The Jewish holiday of Passover comes from in the story of Moses when G-d sent 10 plagues upon the Egyptians to convince Pharaoh to release the Israelites. The Jewish holiday’s name, Pesach, meaning “passing over” in Hebrew, is derived from the instructions given to Moses by G-d. To encourage the Pharaoh to free the Israelites, G-d intended to kill the first-born of both man and beast. To protect themselves, the Israelites were told by Moses to mark their dwellings with lamb’s blood so that G-d could identify them and “pass over” their homes.
After the 10th and final plague, Pharaoh agreed to grant the Israelites their freedom. In their haste to leave their dwellings, there wasn’t enough time to bake bread. So they packed the raw dough to take with them on their journey. As they fled through the desert, they quickly baked the dough in the hot sun into hard crackers called matzohs. During the Jewish holiday of Passover, Jews eat matzoh in place of bread to commemorate this event.
Though the Israelites were now free, their liberation was incomplete. The Pharaoh’s army chased them through the desert towards the Red Sea. When the Jews reached the sea, their escape was blocked by the massive body of water. It was then that a miracle occurred. The waves of the Red Sea parted, and the Israelites were able to cross to the other side. As soon as they reached safety, the other side of the sea closed, trapping the Pharaoh’s army as the waves closed upon them. As the Israelites watched, the waters of the Red Sea swept away the Pharaoh’s army and they were finally free.
The Jewish holiday of Passover on falls the 14th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls between late March and late April. The Jewish holiday begins at sundown with the major celebration, the Passover Seder, and continues for seven days. In Israel, the first and seventh days of the Jewish holiday are national holidays.
Cleansing Of The Chametz
Many observant Jews begin preparation for the Jewish holiday of Passover by thoroughly cleaning their house and removing any trace of chametz, or any grain product that is already fermented (yeast, breads, certain cakes and most alcoholic beverages). Traditionally, after nightfall on the evening before the Jewish holiday, a blessing is read, and members of the household proceed from room to room to ensure that there aren’t any bread crumbs in any corner of the home. In some homes, this is done by candlelight, using a feather and a wooden spoon. Candlelight can illuminate corners without casting shadows so no crumbs are missed; a feather is used to sweep the crumbs into the spoon which can be burned the next day with the chametz.
During the Jewish holiday of Passover, no leavened bread may be eaten, in commemoration of when the Jews were released from bondage. So over the seven days of the Jewish holiday of Passover, Jews eat matzoh in place of the usual breads.
JDate’s matzoh Jewish holiday recipe:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour
- spring water
Preheat oven to 450° F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix both flours together and add water until you have soft dough. Knead about five minutes. Let dough rest a couple of minutes. Break off egg-sized portions of dough. Stretch as thinly as you can before rolling into thin, oval slabs. Prick each slab with a fork; place on a baking sheet and as soon as the sheet is filled with matzohs, place in oven, and bake until crisp and buckled, about 3 minutes. Cool and eat.
The Passover Seder
On the morning before the Jewish holiday of Passover, the fast of the firstborn takes place to commemorate the salvation of the Israelite firstborn during the plague. That night, the family joins together for the Passover Seder. This Jewish holiday meal takes place at a dinner table set with the finest china and silverware to reflect the importance of the Jewish holiday. At this meal, there is a recount of the Exodus from Egypt and four cups of wine (or grape juice) must be drank by both men and women. Each cup of wine accompanies a certain portion of the Seder, representing the four stages of the Exodus: freedom, deliverance, redemption and release. A fifth cup of wine is poured for the Jewish holiday and placed on the Seder table as an offering for the Prophet Elijah. During the Seder, the door to the home is opened to invite the prophet Elijah in.
Children have a very important role in the Jewish holiday of Passover Seder. Usually the youngest child at the table asks the important questions: Why is this night different from all other nights? Why tonight do we eat only unleavened bread? Why tonight do we eat bitter herbs? Why tonight to we dip them twice? Why tonight do we recline? After the children ask the questions, the leader of the Seder and other adults will chime in with answers. A child’s favorite part of the Jewish holiday Seder is the afikomen, the larger part of a matzoh broken in half during the dinner. During the meal, the afikomen is hidden somewhere in the home by an adult, and the children are sent to find it. The Jewish holiday game is sometimes called “hide the matzoh,” and the child who finds it is given a reward by the adults.