed on festival days. Even though these are joyous days, it's important for us to remember the people who are no longer at our Seder tables, who helped us make special holiday memories.

Counting the Omer

At the end of the second Seder, we begin to count the omer, a period of 49 days from Pesach to the Festival of Shavuot when we celebrate the receiving of the Torah. Each night, we will recite a special prayer, and count the next number until we get to Shavuot. We do this in remembrance of the barley offerings that we offered in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Next Year in Jerusalem

At the final, emotionally climactic moment in the Seder, we say “next year in Jerusalem,” as a reminder of past suffering and future hopes. From everyone here at Beth El, we wish you and your loved ones a happy and meaningful Passover.

As a reminder, you can authorize Beth El to “purchase” your chametz by filling out a form in the office or sending an email to Ritual Director Ben Kreshtool ( The form must be signed, and emails received no later than 11:00 AM on Friday March 30th.

Also, if you would like to host a community member at your Seder, or are looking for a Seder to attend, please email Executive Director Josh Bender (

Full Passover Service Schedule:

Friday, March 30 - Erev Pesach: 
7:45 a.m.: The Fast of First Born Service
6:00 p.m.: Evening Service

Saturday, March 31 - Pesach:
10:00 a.m.: Morning Service
1:00 p.m.: Evening Service (time change due to 2nd Seder)

Sunday, April 1st - 2nd Day of Pesach:
10:00 a.m.: Morning Service
5:30 p.m.: Evening Service

Thursday, April 5 - Hol Hamoed Pesach:
7:45 a.m.: Morning Service
6:00 p.m.: Evening Service

Friday, April 6 - Shvii of Pesach:
10:00 a.m.: Morning Service
6:00 p.m.: Evening Service

Saturday, April 7 - Pesach Yom Tov Ha'aharon:
10:00 a.m.: Morning Service
7:30 p.m.: Evening Service


Sat, July 24 2021 15 Av 5781