Before Passover, the house needs to be cleaned so that all chametz (leavened products) are removed. Don't forget the bag of baby crackers in your diaper bag. What about the Purim treats your 3rd grader has stashed away in her desk? Gotta lift the sofa to get all that popcorn vacuumed up. While you are at it, you might as well throw some Spring cleaning in there - get out the summer clothes and put away the winter blankets and coats.
Aish HaTorah offers a comprehensive Passover Cleaning Guide.
Before you have looked up from the dusting, Shabbat HaGadol, the Shabbat before Passover, arrives. It is called Shabbat HaGadol because it marks the beginning of the redemption.
On the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Nissan (the Shabbat before the exodus on the fifteenth of Nissan), the Israelites in Egypt prepared the Pesach-lamb (Exodus 12:3). When their neighbors asked them what they were doing, the Israelites explained that the lambs would be sacrificed on the fourteenth of Nissan, just before G-d would slay the firstborn of Egypt.
This frightened the firstborn children of Egypt. They begged their parents and Pharaoh to release the Israelites. When their request was denied, they rose in armed revolt. As a result numerous enemies of the Israelites were killed.
Then it's time to run to the store to get all those specialty Passover foods and products. So many kosher for Passover cakes, cookies, and cereals. One can almost last the whole week without missing chametz too much. At the same time, these specialty Passover products tend to be expensive and fattening. If you want to keep your money with you and extra pounds off you, buy extra fruits and vegetables to eat during Passover.
To minimize return trips to the store, make a careful shopping list. What you will be serving for the seder? What dishes do you plan to make during the week? Once you have your seder and weekly meals planned, try to create a shopping list that enables you to do all your Passover shopping in one stop.
Now that the house is stocked, it is time to start to cook for the Seder. Better put aside at least 2 days to cook for the Seder, as many of the dishes are not ones you do everyday and you may be lacking some of the accessories with which you usually cook. While cooking, be careful to keep the remaining chametz you have in the house in a separate area.
5. Selling the Chametz
We are commanded to have no chametz in our possession during Passover. Do we have to burn the closed bag of snitzel in the freezer? No. Our rabbis have made it possible for us to sell this chametz to a non-Jew prior to the holiday.
Generally, we sell the chametz to a Rabbi who in turn acts as an agent and sells it to a non-Jew. The sale is real in that the non-Jew can actually get the chametz if he/she wants. And if the non-Jew decides to keep the chametz, then he/she must pay for it after the holiday.
You can use this Official Online Form for Selling Chametz to sell your chametz before Passover.
6. Searching for Chametz
Finally it is the night before Passover, and it is time to gather your family in your sparkling clean home for Bidikat Chametz. See our quick, step-by-step page on How to Search for Chametz. Once all the chametz in the house is found and burned, we are ready for the Passover Seder.
7. Planning the Seder
It is a good idea to put some time and thought into the kind of seder service you want.
What Haggadah will you be using? There are a variety of Haggadot, including several online which can be printed, and each one has a different influence on the seder service.
Will there be children at the seder? Perhaps they can make place cards to put on the table so everyone will know where they will be sitting? Or they can make pictures of the Passover story to hang in the dining room. During the seder itself, make sure there are opportunities for the children to participate. Did the little ones practice singing the Four Questions? Did the older ones learn something about Passover at school which they can share with everyone at the table? Perhaps you can prepare some questions about the Passover story to ask the children during the seder.
Is there something you can do to make the seder this year especially memorable? Our neighbor dressed up like Elijah, and when it was time to open the door for Elijah he walked in, drank the cup of wine, and left. A few years ago, friends of mine asked all their guests to dress up like desert nomads. Then they conducted their seder on the floor as if they were in a tent in the desert.
8. Preparing the Passover Plate
It is important to prepare the six symbolic items - zeroa, beitza, karpas, maror, chazeret, charoset - which should go on the seder plate. See this quick, step-by-step page on How to Prepare the Seder Plate.
9. Setting the Passover Table
The following is needed to set the table for the Passover Seder:
- festive tablecloth and napkins
- kosher for Passover dishes, flatware, water glasses, and wine glasses
- small dishes of salt water for dipping
- enough bottles of wine and grape juice for each person to have four cups
- a special wine cup reserved for Elijah
- a plate with 3 pieces of matzah on it and a cover over it
- seder plate
10. Pesach Kasher!
Make your seder a memorable and enjoyable experience for the whole family. A nap before the seder is recommended for all, not just the kids, so that everyone arrives to the seder with good energy and spirit. During the seder, make sure everyone is involved and feeling a part of the story of the exodus.