Ritual Wisdom 4-3-2020
Q. The traditional good wishes before and on a holiday are; Chag Same’ach (happy holiday). Before Pesach we wish each other, Chag Kosher v’Same’ach(a Kosher & happy holiday). Why do we add Kosher in the Pesach holiday wishes?
A. Throughout the year there are certain foods which we are permitted to eat (kosher foods) and those we are prohibited to consume (non Kosher foods).
The holiday of Pesach is different than all other holidays of the year. Foods which are kosher all year, like bread and cake, are prohibited on Pesach. In fact, (it may surprise you), the prohibition of eating chamets (bread etc.) on Pesach is much stricter than the prohibition of eating pork!
Not only eating, even the possession of chametz is prohibited on Pesach. All the chametz we intend to keep for after Pesach, must be sold to a non-Jew, before Pesach so it will not be ours during Pesach. Because these items are Kosher all year long, yet prohibited (non kosher) during the Pesach holiday, we need to be extra careful to make sure we do not come in contact with them during Pesach. Thus, we add to the regular “Chag Same’ach”, the word “Kosher”, wishing each other that the holidays should pass in a most Pesach-Kosher way.
Q. We hear the term kosher so much. There are many products today with a “kosher” symbol. What is the meaning of the word “Kosher“?
A. “Kosher” in Hebrew means “fit” or “worthy.” A kosher product means that it is fit for eating. Kosher fish and animals are those which are fit, permitted and worthy of being eaten. Non-kosher are those which a Jew is not permitted to eat, thus, they are not fit to be consumed.
All year long it’s much easier to keep the laws of Kosher and refrain from non-Kosher foods. But, as mentioned above, on Pesach we are prohibited to eat many of the items which are Kosher all year long. We need to take extra special care and protection to make sure that whatever we buy or cook for Pesach, should be 100% Kosher and fit to be eaten on Pesach. Many foods or medicines may contain non Kosher for Passover ingredients.
A small story, with a big moral lesson: Rabbi Akiva Eiger, one of the great Torah scholars of his day, would invite many poor people to his Seder and did everything he could to make them feel at home. Once, a guest accidentally spilled his cup of wine all over the new white Pesach tablecloth. Everyone at the Seder was shocked and the poor man became very embarrassed.
Thinking quickly, Rabbi Akiva Eiger “accidently” knocked over his own cup of wine and exclaimed, “It seems that the table is not very sturdy…”
Pesach (Passover) begins Wednesday night, April 8. In the Diaspora we have two Pesach Seders – Wednesday night and Thursday night. In Israel only one Seder is celebrated.
Q. On Shabbat and holidays we recite the Kiddush over a cup of wine. After reciting the Kiddush we may drink as many cups of wine as we desire without making another blessing on the wine. However, at the Seder, although we said the blessing over wine during the Kiddush, we still recite a blessing over each of the cups of wine. Why?
A. The reason we drink four cups at the Seder is to commemorate the four expressions of redemption which G-d used to express His commitment to the Exodus.
Because each of the four cups symbolizes another one of these expressions, each cup is a separate mitzvah and therefore a separate blessing is required for each cup.
Another reason is that the lengthy passages of the Hagadah and the discussions we are encouraged to have about the story of the Exodus constitute an “interruption” between the cups of wine and thus necessitate an individual blessing for each cup.
Q. At the Seder, when we eat the matzah and drink the four cups of wine, we are required to sit in a reclining position towards our left side. What is the reason for this?
A. In ancient times, noblemen would eat in a reclining position, as it was an expression of freedom. The average person, especially a servant, did not recline. At the Seder, when we celebrate our freedom from slavery, the Rabbis instituted that we should demonstrate our freedom and recline as noblemen when performing the special mitzvot which symbolize our freedom.
Q. Why do we recline on the left side, as opposed to the right side?
A. Our sages established that we recline on the left side so that the food should not accidentally enter the upper part of the windpipe, which may cause choking.
Q. We drink the second cup of wine later in the Seder, after reciting the Hagadah. Why do we pour the wine into the cup at the very beginning of the Seder, before the children ask the four question and before reciting the Hagadah?
A. This is done in order to make the children curious and ask this question and as a result they will ask other questions, including the four questions. It is important on this night to do things which will make the children ask questions, so they will be interested in sitting at the Seder and hear the story of the Exodus.