The most commonly observed Jewish holiday is Pesach or Passover. This year it will be celebrated beginning in the evening of Monday, April 14 until the evening of
Tuesday, April 22.
Passover is an 8-day holiday observation with roots in the Book of Exodus. There are a number of traditions that are observed during this time. However, to better understand these traditions it helps to know about the history of the holiday.
The History of Passover
The story of Passover starts with the oppression of the Israelites by the Egyptian pharaohs. Moses was sent by God to give the Pharaoh a message to “Send forth my people, so that they may serve me.” However, the Pharaoh did not listen to the warnings, and God responded by sending the Ten Plagues.
The Final Plague was the death of the firstborn of every family. However, the plague came upon only Egyptians as God “passed over” the Israelites, hence the name, “Passover.” After this, the Pharaoh not only allowed the Israelites to leave but also refused to let them stay. The Israelites did not even have enough time for their bread to rise as they rushed out of Egypt.
During the first two days and last two days of the celebration of Passover, Jews are not allowed to work, drive, write or turn electrical devices on or off. Holiday candles are lit and special holiday meals are eaten during these days.
Another tradition observed during Passover is that leaven products are not to be consumed. In fact, leaven products should be completely removed from the home during Passover. This is done in reference to the journey of the Israelites in the Bible as they did not have time for their bread to rise before leaving Egypt.
A highlight to Passover traditions is Seder, which is observed on the first two nights of the holiday. The Seder is a family orientated tradition which is covered in 15 steps. Seder traditions include the eating of unleavened bread, eating bitter herbs, and drinking 4 cups of wine or grape juice. The practices and stories performed and told during the Seder are written in a text called the Haggadah. In modern times, the Haggadah has received several updates and makeovers, including a mobile app.