Eve of Passover on Shabbat

When the Eve of Passover (Hebrew: ערב פסח, Erev Pesach) falls on Shabbat, special laws apply that are not normally followed on any other day. Various adjustments are made in preparation for this holiday, but are different to usual adjustments.

The Eve of Passover

While the Eve of Passover can occur on Shabbat as many as three times in a decade, it is also possible for as many as 20 years to pass between two occurrences. During the 20th century, the Eve of Passover fell on Shabbat in 1903, 1910, 1923, 1927, 1930, 1950, 1954, 1974, 1977, 1981, and 1994. In the 21st century it has occurred three times; in 2001, 2005, and 2008. Future occurrences during the 21st century include the years 2021, 2025, 2045, and 2048.

The days of the week on which the Eve of Passover can occur are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Fast of the Firstborn

When the Eve of Passover falls on Shabbat, the Fast of the Firstborn customarily takes place on the Thursday before Shabbat. This is because it is forbidden to fast on Shabbat (except when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat) and it is preferable not to fast on Friday. Although it is normally forbidden to eat (starting from nightfall) before conducting the Search for Chametz, according to the Mateh Moshe and Maharil, a firstborn who is fatigued or uncomfortable from the fast may eat some food before the search, or else another person may be appointed to perform the search on behalf of the firstborn.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (OC 4:69:4) writes that, based on the Rema, one who breaks the adjusted Thursday fast might be required to fast on Friday. This is supported by a similar ruling of Rabbi Joseph ben Meir Teomim in his P'ri M'gadim. Since there are many opinions that dispute the Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Turei Zahav, Eliyah Rabba, Chayei Adam, Sh'vut Ya'akov, Mor U-K'tzi'a), Rabbi Feinstein writes that, practically speaking, one should not fast on Friday under such circumstances. This rationale may be based on the Korban N'tan'el, who writes that excessive strictures regarding keeping the Fast of the Firstborn should not come at the expense of possibly fasting unnecessarily during the month of Nisan.

The above halakhic quandary is avoided completely if a firstborn fasts the entire day on Thursday. However, Rabbi Feinstein makes no mention of this requirement. In order for a firstborn (who eats on Thursday) to comply with the ruling of the Rema, the Piskei T'shuvot suggests participating in a second siyum on Friday, while Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank suggests partaking on Friday of leftovers from the previous day's siyum.

The Search for Chametz

Normally, the Search for Chametz (leavened bread) occurs on the night of the 14th of Nisan, which is one night before the start of Passover. When this night occurs on a Friday night, the Search for Chametz takes place one night earlier (on the 13th) since use of a candle and the act of burning chametz are forbidden on Shabbat. The chametz will be burned on the following Friday morning.

Shabbat meals

During Shabbat, when there is a mitzvah, three meals consisting of bread are consumed. But since the restriction on consuming chametz begins on Saturday morning (usually sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m.), the three meals must be completed by the deadline, which will vary each year.

For the Shabbat that coincides with the Eve of Passover, enough bread will be kept in the household in order to complete these three meals. It will be stored in a location where it does not come into contact with Passover food or dishes.

The first meal is consumed on Friday evening as usual. On Saturday morning, morning services at synagogue are held earlier than usual. Following services, a second meal is held and finished quickly. After an interruption, a third meal is begun in which the remainder of the chametz is consumed by the deadline.

Any chametz that remains following the completion of three meals is disposed into the public domain. In modern times, the tradition may have been thought to flush the remaining chametz down the toilet, however, strict observance forbids any chametz to be within reach and the chametz is traditionally sold or given to those in need prior to the start of the fast. This comes as a consideration to plumbing limitations in most areas of the country. If chametz is found after the Passover begins on a Sabbath, it is customary to bag it and place it outdoors until it can be disposed of in proper waste receptacles following the third day of Passover. This is because of the restriction of working or carrying money on the Sabbath and Passover. Only in very rare situations when another person is in dire need can this chametz be given away. On the third day it is also customary to be cognizant of this exception prior to throwing away bagged chametz. It is instead advised that each community assess the extra chametz and, if the amount is substantial, donate double in fresh chametz (bread and bread products) directly to those in need, through organizations that feed those in need, immediately following the second day of the Passover.

The actual extra chametz found after the third day is likely to become too stale for human consumption by the time it can reach those in need and it is considered a mitzvah (good deed) to leave this extra chametz in public areas as food for birds and squirrels, if possible. Some national laws do not allow this because it may attract dangerous or unwanted wildlife, so instead the extra chametz should be thrown out in outdoor waste receptacles. This custom is decided by the rabbis in each community. It therefore varies depending on local laws, which are subject to environmental and natural changes decided by each city and state in advance of Passover. While seemingly complicated, individuals are hence normally advised to consult with their local rabbi in the event they find any substantial chametz during the Passover or during the first two days of Passover because it is forbidden to have chametz in a dwelling at all during the Passover holiday.

While matzah can ordinarily be used to fulfill the obligation of Shalosh Seudot on Shabbat, it is not used for any of the three meals on the Eve of Passover due to a restriction forbidding consumption of matzah on this day.

Remainder of the year

For years in which Passover falls on the Eve of Shabbat, some unusual effects take place in regards to other Jewish holidays that year.

For example, Purim will fall on Friday, necessitating adjustments in its regular schedule of events.

In years when the Eve of Passover is on Friday and the first day of Passover is on Shabbat (a more common occurrence), the ninth day of Av will fall on Saturday, and since fasts other than Yom Kippur are not observed on Shabbat, Tisha B'Av will be postponed to the following Sunday, which is the tenth of Av. But in these rare years, Tisha B'Av is observed on the actual ninth day of Av on a Sunday, and there is no "week in which Tisha B'Av occurs" as a level of mourning prior to the start of Tisha B'Av.

The fall holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, and Shemini Atzeret-Simchat Torah all fall on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Yom Kippur on Thursday.

See also


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