Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is a Jewish holiday commemorating the Jewish liberation by God from slavery in Egypt. In the Book of Exodus, the Hebrew Bible describes the Israelites freedom under the leadership of Moses. The holiday begins on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan and lasts seven days in Israel (eight in the Diaspora).
While non-Jews are not commanded to keep the laws of Passover, anyone can benefit from its teachings and traditions. Here are seven Passover traditions anyone can adopt:
Before Passover begins, Jews remove all chametz (one of five types of grains that have been leavened by water and left to stand for more than 18 minutes) from their homes, as eating or even owning chametz is forbidden during Passover. Thus, traditional Jews thoroughly clean their houses to remove any traces of flour or leavened bread. The idea of “spring cleaning” has also been adopted by society at large and is a great way to benefit from the traditions of Passover.
REMEMBER THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMILITY AND FREEDOM
Jews are obligated to avoid eating leavened bread during the holiday of Passover. Because the Jewish people left Egypt in such a hurry, they could not wait for their dough to rise. In commemoration of this, Jews eat matzah, cracker-like unleavened bread. Matzah is also called lechem oni, or “bread of poverty.” It is meant to remind the Jewish people what it is like to be poor and enslaved. Anyone can eat matzah on Passover to remember the importance of humility and freedom, and use this opportunity to give to the poor.
RECOUNT FAMILY HISTORY AND TRADITIONS
While historical memory is central to nearly every Jewish holiday, the Bible not only stresses but commands the Jewish people to retell the story of Passover each year:
Bear in mind that you were slaves in Egypt, and take care to obey these laws. (Deuteronomy 16:12)
This day shall be to you one of remembrance: you shall celebrate it as a festival to Hashem throughout the ages; you shall celebrate it as an institution for all time. (Exodus 12:14)
And Moshe said to the people, “Remember this day, on which you went free from Egypt, the house of bondage, how Hashem freed you from it with a mighty hand: no leavened bread shall be eaten. (Exodus 13:3)
And you shall explain to your son on that day, ‘It is because of what Hashem did for me when I went free from Egypt.’ (Exodus 13:8)
It is thus traditional for Jewish families to gather at the dinner table on the first night of Passover (outside of Israel, this happens on the first two nights of Passover) for a special dinner called the Seder, where the Haggadah (a text telling the story of Exodus) is read. Anyone can “remember” their own history and past, so Passover is a great opportunity to recount at the dinner table one’s own family history and traditions, to be passed on to the next generation.
ENJOY ISRAELI WINE
During Passover, it is traditional to drink four cups of wine during the Seder, symbolizing the four stages of redemption that the Israelites underwent during Exodus. The four cups of wine also symbolize the freedom from four exiles: the three in Jewish history (Egyptian, Babylonian, and Greek) as well as our current exile that will culminate in the geula (redemption or messianic era). As reported by Wine Spectator, the Israeli wine industry is taking off and maturing with age. Passover is a great opportunity to support Israeli wineries that are making the vineyards of the Promised Land flourish by trying a new Israeli wine … or four.
INTROSPECTION ABOUT ONE’S OWN SLAVERY
The Mishnah (the oral Torah) states, “In every generation, one is obligated to view himself as though he came out of Egypt.” Thus, Jews are encouraged to take the holiday personally and reflect on their own sources of slavery and freedom. Introspection can benefit anyone, so take this opportunity to think about sources of enslavement in one’s own life (whether a person, material possession, or unnecessary negative emotion), and what can be done to release those chains and reach one’s “promised land.”
MAKE A PILGRIMAGE
Passover is one of three pilgrimage festivals in the Jewish faith, along with Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) and Shavuot (Feast of Weeks). During Temple times, Jews would visit the Temple in Jerusalem from all four corners of the earth. While it is no longer obligatory since the destruction of the Second Temple, many Jews still visit Israel on Passover. Take this opportunity to go on a trip with loved ones, whether to the Land of Israel, or to any other meaningful place.
FIND 10 WAYS TO GUARD ISRAEL AGAINST ITS FOES
In Exodus, the Bible tells that God helped the Jewish people escape slavery by inflicting 10 plagues on the Egyptians, in order to persuade Pharaoh to release the Jewish people. This Passover, find 10 meaningful ways to continue the freedom of the Jewish people. Ideas include buying Israeli products, supporting those who support Israel, keeping up to date with what is happening in the land, and studying about the land from a Biblical perspective.