COVER STORYMarch 2021

Pesach Basics

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By Jackson Richman, JNS.org

The Jewish holiday of Passover — the celebration of Jewish freedom — is traditionally spent with family and friends. But with the coronavirus curtailing travel plans and social interactions, many are facing the prospect of celebrating Passover alone.

“It is vital for everyone to have their own Passover seder,” Rabbi Mendy Cohen at Chabad of the Main Line in Merion Station, Pa., said. “The seder is essential; it is a Jewish highlight of the year. Many of our fondest memories revolve around the seder. It is an opportunity to focus on Exodus that took place 3,300 years ago, and at the same time, to realize that freedom is still so relevant to us today.”

He noted that according to Chassidic teachings, Mitzraim, or “Egypt,” comes from the Hebrew root word meitzar for “boundary.”

“Going out of Egypt means we need to go out of our own Egypt, our own limitations, our own self-inflicted slavery,” he explained. “The Passover seder is about experiencing liberty and freedom, the Exodus from Egypt, and also our own personal Exodus — me, now, today.”

“For many right now, without our usual family and friends, it is easy to say ‘forget it, we can skip it this year,’ ” he continued. “But in truth, the challenge of this year’s seder, of this year’s freedom is to do have our seder in our homes, smaller ones or possibly even alone, and make it personal with God. Today, it is more relevant than ever.”

What is Needed for the Passover Seder

Haggadah booklets

Matzah (handmade shmurah matzah is ideal)

Wine or grape juice

Maror (bitter herbs, typically romaine lettuce and grated horseradish)

Vegetable for dipping

Saltwater (just salt and water)

Food for your Passover feast

Roasted bone (chicken neck or lamb shank)

Charoset

Eggs

Cutlery (either disposable or kosher for Passover)

Can you suggest some ballpark quantities?

Wine: Every individual needs to drink four cups of wine or grape juice, so a bottle of wine per person per seder is a safe bet. (If you have small, 3 oz. cups, a single bottle should just be enough for two nights.)

Matzah: If you are alone, three matzahs for each evening will cover you just fine. You should factor in an additional two matzahs per additional participant, as well as some extra for snacking during the meal. (There are various customs of exactly how much matzah to eat, and some matzahs are thicker and bigger than others. These estimates assume you will be using round matzah, which is somewhat larger than square, but better to err on the side of caution.)

Maror: Each person needs to have two portions of maror (one eaten alone and one as part of the Korech sandwich), each one at least two-thirds of an ounce (total). Preparing two ounces per person per night will have you covered.

Vegetables and Saltwater, and Charoset: Even a minimal amount will do (in fact, you should eat less than an olive-bulk of the dipping vegetable).

Roasted bone: Is not eaten at all, so you just need one per seder plate.

Egg: One egg per seder plate is fine. Some have the custom to eat the egg during the meal. If this is the case, prepare a few extra.

Feast Food: Bear in mind that you will be eating after having imbibed two cups of wine, and lots of matzah and maror, so you may not be too hungry.

Can you suggest a Haggadah I can print online?

You can choose from a number of options. Pick one to fit your style and print as many as you need. There are even a few available online.

Jackson Richman, JNS.org

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