Bread is at the heart of the dilemma this year.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For a Jewish family in Overland Park, Kan., this weekend poses a dilemma of religious proportions: how to simultaneously observe two holy days that have conflicting rules.
For Seth and Judi Dimbert, as well as other traditional Jews, the core of the problem is what to do about bread, which is a vital part of the weekly Sabbath observance but which must be cleaned from the house for the annual Passover holy days.
While the Jewish Sabbath begins at sundown each Friday of the year, the date of Passover changes every year. Occasionally, the eve of Passover is also the Sabbath.
That's what's happening this year.
"You are not allowed to eat matzah [unleavened bread] on the eve of Passover," said Rabbi Herbert Mandl of Kehilath Israel Synagogue in Overland Park, "so you can't use that for the blessing on the Sabbath. ... So what do you do about the prayer and blessing over the bread? That is a big problem."
The rules of Passover require all leaven products to be cleaned from the house before Passover begins at sundown. As a rule, families could continue their cleaning right up to the start of Passover. This year Passover starts Saturday evening, April 23, after the Sabbath ends.
Because traditional Jews do not do work such as housecleaning on the Sabbath, that means families like the Dimberts will have to complete their cleaning -- including removing leaven products from the house -- before the Sabbath begins. That means, of course, there won't be any bread for the Friday night meal.
The Sabbath laws require the eating of two to three meals with bread on the Sabbath.
Complicating this even more is that the dietary laws of Passover go into effect -- not at sundown at the start of the holiday but many hours earlier -- about 11 a.m., said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, executive rabbinic coordinator of the Orthodox Union.
At first glance, fasting until the first Passover Seder on Saturday night might seem to be one option. Not so, Elefant said, since "you are not allowed to fast on the Sabbath because you are supposed to enjoy yourself."
He pointed to yet another challenge for traditional Jews: how to pack in two complete meals with bread on the Sabbath before 11 a.m. and also attend Sabbath services that morning?
And here's another hitch: If the leaven products they eat before 11 a.m. have leftovers, how do they dispose of them? Because burning or carrying garbage is prohibited during the Sabbath, Elefant said.
And here's yet another problem: In preparation for Passover, a lot of the cooking usually takes place the day before the holiday. But because traditional Jews don't do work on the Sabbath, that includes cooking. So this year they can't start the Seder meal until after the Sabbath is over, and that would be too late to begin cooking.
"You end up trying to have everything prepared for the Sabbath and the Passover Saturday before sunset Friday," Elefant said. "Most want to have the whole holiday prepared, so that means three days of foods prepared. It requires a lot of preparation and work."
And what about bread on the Sabbath?
"In terms of the requirement to eat bread or bread product, there are only two options," Elefant said. "Both aren't great." Both involved eating outside.
"The first is to have small rolls prepared for the Sabbath meals and eat them," Elefant said, "not at your table, but find a little corner of a porch and start the meal, and either eat them up or flush them down the toilet.
"If you don't want to take a chance on that, the other possibility is to eat egg matzah. That is not something that should be eaten for Passover -- only for people who are not well -- and that is how you avoid the problem of not eating matzah on the holiday."
Mandl suggests that families "go in the back yard or someplace away from your eating area like the garage, make a blessing over a roll and flush the remains or give it to the birds." Kehilath Israel also offers another solution. Since the synagogue does not serve food during Passover, the building does not have to undergo a ritual cleaning for a Seder. Therefore, it will offer a meal Friday night.
The last time Passover began on a Saturday night was 2001. About 400 people from various congregations came for the Friday night meal, he said.
Some traditional synagogues also will start services early April 23 to allow people to get in a full meal with bread before the 11 a.m. deadline.
This year Seth and Judi Dimbert and their three children, ages 3 to 7, will attend services at Beth Israel Abraham & amp; Voliner, which will start early and end in time for them to get home and say a blessing over bread before 10:30 a.m.
"We will get rid of the bread stuff within the time limit," Judi said. "Then we will sit down as a family at about 1 o'clock with everything except bread stuff, and we can eat anything that is kosher for Passover except for matzah."
Fannie Krashin of Overland Park said that when her four children were growing up and Passover fell on a Saturday night, the family would eat the Friday night and Saturday morning meals on the patio. If the weather was bad, they would eat in the garage, with the table covered with a cloth.
"The children were challenged to keep every crumb on the tablecloth," she said. "Then we would shake it outside."
This year, in advance of the holiday, she plans to make rolls out of matzah meal, which is not bread and not regular matzah, so they don't break any Passover rules, she said.
"We'll use those for sandwiches because we need something to eat between 11 a.m. and the start of the first Seder," she said.
If there's an upside to this collision of holy days, it's this, Elefant said:
"The good news is that if you speak to any Jewish housewife, usually she is working to prepare for Passover up to the last moment, and when the first Seder comes she is exhausted. This year the housewives will be able to rest the day before."