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Skokie Kollel Halachas of Pesach [Mar. 23rd, 2007|09:10 am]
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Parshas Zachor: On the Shabbos before Purim we read the portion of the Torah which entreats us to remember the actions of the nation of Amalek. One can fulfill a Torah mitzvah with this reading. According to some one can also fulfill this mitzvah during the Torah reading on Purim day itself. According to many Halachic opinions women are also obligatedin this mitzvah.

Fast of Esther: The Fast of Esther begins at daybreak of the thirteenth of Adar (this year coinciding with the 4th of March) and ends at nightfall. However it is customary to hear the Megillah reading in the evening before breaking the fast. Pregnant or nursing women or one who feels ill are is not required to fast if it is too difficult. One who feels he will have difficulty fasting should consult a competent halachic authority.

Shekalim: Before or on Purim every adult male gives three half-dollar coins or their equivalent to charity. It is customary to give on behalf of all family members.

Megillah Reading: All adults are obligated by our Sages to listen to every word of the Megilah in its proper sequence during the night and the following day of Purim. It is preferable for one to follow the reading inside a text in order that he can immediately fill in any words that he may not hear from the Reader. Parents are obligated to ensure that their children ages eight or nine and older hear every word of the Megillah reading, preferably in the synagogue. Small children who may disturb the reading should not be brought to the synagogue.

Gifts to the poor: All adults must also give gifts to two poor people, known as Matanos Laevyonim, during Purim day. A woman may fulfill her obligation through her husband’s gifts. Although one fulfills this obligation with any amount of money, it is preferable to give the amount equivalent to a meal. Although these gifts must be given on Purim, one may appoint a messenger before Purim to secure their distribution on Purim.

Mishloach Manos: Adults must also give one gift consisting of two different foods, known as Mishloach Manos, to a fellow Jew during Purim day. A woman can not rely on her husband's gift but must send her own gift.

Festive Meals: One fulfills a Rabbinic mitzvah by partaking in at least one festive meal during the day of Purim. It is proper to rejoice in the evening as well. One should be very careful not to become inebriated to the extent that he can not perform mitzvos properly

Hag’olah

Hag’olah is the commonly accepted method for kashering many types of vessels to be used for Pesach. This process may be used for uncoated metal utensils which have been used for cooking, serving, or eating chometz.

Proper "hag'olah" procedure is as follows:

The utensil should be cleaned thoroughly - even removing rust - and left unused for twenty-four hours. If there exist any cracks, crevices, etc., in which dirt may remain, the hag'olah process will not suffice.

The utensil should be submerged in a pot of boiling water. (In theory, even a non-kosher-for Pesach pot may be used for this purpose provided that it too has been thoroughly cleaned and not been used for twenty-four hours. However, it is customary to only use a pot that is itself already kosher for Pesach for such kashering.)

As the immersion will momentarily lower the water temperature, the utensil should not be removed from the pot until the water has returned to a boil.

When kashering more than one utensil, care should to be taken to see that they are not touching each other during the immersion. Several utensils may be loosely strung together, with a few inches of string separating each of them, and then immersed slowly into the boiling water.

If the utensil is being held by tongs or the like, it is critical to change the place where it is being gripped, making certain that all parts of the utensil come into contact with the boiling water. This may be done through a second immersion, if necessary. Similarly, if the utensil cannot be completely submerged into a pot, it may be kashered in sections provided that eventually all parts come into contact with the boiling water.

If the utensil is itself a very large pot, it should be filled to the very top with water and heated to a rolling boil. At that point, a previously heated stone or heavy kosher for Pesach metal object should be tossed into the pot, causing the boiling water to flow over the rim and walls of the pot.

After the hag'olah process, it is customary to immediately rinse the utensil with cold water. If this was not done, the kashering process is valid nonetheless.

.The Sages required us to search our homes for chametz prior to Pesach to ensure that our homes will be chametz free when Pesach arrives. The optimum time to fulfill this duty is the night before Pesach.

One should not engage in any time consuming activity, for example a haircut or a meal, the half an hour prior to nightfall when the search begins. Even learning Torah during this period is not allowed according to many opinions.

Although the basic obligation to search rests on the owner of the house , the owner can appoint an agent to perform the search .

One must search through any area in which chametz was possibly brought. In a house where children are found all areas where it was possible for the children to bring chametz must be examined. One must also examine his office and car for chametz. One should clean the areas he must examine before the actual search.

It is customary to use a candle to perform the search. Many people will start the search with a candle and then use a flashlight to examine areas in which a candle is either not practical or dangerous.

One who will be travelling within thirty days of Pesach and will not return home before Pesach must perform the search for chametz before he leaves. He can even perform the search two nights before he leaves if he feels that he will be rushed and hurried beause of his departure. However he may arrange with a Rabbi to sell his chametz prior to the night before Pesach and thereby will not be required to search. If he leaves before thirty days before Pesach and does not intend to return until after Pesach he does not need to perform the search for chametz. However he must verbally nullify any chametz that might exist. According to some authorities he must dispose of any known chametz. If he plans to return before Pesach he must perform the search according to many authorities.

After the search one should annul all chametz which may still be in his possession which he did not see according to the text which is found in most siddurim. However he must understand the words of the annulment and therefore can recite it in English. One should also perform the annulment in the morning before Pesach *after he actually burns whatever chametz he has left over for this purpose.

One who wants to sell his chametz should consult a competent halachic authority.

Matzah. The Torah obligates us to eat at least an ounce (approximately) of matzah on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan. The matzah must be matzah shmurah (made of only flour and water and specially supervised at least from the time of grinding the grain into flour). These criteria apply for the second night of Pesach as well.
The ounce of matzah may be eaten in between two and nine minutes. An ounce of matzah equals approximately one half of a hand baked matzah or two thirds of a machine baked matzah. These measurements are not exact as different matzahs have different densities. Therefore a local Rabbi should be consulted. One who is ill may be allowed to eat even less. According to some authorities if eating matzah is very difficult for an individual he may sip water (and only water as other liquids annul the taste of the matzah) between mouthfuls or soak the matzah in water a little before eating. If one foresees he will have difficulty eating the matzah he should consult a competent halachic authority as to how to perform the mitzvah in the most proper manner. According to the Ashkenazic custom egg matzah is generally not allowed to be eaten for the entire Pesach except for extreme cases.

Four cups Our Sages obligated us to drink four cups during the Seder. According to some authorities each cup should hold a minimum of 3.3 ounces. At least the majority of the cup should be drunk. One should try to drink this amount at one time. If this is too difficult he may drink it in up to two, or at worst, nine minutes.
The preferred beverage to drink is an unpasteurized, red wine with no sugar or water added. Other wines are also acceptable, even a high quality white wine. One may dilute the wine with up to two thirds water or grape juice according to many opinions as long as the taste remains. This varies from wine to wine. Grape juice is acceptable but does not afford the aspect of symbolic "freedom". If one can absolutely not drink the above beverages, it is appropriate to drink certain beverages which are used to enhance a meal like coffee or tea. A Rav should be consulted.

Bitter herbs One can use lettuce, horseradish, or endives for the mitzvah of Maror. One must eat at least an ounce of maror for the mitzvah itself as well as for the "Hillel sandwich". It should be noted that leafy greens are very often infested with insects that are very difficult to discern and need to be examined very thoroughly. It may be preferable to use Romaine lettuce stalks which are easier to examine. Jarred horseradish may not be used.

Afikomen One must eat at least another ounce of matzah at the end of the meal called the afikomen. One should eat the afikomen before midnight. The mitzvahs of the matzah and four cups must be performed reclining.

Hagadah It is a positive commandment to relate the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. All who discuss the story at length are considered praiseworthy.

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