Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Pesach on Saturday Night

And Egg Matzos for Shabbos: We Jews love Pesach (Passover). Absolutely love it. Whether we go the full Kosher-for-Passover route or simply taste the matzah and horseradish and drink the wine - we Jews love Pesach.

And this year - after a 13-year hiatus - we Jews will begin our love affair with Pesach with a rare event that happens only so often. That makes Once In A Blue Moon seem frequent. Abq Jew hereby advises you, his loyal readers -

Streit's Egg Matzo

Make sure you've got Egg Matzo!


Why? Because this year
Saturday Night Fever
Pesach begins on a Saturday night!

Abq Jew hears you, his loyal readers ask:

What's so special about this?

To which Abq Jew answers:

There are three (3) things you'll notice immediately. (And a fourth thing you've always wondered about that comes up during the Seder.)

1. Bedikat Chametz 
Bedikat Chametz takes place on Thursday night and Friday morning.
Bedikat Chametz OU
Why? Because the day before Pesach - when we would ordinarily burn the chometz - is Shabbat. No starting fires (or transferring flames) on Shabbat!
2. Fast of the Firstborn
The Fast of the Firstborn (or a Siyyum) takes place on Thursday morning.
Why? Because the day before Pesach - when the 'firstborn who open the womb' might ordinarily fast - is Shabbat. No fasting on Shabbat (except on Yom Kippur, of course)!

Fascinating fact: This is a logical AND operation. Which means -

  • If you're a firstborn who was delivered via C-section, you don't have to fast because you didn't 'open the womb' - even though you're the firstborn. 
  • If you're a secondborn to a mother whose firstborn was delivered via C-section, you also don't have to fast because you're not the firstborn - even though you 'opened the womb'.

And note: The other best way to avoid fasting for the Fast of the Firstborn is to instead hold a Siyyum - a public celebration over completing a portion of Torah / Talmud study.
3. Shabbat Meals
The Shabbat meals - both evening and lunchtime plus, believe it or not, Seudah Shlishit - may involve ... wait for it ... challah.

Why? Because you've got to have 'bread' for it to be considered a meal, so you can make HoMotzi, so you can bentsch Shabbos.

Therefore, defying all logic, you can serve challah right up to about 12 noonish on Saturday, as long as you keep it separate, on a separate dish - or better yet, on a paper plate.

Yes, this is in spite of the fact that you have already performed Bedikat Chametz, burnt the chametz, and publicly announced that any chametz remaining in your possession is 'ownerless property, as the dust of the earth'.

Thank G-d Judaism doesn't have to make sense! 

Wait better
The Rabbis, in their finite but still immense wisdom, thought hard and found a workaround. You guessed it!

Egg Matzo!

How, Abq Jew hears you ask, does Egg Matzo provide a workaround to what is clearly and plainly a contradiction?

Here's how: At the First Seder, we are commanded to eat Matzo lechem oni, poor-man's bread, the 'Bread of Affliction.' To prevent us from jumping the halachic gun, the Rabbis forbade us from eating lechem oni during the hours just before the First Seder. 

Here's the clincher: Egg Matzo - because that delicious egg has been added to enrich the flavor - is NOT 'Bread of Affliction'. But it is (if you've shopped carefully) Kosher for Passover!

Wait Worse

If you think Pesach on Saturday night is Moshe Kapoyre now - you should have seen in Temple times. Here's a story from the Talmud.

Hillel the Elder

Hillel Knows Some Things

The Pesach offering - we all remember the Pascal Lamb, don't we? or is Abq Jew putting Descartes before the hoarse? - had a strict time limit. 

It had to be slaughtered bayn ha’arbayim (at twilight) - and it had to be totally consumed by midnight. Which naturally raised the question:

What to do if the 14th of Nisan falls on Shabbat?

The Mishna says: The following acts necessary for the sacrifice of the Pesach offering supersede the due observance of the Sabbath: The shechting, the sprinkling of its blood, the removal of its kishkes, and the burning of the fat with incense.

The Gemara tells us: The rabbis taught: The Halakha in the Mishna was not known to the Religious Authorities.  It once happened that the 14th of Nissan occurred on a Sabbath, and they did not know whether the Passover sacrifices superseded the due observance of the Sabbath or not. In other words:

Zevachim before Pesachim, or vice versa? 

The rabbis looked around for a man who knew the Halakha, and they were told that there was a man who had recently come from Babylon, called Hillel of Babylon, and who had learned under the two greatest men of that generation, Shemayah and Abtalyon. Hillel would probably be able to solve the problem. 

They sent for Hillel and asked him: "Do you know whether the Passover-sacrifice supersedes the Sabbath?" and he answered: (condensed version) “Sure it does.”

But they insisted upon his basing his assertion upon some actual text. Which Hillel promptly provided, showing how the Torah's use of the word biMoado (at its appointed time) proved that Zevachim and the Passover offering may supersede the Shabbat offering.

When the rabbis heard this, they immediately put Hillel in charge. 

Whereupon Hillel began to reproach them, and said:

Why have you put me in charge?
You should have been taking advantage of
the learning of the two great men of
your generation, Shemayah and Abtalyon.

Paschal Lamb

Everyone knew that Passover Pilgrims were forbidden to carry their slaughtering knives to the Mikdash on Shabbat. So the Religious Authorities asked  Hillel:

What is the law if a man forgot to bring the
shechting knife on the day before the Sabbath?
Hint: No carrying knives or anything else in public on Shabbat.

Hillel not-so-famously answered:

I have heard the Halakha but have forgotten it.  

And famously continued:

Leave this, however, to the Israelites themselves,
for if they are not prophets they are descendants
of prophets, and they will know what to do.

The next day, Hillel saw that those who brought sheep as a sacrifice had the knife thrust in the wool of the sheep, and those that brought goats as a sacrifice had the knife stuck between the horns. 

Hillel then (amazingly) remembered the Halakha covering the case and exclaimed:

Thus is the tradition which I have received
from my masters Shemayah and Abtalyon.

But Hillel's remembering brings up the much larger question:

Forgetting Memory

How Could Hillel Or Anyone Else Forget?

How was it possible that, among the thousands of Passover Pilgrims who had assembled for the holiday, they could not find a single person who remembered what had been done the last time Passover followed Shabbat?

Answer #1: Blame it on God. The Talmud says: God caused the people to forget in order to make Hillel's achievement appear more impressive, and to facilitate his rapid rise to leadership.

Answer #2: Let’s do the math! Pesach on Saturday Night. How often, one wonders, doesn't one, does this happen?


Abq Jew first became aware of this question in 1977, when he was privileged to study Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary with now-Rabbi but then 'only' Professor Judith Hauptman

Back then - there was, you will recall, no Internet and no Google, although there was now-Rabbi Burt Visotsky, the genius who lived down the hall - Abq Jew did the research using a [printed hardcover of the] 150-Year Jewish Calendar.

And discovered that there were regular intervals of 3, 4, 7, 13, and 20 years between instances of Pesach on Saturday night. As Wikipedia tells us today:

While the coincidence of the Eve of Passover and Shabbat can occur as often as three times in a decade, it is also possible for as many as 20 years to pass between two instances. 

The percentage of the Eve of Passover on Shabbat occurring is 11.5%. 

During the 20th century, the Eve of Passover fell on Shabbat 12 times: in 1903, 1910, 1923, 1927, 1930, 1947, 1950, 1954, 1974, 1977, 1981, and 1994. 

In the 21st century, it has occurred three times: in 2001, 2005, and 2008. Future occurrences in the 21st century include 2021, 2025, 2045, 2048, 2052, 2072, 2075, 2079, and 2099.

Passover 2021

So ... 

Do you remember where, when, and with whom you celebrated Passover in 2008? In 2005? How about in 2001? Which version of the Haggadah did you use? And whose child, now likely Married With Children, asked the Four Questions?

Taking ancient life spans and 20-year gaps into account, it seems entirely reasonable to Abq Jew that living memory of what to do when Pesach begins on Saturday night might fade.

Which brings us to:

The Fourth Thing

The Fourth Thing
You've Always Wondered About

You will find the Fourth Thing You've Always Wondered About right there in the Passover Haggadah. On page 25. 

Haggadah Goldberg

It's in the blessing right before the second cup of wine, which is based on a Mishnah in Pesachim.
Blessed are You, G-d, our G-d, King of the universe, who has redeemed us and redeemed our fathers from Egypt, and enabled us to attain this night to eat Matzah and Maror.

So too, G-d, our G-d and G-d of our fathers, enable us to attain other holidays and festivals that will come to us in peace with happiness in the rebuilding of Your city, and with rejoicing in Your service [in the Bet Hamikdash].

Then we shall eat

Note: if the festival is on any day except Saturday night say:

of the sacrifices and of the Passover-offerings; 

if the Seder is on Saturday Night say: 

of the Passover-offerings and of the sacrifices

whose blood shall be sprinkled on the wall of Your altar for acceptance; and we shall thank You with a new song for our redemption and for the deliverance of our souls. Blessed are You, G-d, who redeemed Israel.

In other words: Through the liturgy, we recognize that 

The Passover-offering supersedes the Sabbath.


You know - just like Hillel said.

Hillel Sandwich
Here, Hillel. Have a sandwich.

Passover Shopping

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