Ask the rabbi

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Eating Matzah

Passover Commandments


Rabbi David Sperling

Tevet 10, 5780
Does one have to eat Matzah and wine on Passover or can they simply avoid Chametz?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. On Passover a Jew has several commandments to fulfill in order to recall the exodus from Egypt. One of them, as you mention in your question, is to abstain from any chametz (leaven) products for the seven days (eight outside of Israel) of the Passover festival. Connected to this is the command to remove all chametz products from out houses and ownership. In order to comply with these laws we clean and remove all chametz on the day before the Passover night (Seder night) and conduct a check of the house. (Closer to Passover you'll be able to find extensive guidelines on our website as to how to keep a Kosher for Passover house). However these are only negative commandments (ie. Thou shall not have Chametz etc). Passover also includes several positive commandments, which in our times, until the Temple is rebuilt, include the following, that are preformed as part of the Seder night festive meal that is held on the first night of Passover - 1. Eating Matzah on Seder night (the first evening of Passover). During the festive Seder night meal we will in fact eat Matzah three times – each time fulfilling another command. 2. Tell the story of the exudos from Egypt (recite the Hagadah). This is the central feature of the Seder night festive meal, to tell the story to our children, and ourselves. 3. Drink four cups of wine – again, during the Seder night meal we will drink four cups of wine (or grape juice) during the night. 4. Bitter Herbs (Marror) – we also eat a measure of bitter herbs (raw natural horseradish or Romaine lettuce) during the Seder night. In fact we eat this twice, once by itself, and once together with some matzah. The bitters are dipped into a nut-apple-wine condiment (charoset) before being eaten. 5. A Dipped Vegetable (Karpas) – we will take a vegetable (usually parsley or a potato) and dip it in salt water. All these commands are done also on the second night of Passover outside the land of Israel. We have several other commands that we preform on the Seder night, and during the week of Passover connected to prayer – such as saying the Hallel, or thanksgiving Psalms. I hope this quick outline is a help to you – and please get back to us with any further questions you have. With Passover being more than three months away you have plenty of time to prepare! The best way to do that, beyond your own research and reading, is to get in touch with someone who is religious and can study with you, and even invite you to a religious Seder night. (Assuming you are Jewish and are asking this question with a practical motive in mind – if not I still hope this was informative, and in any and every event we would be more than happy to help you with anything we can). Blessings.
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