Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Passover Timeline: When Do I Do What?

Last year during the High Holydays, I had to write out a timeline of the Holydays for my school in order to justify why I couldn't attend certain classes because of a religious holiday. (Because of night classes, just putting down a date wasn't sufficient because many days, I could attend day classes but not a night class.)

I decided this is a fabulous idea, so let's make a timeline for Pesach! (There is more to come on all of these topics, so don't freak out if you don't know what something is! We'll talk about it very soon!)

NOTE: This presumes you are in the Diaspora, as we discussed yesterday. And let's hope I got all the dates right! Be sure to add your additions, corrections, and comments below!

Yom Tov Restrictions:
Sundown April 18-Sundown April 20: The first two days of Pesach have yom tov restrictions (similar to Shabbat restrictions, but we'll talk about that in the next week or so).
Sundown April 20-Sundown April 24: Chol hamoed. Technically, there aren't yom tov restrictions, but there are restrictions unique to chol hamoed. You should particularly try to avoid any "skilled work." If you are considering working or doing schoolwork during this period, you should consult your rabbi. The most notable general issues: 1) You may cook. 2) You may "light a fire." 3) You may not do laundry unless it's for the holiday and was impossible to do before the holiday began. 4) Generally, hair cutting and shaving is forbidden. 5) You should be festive.
Sundown April 24-Sundown April 26: Yom tov restrictions.

Things to Do:
April 15-16: Shabbat HaGadol (the Great Shabbat). We read from the book of Malachi.
April 17: By now, you should know if you're going to sell any chametz. If so, you need to make the appropriate arrangements with a local rabbi, probably before April 17. If you're more isolated, Chabad allows for the sale of chametz through their website. You will also need to have the sold chametz put away appropriately.
Evening of April 17: Search for chametz. There is a blessing for this.
Morning of April 18: Burn the chametz you found the night before. Then make the declaration that nullifies any other chametz that may accidentally be left. You may not eat chametz after a particular time this morning, which you should look up for your location.
April 18: Fast of the Firstborn (males). You may not actually have to fast even if you are a qualified firstborn.
Sundown April 18: Pesach begins at sundown. We light candles. Tonight is the first seder!
Sundown April 19: We light candles again after sunset. (Remember to use an existing flame!) Then go to the second seder!
Sundown April 20: Recite havdalah but without the blessing for the candle or spices. At the maariv service, we begin to count the Omer.
Count the Omer at maariv each night after April 20.
Sundown April 22: Light Shabbat candles before sunset like normal. Instead of two challahs, use two matzahs.
April 23: Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach. In addition to the normal Pesach readings, we read Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim) during the Torah service.
Sundown April 23: Recite havdalah like normal.
Sundown April 24: Light candles for the two yom tov days at the end of Pesach. Have a festive meal!
Sundown April 25: We light candles again after sunset. (Remember to use an existing flame!)
April 26: We recite the Yizkor memorial service after the Torah reading.
Sundown April 26: Pesach ends! Recite havdalah without the blessing on the candle or spices. Now go eat some chametz! If you sell your chametz, you will be told to wait a certain amount of time in order to allow the rabbi to buy your chametz back. Generally, this is about an hour. If you're going to eat chametz that wasn't sold, you may eat it immediately. Most people go out for pizza, bagels, or donuts.


  1. We don't read the whole book of Malachi on Shabbos HaGadol. We just read from Chapter 3, verse 4 through the end. Of course, it's only 3 chapters long, and we read Malachi 1:1-2:7 as the Haftorah for Parshas Toldos, so it's the book with the third highest percentage that is used for Haftorahs. (The first two are the books of Ovadyah and Yonah, which we read 100% of, as the Haftorahs for Parshas Vayishlach and Yom Kippur afternoon, respectively.)

  2. Thanks for the clarification! I've edited the post.

  3. Chol hamoed observance has been getting stricter throughout my lifetime. I still go to work then, as is permitted in the case of financial loss. I simply do not have enough vacation days to take off all the Jewish holidays when they fall in the week, leaving aside chol hamoed. I'll take days off w/o pay for Yom Tov, but not for chol hamoed.

    We begin to recite the omer the second night of Pesach. Some people do so in synagogue, others do so during or after the conclusion of the second seder. Check with your rabbi for communal custom(s).

    Reading Shir haShirm on Shabbat Chol Hamoed is primarily an Ashkenzi custom. Many Sephardim and Mizrachim do not do this.

    Many people have a custom to leave the shul when Yizkor is being recited if both their parents are still alive. Expect some people to be passionate about this if you choose to do otherwise.

    After Pesach, in many communities you will have restrictions on buying chametz gamur (actual chametz) from 'Jewish owned' stores that did not sell their chametz during pesach. Don't worry about this if your community doesn't but keep a lookout for any announcements about it.