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Points of View
It Came to Pass at Midnight
My Point of View, April 1, 2005
© Rabbi Jack Moline

Just how late is Pesach this year?

It's very late. Not only does the festival not begin until the evening of April 23 (and end at dark on May 1), the first seder is on a Saturday night. In the best of circumstances that configuration presents special challenges, but Daylight Savings Time makes it even more of an issue.

Shabbat in its sanctity must be preserved for the full measure of twenty-five hours. That means that the earliest Pesach can begin is 8:41. For those of us used to holding leisurely sedarim, the prospect of starting dinner at 10:30 or 11:00 is daunting; concluding in the wee hours of the morning will make shul the next morning even more difficult.

So I suggest to you a little creative bending of reality. Go back to Standard Time for the weekend to make things seem a little more attainable. For our part, we will help. Services for the first morning of Pesach will begin at 9:30 Standard Time (10:30 Daylight Time).

But a Saturday night start to the festival brings another challenge as well. Since your house must be cleaned of chametz before Shabbat, what do you eat? There will be no challah in the house, and you are not permitted to taste matzah on the day before Pesach!

Here's the answer: your Shabbat meals should be kosher-for-Passover. In lieu of challah, you may use egg matzah, which is considered to be not-quite matzah. (Alternately, you may keep a small challah on a disposable plate outside of your kitchen and dining area. It may be used for Friday dinner and then consumed or put into the trash or out for the birds by 10:00 on Saturday morning. The egg matzah should be used for other Shabbat meals.) Meals may be eaten on Passover plates or disposable plates.

The other rituals that initiate Pesach are also conducted early. The siyyum for the first-born is on Thursday morning, and the search for leaven on Thursday evening. A comprehensive guide to all of the unique challenges of this year's calendar configuration may be found at:

(scroll down to the section on Pesach and open the very first entry: Kassel Abelson, When Pesah Begins on Saturday Night OH 444.1993, a pdf file).

However late Pesach may be, it is never too early to consider the blessings that enable us to moan about how we organize our embarrassment of riches. Many in our community perhaps even you are without the resources to enjoy a seder. Open your home if you have room at your table. Open your mouth (to me) if you need an invitation. Open your wallet or purse to MAZON, the Jewish response to hunger, or to our local B'nai B'rith's Project Hope (contact me) to help meet the needs of the hungry and/or the under-funded.

And, in the words of the late Sammy Davis, Jr., a zissen pesach.

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