Name Pesach – פֶּסַח
A.K.A. Spring Festival חַג הֶאָבִיב (Chag He’aviv)
Festival of the paschal sacrifice הַפֶּסַח חַג (Chag HaPesach)
Festival of matzah (during the escape from Egypt) חַג הַמַּצּוֹת (Chag Hamatzot)
Festival of our freedom זְמַן חֵרוּתֵנוּ (Z’man Cheruteinu)
- Nisan (Hebrew month, roughly corresponding to March/April) for seven days in Israel and among progressive communities in the Diaspora (outside Israel) and for eight days outside Israel in general
Exodus chapter 12, chapter 13, verses 3-8, chapter 23, verse 15, Leviticus chapter 23, verses 5-6, Numbers chapter 28, verses 16-25, Deuteronomy chapter 16, verses 1-8
- Commemorating the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt
- Spring harvest festival – Pesach occurs at the time of the beginning of the spring harvest. In biblical times theIsraelites would bring an omer [a measure] of newly cut barley to the Temple as a harvest offering
Customs and Traditions
- No leavened foods (made with ordinary flour, which may have absorbed moisture and potentially risen) prepared from five grains – wheat, barley, oats, rye and spelt. The forbidden foods will include bread, cakes, biscuits, pizza, pasta, cereals,
- Among orthodox and traditional Jews separate crockery and cutlery used during the eight days to prevent contamination with any crumbs from forbidden grains, etc.
- Holding a Seder – the eve of Pesach meal with family and friends with the reading of the story of the escape of the Israelites from Egypt, using a book, known as the Haggadah הַגָּדָה
- Reading of Haggadah – a twin purpose book – a manual how to conduct a Seder and a history lesson about the escape of the Israelites from Egypt. [The oldest complete manuscript of the Haggadah dates to the 10th century. It is part of a prayer book compiled by Saadia Gaon. The earliest known Haggadot produced as works in their own right are manuscripts from the 13th and 14th centuries, such as “The Golden Haggadah” (probably Barcelona c. 1320) and the “Sarajevo Haggadah” (late fourteenth century). It is believed that the first printed Haggadot were produced in 1482, in Guadalajara, Spain; however this is mostly conjecture, as there is no printer’s colophon. The oldest confirmed printed Haggadah was printed in Soncino, Lombardy in 1486 by the Soncino family.]
- Inviting guests to the family meal – a mitzvah (a good deed)
- Elijah’s cup with wine, also a door opened by a child to welcome Elijah, as a forerunner of Messiah and so of the ultimate redemption (origins in Middle Ages to show to Christians Pesach as a family celebration and to counter anti-Semitic accusations of matzah being made with the blood of Christian children.
Plagues (with which God punished the Egyptians)
1. Blood (דָם): Exodus 7:14-25 6. Boils (שְׁחִין): Exodus 9:8–12
2. Frogs (צְּפַרְדֵּעַ) Ex. 7:25-8:11 7. Hail/storms of fire (בָּרָד)
3. Lice (כִּנִּים) Ex. 8:16-19 8. Locusts (אַרְבֶּה) Ex. 10:1–20
4. Wild beasts or flies (עָרוֹב) Ex. 8:20-32 9. Darkness (חוֹשֶך) Ex. 10:21– 29
5. Cattle disease (deceased livestock) (דֶּבֶר) Ex. 9:1-7 10. Death of the firstborn (מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת) Ex. 11:1–12:36
Matzah brei – Softened matzo fried with egg and fat; served either savoury or sweet
Matzo kugel – A kugel made with matzo instead of noodles
Charoset – Chopped or ground apples and nuts in wine mixed with raisins or dates, cinnamon, etc
Chrain – Horseradish and beet relish
Gefilte fish – Poached fish patties or fish balls made from a mixture of ground deboned fish, mostly carp or pike
Chicken soup with matzah balls (kneidlach) – Chicken soup served with matzo-meal dumplings
Essentials for Seder
Haggadot, a Seder plate with Pesach symbols and roasted egg (beitzah), roasted lamb shankbone (zeroah), parsley/celery (karpas), horseradish (maror), lettuce (chazeret), charoset, a bowl with salt water (for dipping), festival/Shabbat candles, three matzot (unleavened bread in a matzah cover), Elijah’s cup, Kiddush wine/grape juice, wine cups for each participant, matzah plate and cover, pillows (optional), cup + basin + towels,
Chag Pesach sameach חַג פֶּסַח שָׂמֵחַ
The Pesach פֶּסַח (Passover Seder Plate)
The Roasted Egg is symbolic of the festival sacrifice made in biblical times. It is also a symbol of spring – the season in which Passover is always celebrated.
Lettuce is often used in addition to the maror, as a bitter herb. The authorities are divided on the requirement of chazeret, so not all communities use it. Since the commandment (in Numbers 9:11) to eat the paschal lamb “with unleavened bread and bitter herbs” uses the plural (“bitter herbs”) most seder plates have a place for chazeret.
The Shankbone is symbolic of the Paschal lamb offered as the Passover sacrifice in biblical times. Some communities use a chicken neck as a substitute. Vegetarian households may use beets.
Apple, nuts, and spices ground together and mixed with wine are symbolic of the mortar used by Hebrew slaves to build Egyptian structures. There are several variations in the recipe for charoset. The Mishna describes a mixture of fruits, nuts, and vinegar.
Parsley (or watercress or celery) is dipped into salt water during the seder. The salt water serves as a reminder of the tears shed during Egyptian slavery. The dipping of a vegetable as an appetizer is said to reflect the influence of Greek culture.
Bitter Herbs (usually horseradish) symbolize the bitterness of Egyptian slavery. The maror is often dipped in charoset to reduce its sharpness. Maror is used in the seder because of the commandment (in Numbers 9:11) to eat the paschal lamb “with unleavened bread and bitter herbs”.