Pesach - Passover - Jewish Festival
begins the evening of 8 April 2020 and
ends the evening of 16 April 2020
About Pesach (Passover)
Pesach, or as it is more commonly called by the English word Passover, is a festival of the Jews that primarily celebrates the liberation of the Jews from Egyptian bondage after hundreds of years of slavery leading to freedom as a nation.
It also celebrates the beginning of their agricultural season in Israel with the harvest of the barley crop.
Passover is also called Feast of Unleavened Bread or the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
Pesach is the Hebrew word for passing over and implies that death passed over the houses of the Jews while inflicting the Egyptians with the 10 plagues, the tenth being the worst, causing the death of all Egyptian firstborns while sparing the Jewish firstborns as a punishment to the Egyptians for not heeding to the command of God in freeing the Jews from slavery.
Passover is the first of the 3 main Jewish religious festivals and the most widely celebrated and takes place in the spring on the 15th day of Nisan and ends on the 21st day of Nisan in Israel. Outside of Israel it is celebrated on the 8th day as well and therefore ends on the 22nd day of Nisan.
This festival falls in the month of March or April beginning after dusk on the 14th day of Nisan marking the first day of the Hebrew calendar. In Judaisim, a day begins at dusk and lasts till dusk the following day.
Passover commemorates the Israelites' freedom from slavery and their departure from ancient Egypt. This account appears in the Hebrew Book of Exodus.
Passover is celebrated by Christians as well who view that Jesus sacrificed his life to deliver mankind of its sins.
After 400 years of slavery to the Egyptian Pharoah during which the Israelites were subjected to backbreaking labor and unbearable horrors, God sent a message through Moses asking the Pharoah to liberate these people.
The Pharoah ignored the warning numerous times, as well as the 9 plagues sent by God. God then sent the 10th plague the most devastating of them all, which killed all Egyptian firstborns while the Israeli firstborns were spared as death passed over their homes.
Moses had directed the all Israelites to sacrifice lambs and spread their blood over their front doors so that the angels pass over their homes & spares their firstborns.
Only after the Pharoah's own son was killed did he free the Egyptian slaves who then made haste to leave Egypt. The Israelites had almost reached the Red sea when the Pharoah on changing his mind had sent his soldiers to bring them back.
Finding them trapped between the Red sea and their pursuers, the Red sea miraculously parted and while the Israelites passed through safely, the Egyptian pursuers perished by drowning as the sea waters closed in on them when they followed suit. The Pharoah was spared alive to give testimony to the miracle that took place.
This day since then is remembered ritualistically as freedom from bondage and the Passover or Pesach and also commemorates the day the Israelites reached the Red sea.
Passover is a seven day festival in Israel with the seder meal on the first night while those outside Israel celebrate it for eight days with the seder meal on the first two nights.
The Passover celebrations commence on the 15th day of Nisan, with the Passover seder, a Jewish ritual feast. Homes are cleaned meticulously before this first day of Passover arrives.
All leavened products, called Chametz, are to be avoided as food during Passover and any remaining in the house are disposed off either by burning or storing it in a remote place in the home or even selling it to a non Jewish friend.
All leavened products like bread, cereals, grains (even rice, corn, peanuts, beans and some other foods), cornstarch are not eaten during the 7 or 8 days of Passover. This is so because the Israeli slaves were in such hurry to leave that they had no time to see their bread rise. This ritual is a reminder of those times.
All firstborns in a family are supposed to keep a fast a day prior to Pesach. This is to celebrate the fact that death spared all the Jewish firstborns by passing over the Jewish homes during the 10th plague that killed the Egyptian firstborns.
The first and last day of Passover are no work days for Jews.
The most important is the ritual of the Passover Seder meal. This is observed for 1 night in Israel while those living outside have to follow it for 2 days. As the Jewish day starts at dusk it is the night meal that is observed as the Seder meal.
During the seder meal certain rituals, which include, washing hands in certain ways, prayer recitals, blessings, drinking of 4 cups of wine, eating of Matzo, Maror & Afikomen and asking the 4 questions about the Passover seder are followed and these have to be carried out in a certain way as outlined in the Haggadah. Singing of traditional Passover songs are also a part of these rituals.
The intermediate days of Passover are called Chol HaMoed (festival weekdays). Family outings & picnics, eating of matzo, fruits, veggies, hard boiled eggs, passover treats like macaroons and homemade candies are indulged in.
Merry making and fun are very much a part of all Passover celebrations.
The Seder Plate
Some Of The 15 Sedar Steps (Kaddeish, Urechatz, Karpas, Yachatz )
Paasover Table & MatzahClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Passover Seder
The first day of the Passover has an important ritual, the Passover seder. At this seder meal the Story of the Exodus from Egypt is related from the Haggadah, a special Jewish Holy text. The seder meal is divided in to 15 steps or parts that are followed in the order outlined in the Haggadah.
The table laid out for the seder meal has the seder plate which consists of:
- A lamb shankbone, substituted with beets by Jewish vegetarians (it symbolises the lambs sacrificed)
- A roasted egg (represents the continuing cycle of life)
- A green vegetable usually parsley to dip in salt water (this represents spring time of the year when passover is held and the salt water a reminder of tears shed during bondage)
- Bitter herbs like horseradish or romaine lettuce (this symbolises the unpleasant years of slavery)
- Charoset, a paste of chopped apples & walnuts made with wine (symbolising the mortar that Jewish slaves used to cement bricks).
3 Matzot (unleavened bread) are kept on the table one on top of the other. (it is a reminder of the haste in which the Israelites left that prevented them from seeing their bread rise)
- The middle matzah is broken and the larger piece called the afikomen is hidden. This is later searched for by children and the finder is rewarded a prize or money.
The afikomen is the last piece of food that is eaten at the meal.
Washing of hands in a particular way, blessings, prayers, eating Matzo (unleavened bread), Maror (bitter herbs), afikomen and some other rituals are followed during the seder meal.
How To Make Gefilte Fish - Passover Recipe
3 Traditional Passover Recipes - Everyday Food with Sarah Carey
Some more Passover recipes from Jewish Virtual Library are given below:
- Passover Foods | Jewish Virtual Library
Encyclopedia of Jewish and Israeli history, politics and culture, with biographies, statistics, articles and documents on topics from anti-Semitism to Zionism.
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© 2016 Rajan Singh Jolly