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Chag Pesach Sameach!

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Passover is a spring time holiday of redemption and freedom for the Jewish people that lasts seven days in Israel and eight days in the Diaspora. It is also one of the holidays with the most intricate rules and regulations. From koshering the house and making sure there isn’t the smallest trace of hametz, to the actual execution of the traditional Seder meal, every detail is carefully thought out.

The laws on preparing your home for Passover are endless and can vary depending on custom and tradition. Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews, as they do with regards to many aspects of religion, have very different opinions on how to do certain things. Keeping this in mind, it is always best to ask your rabbi if you are not sure what customs you should be following.

Chabad gives a detailed outline of what you need to know when preparing for Passover. They talk about how to kosher your dishes, which dishes can and cannot be koshered, what to do with all your big kitchen appliances and much more.

Passover Checklist

Pre-Passover Cleaning Checklist (pdf)

Sephardic/Ashkenazi Difference

Going through ALL the Passover rules and restrictions would be no easy task, since the halacha goes into some very specific detail. However, to make things a little bit easier, we put together a chart (referred to us by Rabbi Poupko, with information taken from that covers some of the differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. Sephardic specifications (by Rav Ovadia Yosef) follow the Shulchan Aruch. If you’re unsure, or need more information, consult your rabbi.

Kosher Guidelines

Koshering guidelines (pdf)

Some differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.


Before entering into the holiday we are required to search for and destroy any hametz that belongs to us. This is so that we come to the holiday 100% hametz-free.


For many, Passover begins with a thorough clean of the home from top to bottom.  Once this is done, the next step is bedikat hametz (searching for the hametz).  Have someone hide 10 pieces of hametz around the house, to be found during the search (make sure you keep track of where each piece is because they ALL need to be found). Once the blessing is recited, there should be no interruptions, or any conversation not pertaining to the search, until the process is complete.  The custom is to do the search by candlelight the night before Passover begins.

Prior to the search for Hametz, recite the following blessing:

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the removal of hametz.


It is prohibited to possess or to derive any benefit from hametz during Passover.  That being said, if there are items containing hametz that cannot be finished or disposed of before Passover, it is required to sell them to a non-Jew. Selling hametz is permitted until the fifth hour of the 14th day of Nissan (the night before Passover).  After this time, you can no longer sell it, so your only option is to destroy it. The sale must take place before it’s time to burn the hametz, and the legal intricacies covering this transfer of property can only be taken care of by a competent authority.  Forms are available in most Jewish Day Schools or synagogues. 

For more information on selling your hametz, check out  Chabad and MADA’s websites.


The final step is to burn any remaining hametz, including the hametz that was used for the search.   The morning following the search, at an appointed time, hametz will be burned.  Some wrap the bread in paper or some other flammable wrapping but not silver foil, as it does not burn.  In some Ashkenazi households it is customary to use a candle, a feather, a wooden spoon and a paper bag to collect the pieces.  By the light of the candle, when a piece of hametz is found, the feather is used to sweep it onto the wooden spoon which is then used to place it in a paper bag.  In some Sephardic communities, the head of the household uses a bowl containing bread and salt to collect the pieces of bread.  The salt is said to deter evil spirits.

After the burning of Hametz, the following statement is recited:

Ashkenazi version:

All leaven or anything leavened which is in my possession, whether I have seen it or not seen it, whether I have destroyed it or not destroyed it, shall be nullified and become (ownerless) like the dust of the earth.

Sephardic Version:

All leaven which is in my possession, whether I have seen it or not seen it, whether I have destroyed it or not destroyed it, shall be nullified and become (ownerless) like the dust of the earth.

Storing sold hametz

All hametz intended to be sold before Passover, and all hametz utensils should be stored in an inaccessible place.  Furthermore, utensils should be cleaned thoroughly to make sure there is no hametz still on them.

Important hametz dates for Passover 2018 for Montreal

Searching for hametz: This is done on the eve of the 14th of Nissan (March 29th, 2018)

Selling hametz: This needs to be done by the fifth hour of the 14th of Nissan (March 30th, 2018)

Burning hametz: This needs to be done on the 14th of Nissan, approximately five hours after sunrise (March 30th, 2018 at 11:54am)

Stop eating hametz: Consumption must stop by March 30th, 2018 at 10:50am.


For more information visit:

For information about other locations click here:

Passover Recipes

Food is part of every Jewish holiday, and it’s particularly important during Passover. Seder itself means “order,” which refers to the specific order in which we tell the story of the Jewish people’s liberation from Egypt and eat the symbolic foods on the Seder plate. The Seder plate includes: karpas (a green, usually parsley, that is dipped in salt water to symbolize the tears the Israelites shed as slaves in Egypt), haroset (sweet fruit paste symbolizing the mortar Israelite slaves used), maror (bitter herbs, often horseradish, symbolizing the bitterness of slavery), zeroa (shankbone, symbolizing the lamb that Jews sacrificed on the eve of the Exodus), beitzah (egg, symbolizing springtime and the cycle of life).

Throughout the holiday, which lasts seven days in Israel and eight days in the Diaspora, hametz (leavened food) is forbidden. We eat matzah (unleavened bread made from flour and water), instead, to recall the Israelites’ flight from Egypt, when there wasn’t enough time for the bread to rise. The specific recipes and rules surrounding which foods can be eaten and which cannot vary widely.

We have collected recipes from our community as part of both the Mosaic Cookbook project and the Centennial Haggadah project that we are pleased to share with you here! These recipes  represent the diversity of our community – reflecting traditions and modern twists on Passover cuisine from all over the Jewish world.

For more Passover recipe ideas, visit:


Passover Music

Children’s Activities




One of the main themes of Passover is getting the kids as involved as possible. This is done by having them ask questions, as well as take part in reading and singing during the Seder. In order to guarantee their interest, it is best to get them involved in the preparation process, as well. You could assign little chores for them to do around the house, like tidying up their room or playroom and explaining to them why this needs to be done, and the idea behind ridding the house of anything hametz.

Fun ways to assign Passover chores
Write down different chores on Popsicle sticks and put them face down in a jar. Have each family member pick one at random to see what they will be helping with.

Hametz scavenger hunt
Turn bedikat hametz into a fun scavenger hunt. Hide hametz in each room and come up with fun clues to guide the search. Make sure you keep a list of all your sneaky hiding spots to make sure you aren’t leaving any hametz behind.


Arts & crafts

Another great way to get the kids involved is to have them create things that will be used during the Seder. Before the holiday, do little projects together like making Elijah’s Cup, a matzah cover, an afikoman case, their own Haggadah, finger puppets for the 10 plagues, or anything else that could be used the night of the Seder.

10 Plagues
For the section of the Haggadah with the 10 plagues, it’s always fun to make it more interactive. One way to do that is by making finger puppets to represent each plague.
If you are short on time, Secret Agent Josephine blogger Brenda Ponnay has a great guest post about finger puppets on Tori Avey’s blog, which includes adorable finger puppets ready to print, cut out and assemble with tape or glue.

Paint ceramics
This is not only a fun family activity, but a useful one, too. Have your child paint Elijah’s Cup or a Seder plate. Using their creations during the Seder will help them feel proud and included.

For more ideas please visit: The Ceramic Café Montreal

Additional links
You could also look at Chabad and Red Tricycle for more fun, kid-friendly crafts to do before the holiday.

Fun games

Passover trivia
What you will need: Index cards or pieces of paper,  a basket, and a blindfold (optional).

Before the holiday, ask each child to write down as many questions and answers from the Haggadah as possible on index cards. Fill a basket with the questions.

How to play: After the “Ma Nishtana”, each child can take turns picking a guest to ask a question to. The guest will close their eyes and pick a question. If they get the answer right, they get a point, or a small prize.

Games Passover

Sample questions to help you get started (pdf)

Pharoah’s telephone

What you will need: Plastic phone, or anything that could be used as a pretend phone, and lots of building blocks.

How to play: This game can be a lot of fun with younger children. At some point during the meal, you make a ringing noise and pick up the “phone.” This is a great time to practice your acting skills because Pharaoh is on the other end of that call and he is telling you that all the kids at the table need to start building pyramids. If you have some older children at the table, you could assign them to be the task managers and tell the little children what to do. If you have several groups, you could make it into a competition to see who can build the tallest tower.

Heads up: Passover Edition

What you will need: Index cards and a blindfold.

Before the Seder, write down the names of different things associated with the Passover story on individual index cards (Pharaoh, Elijah the prophet, the wise son, haroset, matzah, frog, etc.).

How to play: At any point during the Seder, pick a volunteer to blindfold, and stick one of the index cards on their forehead so that everyone else can see what is says. The person wearing the blindfold needs to ask yes or no questions until they are able to guess what their card says. This needs to be done in five questions or less. If they guess right, the person gets a small prize.

Passover charades

This game is great for a more advanced, or older, group.

What you will need: Index cards.

Before the Seder, write down a different verse from the Haggadah on each index card.

How to play: Each participant will pick a card that they will have to act out like charades. The participant is not allowed to talk, but can indicate how many words are in the verse, and can show that a word rhymes with another word by touching their ear. If guessing an entire verse is too difficult or time consuming, you could play the same game with simpler words, like the 10 plagues or Passover foods.



Interaction during the Seder (questions, reflection period, act out certain parts)

A Parent’s Guide to Passover also has lots of great ideas on how to involve children and family members in the Passover experience.

Passover Music

Depending on your family background, you may sing different Sephardic or Ashkenazi songs and melodies around the Seder table. Whether you’re more familiar with “Chad Gadya” or “Bibilouya,” music is an integral part of all our Passover celebrations.

Passover Music

Personal Passover reflections from our community members

While gathering the material for the Centennial Haggadah, we asked for your input and received so many interesting responses!  While we were able to find places for many of the submissions in the Centennial Haggadah itself, sadly not all submissions made it into the book. We are thrilled to be able to include this additional content on our website. Enjoy these personal reflections on Passover traditions and experiences from across the spectrum of our diverse community!

Sepharadic vs Ashkenazi Seder

Sephardic vs. Ashkenazi Seder (pdf)

Paul Starr shares with us his Passover experience

Passover Traditions

Passover traditions from our community members

We asked our community members to send us some Passover traditions that are practiced in their homes and we got some very interesting answers:

We asked: How do you engage your kids/guests at your Seder table?

“We begin the Seder in our family room, having all adults sitting. The kids begin telling and acting out the story of Passover. While the story is being told, the adults can dip the food in salt water and follow the traditions. We then move to the dining room for the actual meal. This makes it exciting for both the adults and the children while not sitting in one location for an extended period of time. We find that people pay more attention to the story of Passover when told by children then when simply read from the Haggadah.”

-Kathy Lempert

“Prior to the Seder, ask each group of kids to come up with a Passover game that we could play at the table during the Haggadah.”

-Sandie Sparkman

“We have prepared Jewpardy questions, divided the sections of the Haggadah into simpler language and handed out the parts to various people. We have used plague bags, put on mini plays about the life of Moses and stopped here and there to ask questions that are rewarded with marshmallows.”

-Cara Bucovetsky

We asked: How do you recite the 10 plagues?

“We use finger puppets that we throw down after we say each plague. We also pour from one glass of red wine and a glass of water into a large bowl each time we say a plague, then we wash it all out. Lastly, we also add modern day plagues and ask that those be taken away — such as cancer, Crohn’s and many other diseases.”

-Sandie Sparkman

“My husband, who now leads the Seder, recites them and then we have toy plagues and masks that the grandchildren get to wind up and play with on the table.”

-Linda Mestel

“Leader, or everyone, together recites the 10 plagues. The leader pours a drop of wine into a bowl for each plague. The oldest unmarried woman spills the wine down the drain when it’s done.”

-Phil Anzarut

We asked: Please share any other tradition with us.

“When we drink wine, we lean to the right side to show we are free. Also, we discuss what it truly means to have freedom and we discuss the struggles of slavery.”

-Kathy Peretz

“Though we are not, thank G-d, a large group, before the grandchildren were born and our parents were starting to pass away, I would set a place at the table for each parent as they died…Today we only set one chair at the table representing everyone we lost and we tell a story about each person who could have been sitting there. Today, with my grandchildren, it is all about sharing our family traditions and history so they feel grounded and secure in their roots…”

-Linda Mestel

“We sing ‘Bibilouya’ (Moroccan tradition) in a very particular tune as the leader moves the Seder plate over our heads blessing every single person at the table.”

-Kathy Assayag

“Before the afikoman is hidden, it is wrapped in cloth and passed around the table. Each person has a turn to put it on their shoulder and recite a specific sentence. They are then asked, Where do you come from? To which they respond, Egypt. The afikoman is then transferred to the other shoulder and then they are asked, Where are you going? To which they respond, Jerusalem. Everyone responds with L’shana Haba’a Be yerushalayim.”

-Phil Anzarut

Miriam and Elijah’s cups

Miriam’s Cup is a new tradition that has been incorporated into Passover and we think it’s great. It highlights the role of strong Jewish women/ leaders in our history. You can visit for more information.

Put Miriam and Elijah’s cups, empty, on the table and at a certain point in the Seder pass them around and have each guest pour some of their wine/juice into the cup while saying a wish or hope for a peaceful future.

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