There are hundreds and hundreds of laws concerning the holiday of Pesach and not a small number of customs that vary from community to community. The following are a number of customs that are, on the whole, lesser-known. It is always interesting to learn of different customs and to enrich one’s knowledge of different practices observed by different people in the Jewish religion.
- In Yemen, there was a custom to use the Lulav, Aravot and Hadassim (three of the four species used on the festival of Sukkot that occurs six months before the festival of Pesach) as fuel for the oven when baking Shmura Matzah (a special type of Matzah, the unleavened bread eaten on Pesach, that is carefully watched from the minute it is harvested until it is baked to make sure that it doesn’t come in to contact with any moisture). Additionally, Jews from Morocco, Syria and Baghdad would use the Lulav for both burning the leavened bread (as is customary before the start of the Pesach festival) and for baking Matzah.
- Hassidic Jews and Moroccan Jews wear a kittel at Seder night. A Kittel is a white robe that serves as a burial shroud for male Jews. There are a number of reasons given for this custom but on the simplest level, white is a symbol of joy at a time of festivals and weddings.
- Hungarian Jews would decorate their Seder tables with gold and silver. The explanation given for this custom is that this is in remembrance of the gold and silver that the Israelites received from the Egyptians on leaving Egypt.
- Yemenite Jews would often leave their doors open on Seder night as they believed that the redemption would come on that night and they left the door open so as to allow them to exit swiftly in order to greet the Messiah.
- Libyan and Tunisian Jews would not allow strangers into their houses on the first two days of Pesach. There are different explanations provided for this custom. One explanation is that this custom originates from times when the Jewish people would observe Pesach in secret and would therefore not allow strangers to enter their houses out of fear that informers would enter and spy on them. On the other hand, there are those who say that this custom was due to the fact that the Paschal lamb was to be eaten only by those who joined a specific paschal group.