I can’t believe it’s time for Passover already! Passover begins on March 29 and lasts for eight days for most Jews, seven days for Reform Judaism. On Passover, we remember the Israelite Exodus from Egypt. I would say that Passover is one of my favorite holidays because of it taking place during spring. But even more significant and of spiritual interest is the Jewish people’s flight toward freedom; out of slavery and into freedom and a land of their own. Certainly we can all understand the importance of freedom to the human spirit. It’s with this in mind the Jewish people observe Passover.
I remember my first Passover, which took place in 2006. I went with my rabbi to an instructional Seder at a local church in Iowa City. It was a wonderful time of interfaith dialogue and mutual respect. I also had a great time at my friend Adam’s place when he held a Passover Seder at his home with an eclectic group of people.
Let’s go over the basics of Passover:
The reason for Passover: And this day shall become a memorial for you, and you shall observe it as a festival for the L-RD, for your generations, as an eternal decree shall you observe it. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove the leaven from your homes... you shall guard the unleavened bread, because on this very day I will take you out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day for your generations as an eternal decree. —Exodus 12:14-17
Observances Jews keep for Passover:
Probably the most significant observance related to Pesach involves the removal of chametz (leaven). This commemorates the fact that the Jews leaving Egypt were in a hurry, and did not have time to let their bread rise.
On the first night of Pesach (first two nights for traditional Jews outside Israel), we have a special family meal filled with ritual to remind us of the significance of the holiday. This meal is called a Seder, from a Hebrew root word meaning “order,” because there is a specific set of information that must be discussed in a specific order. It has the same root word, from which we derive the word “siddur,” (prayer book).
Passover lasts for seven days (eight days outside of Israel). The first and last days of the holiday (first two and last two outside of Israel) are days on which no work is permitted. See Extra Day of Holidays for more information. Work is permitted on the intermediate days. These intermediate days on which work is permitted are referred to as Chol Ha-Mo’ed, as are the intermediate days of Sukkot.
Thank God for the continued traditions of Judaism which includes Passover with its interesting foods and time with family and friends. For the next article, I will discuss the foods used for a Passover Seder.