Chametz Eating Deadline: The Torah (Exodus 12:15, as per Talmud, Pesachim 5a) sets midday of Nissan 14 (this year corresponding with Friday April 3, 2015), as the deadline for the destruction and/or removal of all leavened foods (“chametz”) from our possession in preparation for the festival of Passover, which begins this evening at nightfall. In practice, Torah law mandates that we desist from eating chametz two hours before midday, and that no leaven remain in our possession an hour before midday. These are not clock hours but “proportional hours”, defined by Jewish law as a 12th part of the time between sunrise and sunset. From this point until the end of the festival of Passover, it is forbidden to eat leaven, or anything containing even the slightest trace of leaven.
Burning and Nullifying Chametz: Chametz is disposed of by: a) selling it to a non-Jew; b) burning the chametz found in our search on the previous evening (see entry for Nissan 13); c) “nullifying” the chametz that has not been found by declaring it ownerless. The deadline for selling, burning and nullifying chametz is one “proportional hour” before midday. From this point until the end of the festival of Passover, it is forbidden to eat leaven, derive benefit from it in any way, own it or have it in one’s possession.
Passover Offering: When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, the Passover offering was brought there on the afternoon of Nissan 14. Today it is commemorated by our recitation of the “Order of the Passover Offering”, by the “shankbone” placed on the seder plate this evening, and the afikoman — a portion of matzah eaten in its stead at the end of the seder meal.
Fast of the Firstborn: Firstborn males over the age of Bar Mitzvah (13) are obligated to fast on the 14th of Nissan, in recognition of the fact that during the “Plague of the Firstborn” (which occurred at midnight of Nissan 15). G-d “passed over” the Jewish firstborn when He killed all firstborn Egyptians. If there is a firstborn male in the family under 13, the obligation to fast rests with the father. The prevailing custom, however, is for the firstborn to exempt themselves from the obligation to fast by participating in a seudat mitzvah (a meal marking the fulfillment of a mitzvah), such as a siyyum–a festive meal celebrating the conclusion of the study of a section of Torah).
Passover Seder: The 8-day festival of Passover–also called “The Festival of Matzahs” and “The Time of Our Freedom”–begins Friday, April 3, 2015 at nightfall. In the evening, we conduct a seder (“order”) — a 15-part ritualistic feast that encompasses the observances of the Passover festival: telling our children the story of the Exodus as described and expounded in the Haggadah; eating the matzah (unleavened bread), the bitter herbs dipped in charoset, and the afikoman (an additional portion of matzah eaten as “dessert” in commemoration of the Passover offering); drinking the four cups of wine; and numerous other symbolic foods and rituals commemorating both our slavery in Egypt and our liberation on this night.
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