Kenneth Cohen

Passover Laws

The Passover holiday carries with it many detailed laws. It is always a good idea to begin by separating between the Torah and Rabbinic laws, and customs and stringencies, known as “Chumras.”

There are three positive and five negative commandments associated with the coming holiday. The three positive include the commandment to remove our Chametz, eat Matza on Seder night, and tell the Pesach story to our children, at the Seder.

The five negative commandments all involve the prohibition of eating Chametz starting with Erev Pesach on the fourteenth of Nissan until the end of the holiday. It also includes the prohibition of “not seeing” and “not finding” Chametz during Pesach.

It is important to note that eating a כזית, an olive sized amount of Chametz, carries with it the very serious penalty of “Karet,” being cut off from the Jewish people.
The Rabbis added that we are extra strict with Chametz, so that even a משהו, the smallest amount is forbidden. It is also interesting to note that the well known concept of בטל בשישים, things nullified by a sixty to one ratio, does not apply once the holiday begins. This means that before the Chag, בטל בשישים does apply.
The drinking of four cups of wine at the Seder, as well as the bitter herbs, and Karpas, are all rabbinic laws. The prohibition of eating Kitniyot, legumes, or not eating “Gebrucht,” which includes not eating things made with Matza meal, all fall under the category of customs or stringencies.

It is important to prioritize these laws, and begin by being certain to follow the Torah and rabbinic laws strictly. The other categories have some room for negotiation, based on family customs and other factors. Passover can seem overwhelming. But with a little education and proper perspective, the holiday can be enjoyed peacefully and stress free.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at