Passover

A 15th-Century Manuscript Blends Medieval Art with Jewish Seder Observance

Passover, known as Pesach in Hebrew, is a significant Jewish festival that commemorates the Hebrews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt, as detailed in the Book of Exodus. It is observed for seven days in Israel and for eight days in the diaspora, typically falling in March or April according to the Gregorian calendar. The festival begins with the Seder, a ritual meal that includes reading from the Haggadah, eating matzah (unleavened bread), and other symbolic foods placed on the Seder plate. Passover is one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals (Shalosh Regalim) during which the ancient Israelites traveled to the Temple in Jerusalem. The holiday emphasizes themes of freedom, redemption, and remembering the struggles of the past. It’s a time for families to gather, retell ancient stories, and reflect on the importance of liberty and gratitude.

Key Traditions of Passover

Passover Sacrifice (Korban Pesach)

The Passover sacrifice, also known as the Paschal Lamb, was the centerpiece of the Passover festival during the time of the Temple in Jerusalem. Families would sacrifice a lamb or goat and eat it during the Seder meal. Today, this practice is symbolized by the zeroa (a roasted bone) on the Seder plate.

Removing All Leaven (Chametz)

Before Passover begins, Jews meticulously remove all leavened bread (chametz) from their homes to commemorate the Israelites leaving Egypt in haste, without time for their bread to rise. This includes a thorough cleaning and a ritual search for chametz the night before Passover starts.

Eating Matzah

Eating matzah, or unleavened bread, is a key commandment for Passover. It symbolizes the bread the Israelites made in their haste to leave Egypt. Matzah is eaten throughout the holiday, especially during the Seder meal.

The Seder Meal

The Seder is a ritual meal held on the first (and second) night of Passover, which retells the story of the Exodus. It includes the reading of the Haggadah, drinking four cups of wine, eating matzah, and other symbolic foods placed on the Seder plate.

Reading the Haggadah

The Haggadah is a text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder. Reading it is a way to fulfill the commandment to retell the story of the Exodus to one’s children.

Drinking Four Cups of Wine

During the Seder, participants drink four cups of wine, symbolizing the four expressions of deliverance promised by God in the Torah.

Eating Bitter Herbs (Maror)

Eating bitter herbs during the Seder meal commemorates the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.

The Afikoman

The Afikoman is a piece of matzah hidden during the Seder to be found later by the children. It is the last thing eaten at the Seder, symbolizing the Paschal lamb.

Reciting the Hallel

The Hallel, a series of psalms of praise, is recited during the Seder and the morning prayers on the first two days of Passover.

Counting of the Omer

Starting on the second night of Passover, Jews begin the Counting of the Omer, counting up to the holiday of Shavuot, the festival that commemorates receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.

Best Cakes, Cookies, and Sweets for Passover

Macaroons

Macaroons, especially coconut macaroons, are a Passover staple, made without leavening agents to comply with the holiday’s dietary restrictions.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

A popular dessert for Passover, flourless chocolate cake uses eggs and sometimes matzah meal or potato starch as a base, avoiding the use of leavened flour.

Best Food for Passover

Matzah Ball Soup

A traditional dish made from a mixture of matzah meal, eggs, water, and fat, cooked in chicken soup. It is a staple at the Seder meal and throughout the holiday.

Charoset

A sweet paste made of fruits, nuts, wine, and spices, symbolizing the mortar the Israelites used while enslaved in Egypt. Recipes vary widely among different Jewish communities.

Other Relevant Tips for Observance

Preparing a Kosher for Passover Kitchen

Switching over to a Passover kitchen involves cleaning and sometimes kashering appliances and surfaces to ensure no chametz remains. Some families have separate sets of dishes and utensils reserved for Passover use.

Selling Chametz

Jews who own chametz that they do not want to dispose of can sell it to a non-Jew for the duration of Passover. This practice is facilitated by community rabbis.

Educational Activities for Children

Passover is an excellent opportunity to engage children in learning about their heritage. Activities can include making Passover crafts, baking matzah together, and participating in finding the Afikoman.

Featured image: Wikipedia

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