Holidays Andregular Observances

How and when do Jews celebrate Passover (Pesach)?

Celebrated from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan (a day longer outside of Israel), Passover (Pesach) is a spring festival commemorating God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. The rebirth of nature recalls the birth of Israel as a people. Specifically, its imagery derives from the belief that God instructed the Israelites to mark their doorposts with the blood of the sacrificial lamb. When God sent an angel to strike dead the first born of all the Egyptians, the angel would “pass over” the houses of the Israelites. The biblical account appears in Exodus 11-12.

During the observance of the Passover Seder (“order of service”) participants recount the story in the Haggadah Shel Pesach. Celebrating with unleavened bread and wine, participants begin by blessing the wine and washing their hands. They then dip a vegetable into saltwater and eat it, recalling the Red Sea. They then break the second of three pieces of bread (matzah) and hide it for the children to search out later, in recollection of hunger and divine manna in the desert. After recounting the story of the Exodus, they drink a second cup of wine and wash their hands again. Blessing the bread, they eat the first piece and what remains of the second piece. They eat some bitter herbs, recalling the suffering of the slaves in Egypt, then dip some herbs into charoset, a paste of spices, wine, matzah, and fruit, symbolizing the mortar the former slaves made for Pharaoh. The main meal is followed by eating the hidden part of the second matzah, and by a final blessing and a third cup of wine. The celebration closes with psalms of praise and another cup of wine.


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