Sunday, April 5, 2009
THE LAWS OF PESSAH ACCORDING TO THE TURKISH TRADITION
THE LAWS OF PESSAH
By Rabino Nisim Behar zs”l of Istanbul, Turkey
Edited by Shelomo Alfassa http://www.alfassa.com
These are the traditions handed down from Castile, Spain to the Ottoman Empire.
The halakhot presented here have been approved by the Bet Din of Istanbul.
Note: Rabino Nisim Behar was born in Haskoy, Istanbul in 1913. The rabbi first attended Alliance Israelit Universelle and graduated from the Jewish High school, in which he later taught at. Until he made Aliya to Eres Yisrael, he worked towards building up the foundation of the Jewish community that remained in
Turkey after several large waves of aliya. Today these foundations remain as an example of his holy work.
After he made Aliya in 1969, he continued to publish books which were translated to Spanish, French and English. Today, his books are again published in Turkish. Rabino Behar's dedication to his community has resulted in a community that today remains strong with rabbis and religious services being provided to members. Rabino Nisim Behar was summoned to Yeshiva shel Maala on 5 Tishri 5751.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PESSAH FESTIVAL
The Festival of Pessah reminds us of one of the oldest episodes of our history as a nation. We are commanded to remember forever the Exodus from Egypt, to impress upon ourselves the great day of our liberation from Egyptian bondage. Pessah urges us to view the future in the perspective of the past, to yearn always for better days and to await the Final Redemption.
As a nation we have encountered immeasurable stumbling blocks and powerful waves have overwhelmed us. We should never be discouraged by the suffering
(symbolized by the bitter herbs), neither should we forget the Masa [Matza] (a sign of liberty). The Jewish People have experienced all kinds of suffering and Pessah symbolizes the strength of our People to endure it. God took us out of Egypt. He has protected us at all times and will continue to do so forever. We have witnessed the rise of numerous empires and world powers and we have seen their downfall too. If our People are loyal to God and the Torá, they will merit to go from darkness to light and from sadness to true happiness, in the true Redemption to come, Amen.
Peasch is the festival of freedom, commemorating the liberation of our people from slavery in Egypt. Moreover, it is the time of our liberation – “Zeman Herutenu” – which means that this period of the year has a propitious influence on us, towards our spiritual liberation.
Indeed, God has not brought us out of Egypt to live an unbridled life, which would lead to the worst of slaveries – that of evil inclinations and beastly passions – resulting from the lack of moral and spiritual restraint. This is a false conception of liberty.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God”1, so that you
can keep My commandments – given to you for your permanent well being, and you can live a Judaism which educates a person to free himself from the yoke of evil and curb his bad instincts.
In this vein, our Sages have said (Treatise of Principles): “He is free who chooses to live by the Torá.”
THE BAKING OF THE MASOT
THE WHEAT USED FOR MASOT
1. The flour for baking Masot may be from any of these five kinds of grain: wheat, barley, spelt, rye or oats. However, we usually use wheat flour as this is the best.
2. The grain from which the flour used for the Masot is made must be watched from the time it is harvested. The wheat must be cut before the kernels of grain lose their green color.2
3. Any wormy grains must be discarded, whether for the Masot or for use during the whole year.3
4. The bags of cut wheat may not be left in a damp place or lying on top of fresh
LAWS OF THE GRINDING OF THE WHEAT
1. The mill must be thoroughly cleaned before grinding the flour for masot.
2. The Rabbinic authorities must supervise the cleaning of the mill or employ God fearing supervisors to do so.
3. The mill is cleaned in the following manner: First the stones are cleaned with nails and then they are burned with hot coals. The first batch of wheat milled after the cleaning is not used for Pessah
4. In a very difficult situations, the mill may be used without prior cleaning.4
5. The flour must be ground at least one day before Pessah.
6. The Masot may not be baked with flour which was ground on the same day, as the flour would still be hot and this could cause the dough to ferment. At least 24 hours must elapse before the Masot may be baked. If, however, they were baked with freshly ground wheat, they should not be forbidden to use.5
THE WATER USED FOR THE BAKING OF MASOT
1. The Masa dough must be kneaded with water which was prepared at least 12 hours beforehand and had been kept in covered containers. The water may be taken from a well, fountain or river. It should be poured into containers at sunset and remain there overnight to become cool.
2. When pouring the water, one should say: “We are preparing this water for the Misva of baking Masot”.
3. The water should be prepared specially by a Jew, and should be kept in
earthenware vessels rather than in metal ones. If, by mistake, metal vessels were
employed the water may still be used.
4. In hot weather, the water must be kept in a cool place, such as a cellar. If the
weather is cold, it should be kept outside, but not be allowed to stand in the sun.
The same should be done on a cloudy day.
5. It is permissible to prepare water in advance for a few days, but it is advisable to filter the water before kneading the dough, in case something has fallen in.
6. If the water prepared is not sufficient, it is permissible to add tap water, as long as the greater part of the water is that which was maintained from overnight.6
LAWS CONCERNING THE MASA DOUGH
1. First the flour is pour into a receptacle which holds at least the minimum
amount required to separate hallah6 from it i.e. almost 2 _ kg. Care should be
taken not to add more flour than the prescribed amount, since it becomes
much more difficult to knead the dough and thereby, the risk of it becoming
2. When measuring the flour, it should not be pressed into the container, but
should lie loosely. From this vessel it is then poured into the basin where it
will be kneaded.
3. The basin used for the dough should be new and set aside specially for Pessah use. No salt whatsoever may be added to the dough. Once the dough has been kneaded, it is spread out on a special table, where it is rolled out until it
becomes very thin. The dough is then cut into small portions, which are
distributed among the various workers, who work on the dough
uninterruptedly (to avoid fermentation) until the Masa is shaped. The ready
rolled out Masot are then perforated to prevent them from rising in the oven.
Finally, they are placed in the oven to bake.
4. If the dough is to dry, water may be added.7
5. It is forbidden to stop working on the dough from the moment the flour is
mixed with water, until the Masot are placed in the oven. If the dough is to
soft, flour may not be added in order to harden it.8
6. If one’s hands become warm during the kneading process, one should cool
them off before continuing the work.9
7. The kneading should not take place in a room where sunshine penetrates, nor near a window, even if no sunshine’s in. It should neither take place near the
oven nor other fire, to avoid contact with heat.10
8. All the utensils used for the preparation of the Masot (bowls, knives, tables,
rolling pins, etc.) must be in perfect condition, without dents or holes, to avoid
dough becoming stuck in them and fermenting. Every 18 minutes, all these utensils are thoroughly cleaned and fresh dough is kneaded.
LAWS CONCERNING THE OVEN
If one wishes to use a Hames oven for the baking of Masot, a large flame, whose heat must reach all parts of the oven, must be applied first. Then one waits until all the flames are extinguished and the oven has cooled down, before lighting it again for the baking of the Mazot.
6 See blow, Laws of Challah.
Harokeach, Chap. 279
Kitzur Shulhan Aruch, Laws of Lisha, Chap.4
Ba’er Hetev, Chap. 459
THE SELLING OF HAMES
1. A person who keeps Hames during Pessah continually transgresses the
commandment of the Torá: “You may not keep Hames in your possession”. One
may not derive any benefit from Hames kept in one’s possession during Pessah.
Therefore, if a substantial amount of Hames is left over before Pessah, one may
keep it, provided it is sold in time to a non-Jew. This is not meant to be a fictitious sale, but a real business transaction.
2. The Hames to be sold must be taken out of the house and handed over to the non- Jew before the prescribed time limit. If the non –Jew wishes to keep the Hames in the house of the Jew, the Jew must lease him the place where the Hames is kept.
3. A business contract must be signed, mentioning the names of the seller and buyer, as well as the place and exact list of the Hames being sold. The key to that
particular place is handed to the non-Jew, who gives a down payment for the
4. If the non-Jew prefers to return the key to the Jew after having completed the sale, this is permissible.
5. Since the laws concerning the sale of Hames are most intricate, it is preferable that the sale be carried out by a competent Rabbinic authority. In many places it is customary for people to appoint the Rabbi as their agent to sell their Hames. The Rabbi them makes a general sales contract, including the lists of all the people wishing to sell their Hames. The text is approximately as follows:
“I, the undersigned, hereby appoint Rabbi … to sell on my behalf all the Hames presently found in my home or store, etc., at the following address… Likewise, I appoint the Rabbi to rent to the purchaser of the Hames the room where the Hames is kept. Rabbi … is entitled to act according to his discretion. I declare that this authorization is valid. I also authorize Rabbi… to deal with the prices of sale and rent. ….Date and Signature”
LAWS OF THE EVE OF PESSAH
1. Once the time for Biur Hames approaches, when all Hames (Hametz) must be eliminated, (around 10a.m.) all Hames dishes must be put away, after having
been cleaned thoroughly. The house must be swept, one’s pockets searched
for crumbs and all remaining Hames (including the ten pieces of bread found
during Bedikat Hames) must be burned.7
2. One hurries to buy and prepare all delicacies in honor of the Yom Tov, just as one honors the arrival of Shabbat with special food.
3. Great care must be taken to examine carefully each leaf of lettuce which will
later be used at the Seder, to ensure that there are no insects on it.8
4. From midday of Erev Pessah onwards, we refrain from any kind of work
forbidden during Hol Hamoed.9
5. Hair and finger nails should be cut before noon. If one forgot, it may still be
done after noon.10
6. The Psalm of “Mizmor Letoda” (which follows Baruch She’amar) is omitted
7. On Erev Pessah it is forbidden to eat Masa. Only Masa Ashira is permitted.
Two hours before sunset one should refrain from eating any type of Masa.12
8. It is a great Misva for each Jew to see the needs of any poor fellow men,
providing them with wine, Masot and all other Pessah requirements.
9. The Seder table should be laid before the men go to the Arvit prayer.
10. When buying meat, one should not express himself by saying that this is for
Pessah, but for the festival (Moed).
11. People who are very stringent about keeping Misvot bake the Masot for the
Seder on Erev Pessah afternoon, as the Masa eaten in the evening is in
memory of the Pessah offering brought in the Bet Hamikdash at this time. For
this reason, festive clothes are worn and Hallel sung while the Masot are
baked. Since at this time the eating of Hames is already forbidden, great care must be taken that the dough does not ferment.
LAWS OF THE EVE OF PESSAH WHICH FALLS ON SHABBAT
1. When the 14th of Nissan falls on Shabbat, Bedikat Hames takes place on
Thursday evening and the Hames is burned on Friday. Sufficient bread
must be set aside for two Shabbat meals (evening and morning). The third
meal may consist of fruit.
2. The Hames must be burned on Friday before noon, but the Kol Hamira
declaration is only recited on Shabbat morning after Shaharit.1
3. Great care must be taken to pray Shaharit on that Shabbat early enough to
leave sufficient time for the Shabbat meal within the time that the eating
of Hames is still permitted.2
4. When the second Se’uda is completed, one shakes the crumbs from the
tablecloth, the pots are rinsed, and the house is swept. All Hames dishes
are put aside.
5. Even if no Hames remained after the second Shabbat meal, the “Kol
Hamira” declaration must be said.
6. If any Hames was left over, one may call a non Jew and give it to him. If
no non Jew can be called in, one should hide the Hames (as it may not be
taken out on Shabbat), and burn it on the first night of Hol Hamoed.3
7. If one prefers not to eat any bread on that Shabbat, one may substitute for
it with Masa Ashira,4 but must refrain from eating the Masa that will be
used at the Seder. On that Shabbat, Se’uda Shelishit must be eaten at least
two hours before sunset.
8. The Seder table may not be prepared during Shabbat, but should
preferably be prepared on Friday. If this was not done, it should be done
after nightfall of the Seder night, as we may not prepare on Shabbat for the
coming Yom Tov.
LAWS CONCERNING THE SEDER NIGHT
On leaving the synagogue after the Arvit prayer on the first Pessah night, we
return home to begin the Seder, without delay and in an atmosphere of great joy.
The following items are placed on the Seder Dish:
• Three complete Masot, one above the other. (The uppermost is in
• honor of the Koen, the middle one for the Levi and the lowest one for
• the Yisrael).
• A piece of roasted shank bone
• A hard boiled egg
• Leaves of celery
The Seder Dish is placed before the head of the family, its layout is as follows:
THE SEDER DISH
EGG ROASTED SHANK BONE
The cup containing salt water or vinegar to dip the celery in must not be placed on the dish.
THE ORDER OF THE SEDER
1. Kadesh – Reciting the Kiddush.
2. Urechatz – Netilat Yadayim (without saying the Beracha).
3. Karpas – Eating the Celery.
4. Yachatz – Breaking the Masa, putting one part aside for the Afikoman.
5. Maggid – Reading the Hagada.
6. Rachtza – Netilat Yadayim for the Meal.
7. Motzi-Masa – The Misva of eating the Masa
8. Maror – Eating lettuce.
9. Korech – Sandwich of Masa and Maror.
10. Shulchan Orech – The Yom Tov Meal.
11. Tzafun – Eating the Afikoman.
12. Barech – Reciting Birkat Hamazon.
13. Hallel-Nirtza – Reciting Hymns and Songs of praise.
See above, Laws of Matza Ashira
HOW TO BAKE THE MASOT
1. The Masot must be rolled out thinly. Once they are baked, they must be examined
to ascertain that they are baked thoroughly.
2. The Masot must not be taken out of the oven before they are completely baked,
i.e., so that when breaking up a Masa, no “threads” of dough are noticed.
3. If the Masa was mistakenly taken out of the oven too early, it may not be returned
to the oven.
4. If a Masa became folded whilst baking, so that the double part was not baked
properly, all the double dough must be disposed of. The rest may be used. This
applies if the Masot were baked before Pessah. If this happens on Pessah itself,
not only the folded part must be disposed of, but the whole Masa. However, the
other Masot which were baked in the same oven may be used.
5. As soon as the Masa is put on the paddle, it must be placed in the oven, as
otherwise it is likely to ferment.
6. When the Masot are placed in the oven, care must be taken that they should not
touch one another while the dough is soft.
7. Whenever Masot are baked, a competent Rabbinic authority must be present.
PRODUCTION OF MACHINE MASOT
As the production of machine Masot is done mechanically, great quantities of Masot are produced within a limited time and therefore improved equipment is employed. All this causes numerous Halachic problems which most bakers ignore. A very strict supervision by someone competent and well versed in all the details of the relevant matter is required.
This supervisor has to make sure that every part of the manufacturing process is carried out according the respective laws and that the machines will be cleaned and washed adequately after every batch of dough. Without thorough and alert supervision there is a considerable risk of Hames in mechanically produced Masot.
1. Masa Ahira is the term given for Masa which is kneaded with fruit juice, wine or eggs. When such Masot are baked, care must be taken that no water whatsoever is added.
2. One’s obligation to eat Masa at the Seder is not fulfilled by Masa Ashira. On the other days of Pessah, Masa Ashira may be used.
LAWS OF HAG’ALA (BOILING OF THE UTENSILS)
1. During Pessah we may not use any kind of utensil which was used during the year to cook, fry, bake, eat or drink Hames, whether hot or cold. It is therefore
customary to use entirely different crockery for Pessah. If one is unable to
purchase new vessels for Pessah, there is a method by which they may become
Kasher for Pessah. There are two ways of doing this:
a. “Hag’ala” – by which the dishes are immersed in boiling hot water
b. “Libun” – by which the vessels are made white hot
2. Metal vessels can be made Kasher for Pessah. However, there is no way to make earthenware, porcelain or plastic dishes Kasher for Pessah.
3. A frying pan requires Libun in order to become fit for use during Pessah.
However, if Libun would spoil it, e.g., if it is made of aluminum, one may use the
method of Hag’ala.
4. If a utensil is used by putting food into direct contact with fire (e.g. in an oven or grill), the only way to make it Kasher is through Libun. A pressure cooker cannot be made Kasher for Pessah, as it has rubber parts. But if these parts can be exchanged the pressure cooker can be made Kasher for Pessah, the method used must be determined.
5. A denture requires Hag’ala before the prescribed hour of Bi’ur Hames.
6. Dishes which are used during the year and will not be used during Pessah must be cleaned well too and then put aside, so that they will not be used by mistake.
7. Glass dishes such as glasses and bottles which are always used for cold food do not require Hag’ala, even if they were occasionally used for hot food. For these, the method of “Iruy” is used: The dishes are immersed in cold water for 24 hours. Then the water is changed, and the dishes are put in fresh water for an additional 24 hours. This is then repeated a third time, after which the glass dishes may be used for Pessah.
8. Before Hag’ala is done, the dishes must be thoroughly cleaned.
9. Before Hag’ala, the dishes must not be used for a minimum of 24 hours.
10. Hag’ala is performed in the following manner: First, one boils up water in a big urn. A metal bar is then held over fire until it becomes red hot and is put into the boiling water, causing it to overflow. After this, one puts those dishes which
require Hag’ala into a large urn.
11. If a vessel is too large to fit into the urn, it requires separate Hag’ala. One boils up water in the vessel itself, and puts in it a red hot metal bar. The hot water must be made to overflow.
12. After Hag’ala or Libun has been performed, the dishes are rinsed in cold water. If this was not done, the dishes may still be used on Pessah.13
13. For Hag’ala to be valid, it is sufficient to put the utensil into the boiling water and remove it immediately.14
14. The utensil must be completely covered by the boiling water. Therefore, it may not be held by the handle.
15. If Hag’ala or Libun is not performed on a utensil which requires it, it may not be used on Pessah even for cold food.
16. All surfaces which come into contact with Hames, such as tables, kitchens
cabinets, etc., must be washed with hot water.
17. It is customary not to perform Hag’ala on knives, but to use different ones for
18. The handles and lids of all vessels must also go through the process of Hag’ala.
19. If a vessel was newly covered with metal, it does not require Hag’ala, but if a
non-Jewish worker performed the renovation, it requires Tevilla16 without a
1 Numbers 15:41
2 Haye Adam, Klal 128-2
3 Kenesset Hagedola.
4 She’elot Uteshuvot “Nachalat Shiv’a Bevet Habechira”.
5 “Bet Habechira”, “Chok Yaakov”.
6 Chaye Adam 128-11.
7 See above – Laws of “Kol Chamira, par. 14
8 The prohibition of eating bugs and worms is explained in full detail in our booklet “The Jewish Table”
9 See below – Laws of Hol Hamoed
10 Ra’avad, Siman 244
11 The Psalm “Mizmor Letoda” is recited in memory of the “Thanksgiving Offering” brought daily to the Holy Temple. Since this sacrifice contained hames and could therefore not be brought on Pessah, we omit the relevant prayer from Erev Pesach on Shabbat.
12 Rabbi Baruch Yashar, Perek 24, Siman 7
See Laws of Kol hamira, Para. 14
See Laws of Kol hamira, Para. 14
3 “Magen Avraham”
Peri Hadash, Siman 452
Muram, Siman 451
“Bet Habechira”, Laws of Tevilat Kelim, Siman 9, “Knesset Hagedola”, 451
See Blow, laws of Tevila