Chapter Fourteen

How the Jews celebrate the Seven Days of Passover and then end their Celebrations.

On Passover morning they all go to shul, sing their Zemiros and psalms just as on a Sabbath, and pray many prayers. They have some magnificent ceremonies with the book of laws. They may take two on that day, and as many as five men may be called up to read a portion from them. If that day should fall on a Sabbath, they call seven men.

At the end of their prayers, the priests give the people the blessing with hands and fingers spread. Then, the Cháchamim say, the peace of the Schechinah or the majesty of God, rests on the priests' hands and therefore it is strictly forbidden to look at his hands, because some of those common people may become blind.

After the prayers, they go home, eat their noon meal, and are happy and satisfied. They should not eat too much, so that they may be able to eat the three Mitzvos cakes at night with more appetite, as was mentioned in the previous chapter.

They have a subtle and very lengthy discussion about what and how much work is allowed on that day, how much cooking to do and what dishes to eat. Namely, you should not cook more than you can eat on the same day, although you are allowed to set a big kettle with meat over the fire, because even if you cannot eat it the same day, it is still not useless; because a big piece of meat gives good soup, and the meat itself becomes tastier if it is cooked in a big piece. However, you should not roast more than you can eat in the same day, because the roast does not get better, even if you take a big piece, and it always tastes better warm than cold. You should prepare whatever does not lose its flavor a day ahead, but whatever would lose its flavor, you may cook that day just as on other holy days, except Sabbath. When pepper is ground, it loses its scent and taste, therefore you may grind it on a holy day, although you should make some variation; you may turn around the instrument you are working with, or you hold the mortar to one side only, so there may be a difference between the work on holy days and work days.

You may wash or bathe a small child in warm water, which a Jewish woman may warm up, but a grown-up Jew should not wash or bathe, because a Goj or Christian might have heated the water.

You may not remove a wick from a lamp and put in another one. If a wax candle burns, and one does not want it to burn down all the way, he may put it in water or put something else around it, so that it will go out by itself, but he may not cut it off with a knife.

No Jew should invite a Christian to dinner on a holy day, lest he be forced to cook and prepare more, or do more work, with which the sanctity of the holy day may be broken, but if one comes uninvited, he may tell him to eat with them.

You should not fast the fast for a bad dream on holy days, for it is written Deut. 16.14: You should make yourself happy on your feast. You should feel Simchah joy, make yourself gay and happy, which you cannot do hungry with an empty stomach. But on a Sabbath you may fast because of a bad dream. With respect to the Sabbath it says only Oneg, pleasure. So if one fasts then, that fast on Sabbath is his pleasure, because he drives away a bad dream with it, and his state of mind becomes happy again.

For this reason, it is permitted to weep on the Sabbath if that will give him pleasure, but on holy days weeping is not permitted, because weeping and laughter being happy cannot happen at the same time.

If you stuff a chicken or something similar, you may sew it up with a needle and thread, but you should burn the thread off, not cut it or bite it; and the thread should be put in the needle already the day before.

Bowls used in the morning should not be washed if you need them for the evening, but you should use fresh ones.

Fish, birds and other wild animals may not be caught or hunted. So, if a Christian caught something and sold it to a Jew, the Jew may not eat it until after the holy day; but chickens and geese kept in the home may be caught.

A long and serious discussion goes on whether you can eat an egg which was laid on a holy day that same day, or about fruits which were picked that day, herbs that were pulled from the ground or cut, about slaughtering, cutting wood, lighting fires, blowing on fires, cooking, kneading, baking, milking animals, and countless other things. A separate Tractate in the Talmud discusses all these matters, and is called Betzah. [Egg] It starts with the discussion about the egg. The Sect of Schammai said that Betza schænoledah bejom tobh, that is, an egg that was laid on the holiday, may be eaten, but the Sect of Hillel said you should not eat it. The other Rabbis broke their heads over that, and discussed it at length. This is all put down in the book Orach chajim with all the other permissible and prohibited things you can do on holy days.

At the time of afternoon service, they go to shul again and pray, but they hurry home after they pray, because they have to prepare their supper for after they say their evening prayers.

They eat their supper with the same ceremonies as the night before. They also celebrate the next day with the same services again; the reason for this is that they have doubts which day is the fourteenth of March, [i.e. Nisan] or when the new moon of March appears, so they do not really know which is the fourteenth of March. Therefore they celebrate Passover for two days, so that they may be sure, and not miss the day. If one should find some more leavened dough on these two days he should not touch it, or eat it, but cover it with a bowl or similar thing and then burn it on one of the following days.

Whoever throws out food such as wheat or other grains for their domestic fowl, like chickens, geese and pigeons, should take care that the grain does not fall on wet ground, because they might not eat it all up, and some of it might start to grow, which could mean that he was sowing on a holy day. The following four days are only half-holy days, therefore they are called Chol hammoed, common days of the feast. On these days they can do some work, but not everything. There are subtle discussions about it, which was mentioned previously, and can be read in the book Orach chajim; it would be too lengthy to explain here.

All work is allowed which would result in Caliah, [this word is printed in both Hebrew and Latin script] that certain things would spoil or suffer damage if you would not do it, like milking and so forth. You may cut the hair of a little child, but not of a grown-up.

Whoever has only one shirt may wash it, but not too obviously. The women may wash diapers, iron linen, collars, and so forth. They may polish shoes and sharpen knives.

If you have to do some writing, you should write crooked, and with different handwriting, and with all your other work which you do on that day, you should be meschánneh something [do it differently] so that there is a difference between workdays and holy days.

Some have permitted the cutting of nails, but the more pious ones have found it difficult to allow, and given exceptions only to those women who have to go into cold water to do their [ritual] cleansing, and who therefore have to cut the nails on their hands and feet, so that there may be nothing unclean on them.

The seventh day is holy again according to Scripture, as it is written Ex. 12.16: The first day on which you gather shall be holy, and the seventh day also. You shall do no work, except what is necessary to prepare food for your families, only that you may do.

They gather therefore again in their shul, sing and pray, and have all kinds of ceremonies with their Sépher thórah, with the book of laws, lifting it in and out of the Ark. Since they celebrate the first day twice, for reasons previously mentioned, they really do not really know which is the seventh day and last day, so they consider the eighth day just as holy as the seventh. After that, they bring again leaven into their homes, so that God may see that they are not celebrating the feast any longer, as he commanded them.

After that the men fast three times, two Mondays and one Thursday, to do penance for getting drunk during the celebrations, or for any other infringements.

Until the thirty-third day after Passover, they are usually sad (but not altogether.) they have no weddings, they do not have their hair cut, they do not take a bath, because of a very learned Rabbi, Rabbi Akibha, who had twenty four thousand Talmidim or pupils, who all died between Passover and Pentecost because they had been jealous, despised each other, and showed no love and respect for each other, as they should have. Those that died were buried by the women at night, therefore the women are not permitted to do any work after sundown in those thirty-three days, but they rest those nights and are still, especially when they sleep.

On the thirty-third day the men have their hair and beard cut with special rituals, take a bath, and have a meal together, and are happy again that R. Akibha's pupils ceased to die. Not in vain did the Prophet Isaiah say 44.18:

They know nothing and understand nothing, because their eyes are blinded so that they see nothing and their hearts feel nothing.

Therefore Christ said too Matt. 15.14:

Let them go, because they are blind, and have blind leaders. If a blind man leads another blind man, they both fall into the pit.

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Alan D. Corré
corre@uwm.edu