Passover (Pesach) is the most important Jewish holiday dedicated ещ the Biblical story of Exodus — when God freed the Israelites from 400 years of slavery in Egypt.
When Pesach is celebrated
According to the Jewish lunar calendar, Passover begins on the 14th day of the spring month of Nisan and is celebrated for seven days in Israel and eight outside.
In the Gregorian calendar, the holiday date is calculated each year. This year Passover begins on the evening of April 8 and ends on the evening of April 16.
History of Pesach
It is believed that Passover unites two ancient holidays - day of cattle breeders and day of farmers, and in the biblical period, it became associated with the liberation of Jews from Egyptian slavery.
According to the Holy Scripture, God, in order to free the chosen people, sent ten plagues to the Egyptians: turning the water of the Nile into blood, the appearance of a myriad of frogs, hordes of lice, wild animals, the death of cattle, ulcers, the destruction of the harvest from hail and locusts, continuous three-day gloom and finally the death of the firstborn. Before sending the last of ten plagues to Egypt, God ordered the Jews to slaughter the lambs and mark the doors with their blood. On the night of the 14th of Nisan, the Highest passed the houses of the Jews, on which marks were made, and in the other families, all the firstborn died. After that, Moses led the Jewish people out of Egypt.
This evening, four responsibilities should be performed: eat matzo, talk about the Exodus from Egypt, drink four glasses of wine and eat maror (bitter greens). People put the best dishes (preferably new) and silver on the table. You cannot start the Seder before the stars appear, however, it is worth setting the table in advance and preparing everything necessary.
Origin of the name "Pesach"
The English word "Passover" is a translation of the holiday's name in Hebrew, Pesach, which means to "skip," "omit," or "pass over". Traditionally the name is believed to have originated with God "passing over" the homes of the Jews when he was killing the firstborn sons of Egypt
Major Passover Seder traditions
- Passover is for everyone: Giving to those less fortunate is the hallmark of Judaism and the Jewish people. Before Passover, funds are collected to ensure that everyone can celebrate the Holiday of Freedom in style.
- Leaven Free: As Passover approaches, Jewish people can be found cleaning their houses, cars and offices. This is not a mere spring cleaning; it is a mission—to get rid of chametz, anything produced from grain that has risen. Even dishes are either purged or put away for the duration of the holiday, ensuring that no Jew owns or ingests even the smallest bit of chametz.
- Reading Haggada - most Popular Hebrew Book: The Haggadah, the text around which the Passover Seder is based, is the most popular book in the history of Jewish printing, having gone through thousands of editions. At its core, the Haggadah tells the story of how God took our ancestors out of Egyptian slavery. Jews tell this story to the children every single year, finding new depth and new meaning in every retelling.
- Four cups of wine: Throughout the Seder evening everyone drinks four cups of wine.
- Passover lamb: In ancient times, the center of the Passover celebration was the Passover lamb, which was sacrificed in the Holy Temple and then eaten with matzah and bitter herbs as a dessert at the end of the Passover meal. Roman invaders destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago, and we no longer bring the sacrifice. Today, Hebrew still eat the matzah and bitter herbs without the lamb, and then eat an extra piece of matzah, known as the afikoman, to remind us of the missing meat.
The only bread allowed on Pesach is matzo
Matzo is a reminder that the Jews, having finally received the permission of Pharaoh to leave the country, left Egypt in such a hurry that they had to bake bread from a dough that had not yet come up.
In addition to matzo, the essential ingredients are bitter greens (basil, horseradish, lettuce), symbolizing the bitterness of slavery; a mixture of grated apples, dates, nuts, and wine, which resembles clay, from which the Jews in slavery made bricks. Food is dipped in salt water (a symbol of tears and the sea, which the Jews crossed during the Exodus).
Three symbolic components that are not eaten are also put on a special dish (keare): roasted lamb with a bone (sacrifice), a hard-boiled egg (memory of temple services), a piece of any spring vegetable.
Chicken soup with matzo dumplings, stuffed fish and baked meat are often included in the Easter meal.
The meal is ended with the words of greeting: “Next year in Jerusalem!”
How is Passover different from Christian Easter?
Christian Easter is dedicated to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is associated with the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt only symbolically; in the form of corresponding biblical texts, read during the Christian Easter service. The sacrifice of the Passover lamb is considered in Christian theology as a type of the voluntary self-sacrifice of Jesus in the atonement of the sins of the world.