Login  |  Register
Mazaltov.co.uk
Passover is one of the most important and most widely observed Jewish holidays. It commemorates the Exodus in which the Israelite tribes were freed from slavery in Egypt. Passover is observed on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan which falls on March or April in the Gregorian calendar. It is observed by Jews living both inside and outside Israel but Jewish communities outside Israel typically observe it on the 15th day of Nisan.

The origin of the name of the holiday is thought to be related to the story of the Exodus although the etymology of the term remains a matter of debate. According to the Exodus, the Israelites freed themselves from slavery in Egypt with God’s aid. After the Egyptian pharaoh refused to allow the Israelite slaves to leave, God sent the final and the worst of all ten plagues that struck Egypt which was the death of the first-born sons. To save their first-borns, the Israelites were instructed to mark their doorposts with the spring lamb’s blood which was a sign to the Lord’s spirit to pass over - therefore the holiday is named Passover. 

Next to Shavuot and Sukkot, Passover was one of the three holidays during which all Jews made a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. The height of the pilgrimage was the so-called Korban Pesach or Passover sacrifice during which a young lamb or a wild goat was sacrificed on the afternoon of the 14th day of Nisan. Every family was required to sacrifice a lamb or goat large enough for the entire family but small enough to be able to eat the entire offering in one sitting. If it was too large to be eaten in one sitting, a sacrifice was offered by multiple families. The offering could be served only with unleavened bread (matzo) and bitter herbs (maror).

After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the observation of Passover changed. Today, Passover is observed with the Seder Korban Pesach, also known as the Passover Seder. It is a special dinner which involves eating symbolic foods that are served on the Passover Seder Plate. All foods that are served on the Passover Seder Plate have a special name and a special meaning:

- Maror and chazeret - Bitter herbs; a symbol of bitterness and hardship the Israelites endured during slavery in Egypt

- Charoset - chopped nuts, cinnamon, grated apples and sweet red wine (there are some variations in recipe between different Jewish communities); a symbol of mortar from which the Jewish slaves built storehouses in Egypt

- Karpas - a vegetable other than bitter herbs which is dipped in salt water; a symbol of pain the Jewish slaves suffered in Egypt

- Z’roa - roasted lamb or goat (usually shank bone), chicken wing or neck; a symbol of the traditional Korban Pesach

- Beitzah - hard boiled egg; a symbol of the sacrifice that was offered in the Temple of Jerusalem

- Matzo - unleavened bread; a symbol of the hurry in which the Israelite slaves left Egypt. According to the story of the Exodus, the Israelites left before the bread could rise (leaven).

The Passover Seder also involves drinking four cups of wine, retelling the story of the Exodus, discussion about the Exodus with the children who are rewarded with nuts (or candies) for participating in the discussion as well as the search for the afikoman, a piece of matzo. Most Passover Seders extend long into the night.