Passover Seder and Shabbat

Someone asked me what we should do since this year Passover falls on Friday night– erev Shabbat. Are there special ways we should be preparing for the holiday? I thought it was a great question. And if one person asked it, it means others considered the same question. And the answer is: How traditional do you want to be? If we were very traditional, the answer would be different than if we were observant but not feeling bound by Halacha – Jewish law. But allow me to give some major insights into how to conduct the Passover seder, so that you can feel you are doing what is traditional and still able to live in modernity.

When we light the candles, we add the words “Shabbat v’shel Yom Tov” to the end of the blessing. We are not only welcoming in Shabbat, but also the Passover holiday.

Washing our hands, with our mid-COVID sensibilities, is not only ritually sound, but also hygienic to do. Everyone should wash their hands after they light the candles. No blessing is necessary for this first handwashing.

When we set up the seder plate, one can now add an orange. Someone once said, “A woman rabbi belongs on the bimah like an orange belongs on the seder plate.” We add this orange to represent everyone who has ever felt marginalized away from the Jewish community.

It is customary to clean our houses and rid our pantry of any food that has leavening in it. Ashkenazic Jews used to forbid all kinds of legumes (also known as kitniyot), which include beans, corn, peas, and rice, as well as any products that contain those ingredients. Sephardic Jews customarily eat kitniyot, In the past few years, the Conservative movement has allowed Ashkenazic Jews to consume kitniyot, so you get to choose your own adventure!

We say, “Let everyone who is hungry come and eat!” Let’s also remember those who have less or nothing to eat. We can use the food with leavening that we find in our pantries and donate to a local food bank. This way, we are using the holiday to help others less fortunate in our communities.

How kosher for Passover do we have to be? My answer is, as kosher as you are able to do comfortably and maybe even a little uncomfortably. See if it’s possible to stretch just a little more this year to keep kosher either longer or more stringently if you can. Certainly, if you have children and they continually pester you for an unkosher for Passover item, you can either cave or use it as an opportunity to explain the reason for the discipline of the holiday. However, if you find yourself getting frustrated and begin to hate Passover, you may be keeping kosher to a point that no longer works for where you are spiritually.

Find a balance, strive to do what you can, and enjoy the holiday is the best advice I can give someone who asks the best way to celebrate Passover. May you all be blessed with a happy, wonderful, and joyous Pesach!

-Rabbi Cosnowsky