Question: What practices are to be followed when the first night of Passover falls on a Saturday night?
Adapted from the teshuvah “When Passover Begins on Saturday Night,” by RABBI KASSEL ABELSON, adopted by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative movement, December 9, 1993.
Answer: Many of the practices that are usually performed on the night or the day before the seder are moved back to Thursday or Friday. This is done to assure the proper observance of Shabbat. Siyum Bekhorim - Thursday Morning, April 17, 7:00 a.m. A first born (whether of the mother or of the father) should fast on the day before Passover. In commemoration of the deliverance from Egypt. It is the custom for synagogues to make siyum (a public completion of the study of a tractate of the Talmud) on the morning before Passover. Since the siyum is followed by a se’udat mitzvah (a festive meal which follows the performance of certain mitzvot), a first born who is present may eat, and
having eaten, need not fast that day. Since a fast for the firstborn cannot take place on Shabbat or be moved to Friday, the siyum and the se’udat mitzvah are held on Thursday morning.
Bedikat Hametz - Thursday Evening
Bedikat hametz (search for leaven) is customarily done on the night before Passover, immediately after sunset. When Passover begins on Saturday night the bedikat hametz is done on Thursday night. The blessing for bedikat hametz is recited. One may elect to keep enough hametz for the Sabbath meals. If so, the kol hamirah (“All the hametz ...” formula for nullifying unseen hametz) should not be recited at this time, since one does not want to nullify hametz reserved for Shabbat. However, if the intention is to use egg matzah (see 1B below in the section of Shabbat meals) then the kol hamirah is recited Thursday evening.
Bi’ur Hametz- Friday Morning
This day should be treated as an ordinary erev Pesah in regard to bi’ur hametz removal of hametz). The burning of the hametz should be completed by the fifth hour after sunrise. The stove should be kashered for Pesah. All cooking should be done in Pesah pots and only Pesah utensils should be used. Food required for Shabbat as well as for the first Seder should be cooked at this time.
There are two traditional practices that present complications when the first Seder is held on a Saturday night.
1. It is customary to refrain from eating matzah on the day before Pesah, so that one will eat the matzah with appetite at the Seder.
2. It is customary to eat three meals on Shabbat. At least two of these meals should include food over which hamotzi is recited. There are two acceptable ways of dealing with these complications:
A. Set aside enough hametz for the Sabbath meals. A hametz dish should be provided for the hallot. Care should be taken to prevent any crumbs from coming into contact with the other dishes. To avoid such a problem it is recommended that plastic or paper plates and cutlery be used at both the Friday night and Shabbat morning meals. No hametz may be eaten on erev Pesah beyond a time approximately four hours past sunrise. Hence, on Shabbat morning the Shabbat services should be completed early enough to allow for the Shabbat meals, including hallah, to be eaten in time. After the meal, the residue of the hametz should be flushed away or otherwise disposed of since, of course, nothing can be burned on Shabbat. The tablecloth should be carefully removed from the table, shaken outside of the house, and then stored with the other hametz. The kol hamira formula should now be recited.
B. Have full Pesah meals both on Friday evening and Saturday morning. This is possible because one may use matzah ashira (enriched matzah, that is to say egg matzah) for the hamotzi. Though matzah ashira, may not be used for the seder, it is not hametz. It is produced under strict rabbinical supervision and may be used during Passover. It may not be used for the seder, for it is ashira (rich) and what is required for the seder is lehem oni (the bread of poverty and affliction). And precisely because egg matzah may not be eaten at the seder, it may be eaten on erev Pesah, both at the Friday night meal and at the Shabbat lunch.
Whether one follows the practice of eating hametz on Shabbat or of making the house Pesahdige and using matzah ashira, the se’udah shelisheet should not include either hametz or matzah ashira. It should consist of a snack of fruit, fish or eggs. The se’udah should be completed by the time of minha ketanah (approximately 2 1/2 halakhic hours before sunset).