Shabbat and Passover

April 14, 2017

So . . . what is the relationship between Shabbat and Passover? First of all, this Shabbat is DURING Passover which lasts 8 days (7 days for Reform Jews). So . . . all the rules of Passover apply.  All the dietary restrictions, of course are binding. Wait! What about Challah? Can’t we have Challah? THE MATZAH IS CHALLAH! Technically – to make official Challah, the baker has to separate a small portion of the dough from the rest of the challah dough and burn it up in the oven. This is known as “taking Challah.” (Next week, I’ll review the reasons for this Shabbat observance.) If you look on the label of your box of matzah, you’ll see a notice that “Challah is taken.” That means the same thing is done to the matzah dough that one would do for a regular challah. So . . . Matzah is Challah.

But . . . more than that . . . the Sabbath has an important connection to the Exodus from Egypt, and, therefore, to Passover. There are two versions of the Fourth Commandment – the commandment to observe the Sabbath. The first, in Exodus, chapter twenty, we are told that we remember the Sabbath Day because “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day, and hallowed it.” In other words, according to the Book of Exodus, we celebrate the Sabbath because we imitate God and refrain from creating as we do the six days of the work week. In Deuteronomy, chapter 5, however, we’re told a different rationale. We’re told that “Thou shalt remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath Day.” We observe the Sabbath remembering that we were slaves but now we are liberated. Freedom means we can cease from work – we can’t be required by masters and slaveowners. And more importantly, we acknowledge the importance of freedom and the tragedy of slavery – not just for ourselves, but for all humankind. This understanding of the Shabbat is mentioned even in the Kiddush – the prayer over wine – that we say on Shabbat. This week, the week of Passover, the double meaning of the Sabbath becomes perfectly clear. “We were slaves in Egypt, and the Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He brought us out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”

Shabbat Shalom