Passover: Defining Kosher l'Pesach

What constitutes kosher l'pesach can vary by community. This includes nuances beyond the well-known difference that Ashkenazim include kitniyot in the definition of chametz while Sephardim do not. Non-halakhic communities, e.g. Samaritans and Beta Yisrael, lay outside of the domain of this study, as their concept of kashrut in general is far afield from that of rabbinic Judaism.

Color Key: Ashkenaz | Mizrahi | Sephardic | Universal

The Matzah

Traditionally, matzah was always hand-made, round, and not at all crackery. This changed in 1875 with the invention of a matzah machine. After much debate over whether these square crackers could be considered kosher for Passover, it was widely accepted as a viable option, though round hand-made matzah remains the preference for many.

Matzah in the Patriarchal Age

Rashi insists that the meal Avraham served to his guests in Bereshit 19 included unleavened bread (matzah) because it was a Passover meal. Others of the Sages do not arrive at the same conclusion.

(א) וַ֠יָּבֹ֠אוּ שְׁנֵ֨י הַמַּלְאָכִ֤ים סְדֹ֙מָה֙ בָּעֶ֔רֶב וְל֖וֹט יֹשֵׁ֣ב בְּשַֽׁעַר־סְדֹ֑ם וַיַּרְא־לוֹט֙ וַיָּ֣קׇם לִקְרָאתָ֔ם וַיִּשְׁתַּ֥חוּ אַפַּ֖יִם אָֽרְצָה׃ (ב) וַיֹּ֜אמֶר הִנֶּ֣ה נָּא־אדושם ס֣וּרוּ נָ֠א אֶל־בֵּ֨ית עַבְדְּכֶ֤ם וְלִ֙ינוּ֙ וְרַחֲצ֣וּ רַגְלֵיכֶ֔ם וְהִשְׁכַּמְתֶּ֖ם וַהֲלַכְתֶּ֣ם לְדַרְכְּכֶ֑ם וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ לֹּ֔א כִּ֥י בָרְח֖וֹב נָלִֽין׃ (ג) וַיִּפְצַר־בָּ֣ם מְאֹ֔ד וַיָּסֻ֣רוּ אֵלָ֔יו וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אֶל־בֵּית֑וֹ וַיַּ֤עַשׂ לָהֶם֙ מִשְׁתֶּ֔ה וּמַצּ֥וֹת אָפָ֖ה וַיֹּאכֵֽלוּ׃

(1) The two messengers arrived in Sodom in the evening, as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to greet them and, bowing low with his face to the ground, (2) he said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house to spend the night, and bathe your feet; then you may be on your way early.” But they said, “No, we will spend the night in the square.” (3) But he urged them strongly, so they turned his way and entered his house. He prepared a feast for them and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

(ב) ומצות אפה. פֶּסַח הָיָה:

(2) ומצות אפה AND HE BAKED UNLEAVENED BREAD —It was Passover (Genesis Rabbah 48:12).

(א) ומצות אפה ויאכלו. מפני שלא הביאו הלחם בסעודת אברהם באר כאן ומצות אפה ויאכלו, כי בכאן אכלו לחם ושם היה הבשר מסתלק ראשון כקרבן הקרב על גבי המזבח.

(1) ומצות אפה ויאכלו, “and he had baked unleavened bread, and they ate.” The reason the Torah mentions the kind of bread being served was to contrast it with the fact that Avraham never did serve bread to the angels. Here the Torah wanted to alert us to this. Here the angels did eat the bread as opposed to the meat which disappeared when it was served by Avraham to the angels. The “meal” when the angels were at Avraham’s resembled a sacrifice on the altar (compare our comments on 18,8).

(ב) ויעש להם משתה, לפי שהיה לילה לא היה לו פנאי לזבוח ולתקן מאכלים אלא עשה להם משתה ואפה להם מצות שלא ימתינו עד שיתחמץ הבצק ומה שיכול לתקן במהרה תקן, וזהו מדרך ארץ להכין לאורח הבא מה שיוכל להכין במהרה כי הוא עיף וצריך לאכול ולשתות לפיכך נכתב הספור הזה.

(2) ויעש להם משתה, seeing it was night he did not have time to slaughter an animal in their honour, but he prepared something at short notice, served them drinks, and unleavened bread which can be prepared at short notice. It is good manners to prepare something at short notice for guests who arrived unexpectedly. The guest arriving at such a time is usually tired and does not care to wait until an elaborate meal can be prepared in his honour. The story has been recorded for all times in order to teach us how to serve unexpected guests arriving at night.

What the given passage does establish is just that Israel was already familiar with unleavened bread (matzah) when the command to prepare it in connection with the Exodus was given.

(טו) שִׁבְעַ֤ת יָמִים֙ מַצּ֣וֹת תֹּאכֵ֔לוּ אַ֚ךְ בַּיּ֣וֹם הָרִאשׁ֔וֹן תַּשְׁבִּ֥יתוּ שְּׂאֹ֖ר מִבָּתֵּיכֶ֑ם כִּ֣י ׀ כׇּל־אֹכֵ֣ל חָמֵ֗ץ וְנִכְרְתָ֞ה הַנֶּ֤פֶשׁ הַהִוא֙ מִיִּשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מִיּ֥וֹם הָרִאשֹׁ֖ן עַד־י֥וֹם הַשְּׁבִעִֽי׃
(15) Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the very first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day to the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.
(לד) וַיִּשָּׂ֥א הָעָ֛ם אֶת־בְּצֵק֖וֹ טֶ֣רֶם יֶחְמָ֑ץ מִשְׁאֲרֹתָ֛ם צְרֻרֹ֥ת בְּשִׂמְלֹתָ֖ם עַל־שִׁכְמָֽם׃
(34) So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls wrapped in their cloaks upon their shoulders.

Soft Matzah

Yemenite matzah is traditionally soft and much thicker than that generally used elsewhere, though it matches the descriptions in Shulchan Aruch HaRav and other Ashkenaz and Sephardic sources (e.g., Mishnah Berurah 486:3; Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chaim 460:2).

Shmura Matzo

... the matza selected for consumption at the Seder table is particularly special, and shemura matza is the only type very observant Jews use. Chassidim eat only shemura matza for the duration of the holiday. Shemura matza is generally made completely by hand in special bakeries not otherwise in operation throughout the year. The cost per pound is, of course, much higher than machine-made matza.1

צָרִיךְ לִזָּהֵר כְּשֶׁמְּשַׁעֵר כְּזַיִת בִּירָקוֹת שֶׁיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶם יְדֵי חוֹבַת מָרוֹר, שֶׁיְּמַעֵךְ הָאֲוִיר שֶׁבֵּין עֲלֵי הַיְרָקוֹת וִישַׁעֵר שִׁעוּר כְּזַיִת בַּיְרָקוֹת עַצְמָם וְלֹא בָּאֲוִיר שֶׁבֵּינֵיהֶם.

וְכֵן אִם יֵשׁ חָלָל בַּמַּצָּה – אֵין הֶחָלָל מִצְטָרֵף לִכְזַיִת, וְצָרִיךְ לְמַעֲכוֹ. (אֲבָל אִם אֵין חָלָל בַּמַּצָּה, אֲפִלּוּ הִיא רַכָּה וַעֲשׂוּיָה כִּסְפוֹג – אֵין צָרִיךְ לְמַעֲכוֹ):

One must be careful when measuring the olive-sized portion of the vegetables with which he intends to fulfill the obligation of maror, and crush [them so that there is no] air between the leaves. Thus, the olive-sized portion [that he will be measuring] will include [just] the vegetables themselves and not the air between [the leaves].

Similarly, if there is empty space in the matzah, the empty space is not included in [the volume of] the olive-sized portion, and it must be crushed. (However, if there is no empty space in a matzah, even if it is soft and sponge-like, it need not be crushed [when measuring the olive-sized portion].)


Some Ashkenazim abstain from matzo balls on Pesach because of a practice called gebrochts which prohibits the consumption of any matzah product which has been soaked in water or broth.

(ה) כַּרְמֶל שֶׁמְּהַבְהֲבִין אוֹתוֹ בָּאוּר וְטוֹחֲנִין אוֹתוֹ אֵין מְבַשְּׁלִין אֶת הַקֶּמַח שֶׁלּוֹ בְּמַיִם שֶׁמָּא לֹא נִקְלָה בָּאוּר יָפֶה וְנִמְצָא מַחֲמִיץ כְּשֶׁמְּבַשְּׁלִין אוֹתוֹ. וְכֵן כְּשֶׁמּוֹלְלִין הַקְּדֵרוֹת הַחֲדָשׁוֹת אֵין מְבַשְּׁלִין בָּהֶן אֶלָּא מַצָּה אֲפוּיָה שֶׁחָזְרוּ וְטָחֲנוּ אוֹתָהּ אֲבָל קֶמַח קָלִי אָסוּר שֶׁמָּא לֹא קָלָהוּ יָפֶה וְיָבוֹא לִידֵי חִמּוּץ:

(5) [In a case of] toasted grain that one singes in fire and grinds: We may not cook its flour in water, lest it was not properly roasted in the fire and it comes out that it becomes leavened when one cooks it. And likewise when one hardens new pots, one may not cook anything inside them except for baked matsah which they went back and ground; but roasted flour is forbidden, lest they did not roast it properly and it comes to be leavened.

(ד) (ד) שש שעות - הנה הח"י מצדד כהב"ח דאחר שש ומחצה דוקא אמנם במ"א ובא"ר מצדד כהשו"ע דאחר שש וכן פסק בבית מאיר וכ"מ בביאור הגר"א. ודע דמצד הדין מותר לאפות מצה בפסח אך המדקדקים נוהגים לאפות הכל קודם פסח שאם יתערב משהו חמץ בתוכם יתבטל משא"כ בפסח איסורו במשהו. ופשוט דכשנאפה קודם פסח אפילו היה בו משהו חמץ בהקמח כבר נתערב ונתבטל ומותר אח"כ לבשל המצות בפסח דאין חימוץ אחר אפיה ויש אנשי מעשה שמחמירין על עצמן ואין שורין ואין מבשלין מצות בפסח מחשש שמא נשאר מעט קמח בתוך המצות מבפנים שלא נילוש יפה וע"י השריה יתחמץ. ועיין בשע"ת סימן ת"ס דמצד הדין אין לחוש לזה דאחזוקי איסורא לא מחזקינן ובפרט בימינו שנוהגין לעשות רקיקין דקים. ומ"מ מי שנוהג בחומרא זו אין מזניחין אותו וע"ש שהאריך בזה. כתבו הפוסקים האופה בליל יו"ט מצת מצוה לא יאפה אלא מה שצריך לאותו לילה ולא על ליל שני מיהו אם אפה מבע"י בליל א' יכול לומר אוכל היום פת חמה ויכול לאפות אחרים בליל ראשון ואותה שאפה מבע"י יצניעם לליל שני וכתבו האחרונים דלכתחלה אין כדאי לאפות ביו"ט שלא יבוא לידי קלקול בהפרשת חלה ביו"ט וכן במדידת קמח וברחיצת כלים ושלא יישנו התינוקות ושלא יבוא עי"ז לאכול אפיקומן אחר חצות:

(4) (4) 6th hour - behold the Chok Yaakov sides with the Bach that after six and half hours specifically; however, in the Magen Avrohom and in the Elya Rabbah, they side like the Shulchan Aruch that after six hours. So is the p'sak in the Bais Meir, and similarly is implied in the Biur HaGra. And one should know that from a legal perspective (i.e. as opposed to stringency considerations) it is permitted to bake Matza on Pesach; rather, those particular (in mitzva observance) are accustomed to bake everything prior to Pesach, that if a small bit of Chametz gets mixed, it can be nullified as opposed to on Pesach that the prohibition includes a small bit. And obviously when baking before Pesach even if there was in it a small bit of Chametz in the flour, it was already mixed and nullified, and permitted afterwards to bake the Matzos on Pesach; since, there is not becoming Chametz after baking. And there are those men of action that are strict on themselves, and they do not soak nor cook Matzos on Pesach from a concern that perhaps a little flour remains in the Matzos within that did not knead well, and by soaking it will become Chometz. See the Sharei Teshuva Siman 460 that from a legal perspective, there is not to worry for this; since, an establishment of a prohibition we do not establish (i.e. we do not assume a prohibition without cause) and especially nowadays that the custom is to make them very thin (i.e. the Matzos). Nonetheless, one who is accustomed to this stringency, do not abandon it, see there that he details in the matter. Write the Poskim one who bakes on the night of Yom Tov Mitvah Matzos should not bake except for what is necessary that night, not for the 2nd night. However, if he baked (some matzos) while still day, on the 1st night, he can say I'll eat today (i.e. the 1st night) hot bread (i.e. freshly baked Matzos). Then he will be able to bake other Matzos on the 1st night (to eat on the 1st night itself), and those that he baked while still day he will store away for the 2nd night. Write the Later Authorities that initially it is not worthwhile to bake on Yom Tov in order not to come to complications in separating Challah on Yom Tov. Similarly (there are issues) in pounding the flour, washing the utensils, that the children shouldn't fall asleep, and that one not come to eat the Afikomen after Chatzos.

The case against the stringency of gebrochts is presented in Peninei Halakhah, below:

(ב) אחר שנשלמה האפיה של המצה, נתבטל כח החימוץ שבקמח, ואפילו אם ישרו את המצה במים זמן רב לא תחמיץ. סימן להשלמת האפיה של המצה, שקרמו פניה ואם יפרסוה לא יימשכו ממנה חוטי בצק. וכיוון שמצה שנשלמה אפייתה אינה יכולה להחמיץ, מותר להשרותה במרק. וזקן או חולה שאינו יכול לאכול מצה יבשה בליל הסדר, רשאי להשרות את המצה במים ולאכול אותה רכה (שו"ע או"ח תסא, ד; להלן טז, כט). וכן אם חזרו וטחנו את המצה, מותר ללוש את קמח המצה במים, ואין חוששים שיחמיץ, שאחר שנאפה היטב שוב אינו יכול להחמיץ (שו"ע או"ח תסג, ג). וכך ניתן לאפות בפסח עוגות מחמשת מיני דגן או לבשל סוגי קציצות שמעורב בהם קמח מצה (קניידלאך וגפילטע-פיש).

(2) Once matza has been completely baked, the flour in it loses the capacity to become ḥametz, even if it is soaked in water for a long time. An indication that the matza is fully baked is that a crust has formed on its surface and that it breaks cleanly, with no threads of unbaked dough extending from it. Thus, it is permitted to soak matza in soup, and an elderly or sick person who cannot eat dry matza on the Seder night may soften matza by soaking it in water (SA 461:4 and below 16:29). Likewise, if the matza was ground into flour, it is permitted to knead it with water; one need not worry about it becoming ḥametz because, as mentioned, once it has been thoroughly baked, it cannot (SA 463:3). Therefore, one may bake cakes from the five species of grain during Pesaḥ, or cook various dishes – such as matza balls and gefilte fish – that contain matza meal.

(ג) כרמל שמהבהבין אותו באור וטוחנין אותו אין מבשלים הקמח שלו במים שמא לא נקלה באור יפה ונמצא מחמיץ כשמבשלים אותו וכן כשמוללין הקדירו' החדשות (פי' שנותני' קמח לתוך המאכל להקפות) אין מבשלין בהם אלא מצה אפויה שחזרו וטחנו אותה:

Early-ripened barley which has been roasted and ground one does not cook its flour in water, lest it being not completely roasted, cooking it might leaven it when the mullin is boiled (Pi' gives flour into the dish to float) there is no leaven in them, but rather baked matzah which has been restored and ground again.

Sha'arei Teshuva (OC 460:10) notes that both groups are meritorious. Those who do not eat gebrochts are motivated by yiras shomayim (fear of heaven), lest they inadvertently transgress the laws of Pesach. The ones who are lenient are concerned that not eating gebrochts will limit their simchas (joy of) Yom Tov. Sha'arei Teshuva concludes: “Both groups are pursuing paths for the sake of Heaven, and I declare: And Your people are entirely righteous (Yeshaya 60:21).”

Sephardic Egg Matzah

(א) דין מי פירות אם מחמיצין. ובו ז סעיפים:
מי פירות בלא מים אין מחמיצין כלל ומותר לאכול בפסח מצה שנילושה במי פירות אפילו שהתה כל היום אבל אין יוצא בה ידי חובתו מפני שהיא מצה עשירה וקרא כתיב לחם עוני:

(1) THE LAWS OF WETHER FRUIT JUICES LEAVEN; 7 SECTIONS Fruit juice without water [or egg] does not leaven at all and is permitted to eat on Pesach matzah which was kneaded with fruit juice, even if [the dough] was idle all the day. However, one may not fulfill his obligation with it, because of its Matzah Ashirah, and the verse states "lechem onee".

The Yemenite twist on this is to dip matzo in a pot of eggs and ghee.

Ashkenazic vs. Sephardic Halakhot


The general ruling on kitniyot (corn, rice, beans, peas, and lentils) is that Ashkenazim do not eat them during Pesach but Sephardim have no such prohibition. There are conflicting opinions, however, regarding whether an Ashkenazic Jew may eat non-kitniyot dishes prepared in a Sephardic home, since the cooking vessels would presumably have been used for kitniyot during that season.

אִיבַּעְיָא לְהוּ ״שֶׁקָּרוֹב לְהַחְמִיץ״? דְּקָדֵים וּמַחְמִיץ, אוֹ דִילְמָא: ״קָרוֹב לְהַחְמִיץ״ — הָוֵי, חָמֵץ גָּמוּר — לָא הָוֵי. תָּא שְׁמַע, דְּתַנְיָא, אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן בֶּן נוּרִי: אוֹרֶז מִין דָּגָן הוּא וְחַיָּיבִין עַל חִימּוּצוֹ כָּרֵת, וְאָדָם יוֹצֵא בּוֹ יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ בַּפֶּסַח.

A dilemma was raised before the scholars who were studying this issue. What is the meaning of the expression: That it [rice] is close to becoming leavened? Does this mean that it will be leavened even quicker than wheat or barley? Or does it perhaps mean that it is only close to being leavened, i.e., it resembles leavened bread, but it is not full-fledged leavened bread. In other words, perhaps Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Nuri maintains that these grains cannot in fact become full-fledged leavened bread, and one is not punished with karet for eating them on Passover. However, he rules that one should nevertheless avoid eating them, due to their similarity to leavened bread. The Gemara responds: Come and hear a resolution to this question, as it was taught in a baraita that Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Nuri said: Rice is a full-fledged type of grain. Therefore, one is liable to receive karet for eating it in its leavened state, and a person can fulfill his obligation to eat matza with it on Passover. This baraita clearly indicates that, according to the opinion of Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Nuri, rice becomes leavened like other grains, and the expression: It is close to becoming leavened, means that it becomes leavened quicker than other grains.

(א) אֵין אָסוּר מִשּׁוּם חָמֵץ בְּפֶסַח אֶלָּא חֲמֵשֶׁת מִינֵי דָּגָן בִּלְבַד. וְהֵם שְׁנֵי מִינֵי חִטִּים שֶׁהֵן הַחִטָּה וְהַכֻּסֶּמֶת. וּשְׁלֹשָׁה מִינֵי הַשְּׂעוֹרִים שֶׁהֵן הַשְּׂעוֹרָה וְשִׁבּלֶת שׁוּעָל וְהַשִּׁפּוֹן. אֲבָל קִטְנִיּוֹת כְּגוֹן אֹרֶז וְדֹחַן וּפוֹלִים וַעֲדָשִׁים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אֵין בָּהֶן מִשּׁוּם חָמֵץ אֶלָּא אֲפִלּוּ לָשׁ קֶמַח אֹרֶז וְכַיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ בְּרוֹתְחִין וְכִסָּהוּ בִּבְגָדִים עַד שֶׁנִּתְפַּח כְּמוֹ בָּצֵק שֶׁהֶחֱמִיץ הֲרֵי זֶה מֻתָּר בַּאֲכִילָה שֶׁאֵין זֶה חִמּוּץ אֶלָּא סֵרָחוֹן:

The prohibition against chametz applies only to the five species of grain. They include two species of wheat: wheat and spelt; and three species of barley: barley, oats, and rye.

However, kitniyot - e.g., rice, millet, beans, lentils and the like - do not become leavened. Even if one kneads rice flour or the like with boiling water and covers it with fabric until it rises like dough that has become leavened, it is permitted to be eaten. This is not leavening, but rather the decay [of the flour].

Mayim Chayim 2:42

Chick peas are forbidden during Pesach [by some Sephardim]because chick peas in Hebrew are called humus, which is very similar to the word chametz.2

(4) Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yechaveh Da'at 5:32) rules that an Ashkenazic Jew may eat non-kitniyot food at a Sephardic Jew's home on Pesach. He does not require special utensils that have not been used for kitniyot for the Ashkenazic guest. He bases his opinion on a similar ruling of the Rama (Orach Chaim 453:1): "It is obvious that if kitniyot fell into food during Pesach, they do not render the food forbidden b'dieved (post facto)."

(20) If an Ashkenazic Jew finds himself in a Sephardic Jew's home on Pesach, he may eat food that was already cooked in pots that previously cooked kitniyot. However, an Ashkenazic Jew may not cook food for himself on dishes that were used to cook kitniyot. If an Ashkenazic Jew plans in advance to visit a Sephardic Jew on Pesach, Rav Ovadia Yosef indicates that he permits the Sephardic Jew to cook in his own pots for the visitor, while Rav Efraim Greenblatt requires the host and visitors to make alternative arrangements. In addition, some Ashkenazic Jews have the custom of not eating anything outside their own homes on Pesach.

Processed Foods

Many Jews avoid processed foods during Passover due to the facilities in which they are manufactured and/or packaged handling leaven. A list of approved processed foods is posted online by the Orthodox Union:

Bediqat Chametz

(ז) מַצּוֹת֙ יֵֽאָכֵ֔ל אֵ֖ת שִׁבְעַ֣ת הַיָּמִ֑ים וְלֹֽא־יֵרָאֶ֨ה לְךָ֜ חָמֵ֗ץ וְלֹֽא־יֵרָאֶ֥ה לְךָ֛ שְׂאֹ֖ר בְּכׇל־גְּבֻלֶֽךָ׃
(7) Throughout the seven days unleavened bread shall be eaten; no leavened bread shall be found with you, and no leaven shall be found in all your territory.

Once all leaven (by whichever definition one uses) has been removed rom the home, the following declaration is pronounced.

נוסח אשכנז

כל-חמירה וכל-חמיעה דאיכהברשותי דחמתיה ודלא חמיתיה, דבערתיה ודלא בערתיה ודלא ידענא ליה, ליבטל ולהוי הפקר כעפרא דארעא.

Ashkenaz Tradition3

All leavened matter and all sourdough in my possession which I have or have not seen, which I have or have not removed or of which I have no knowledge shall be considered destroyed and ownerless as the dust of the earth.

נוסח ספרד

כל חמרא דאכה ברשותי די חזיתיה. דלא חזיתיה די בערתיה ודלא בערתיה. להוי בטיל וחשיב כעפרא דארעא.

Sephardic Tradition

All leavened matter in my possession which I have or have not seen, which I have or have not removed shall be considered destroyed as the dust of the earth.

נוסח תימן

מי שאינו מבין לשון ארמית יאמר:

כל חמץ שיש לי בתוך ביתי יהא בטל.

Yemenite Tradition

Any person who does not understand Aramaic should say in Hebrew:

All leavened matter that is in my house shall be considered destroyed.

The Festive Meal

The word seder meaning "order" might suggest that there is little or no room for variation, but Judaism is not monolithic, and hasn't been for a great number of centuries. The portion of the seder which enjoys the greatest flexibility is the festive meal.

In most Mizrahi communities, the eggs and meats from the seder plate are distributed to participants just ahead of the meal being served.4

The Centerpiece of the Meal

As a mark of respect for the memory of the temple sacrifices, the eating of a whole roasted lamb on Passover is forbidden by the code of Jewish law called Shulhan Arukh, which was first printed in Venice in 1565.

Sephardic Meal

The traditional centerpiece to the Sephardic Seder is coedero al horno (pan-seared lamb shoulder). It is made clear before it is served that this is not a Paschal Lamb, i.e. the Pesach Qorban which used to be slaughtered on the Temple altar, but rather a memorial representation of that element.

Common Sephardic side dishes include things like eggplant stuffed with rice, kibbeh meatballs dotted with cherries, salads filled with zucchini peels, pizza topped with tamarind, or candied coconut flecked with pistachios.

Ashkenaz Meal

For most Ashkenazim, the central dish can be nothing but beef brisket. Lamb is generally avoided during Passover.

Common Ashkenazic side dishes include matzo ball soup (for the non-gebrocht), gefiltefish, pickled beets, charoset made with apples, matzo kugel, and flourless chocolate cake.

Mizrahi Meal

In some Middle Eastern communities, eggs are very popular on Passover. Kurdish Jews and Libyan Jews, in particular, eat large quantities of eggs at the Seder,5 many serving Shakshuka as the main dish.

Yemenite charoset (called duka) consists of dates and nuts, and the Tunisian version incorporates rose petals and pomegranate arils. Moroccan charoset is formed into balls. Other Mizrahi sides include stuffed artichokes, squash pudding, dafina, sardines, sumac onions, and stuffed grapeleaves.

More Differences

(א) מהלכות כשרות לפסח / כללי כשרות לפסח, שיטת יוצאי ספרד ואשכנז

(ב) שתי גישות מרכזיות ישנן ביחס להלכות כשרות בפסח. לרוב הפוסקים דיני חמץ בפסח כדיני שאר מאכלי איסור, בהבדל אחד, שכל האיסורים בטלים בשישים ואילו חמץ בפסח אינו בטל בשישים. אבל שאר כללי דיני תערובות חלים גם על חמץ בפסח, ולכן כל זמן שעל פי כללי ההלכה אין מקום לחשוש שמא נתערב טעם חמץ במאכל – הרי הוא כשר לפסח. וכן כאשר יחיד מחמיר ורובם המכריע של הפוסקים מיקל, הלכה כמקילים.

(ג) אולם באשכנז נהגו להחמיר מאוד באיסור חמץ, ואפילו כשיחיד חולק על רבים ומחמיר – פעמים רבות נהגו לחשוש לשיטתו. ואפילו במקום שעל פי כללי ההלכה אין צריך לחשוש לאיסור, לגבי איסור חמץ פעמים רבות נהגו לחשוש. אמנם גם למנהגי אשכנז יש גבול לחומרות, ונזהרים שלא לגזור גזרה לגזרה, אולם הנטייה הכללית לחשוש בכל ספק ולהחמיר. ויסוד סברתם נמשך מחומרת חכמים שאסרו חמץ בכלשהו, ואם כן, כשם שפירור חמץ אינו בטל ואוסר את כל תערובתו, כך ראוי לחשוש לדעות של יחידים.

(ד) זהו שורש ההבדל השיטתי שבין פסקי השולחן ערוך שהולך על פי כללי ההלכה המקובלים, ובין פסקי הרמ"א החושש לכתחילה לשיטות המחמירים. אמנם בשעת הדחק גם הרמ"א מיקל כשיטת השולחן ערוך, מפני שהעיקר להלכה כדעת רוב הפוסקים.

(ה) בדרך כלל עולי ספרד נוהגים כשולחן ערוך ועולי אשכנז כרמ"א, אמנם גם בין רבני עולי ספרד היו שנטו להחמיר, והנהגתם התקבלה בחלק מקהילות עולי ספרד.

(1) Pesaĥ Kashrut / Sephardic and Ashkenazic Approaches to Keeping Kosher on Pesaĥ

(2) In general, there are two fundamental approaches to kashrut on Pesaḥ. According to most poskim, the laws of ḥametz on Pesaḥ are no different than the laws of all other forbidden foods, with one exception: all other forbidden foods are batel be-shishim (rendered insignificant when constituting less than one sixtieth of the volume of a mixture), whereas ḥametz is not. However, all other laws of mixtures apply to ḥametz on Pesaḥ. Therefore, when there is no halakhic reason to suspect that a food mixture has absorbed the taste of ḥametz, it is kosher for Pesaḥ. Likewise, where an individual posek is stringent and the great majority of poskim are lenient, halakha follows the lenient opinion.

(3) However, Ashkenazic Jews are customarily very strict about ḥametz, often showing concern for a stringent opinion even against the lenient majority and practicing caution where general halakhic principles indicate no reason to do so. Nevertheless, Ashkenazic custom also places a limit to its stringencies, and poskim are careful not to pile restrictions upon existing restrictions. The general tendency, though, is to show concern for every uncertainty. The basis for this approach is the Sages’ ruling that even a drop of ḥametz is forbidden; thus, if a mere crumb of ḥametz renders its entire mixture forbidden, so too individual halakhic opinions should be taken into account.

(4) This explains the consistent difference between the rulings of Shulḥan Arukh, which follow general halakhic principles, and those of Rema, which account, le-khatḥila, for the stringent opinions. Nonetheless, in cases of pressing need Rema adopts the lenient approach, since halakha fundamentally accords with most poskim.

(5) In general, Sephardim follow Shulḥan Arukh and Ashkenazim follow Rema [and Yemenites follow as closely as possible to the Rambam]. However, some Sephardic poskim tend to be stringent, and their rulings are accepted in some Sephardic communities.

(א) מהלכות כשרות לפסח / כללי ההשגחה לפסח

(ב) שאלה עקרונית בדיני הכשרות לפסח, מה דין המאכלים שבכל השנה אין רגילים לערב בהם חמץ, האם הם כשרים לפסח בלא השגחה, או שיש לחשוש שמא נתערב בהם באיזה אופן חמץ, ולכן בלא השגחה מיוחדת לפסח אין לאוכלם בפסח.

(ג) לשיטת בעל השולחן ערוך, כל זמן שלא התעורר ספק ממשי שמא נפל חמץ מסוים לתוך המאכלים או שנבלע בהם טעם חמץ על ידי שבושלו בכלים שבאותו יום בישלו בהם חמץ, אין לחוש שמא התערב בהם חמץ.

(ד) אולם הרמ"א כתב לגבי כמה מאכלים, שמנהג אשכנז להחמיר לכתחילה, שלא לאכול מוצרים שלא הושגחו במיוחד לקראת פסח. וזאת מפני שבכל השנה החמץ מצוי אצלנו, ואין רגילים להזהר מפניו, ולכן יש חשש שנפל בלא משים לתוך המאכלים השונים, ועוד שיש חשש שמא השתמשו בלא משים בכלים שבלוע בהם טעם חמץ.

(ה) למעשה, כל גופי הכשרות נוטים כיום להחמיר כרמ"א, ואין נותנים כשרות לפסח בלא שנזהרים מחמץ בעת הכנת המאכלים לפסח. ויתכן שגם על פי השולחן ערוך כך צריך לנהוג כיום, מפני שבייצור המזון התעשייתי, כל מוצר מורכב מחומרים שונים, ויש לחשוש שמא אחד מהם אינו כשר לפסח. ולכן יש להקפיד שלא לאכול בפסח מאכל שיוצר בבית חרושת שאין עליו חותמת כשרות לפסח.

(ו) אולם כאשר המציאות ברורה, פעמים רבות יהיה הבדל למעשה בין פסיקת השולחן ערוך והרמ"א. ואף שהעיקר להלכה כדעת השולחן ערוך, הנטייה כיום להחמיר, כדי שהמזון יהיה כשר לכל העדות. וכך אכן ראוי לנהוג במקום שאין קושי גדול להחמיר, אולם כאשר ההחמרה גורמת להפסד משמעותי, יש מקום לחזק את ההולכים בשיטת השולחן ערוך ורוב הפוסקים, שימשיכו במנהגם.

(1) Pesaĥ Kashrut / Principles of Kosher Supervision on Pesaĥ

(2) There is a fundamental question regarding the laws of kashrut on Pesaḥ: what is the status of foods that are not normally made with ḥametz all year round? Are they kosher for Pesaḥ as they are, without any special supervision, or must we consider the possibility that they were somehow mixed with ḥametz and should not be eaten on Pesaḥ?

(3) According to Shulḥan Arukh, as long as there is no real concern that some ḥametz fell into this food or that it has absorbed the taste of ḥametz by being cooked in a pot in which ḥametz was cooked recently, there is no need to suspect that the food contains ḥametz.

(4) However, Rema writes that Ashkenazic custom is preferably to avoid eating specific products without special supervision for Pesaḥ. This is because ḥametz is used throughout the year, and we are not generally cautious about it, so we suspect that some of it may have fallen unnoticed into these particular foods. We are also concerned that the foods may have been unwittingly cooked in ḥametz pots.

(5) In practice, all kashrut organizations today tend to follow the stringent ruling of Rema and do not certify foods for Pesaḥ unless due caution to avoid ḥametz was exercised during the food’s preparation. Perhaps this is the way one must act today even according to Shulḥan Arukh, because all industrially produced foods contain a variety of ingredients, and there is concern that one of them is not kosher for Pesaḥ. Therefore, during Pesaḥ, one must be careful not to eat any factory food products that are not certified kosher for Pesaḥ.

(6) Where the facts of a case are not in doubt, there are still often practical differences between the rulings of Shulḥan Arukh and Rema. Although fundamentally the law accords with Shulḥan Arukh, the tendency today is to be stringent so that food will be kosher for all communities. This is the appropriate practice when it is not overly difficult to be stringent. However, when stringency causes significant loss, there is room to support those who follow Shulḥan Arukh.

(א) מהלכות כשרות לפסח / חלב מבהמה שאוכלת חמץ

(ב) שאלה שגדולי האחרונים עסקו בה היא, מה דינו של חלב הבא מפרה שאכלה חמץ? ברור שאין בחלב עצמו תערובת חמץ, שכן החמץ שהפרה אכלה התעכל ושינה לגמרי את צורתו עד שאינו נחשב יותר חמץ כלל. אבל מכוח אכילת החמץ יכלה הפרה להפיק חלב, נמצא שהחמץ גרם ליצירת החלב, ואולי מפני שהחמץ אסור בהנאה אסור להנות מהחלב שנוצר בסיועו.

(ג) לגבי החלב שנחלב לפני תחילת זמן האיסור, מוסכם להלכה שהוא כשר לפסח, משום שלפני הפסח אין איסור להנות מהחמץ, וכשם שמותר למכור לפני פסח חמץ ולקנות בכסף זה מצות ולאוכלם בפסח, כך מותר לתת לפרה לפני פסח מאכלי חמץ כדי שתפיק מכוחם חלב שאח"כ נשתה בפסח.

(ד) המחלוקת היא לגבי פרה של גוי שאכלה חמץ לאחר שהגיע זמן האיסור. יש מקילים וסוברים, שכיוון שאין איסור חמץ בבהמתו של גוי, אין חלבה נחשב כחלב שנוצר על ידי איסור. ועוד, שהחמץ לבדו לא יכול היה לגרום להפקת החלב אלא רק הצטרף לשאר המאכלים שאכלה ולמנגנוני גופה, וכיוון שהחמץ רק אחד הגורמים, אין בחלב איסור. לעומתם יש מחמירים, שכל זמן שגם החמץ גרם ליצירת החלב, החלב אסור. ויש אומרים שאם עברו עשרים וארבע שעות בין אכילת החמץ וחליבת החלב, החלב כשר.

(ה) ואם הפרה של יהודי, והאכילו אותה חמץ באיסור, יש להחמיר שלא לאכול את חלבה, ראשית, מפני שלגבי בעל הפרה החמץ אסור בהנאה, שנית, כדי שלא לסייע בידי עוברי עבירה. וכן הדין לגבי ביצים ובשר.

(ו) בתנובה (ואולי בעוד מחלבות) נזהרים לקחת חלב בפסח רק מרפתות שהוכשרו לפסח ומאכילים בהן את הפרות אוכל שאין בו חשש חמץ. לפי זה אין צורך להדר לקנות את מוצרי החלב לפני הפסח, מפני שגם מוצרי החלב שמיוצרים בפסח אין בהם חשש איסור.

(1) Pesaĥ Kashrut / Milk from an Animal That Ate Ĥametz

(2) One issue that the foremost Aḥaronim dealt with is the status of milk which came from a cow that ate ḥametz. Clearly the milk itself does not contain ḥametz, for it was digested and completely transformed to the point that it is no longer considered ḥametz at all. However, the cow was able to produce milk by virtue of the ḥametz, and since it is forbidden to derive benefit from ḥametz, perhaps it is forbidden to benefit from milk produced by the virtue of ḥametz.

(3) The poskim agree that milk obtained from a cow before the onset of the prohibition of ḥametz is kosher for Pesaḥ, because one is allowed to derive benefit from ḥametz before Pesaḥ. Just as it is permissible to sell ḥametz before Pesaḥ and use the money to buy food for Pesaḥ, so too it is permissible to feed a cow ḥametz before Pesaḥ in order to produce milk that will be consumed on Pesaḥ.

(4) The disagreement concerns milk from a gentile’s cow that ate ḥametz after the onset of the prohibition. Some poskim take a lenient stance, contending that since the ḥametz prohibition does not apply to the animal of a gentile, its milk is not considered produced in a forbidden manner. Furthermore, ḥametz alone does not cause milk to be produced. Rather, it must be combined with other foods and processed by the animal’s body. Since the ḥametz is only one component, it is not prohibited. On the other hand, some poskim rule stringently that as long as ḥametz is a factor causing the production of the milk, the milk is forbidden. Others say that if twenty-four hours have passed since the cow ate ḥametz, the milk is kosher.

(5) If the animal owned by a Jew was fed ḥametz in violation of halakha, one may not drink its milk, firstly because it is forbidden for the animal’s owner to derive benefit from ḥametz, and secondly because one may not assist those who violate the Torah. The same applies to eggs and meat.

(6) During Pesaḥ, Tnuva, a major Israeli dairy producer (and perhaps others) only accepts milk from dairy farms that have been made kosher for Pesaḥ and whose cows are not fed ḥametz. In this case, it is unnecessary to be scrupulous and buy milk products before Pesaḥ, because even dairy products manufactured on Pesaḥ are completely kosher for the duration of the holiday.

The Fourth Cup

Among Sephardic communities, there are many who hold the belief that, at minimum, the fourth cup should be Israeli wine, regardless of what one drinks for the other three cups. This is because the 4th cup is followed by the Birkhat Me'ein Shalosh, in which we speak of consuming the fruit of the Promised Land.

(ג) בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם:

(ד) על היין: עַל הַגֶּפֶן וְעַל פְּרִי הַגֶּפֶן:

(ה) על פירות משבעת המינים: עַל הָעֵץ וְעַל פְּרִי הָעֵץ:

(ו) על מזונות: עַל הַמִחְיָה וְעַל הַכַּלְכָּלָה:

(ז) על מזונות ויין ביחד: עַל הַמִּחְיָה וְעַל הַכַּלְכָּלָה וְעַל הַגֶּפֶן וְעַל פְּרִי הַגֶּפֶן:

(ח) וְעַל תְּנוּבַת הַשָּׂדֶה וְעַל אֶרֶץ חֶמְדָּה טוֹבָה וּרְחָבָה שֶׁרָצִיתָ וְהִנְחַלְתָּ לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ לֶאֱכֹל מִפִּרְיָהּ וְלִשְׂבּוֹעַ מִטּוּבָהּ, רַחֵם (נָא) ה' אֱלֹקֵינוּ עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל עַמֶּךָ וְעַל יְרוּשָׁלַיִם עִירֶךָ וְעַל צִיּוֹן מִשְׁכַּן כְּבוֹדֶךָ וְעַל מִזְבְּחֶךָ וְעַל הֵיכָלֶךָ, וּבְנֵה יְרוּשָׁלַיִם עִיר הַקֹּדֶשׁ בִּמְהֵרָה בְּיָמֵינוּ וְהַעֲלֵנוּ לְתוֹכָהּ וְשַׂמְּחֵנוּ בְּבִנְיָנָהּ וְנֹאכַל מִפִּרְיָּהּ וְנִשְׂבַּע מִטּוּבָהּ וּנְבָרֶכְךָ עָלֶיהָ בִּקְדֻשָּׁה וּבְטָהֳרָה:

(ט) (בשבת:) וּרְצֵה וְהַחֲלִיצֵנוּ בְּיוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת הַזֶּה:

(י) (בר"ח:) וְזָכְרֵנוּ לְטוֹבָה בְּיוֹם רֹאשׁ הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה:

(יא) (בר"ה:) וְזָכְרֵנוּ לְטוֹבָה בְּיוֹם הַזִּכָּרוֹן הַזֶּה:

(יב) (ביו"ט:) וְשַׂמְחֵנוּ בְּיוֹם חַג (פלוני) הַזֶּה:

(יג) כִּי אַתָּה ה' טוֹב וּמֵטִיב לַכֹּל וְנוֹדֶה לְךָ עַל הָאָרֶץ וְעַל:

(יד) (על היין:) פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' עַל הָאָרֶץ וְעַל פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן: ( בא"י וְעַל פְּרִי גַפְנָהּ):

(טו) (על הפירות:) הַפֵּרוֹת: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' עַל הָאָרֶץ וְעַל הַפֵּרוֹת: ( בא"י וְעַל פֵּרוֹתֶיהָ):

(טז) (על מזונות:) הַמִחְיָה: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' עַל הָאָרֶץ וְעַל הַמִחְיָה וְעַל הַכַּלְכָּלָה:

(יז) (על מזונות ויין ביחד:) הַמִּחְיָה וְעַל פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' עַל הָאָרֶץ וְעַל הַמִחְיָה וְעַל הַכַּלְכָּלָה וְעַל פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן: ( בא"י וְעַל פְּרִי גַפְנָהּ):

(3) Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the Universe.

(4) Upon the wine: for the vine and for the fruit of the vine.

(5) Upon fruits from the seven species: for the tree and for the fruit of the tree.

(6) Upon foods: for sustenance and for nourishment.

(7) Upon foods and wine together: for sustenance and for nourishment, and for the vine and for the fruit of the vine.

(8) And for the produce of the field and for the precious, good, and spacious land that You desired and have graciously given as a heritage to our forefathers, to consume from its fruit to be satisfied from its goodness, have mercy (please), Hashem our G-d, upon Israel your people, and upon Jerusalem your city, and upon Zion your glorious dwelling place, and upon your altar, and upon your palace, and (re)build Jerusalem the holy city soon and in our days. And we used to go to it, and we rejoiced in its construction, and did eat of the fruit thereof, and swore by the good thereof, and blessed You in holiness, in a state of ritual cleanness.

(9) On Shabbat: May it please You to strengthen us on this Sabbath day.

(10) On the Renewal of the Moon: Remember us for good on this Rosh Chodesh.

(11) On Rosh Hashanah: Remember us for good on this day of the Festival of Remembrance.

(11) On a Yom Tov: And we rejoice on this Feast (whichever it is).

(13) For You, Hashem, are good and good to all, and we thank you for the Land and for (14) upon the wine: the fruit of the vine. Blessed are You, Hashem, for the Land and for the fruit of the vine.

(15) upon fruits: the fruit: Blessed are You, Hashem, for the Land and for the fruit.

(16) upon foods: sustenance: Blessed are You, Hashem, for sustenance and for nourishment.

(15) upon foods and wine together: sustenance and for the fruit of the vine: Blessed are You, Hashem, for the Land, and for sustenance and nourishment, and for the fruit of the vine.


Despite the differences between the traditions, the purpose for the celebration is the same for all Jews everywhere, and this is to be our focal point of Passover, which is also called by many "the Chag haHeirut" (Festival of Freedom).

Midrash haChefetz 221b-222a6

The purpose of Pesach (Passover) is to eternalize the miracles of Egypt throughout the ages, because they are indicative of miracles [in general] which [in turn] are an indication of the creation of the world; that is to say, it is created and its Creator is pre-eternal.

לשנה הבאה בירושלים!

Next Year in Jerusalem!


In Morocco, France, Israel, and Canada, Maghrebi Jews enjoy a custom of following the time of unleavened bread with an exuberant celebration of the return to eating chametz with a dinner heavy-laden with rich desserts. The origin of the Mimouna (Heb. מימונה; Arab. ميمونة; Berber ⵎⵉⵎⵓⵏⴰ) seems to be only about two centuries old (ca. mid-18th century). Among the menu items are meringues, marzipan, pistachios, dates, and coconut confections, alongside the first leavened food of the season: moufleta - a pan-cooked cake smeared with butter and honey. On account of the buttery topping of the moufleta, this is strictly a dairy meal - no meat is served. Candied eggplant is a common main dish at Moroccan celebrations. Guests are greeted with a mint sprig dipped in milk, eaten as a symbol of good fortune and new beginnings as Mishlei 3:2-3 is recited as a blessing.8


  • Images by Haim Ron from The Passover Haggadah: Legends and Customs (New York, N.Y.: Adama Books, 1987).
  1. Alfred J. Kolatch, Jewish Book of Why (rev. ed.; Middle Village, N.Y.: Jonathan David Publishers, 1995; orig. 1981), 194.
  2. Ribbi Yosef Messas, cited in Ilan Acoca, The Sephardic Book of Why: A Guide to Sephardic Jewish Traditions and Customs (Saarbruecken: Hadassa Word Press, 2016), 48.
  3. The words in italics are exclusive to the Eastern Ashkenaz nusach, omitted in the Western Ashkenaz tradition.
  4. Heinrich Guggenheimer, The Scholar's Haggadah (Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson Inc., 1998; orig. 1995), 76.
  5. Alfred J. Kolatch, The Jewish Book of Why (rev. ed.; Middle Village, N.Y.: Jonathan David Publishers, 1995; orig. 1981), 202.
  6. Zekharya haRofe (Yachya ibn Sulayman), Midrash haChefetz (Yemen, 1430); inYitzhak Tzvi Langermann, transl., Yemenite Midrash: Philosophical Commentaries on the Torah (San Francisco, Calif.: HarperCollins, 1996), 91.
  7. Ilan Acoca, The Sephardic Book of Why: A Guide to Sephardic Jewish Traditions and Customs (Saarbruecken: Hadassa Word Press, 2016), 50.
  8. More on Mimouna can be found here: