What is Passover?
Passover is an eight-day festival that is celebrated in the Hebrew month of Nissan between the fifteenth and twenty-second. The festival is in commemoration of the redemption of the Israelite people from ancient Egypt. Jewish people observe Passover in order to try and relive the Egypt experience and ultimately to re-experience the freedom felt by their forefathers when they left Egypt.
What is the story behind Passover?
The Israelites were subjected to decades upon decades of slavery to the ancient Egyptians. During their slavery the Israelites labored in extremely hard conditions and were treated very poorly. G-d sent Moses to Pharoah with a message that Pharoah must set the Israelites free so that they can serve Him. Pharoah refused to heed the numerous warnings he received and G-d sent ten devastating plagues upon the land of Egypt.
At midnight on the fifteenth of Nissan in the 2448th year after creation G-d sent the last of the ten plagues- the death of the Egyptian firstborn sons. While doing so G-d “passed over” the Jewish homes, saving them and thus the name of the festival was born. Pharoah, in his anguish, practically chased the Israelites out of Egypt. The Israelites were so hurried that their bread that they had prepared as provisions had no time to rise. Six hundred thousand males, plus women and children left Egypt and began their trek to Mount Sinai where they were reborn as G-d’s chosen people.
What are the two parts of Passover?
The first and last day (or last two days in the Diaspora) of the festival are full-fledged holidays whereas the middle four days are called chol hamoed and are regarded as semi-festive intermediary days when most forms of work are permitted.
What is Chametz?
Chametz is leavened grain and it is forbidden to consume or derive any benefit from it during the festival of Passover so as to commemorate the unleavened bread that the Israelites ate when they left Egypt.
Jewish people clean their houses intensively in the weeks leading up to the festival of Passover, making sure to get rid of any Chametz and this cleaning culminates in a ceremonial search for Chametz on the night before Passover and a burning of the Chametz ceremony on the morning before the festival.
Instead of Chametz, Matzah, flat unleavened bread, is eaten on Passover.
What is the Seder?
On the first night (or the first two nights in the Diaspora) of Passover, the Seder is observed- a fifteen-step family-orientated ritual-rich and traditional feast.