Eve of Passover on Shabbat

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In Judaism, when the Eve of Passover (Hebrew: ערב פסח, Erev Pesach) falls on Shabbat, special laws regarding the preparation for Passover are observed.

Fast of the Firstborn[edit]

When the Eve of Passover falls on Shabbat, the Fast of the Firstborn customarily takes place on the preceding Thursday, instead of the day before (Friday). This is because it is forbidden to fast on Shabbat (except when it coincides with Yom Kippur), and it is preferable not to fast on Friday. However, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote that, based on the Rema, a Jew who breaks the Thursday fast might be required to fast on Friday. Rabbi Joseph ben Meir Teomim made a similar ruling in his P'ri M'gadim. On the other hand, since there are opinions that dispute the Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Turei Zahav, Eliyah Rabba, Chayei Adam, Sh'vut Ya'akov, Mor U-K'tzi'a), Rabbi Feinstein also writes that, practically speaking, one should not fast on Friday under such circumstances. This rationale may be based on the Korban N'tan'el, which says that excessive strictures regarding keeping the Fast of the Firstborn should not cause unnecessary fasting during the month of Nisan.

The above halakhic quandary is moot if a firstborn fasts the entire day on Thursday. However, Rabbi Feinstein makes no mention of this requirement. In order for a firstborn who does eat on Thursday to comply with the ruling of the Rema, the Piskei T'shuvot suggests participating in a second siyum (a session of Torah study and the following celebratory meal) on Friday, while Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank suggests partaking on Friday of leftovers from the previous day's siyum.

Search for chametz[edit]

Normally, the search for Chametz (leavened bread) occurs on the night of the 14th of Nisan, which is one night before the start of Passover. When this night is a Friday, the search for chametz takes place one night earlier (on the 13th), since use of a candle and the act of burning chametz are forbidden on Shabbat. The chametz is then burned on Friday morning.

Conflict with the Fast of the Firstborn[edit]

It is normally forbidden to eat before conducting the search for chametz, which is carried out by the firstborn. However, according to the Mateh Moshe and Maharil, a firstborn who is fatigued or uncomfortable from the fast may eat some food before the search, or another person may be appointed to perform the search on behalf of the firstborn.

Observing Seduah Shlishit[edit]

Seduah Shlishit is the Jewish custom and commandment to eat three meals on Shabbat. Traditionally, two loaves of bread (challah) are served with each of these meals. However, when the Eve of Passover falls on Shabbat, the restriction on consuming such chametz begins on Saturday morning (usually sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m.); to include bread with each of the meals, all three must be consumed before the restriction comes into effect.

Although most chametz has been removed from the household before the search for chametz, enough bread is kept to eat at these three meals. (While matzah can ordinarily be used to fulfill the obligation of Seduah Shlishit on Shabbat, it is not used for any of the three meals on the Eve of Passover, since it is forbidden to consume matzah on that day.) The bread is stored in a location where it does not come into contact with Passover food or dishes.

The first of the three meals is consumed on Friday evening, as usual. On Saturday morning, morning services at synagogue are held earlier than usual. Following services, a second meal is held and finished quickly. After a pause, a third meal is begun, in which the remainder of the chametz is consumed.

Any chametz that remains following the completion of three meals is disposed of. If chametz is found after Passover begins, it is customary to bag it and place it outdoors until it can be disposed of in proper waste receptacles following the third day of Passover. (It is not disposed of immediately because of the restriction of working or carrying money on the first and last two days of Passover, similar to the restrictions on laborious activities on Shabbat.) In very rare situations, when another person is in dire need, this chametz be given away instead of thrown out.

It is advised[by whom?] that each community assess the overlooked chametz, and, if the amount is substantial, donate double in fresh chametz (bread and bread products) directly to those in need, through organizations that feed those in need, immediately following the second day of the Passover. The actual extra chametz would likely become too stale for human consumption by the time it could reach those in need, so it is considered a mitzvah (good deed) to leave this extra chametz in public areas as food for birds and squirrels. Some national laws[which?] do not allow this because it may attract dangerous or unwanted wildlife, so instead the extra chametz should simply be thrown out in outdoor waste receptacles. This practice is decided by the rabbis in each community. Individuals generally consult with a local rabbi in the event of finding any substantial chametz during Passover.


While the coincidence of the Eve of Passover and Shabbat can occur as often as three times in a decade, it is also possible for as many as 20 years to pass between two instances. The percentage of the Eve of Passover on Shabbat occurring is 11.5%. During the 20th century, the Eve of Passover fell on Shabbat 12 times: in 1903, 1910, 1923, 1927, 1930, 1947, 1950, 1954, 1974, 1977, 1981, and 1994. In the 21st century, it has occurred three times: in 2001, 2005, and 2008. Future occurrences in the 21st century include 2021, 2025, 2045, 2048, 2052, 2072, 2075, 2079, and 2099.

Other holidays[edit]

Other Jewish holidays in the same year[edit]

For years in which the Eve of Passover falls on Shabbat, some other Jewish holidays are also observed irregularly. Purim, which comes earlier in the year, occurs on Friday (beginning Thursday night, and making Purim a three–day holiday in Jerusalem), the spring holiday of Shavuot occurs on Monday and Tuesday (beginning Sunday night), the fall holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, and Shemini Atzeret-Simchat Torah all occur on Tuesday and Wednesday (beginning Monday night), and Yom Kippur occurs on Thursday (beginning Wednesday night).

Other Jewish holiday alteration[edit]

In years when the Eve of Passover is on Friday and the first day of Passover is on Shabbat, which happens more commonly than the Eve of Passover falling on Shabbat itself, the 17th day of Tammuz and the ninth day of Av will fall on a Saturday; since fasts other than Yom Kippur are not observed on Shabbat, the fasts of the Seventeenth of Tammuz and Tisha B'Av will be postponed to the next day (the eighteenth of Tammuz and the tenth of Av, respectively).

See also[edit]