Holiday

Pesach

Passover
  • Major Holidays
Pesach

Pesach

פסח

Pe-SACH

“To pass over”

What is Pesach

Passover celebrates the Exodus from Egypt. The holiday begins with the Seder night, when the story of Passover is retold over four cups of wine, matzah, a festive meal and songs. In the Land of Israel, this is a 7-day festival, while outside of Israel, the holiday is celebrated for 8 days.

When is Pesach

Nissan 15-22

Outside of Israel this holiday is celebrated for an extra day

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Source and Origin of Pesach








Alternate Names for Pesach

  • Chag HaMatzot – “The Holiday of the Matzahs”
  • Chag Ha’Aviv – “The Holiday of the Spring”
  • Zman Cheiruteinu – “The Time of Our Freedom”

Commandments (Mitzvot) of Pesach

  • Burning/getting rid of chametz (leavened bread/grain products) before the holiday – the Jewish people are commanded to rid their homes of any leavened bread or grain products that come from any of the five main grains: wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye. This must happen before midday of the day before Passover and continues through the last day. Many people try to eat as much chametz as they can from their houses in the weeks leading up to the holiday, and the night before the Seder night, a thorough search of the house is conducted. Any chametz found must be burned or otherwise disposed of, or sold to a non-Jew (to be bought back after the holiday).
  • No eating, owning, or seeing of chametzalong with getting rid of all chametz in their possession before the holiday, Jews may not eat, own, or see it on their property for the duration of the holiday.
  • Telling the Passover story – traditionally done during the Seder (an hours-long, 15-step ritual of storytelling and feasting), the Passover story, from the Jewish people’s slavery in Egypt to freedom as they were taken out by G-d’s miraculous hand, is traditionally told using the haggadah, the liturgy that describes the Exodus.
  • Eating matzah – matzah, or unleavened bread that was baked in a mere 18 minutes, is traditionally eaten throughout the Passover holiday, but is a commandment specifically on the first night. The reason for eating matzah is that in the Jewish people’s rush to leave Egypt, they were unable to let the dough for their bread rise, so they were left with matzah instead of bread.
  • Drinking the Four Cups – during the Seder, participants drink four cups of wine, corresponding to the four expressions of freedom mentioned in the Bible. There is a certain amount of wine that must be consumed per cup.
  • Eating the maror, bitter herbs – in order to commemorate the bitterness of the slavery in Egypt, bitter herbs are eaten during the Seder. Horseradish and romaine lettuce are most commonly used.

Customs of Pesach

  • The Seder plate – a specially designed plate with six sections is prepared and displayed on the table throughout the Seder to remind the participants of six things related to the Exodus story: karpas, a vegetable or herb grown from the ground, to remind everyone of spring and rejuvenation; maror and hazeret, bitter herbs (discussed above); haroset, a sweet mixture usually containing dates, nuts, and apples that looks like mortar, to commemorate the bricks that the Israelites were forced to build while they were slaves; zero’ah, a shankbone, to commemorate the Passover sacrifice (Pascal lamb); and beitzah, a roasted egg, to commemorate the Hagigah sacrifice which was usually eaten as the main course of the Seder meal while the Temple was still standing.
  • Leaning to the left – as this was an expression of freedom in ancient times, participants in the Seder lean to the left while completing certain rituals.
  • Elijah’s Cup – towards the end of the Seder, the door is opened to welcome Elijah to the table. It is customary to pour him a cup of wine as well and leave it untouched in the hope that he will return and bring the final redemption with him.
  • Afikoman – originating from the Greek word for dessert, this small piece of matzah is supposed to be the last thing anyone eats on the Seder night. It is customary for the leader of the Seder to hide it at some point during the Seder so the children can go hunting for it at the right time (after the meal).
  • “So the children will ask” – a common phrase to explain away many of the strange customs or rituals at the Seder. Despite being an odd answer to many questions, it serves a real purpose—the most important commandment of the Seder night is to tell the Passover story, and the Talmud states that the more one talks about the story of the Exodus, the better. So the more questions that are asked, the more everyone present will discuss the Passover story and fulfill that commandment to the highest degree.

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