Halichoth Teman – Hag Pasah
(R. Yosef Qafah zs'l)


Baking the masa: Prepare the masa shemura from the month of Tishrei –the harvest season --  a man connects with a farmer to buy a piece of his land and one day when there is no due goes to his piece of land and cuts the sheaves. Only in the afternoon because the due has to be dry. He brings it home in sacks. At home, they cut the sheaves from the stocks and beat it with the sticks in one of the rooms of the house on the first floor. The stalks are tied together and act as sechach for the sukka for next year. Then they take all the grains they cleaned and beat them until it is clean from the peals. They put them into ceramic jars in a cold place in order to avoid worms from the heat. Sometimes a man buys grain for two or three years. That is the reason it has to be guarded from worms. One way to guard is to mix ashes with the grain. This allows grain to last for 5 or 6 years without harm. But for regular masa (not shemura) they can buy it in the beginning of the winter when the crops—The markets have a lot of it and they put it into a special place for masa. After Purim, they clean one of the rooms of the house and paint it and then it becomes kosher lePasah. They store all the grains for the Pasah and shemura here. Also they clean another room and bring all the special dishes from the dungeon—special dishes used to clean the grain for the masa. This room is cleaned and they took all the grain from strange stuff that got from it. Three women doing the cleaning of the grain one after the other to clean it. All the grain must be complete, the broken ones are thrown out--- perhaps it was broken by a mouse. The saliva would make it homes. All the cleaned grain go to the special dungeon that was cleaned for Pesah. In this work, they don’t sing –they put a cloth in their mouth so their saliva should not touch the grain. Then they clean and paint the room that they use to ground the flower.  Before, they invite a special man that cleans the top surface of the stone used to grind the grain so that any homes disappears. Then they wash it with hot water and a brush. Every whole has to be cleaned. There was a kind of grass that they dried and cut and placed under the grain. Then they put it in layers—one layer of chormel (grass) and then the grain—layer after layer—with fur on the very top to make it hot so that the peal of the grain will come off easily. The same way that the Temanim processed the grain is the same as was done in the old times in Israel as mentioned in Yerushalmi Pasahim 83 in the end of Halakha alef. This tradition continues since they left Israel until this day. They were precise about how to ground hilbeh and durah (one of the five non-homes grain –flower used to put onto of the dough (basake)so the dough wont get sticky). Chaim note: They used to lehuh made out of durah—a pancake with holes in it. They put the durah flower on top of the dough. Hazal received it from Mosha Rabbenu that beans can not become hhomes as they are different than the five grains chemically.

Wheat, barley, oat, spelt, and rye are the five grains not allowed to be mixed with water—that are h homes. The rest of the food is okay to eat. Rice and beans are included. The chemical process is different then the corn or rice. (Rice and corn undergo a form of fermentation called sirchon;)

The thirty days between Purim and Pasah there is an environment of preparation and holiness. If someone would pass by in the streets, he would hear the grounding stones being cleaned or the woman cleaning the holes and cracks in the homes after the painter finished. Two days before the holiday, the study in the school stops and all the children help in the home. Also they make the haroseth and a lot of vegetables arrive at the market for the seder tables because the Temanim put a lot of veggies on the table.  They especially by the green hasarath (lettuce), karpas (Parsley) , and radish and wash them thoroughly and place them in big jars to keep them fresh. They are for the borei peri haadhama.  In the middle of the day in the 14th of the day, a messenger from the Rabbinical court goes to the shouq (market). If there is a lot of veggies… he buys them for the poor and sends the rest with the volunteer children to the rich people and forcing them to pay for it. The Arabs –every year—brought lots of veggies… They wanted the Arabs to keep up this practice so they made sure to pay for it so as not to ruin them financially. When the sun sets on the 13th of Nisan, the youngsters compete with each other over who will draw the water for “mayim shelanu” (water that slept over night) used for the masa. Why is this? Chaim says to let the junk settle from the surface of the water. However, most law codes say water has to sit in order to create the optimum temperature.  They put the water in ceramic jars they used for years for the same purpose and put it in a cold area. The night before the 14th of Nissan, they fulfill the miswa of bedikath hhomes—They did not have the tradition to leave the hhomes in order to burn it—according to the RMb"M says in Halachoth Berachoth. The head of the family says the beracha al beor homes and takes a wax candle and checks all the corners of the house while the family is following him. There was a special family that made special little candles just for the miswa. They gave it away for free. 

Haroseth Recipe

After the Bedikah, they make the duqeh (harosethh) and also this job was for the youngsters of the house. They had to clean up the dates and brake the almonds and walnuts and to clean the good from the bad. Also the man used to help due the hard tasks to prepare the haroseth. The haroseth is called duqehh—this name is from old times and it is well known in the time of the Tanaim – they used to call it duqeh… and also in the Yerushalmi Pasahim pereq uud—Halakha jimmal – Why is it called duqehh? Because the men and the women use to participate and prepare it together and helps to create a bond.  300 grams of dates, 300 grams of raisins, 100 grams of dried figs, 200 grams roasted sesame, one pomegranate, 100 grams of almonds, 100 grams of walnuts, a small pinch of black pepper, 20 grams of cumin, 10 grams of cinnamon, 10 grams of ginger, and a few grains of cardamom. (Note from Site Admin.: add water when blending for texture). Each one is ground by itself and then mixed together and reground. Then they put it in a special dish and used it with a little grape juice or wine vinegar and dip it. Some people added a little piece of apple but most did not because it accelerated it getting stale. You can keep it until Succoth.  SIDE NOTE: In America, one needs to be especially careful about finding dates and figs that have not been oiled (to allow movement on the pans)-- as the oil may contain hhames. Sometimes, they can be sprayed as well.  Also, we are talking RAW dates and figs. It may be hard to find them with a reliable hasgahha. The same goes for fresh spices. All I can say is to become a good gardener if you live in America. 


Pesah night, the custom is to eat earlier – one hour before the time you cannot eat chamayth anymore. After 15 minutes, Arabs would wander in the streets announcing that they are ready to trade their fruit for the Homes of the Jews. Immediately after Pasah, there is no selling of the homes--- but weddings that are postponed after Pasah – there was a real sale. But this was the exception to the rule. They prepare flower from the masa and call it flour for the homes—kosher flower—to make bread immediately after Pasah.

Table: Before the men are going to the synagogue on arav Pasah, they are setting the table. The tables used to be rounded from wood or copper. No table cloth was used. The food was put on top of the specially cleaned wood.


Put a layer of raddish with the big leaves. On top of it is placed parsley.  On top of that is placed another layer of lettuce (hazaroth). They fold three or four shemurah masa in a nice handkerchief and put in front of the head of the family . In the middle of the table, they put two or three bowls of duqeh in which (raisin sweetened water) was placed. Another two or three bowls of haroseth diluted with wine vinegar.  Then cumin seeds are placed in the bowl to make it look like straw inside the mortar in the haroseth (mortar). As the hachamim said. Then they add another bowl that has two pieces of meat. They are not careful to take just the bone. One piece is barbequed and one is the remnant of the qorban Pasah and one is the qoran Chagiga (fully cooked). Also an egg is placed on the table. The egg meant a lot to kids according to Chaim. They cover the table with a beautifal table cloth for Pasah and light the candles and get dressed in holiday clothes and go to the beth kenassath. In the mean time the women finish the house, get dreesed with jewelry, and dress their children with beautiful gold and silver.  Then they also light incense for the entire house.  They then prepare the glasses and the wine and wait in the room talking until the husband and the children return from the beth kenassath.

At the beth kenassath, the men waited for a minyan and prayed Minha and  started mizmorath Tehillim in a special holiday chant until all the congregation came to the beth kenassath. It is the same people that come all the time. Everyone knows everyone. It is the same people that come for daily and Shabbath prayers. There is no one that comes out of the blue. When it is filled … they sing the special mizmor of the hag in a special melody. They sing the song in a slow tempo with a natural harmony (similar to the old church music -gregorian chanting –lehavdil). They use the 5th and fourth and octives only. Everyone sings in his own comfortable range falling in to these 4, 5, and octives.

He quotes from Hazal Pasahim: They used to sing so loud that they used to make a hole in the ceiling as everyone sang from the heart. After the mizmor, they used to sing the first Psalm. Lamarag-shoo was then sung in a festive chant a little different from the first one. Then they finish with Halleluya-hallelu El beqodhsho.  It is also a bit more like the first.  Then the head of the beth kenassath says what we are going to say in the tefillah. He actually says what we sang. This also has a special melody so everyone can pray without a siddur. Then he invites one of the congregants to be the hazzan. After arvith, they all stand and say the Hallel—all of it. It is an old custom of Israel as it appears in Yerushami in Pesahim. If holiday falls on Shabbath… we sing Yigdal.

When everyone leaves the synagogue, everyone blesses each other with the following blessing: tizkoo leshanim rabboth umoadim tovim”… The response is : “bahhayakha wuvayomakha hattovim”. If you didn’t see a Yemenite Jew in the beth kenassath… you never saw a true happy occasion in your whole life. Kiryat ono has beautiful singing and Tefillah…