Passover - Pesach : History and Meaning of Freedom in Faith
Happy Passover! Happy Pesach! With Matza Love! :) Welcome to our website. We hope you enjoy your stay and that you find the information we present helpful in understanding the Passover / Pesach festival. I've compiled a list of answers to the most common questions I've received over the years about the Passover / Pesach festival.
Passover is a major Jewish festival that commemorates and celebrates the deliverance / redemption by G-d of the Hebrews from slavery in ancient Egypt resulting in the physical and political freedom of the Hebrews ("Ivri'im" in Hebrew) - ancestors of the Jewish people ("Yehudim" in Hebrew = Jews). The Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt to freedom following a series of ten plagues against Pharaoh - the Egyptian king - the land of Egypt and the Egyptian people which was initiated by G-d after the announcement of each plague by Moses to the Pharaoh highlights the Passover story and it is the events surrounding the miracle of the ten plagues and the resulting Exodus brought upon the Hebrews by G-d through Moses that we honor.
Pesach is the transliterated Hebrew name for Passover. In fact, Pesach has become the colloquial name used for this festival among the Jewish people, particularly among Orthodox-Jewish people. Key on the words "has become" because Pesach as the name for this festival is not found in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, the Hebrew Bible names this festival "Chag Ha-Matzot" ("The Festival of Unleavened Bread" in Hebrew). However, Pesach as mentioned in the Hebrew Bible is associated with "Chag Ha-Matzot" and so the importance of what Pesach represents to "Chag Ha-Matzot" eventually translated into the use of the word Pesach as the name for the festival among Jewish people. In contemporary times, particularly in English-speaking countries, the name Passover has also become quite popular as the name to describe this festival among more religiously liberal Jewish people, that is, among non-Orthodox Jewish people.
The English word Passover is of course not mentioned in the original Hebrew version of the Hebrew Bible ("Tanakh" in Hebrew). So what is the origin of the name Passover ? Well, the name Passover did not come into use until the early 16th century C.E. in England. But how did the name Passover become so popular among non-Jewish as well as non-Orthodox Jewish people? The word Passover became popular as the name for the festival because from the 16th century onward, when people began creating English translations of the Hebrew Bible as well as its Greek version, the Septuagint, the word Passover was determined by the translators to be the English approximation of the meaning of the Hebrew word Pasach, which was mentioned in the biblical book of Shemot or Exodus and means either "to skip over (or on)" or to "pass over (or on)". Since the Hebrew word Pasach was linguistically connected to the Hebrew word Pesach in that both are spelled the same way in Hebrew (but pronounced differently by Jewish tradition), the translators concluded that Pesach (and its subsequent Greek equivalent "Pascha" mentioned in the Septuagint) also had the same meanings as Pasach and so Passover became the accepted English translation of both Pesach and Pascha from the 16th century onward in English-speaking countries. The use of the name Passover to describe this festival became so ubiquitous from the 16th century onward in English-speaking countries that the name Passover became and is still used to this day in a colloquial sense by the general population to describe Pesach which in turn is associated with the biblical festival known as "Chag Ha-Matzot".
In our web pages about this festival, the word Passover is the word that is used most frequently to describe the festival, simply due to its familiarity among the Jewish population and those of other faiths.
Passover is both a Jewish holiday and a Jewish festival. Passover is a Jewish holiday in that it is considered a holier frame of time compared with the ordinary weekdays but lower than the highest level of holiness time, Shabbat/the Sabbath, plus by biblical commandment (Shemot/Exodus 12:16) it contains Yom Tov days ("full" holy days, where the full application of Halakhah or Jewish law for Passover is applied to those days, including 39 forms or categories of melachot or work that are forbidden to be done on Yom Tov days) and Chol Ha-Moed days (holiday or festival weekdays, where Halakhah or Jewish law for Passover also forbids the 39 forms or categories of melachot but is distinguished from both Yom Tov days and ordinary weekdays by permitting 5 forms or categories of melachot or work. This means that Chol HaMoed days are not as holy as Yom Tov days by permitting these 5 forms or categories of melachot or work but are holier than ordinary weekdays by forbidding the 39 forms or categories of melachot or work), and so it is designated as a Jewish holiday. However, technically-speaking, Passover is more accurately described as a Jewish festival based upon the biblical verse and commandment by G-d in Shemot/Exodus 12:14 which reads: "This day shall be for you as a remembrance, and you shall celebrate it as a festival to G-d for all your generations; you shall celebrate it as an eternal statute."
The significance of Passover lies in valuing human life as human life - to demonstrate through the events of the Passover story that humans are capable of overcoming personal and collective challenges to their spiritual resolve.
Passover symbolizes monumental change. Passover symbolizes uncertainty for what the future holds. Passover symbolizes the courage to change. Passover symbolizes the soul-searching and realization of one's individual and collective responsibility for the emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual development of oneself and all humanity, respectively. But the dramatic events and timeless messages of the Passover story ultimately symbolize and reveal a beacon to all humanity that inherent in the faith in the One, True, Omnipresent (both within and without oneself), purely spiritual G-d - a G-d beyond time and space - is the political, physical, and ultimately, spiritual freedom we all desire.
Finally, the purpose of Passover is to fulfill G-ds' commandment to both recall the biblical events that led to our political and physical freedom as told in the biblical book of Shemot/Exodus 12:14-20 and 13:3-16, and from that recollection, renew our individual and collective effort to help those who are still under different forms of oppression. By annually recalling the events of the Passover story in an environment that reminds us of being free people - at the Seder table - we psychologically reinforce our determination to help others in need of assistance so that they can achieve their own freedom from oppression, be it personal or collective.
The original length of the Pesach / Passover festival is seven days as stated in the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, Shemot/Exodus 12:15; 13:6. Most Reform Jews and Reconstructionist Jews, some Conservative Jews as well as all Jewish people living in Israel follow these biblical verses and celebrate Pesach / Passover for seven days. However, Orthodox Jews, most Conservative Jews, some Reform Jews and Reconstructionist Jews as well as all Jews living outside Israel celebrate Pesach / Passover for eight days. The additional day was added by the authoritative rabbis in Jerusalem sometime between the 8th century B.C.E. and the 7th century B.C.E. During this time, a network of bonfires situated on a string of mountaintops notified Jewish communities living beyond the borders of Israel of the day on which the beginning of a Jewish festival occurred. To prevent the possibility of an error occurring, an extra day was added to Jewish festivals and Jewish holidays for Jewish communities located outside Israel to ensure that the Jewish festival and/or Jewish holiday would be celebrated on its proper day and time.
Another explanation for the additional day is that around the time of the beginning of the Common Era, an extra day was added by the authoritative rabbis in Jerusalem to Jewish festivals and Jewish holidays for Jewish communities living outside Israel to compensate for any error that could be made when determining the first day of a new month in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar which could happen on either one of two consecutive days, either the 30th day or 31st day of a Hebrew/Jewish month. At that time, determining the first day of the new Hebrew/Jewish month was based on two independent witnesses sighting the first sliver or crescent of the new moon whereupon the first day of the new month on which the sighting took place would be declared by the authoritative rabbis in Jerusalem after further mathematical calculations were done to confirm the start of the new month. This meant that if the sighting and confirmation of the new moon occurred on the 30th day, then that day would be transformed into the first day of the new month and the previous month was 29 days in length. If the sighting and confirmation of the new moon occurred on the 31st day, then that day would transform into the first day of the new month and the previous month was then 30 days long. Therefore, a Hebrew/Jewish month is either 29 days or 30 days long. Once the first day of a new month was determined, special messengers were sent out to inform first the Jewish communities living in Israel and then the Jewish communities living outside Israel. Since it took much longer for the Jewish communities living outside of Israel to receive the news telling them when the first day of the new month occurred, they therefore lived in doubt as to when the new month began. To erase this doubt, the authoritative rabbis in Jerusalem added an extra day to Jewish festivals and Jewish holidays for Jewish communities living outside Israel to ensure that they would celebrate these festivals and holidays on their proper day and time. This extra day was inserted after the first day of each festival and holiday so that the second day of each festival and holiday was an exact replica of the first day, ensuring that whether the new month began on the 30th day or 31st day of the previous month, there would be two consecutive days for Jewish communities living outside Israel that would be identical to each other guaranteeing that either the first day or second day was the correct day on which a festival or holiday began. By the time an accurate, dependable and fixed Hebrew/Jewish calendar was established in 359 C.E. by Rabbi Hillel II, the custom of celebrating with the extra day was so deeply entrenched in the Jewish communities living outside Israel that the authoritative rabbis of the Talmud in Jerusalem and Babylonia made it part of Halakhah, or Jewish law. They later added the explanation that observing eight days was also a reminder to Jews living outside Israel that they were living in the Diaspora, meaning outside Israel, and that by coming to live in Israel, they will then be able to celebrate the festivals and holidays according to their original length of days.
The principle characters in the Passover story are as follows:
In the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, in Bereshit/Genesis 15:13-18, the Passover story takes place "in a land that was not theirs" with "theirs" being the Hebrews. This land included the land of Canaan, which did not yet belong to the Hebrews, as well as the land of Egypt. However, during Abraham, Isaac and Jacob's time in Canaan, they were "psychologically" enslaved by the knowlege that their descendants would physically be slaves in a foreign land and it was only after Jacob had entered Egypt that the story of the Hebrews' becoming physical slaves in Egypt began. This story is told in the entire Book of Shemot or Book of Exodus in the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible.
The Passover story begins with the "Brit Bein Ha-Betarim" or "Covenant Between The Parts" in Hebrew which is found in the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible in Bereshit/Genesis 15:13-18. This took place on the 15th day of the Hebrew/Jewish month of Nissan in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar year of 2018 from Creation (1743 B.C.E.). In this verse, G-d created a covenant with Avram or Abraham which foretold the future of the Hebrew descendants of Avram or Abraham: that they would be strangers in a land that was not theirs, and that during the 400 years of living in this land that was not theirs they would be enslaved at a certain point, but that at the end of their 400 years they would come out of this land with great wealth. The foretelling of Hebrew slavery by G-d is when the story of Passover begins since Abraham was now psychologically "enslaved" by the knowlege that his descendants would become slaves for a period of time in a foreign land.
"And He said unto Avram: 'Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance. But thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. And in the fourth generation they shall come back hither; for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full.' And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and there was thick darkness, behold a smoking furnace, and a flaming torch that passed between these pieces. In that day the L-RD made a covenant with Avram, saying: 'Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates...'" - Bereshit/Genesis 15:13-18.
The chronology or timeline of the Passover story is as follows:
Rabbinic Judaism places the date of the Covenant Between The Parts - the covenant Avram or Abraham made with G-d - occurred in the Hebrew/Jewish year of 2018 which in the Gregorian calendar is 1743 B.C.E. Therefore, the date of the Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt occurred 430 years later in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar year of 2448 on the 15th day of the Hebrew/Jewish month of Nissan which in the Gregorian calendar is March 25, 1313 B.C.E. Rabbinic Judaism bases these dates on the historical dates chronicled in the Seder Olam Rabbah ("The Great Order of the World" in Hebrew), a 2nd century C.E. chronology in Hebrew which details the dates of events in the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible from Creation to the Persian conquest of Alexander the Great in 331 B.C.E. to 330 B.C.E. though the chronology's 30th and final chapter is a small and comparatively less detailed chapter that covers the period between Alexander's Persian conquest to the Simon Bar Kokhba revolt of the Jewish people in Israel against the Roman Emperor Hadrian between 132 C.E. and 136 C.E. Jewish tradition holds that the Seder Olam Rabbah was attributed to Rabbi Jose ben Halafta or Yose ben Halafta who was born and lived in the 2nd century C.E. in Sepphoris (now Tzippori) which is located in the central Galilee region of northern Israel.
A series of ten plagues - known as "Eser Ha-Makot" in Hebrew - brought upon Egypt by G-d to convince the Egyptian king or Pharaoh to release the Hebrews from slavery culminated in the tenth and final plague being the Death of the First-Born Son. This plague would have affected all of the people of Egypt if G-d had not instructed Moses to tell the Hebrews to spread lamb's blood on the doorposts and lintel (beams) of their homes so that the Angel of Death would "pass over" or "skip over" their homes whereupon the Angel of Death would see the blood, sparing the lives of the Hebrews' first-born sons and instead affecting the first-born sons of the Egyptian households. As long as the Hebrews' obeyed G-ds' command through Moses, their first-born son was spared. The magnitude of this event finally convinced Pharaoh to let the Hebrews leave Egypt. However, soon after the Hebrews left Egypt, the economic stress placed on the Egyptian economy caused Pharaoh to change his mind and send his army out into the Sinai Desert after the Hebrews to return them back to Egypt as slaves again. This was avoided by the miracle at the "Sea of Reeds" ("Yam Suf" in Hebrew) where the Hebrews safely crossed through the parted waters to land on the other side while the pursuing Egyptian army, following them into the Sea, drowned after the waters closed together on them, saving the Hebrews from the Egyptians which gave them their physical and political freedom. Fifty days after the miracle at the "Sea of Reeds," the Hebrews would subsequently attain their spiritual freedom from the bondage of possessing the mentality of the Egyptians at Mount Sinai when they received the Torah and its guidelines which permanently defined them as a people.
We celebrate Passover because it is a commandment from G-d to commemorate and celebrate Passover on an annual basis in remembrance of G-ds' bringing the ancestors of the Jewish people, the Hebrews, out of Egypt to their political and physical freedom from slavery (Shemot/Exodus 12:14-20). From this event, we recall our past in order to strengthen our commitment in the present to bringing political and physical freedom in the future to all other people still held in physical and political bondage. The message of attaining one's individual and collective freedom from bondage can be interpreted and expanded to include all types of bondage and so the structured 15-step instruction manual for conducting the Passover festive meal, known as the Haggadah ("Telling" in Hebrew, referring to the telling of the Passover story contained in this manual) has been interpreted in numerous ways so that today there are over 4,000 different types of Haggadahs that are in print and several more have been self-published. However, all are based on the fundamental idea as originally told in the Passover story of gaining one's freedom from a particular hardship.
The highlight of the Passover / Pesach festival is the Seder ("Order" in Hebrew, as the Seder is conducted in a specific, ordered manner). The Seder is a festive meal that is conducted according to a 15-step ordered process found in the "instruction manual" for the Seder, the Haggadah ("Telling" in Hebrew, referring to the telling of the Passover story in Step 5). For Jews who celebrate Passover for seven days (most Reform Jews and Reconstructionist Jews, some Conservative Jews, and Jews living in Israel), the Seder occurs on the first night of Passover and for Jews who celebrate Passover for eight days (some Reform Jews and Reconstructionist Jews, most Conservative Jews, and Jews living outside Israel), the Seder occurs on the first night and also on the second night of the festival.
Passover is celebrated by eating specific symbolic foods for the festival. Each food symbolically recalls an aspect of the Passover story.
The following traditional Passover foods are included in the Passover Seder meal. These traditional Passover foods include: (1) Matzo (also transliterated from Hebrew as: Matzoh, Matza or Matzah; Matzo is a flat, perforated, unleavened bread made only with water and flour that must be from one of the five rabbinically permitted grains: barley, oats, rye, spelt and wheat. Matzo is shaped either round or square, with round being the traditional shape that is traditionally believed to have been used during the Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt and is hand-made; square is a more modern variety that was mainly created for factory machine production of matzo though the square variety can also be hand-made.). Matzo is eaten to recall the unleavened bread that resulted from fleeing in haste from Egypt as our ancestors, the Hebrews, could not wait for the bread to rise for fear that the Egyptian king, the Pharaoh, who finally permitted the Hebrews to leave Egypt following the 10th and final plague in a series of ten plagues in Egypt, might change his mind and not permit the Hebrews to leave Egypt; (2) Charoset (also transliterated from Hebrew as: Haroset, Charoseth or Haroseth and from Yiddish as Charoses or Haroses; in Ashkenazi-Jewish culture, in its basic format, charoset is a mixed compote of apples, almonds or walnuts, cinnamon, concord grape wine and honey. In Sephardi-Jewish culture, in its basic format, charoset is a mixed compote of dates, red wine, almonds and/or walnuts, cinnamon and ginger. However, there are many varieties of charoset, with different ingredients added and/or substituted according to one's family and/or community tradition.). The Talmud states that Charoset symbolizes the mortar/cement that was used by the Hebrews to build cities as slaves for the Egyptian king, the Pharaoh. The Talmud also states that Charoset is connected with the Song of Songs which is a biblical scroll read in synagogue during the Passover festival. The Song of Songs depicts images of fertility and describes the various fruits of Israel in poetic verses. Charoset recipes, therefore, can contain one or more of these fruits of Israel such as pomegranates, figs, apples, dates and other fruit mentioned in the Song of Songs. This ultimately connects the Seder with Israel and the Song of Song's words of rebirth of the fruit trees emphasize the Passover festival's role as a spring festival of rebirth; (3) Karpas (a non-bitter vegetable in Hebrew, usually celery or parsley is used, but potatoes, radishes or other non-bitter vegetables can be used. The purpose of the Karpas is to symbolize the growing population of Hebrews during their early years in ancient Egypt. Furthermore, in the Talmud (Talmud, Gemara, Tractate Pesachim 114b), it states that the purpose of karpas is to elicit questions from the children by arousing their curiosity. This will give adults the opportunity to explain through recitation of the Haggadah, the meaning of the Passover festival. Pesachim 114b goes on to state that this cannot be accomplished unless there are two items that are dipped at the Seder: the karpas and the maror. The Karpas is dipped into either salt water (Ashkenazi-Jewish tradition), vinegar (Sephardi-Jewish tradition), wine, or charoset depending on one's family and/or community tradition, a blessing is then recited, and then the Karpas with the dipped food or drink on it is eaten. Dipping the Karpas into a liquid or charoset containing liquid according to some rabbinical authorities symbolizes the biblical Joseph's tunic being dipped into blood by his brothers which began and ultimately led to the Hebrews' descent into Egypt. This is why dipping Karpas into liquid is done at the beginning of the Seder so that it is in accordance with the timeline of historical events. The association of the word Karpas with Joseph's tunic has evidence in the meaning of the word Karpas which has been traced to the Sanskrit word karpâsa, meaning cotton. Others claim the word Karpas is of Persian/Farsi origin meaning "fine white linen" and is similar to the Persian/Farsi word "karafs" meaning "celery" hence the use of celery or a similar vegetable as the Karpas in the Seder. The liquid itself - salt water, vinegar, etc. - symbolizes the tears shed by the Hebrews while toiling as slaves in Egypt. The initial custom was to dip the karpas into charoset but this was changed in France in the Middle Ages to dipping the karpas into either salt water or vinegar. Some families have the custom of including the salt water or vinegar on the Seder plate.); (4) Beitzah or Beitza (Hard-Boiled Egg or Roasted Egg in Hebrew. The egg symbolizes both the ancient Passover sacrifice of the lamb which could not be done following the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. therefore necessitating a substitute and ritual in the form of the egg, and the renewal of life characterized by the spring season. Some also view the egg as a symbolic mourning for the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem. By the 14th century C.E. in Spain the use of an egg as one of two cooked or roasted items on the Seder plate at the Seder meal - the other being either a shank bone or chicken bone - eventually became and remains the standard custom of European Jews. Additionally, by the 14th century C.E., the two cooked or roasted items on the Seder plate had become ceremonial, and then the egg was adopted as one of the items since it was a relatively inexpensive item.); (5) Zeroah (shank bone of a lamb in Hebrew; occasionally a chicken neck bone will be used if one cannot obtain a shank bone of a lamb. The chicken neck bone is also used by followers of Chabad-Lubavitch, a branch of Chassidic Judaism which is turn is a branch of Orthodox Judaism, to avoid the closeness and connection of the lamb shank bone to the Passover lamb that was sacrificed in the Temple in Jerusalem during Temple times since it was forbidden to conduct Passover lamb sacrifices outside the Temple in Jerusalem as well as to eat its sacrificial meat outside the Temple area. Avoiding using a lamb shank bone therefore avoids the possibility of one thinking that one can have sacrificial meat outside the Temple area. The zeroah, like the egg, also symbolizes the ancient Passover lamb sacrifice as done in Temple times. Zeroah, meaning "arm" in Hebrew, also symbolizes the mighty outstretched arm of G-d when G-d freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt which is mentioned in Shemot/Exodus 6:6. The reason why just a bone is used and not a bone with meat on it is that by the 14th century C.E. in Europe, people did not want to throw away "valuable" food so they adopted the use of a bone as one of the cooked or roasted items. It is also by this time that both the two cooked or roasted items - the egg and the lamb shank bone or chicken bone - had become ceremonial, meaning they are simply meant to be displayed and not eaten.); (6) Maror or Marror (bitter herb in Hebrew such as horseradish. Maror or Marror symbolizes both the bitterness and harshness of slavery that the Hebrews experienced while in Egypt.) and (7) Chazeret (a second bitter herb that must be different from the first bitter herb of Maror or Marror but is less bitter than the bitter herb used for Maror or Marror. Romaine lettuce is often used though depending on the authoritative rabbinical opinion one follows, endives, celery and iceberg lettuce can also be used. Alternative transliterated spellings from Hebrew for the word chazeret are: chazereth and from Yiddish, chazeres. Since authoritative rabbis differ on whether to include a second bitter herb in the Passover Seder, then depending on the authoritative rabbinical opinion one follows, some families will have a second bitter herb while others will not have one. Chazeret, like Maror or Marror, symbolizes the bitterness and harshness of slavery that the Hebrews endured while in Egypt. Chazeret also symbolizes abandonment, as the Hebrews also felt alone when they were slaves in Egypt.).
For the Passover Seder plate, there are three principle customs as to how many items are on the Seder plate:
(1) According to the Shulchan Aruch, the most authoritative legal code of Judaism authored in 1563 by Rabbi Yosef Caro in Safed, Israel, the Seder plate, excluding the matza, has five items: maror, charoset, karpas, a shank bone and an egg which, again excluding the matza, corresponds to the five items (chazeret twice: maror and karpas now serve as the two chazeret) mentioned in the Mishnah of the Talmud which was chiefly compiled, edited and redacted in 220 C.E. by Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nasi in Israel. In the parentheses of the Shulchan Aruch, a sixth item is added, salt water or vinegar, which is used to dip the karpas.
(2) According to Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman of Lithuania in the 18th century C.E., there are only four items - excluding the matza - on the Seder plate: maror, charoset, a shank bone and an egg. Karpas is removed from the Seder plate since its initial purpose as an appetizer in the times of the Mishnah of the Talmud has over time presumably lost its importance with its purpose being reduced since then to being just a prop for the children to ask questions.
(3) Likely the most popular custom today, ascribed to Rabbi Isaac Luria of Safed, Israel in the 16th century C.E., the Seder plate has six items on it, excluding the matza. Based on the 14th century C.E. change from using lettuce as maror since the times of the Mishnah of the Talmud to using horseradish as maror, there now was two options for maror: lettuce and horseradish, and both were placed on the Seder plate. As a result, excluding the matza, there are now six items on the Seder plate according to this custom: karpas, charoset, horseradish, lettuce, a lamb shank bone or chicken bone, and an egg. Some have the custom of referring to the second maror, the lettuce, as chazeret since this was the name for lettuce in the Mishnah of the Talmud. Modern Hebrew, on the other hand, refers to chazeret as being horseradish.
For Passover drinks, red wine is used for the Passover festival as part of the blessing rituals. Red wine recalls the Red Sea or "Sea of Reeds" ("Yam Suph" or "Yam Suf" in Hebrew) which parted its waters to allow the Hebrews to escape from the pursuing Egyptian army. Wine also symbolizes freedom and the drink of royalty, as only those who were either free people and/or associated with royalty could afford to drink wine in ancient times which differentiated them from slaves. Since the Hebrews gained their freedom after leaving Egypt and crossing the Sea of Reeds or the Red Sea, drinking red wine symbolizes this newly gained freedom and feeling of royalty.
Recipes for the Passover festival requiring flour include either matzo meal/matzo cake meal (matzo grounded into a fine powder) or matzo farfel (which are crumbled up, broken matzo bits put in soup or mixed with egg to make a sort of matzo omelet called a matzo brie or matzo brei.). Matzo meal/matzo cake meal and/or matzo farfel are substitute ingredients for regular wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye or other flour which is forbidden to be used during the Passover festival with the exception of matzo, where only wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye flour must be used since the final product of matzo will be unleavened which will render it permitted for use during the Passover festival as leavened products are forbidden to be eaten and even be in one's possession during the festival. Meat recipes include brisket, turkey, chicken or lamb.
Step 10 of 15 Steps in the Passover Seder is known in Hebrew as "Korech", meaning either "to bind", "to wrap", "to roll up", "to fold", or "to enfold". This refers to the sandwich-like wrap that was created by Rabbi Hillel The Elder, also known as Hillel I (by Jewish tradition, born circa 110 B.C.E. in Babylon and died in 10 C.E. in Jerusalem) for the purpose of fulfilling the biblical commandment given by G-d to the Hebrews regarding what to eat in commemoration of their exodus from Egypt as told in Shemot/Exodus 12:8: "They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it". Rabbi Hillel interpreted this verse to mean that he must take the three foods mentioned in the verse: matzo (unleavened bread), the Passover sacrifice or Korban Pesach, and maror (the bitter herb) and bring them together in the form of a "sandwich-like wrap". Therefore, Rabbi Hillel, according to some authoritative rabbinical opinions, would take a small piece of softened matzo (so that it could be wrapped), place a small portion of a bitter herb on one side of the matzo and a small piece of the Korban Pesach or Passover sacrifice on the other side - other authoritative rabbinical opinions say it was only a bitter herb that was placed on the matzo - then place another small piece of softened matzo on top of the food to form a kind of open-faced sandwich that could be wrapped and eat it to fulfill the scriptural commandment from the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible of keeping the Passover festival. Still other authoritative rabbinical opinions state that one substitutes the Passover sacrifice meat with charoset, a sweet mixture of ingredients in the form of a compote that usually includes red or concord grape wine, nuts, cinnamon and/or other spices, honey and various fruits depending on one's custom, and place the maror (usually horseradish is used) on one side of the matzo and charoset on the other side then place a small piece of matzo on top to form the open-faced sandwich. The bitter side of the sandwich is first eaten (the maror) and then the sweeter side is eaten (the charoset) to remind oneself that though our slavery was immensely bitter, our redemption and freedom from slavery is even sweeter. In addition to the sandwich itself serving as a reminder of when the First and Second Temples stood in Jerusalem prior to 70 C.E. and of the Temples themselves, charoset replacing the Passover sacrifice serves as a second reminder of the Temples and of this period in time. Due to Rabbi Hillel being the first person who was known to create this sandwich and his influence and standing in the Palestinian-Jewish community, this practice was added to the Passover Seder as Step 10 in the 15-Step process for conducting the Seder and the sandwich was named after him. Adding the step of Korech to the Seder also served to solve an argument between Hillel and other Sages of his time: while Hillel thought that matzo and maror (as well as meat from the Passover sacrifice or Korban Pesach) should be eaten together while other Sages said that matzo and maror should be eaten separately. This was therefore solved by including both opinions in the 15-Step Seder process: Step 7 (entitled: Motzi), Step 8 (entitled: Matzo), and Step 9 (entitled: Maror) satisfied the Sages' opinion that matzo (Step 7 and Step 8) and maror (Step 9) were eaten separately while Step 10 (as mentioned, entitled: Korech) fulfills Hillel's opinion that matzo and maror (as well as meat from the Passover sacrifice) be eaten together. Finally, strictly speaking, while Step 10 (Korech) is not necessary to fulfill since it is a rabbinic commandment, the eating of unleavened bread and bitter herbs is obligatory since it is a scriptural commandment (meaning it is a commandment that is found in the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible rather than in rabbinic literature).
The Passover of Egypt festival was originally celebrated for seven days. According to the Torah, the Passover festival is to be celebrated for seven days with the first day and seventh day being "full" holidays, meaning the full application of Halakhah for Pesach or Jewish law for Passover is applied to those days. Furthermore, the commandments associated with the Passover Seder are to be done on the first evening of the festival with Passover always beginning on the 15th day of the Hebrew/Jewish month of Nissan in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar. The length of seven days is based on the biblical verse from Shemot/Exodus 12:15 in the Torah concerning the Passover festival - "Seven days shall you eat unleavened bread...". Shemot/Exodus 12:19 further states: "Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses." Furthermore, there are several other biblical references to observing seven days for the Passover festival (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:6 - "And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the L-rd; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread"; Vayikra/Leviticus 23:8 - "And you shall bring an offering made by fire unto the L-rd seven days; in the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall do no manner of servile work"; Shemot/Exodus 13:6 - "Seven days you shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the L-rd"; Shemot/Exodus 13:7 - "Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with you, neither shall there be leaven seen with you, in all your borders"; Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:3 - "You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, even the bread of affliction; for in haste did you come forth out of the land of Egypt; that you may remember the day when you came forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life"; Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:4 - "And there shall be no leaven seen with you in all your borders seven days...".)". Who observes Passover for seven days? Jewish people in Israel observe Passover for seven days as well as some Conservative Jews, most Reform Jews, most Reconstructionist Jews and Israeli Jews wherever they are located in the world.
Besides the biblical source stating that the celebration of the Passover festival is to be for seven days, the seven-day Passover of Egypt festival observance celebrated by the Hebrews is also a combination of two pre- Passover of Egypt festivals that were observed by early Middle Eastern peoples: a one-day festival that celebrated the return of the spring season known as the "Festival of the Pesach" that involved the sacrifice of a lamb which was immediately followed by a six-day festival of eating unleavened bread. The latter festival was an agricultural festival whereby farmers would celebrate the beginning of the grain harvest.
The Passover festival is celebrated for eight days by Jewish people living outside Israel as well as some Reform Jews, some Reconstructionist Jews, and most Conservative Jews. Why is Passover celebrated for eight days? The answer is based on the history of the Hebrew/Jewish calendar and how a new month was determined by the authoritative rabbis of the Sanhedrin or Jewish Rabbinical Supreme Court in Jerusalem, Israel prior to the establishment of a fixed Hebrew/Jewish calendar in 358 C.E. or 359 C.E. by Rabbi Hillel II in Jerusalem.
Prior to the establishment of the fixed Hebrew/Jewish calendar, a new month was determined by the sighting of the first crescent of the new moon by two reliable, independent witnesses who then reported their finding to the rabbinical authorities at the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem who then questioned them as to the reliability of their finding. When the rabbinical authorities were convinced that the first crescent had indeed been sighted by these witnesses, they then combined this data with mathematical calculations before declaring that the new month had begun. Among Jewish people, the only recognized and "official" observation of the new moon and its declaration was the one that was certified by the rabbinical authorities in Jerusalem. This was done to ensure that all Jewish people followed the same calendrical dates. However, Jewish communities located beyond Israel's borders in Babylonia and other Middle Eastern locations had to wait for special messengers from Jerusalem to get official word about the sighting of the new moon. Due to their distance from Jerusalem, this raised the possibility that these Jewish communities might not hear official word about the day of the new moon before a Jewish festival took place in that new month. Since prior to the establishment of a fixed Hebrew/Jewish calendar in either 358 C.E. or 359 C.E., the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem determined whether a previous month was either 29 days or 30 days in length by the sighting of the first crescent of the new moon for the new month and this sighting could occur on one of two consecutive days. Once sighted, the rabbis of the Sanhedrin would sanctify and declare that the new month had begun on the day of the new moon sighting. Furthermore, since there was no way of determining in advance on which day a Jewish festival could fall in a month because Jewish festivals fall on a specific day in a month and there was no way of determining in advance when a new month would begin, the Sanhedrin rabbis declared that for Jewish communities outside Israel, an extra "full" festival day (meaning the "full" application of Jewish law for that festival applies to that day; other days in a Jewish festival have only partial application of Jewish law for that festival) would be added to the three major Jewish festivals (Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot) in order to ensure that the major Jewish festival would be celebrated on its proper day. This extra "full" festival day was inserted immediately after the first day of the major Jewish festival (also a "full" festival day) and was to be an exact copy of the first day in the way that it was celebrated, meaning the same liturgy was to be used as the first day and in the case of Passover, a second Seder meal was to be made so that for Jews living outside Israel, two Seders were held: the first Seder for the first evening of Passover and the second Seder for the second evening of Passover. The reason why this extra day was added immediately after the first day of the festival was to account for the previous month being either 29 days or 30 days in length once the new moon was determined, meaning if the previous month was 29 days in length then the Jewish festival in the next month would be celebrated on the day in that month based on the previous month being 29 days, or if the previous month was 30 days in length, then the Jewish festival in the next month would be celebrated on the day in that month based on the previous month being 30 days. Based on these two possibilities, the Jewish festival could fall on one of two consecutive days in the new month so adding the extra day immediately following the first day ensured that the Jewish festival would be celebrated on its proper day. Since the introduction of the fixed Hebrew/Jewish calendar the extra day was not needed anymore because dates could now be determined in advance but due to the extra day becoming an established custom, Jewish people outside Israel continued to include the extra "full" festival day for major Jewish festivals so that Passover became an eight-day festival (with the first two days and last two days being "full" festival days; in Israel, Passover is a seven-day festival with only the first day and last day being "full" festival days), Shavuot a two-day festival (with both days being "full" festival days; in Israel, Shavuot is a one-day festival with that day being a "full" festival day), and Sukkot remaining a seven-day festival as it is in Israel but with the first two days being "full" festival days compared with only the first day being a "full" festival day in Israel. Finally, as mentioned, the remaining days in both Passover and Sukkot are "Partial" festival days, meaning there is only a partial application of Jewish law for that festival which applies to those days. These days are called Chol HaMoed days in Hebrew with Chol HaMoed meaning "The Non-Holy Appointed Time" or "The Weekday Of The Holiday" in Hebrew. In short, Chol HaMoed simply means the weekdays in between the holidays or "full" festival days.
Yes. The central prayer for the synagogue service - known in Hebrew as the "Amidah", meaning "Standing" (since the prayer is recited silently and while standing) was originally a series of 18 blessings but has since expanded to 19 blessings, changes for both Jewish festivals and Shabbat/the Sabbath to just seven blessings. On weekdays, meaning on a day that is not on Shabbat/the Sabbath or a Jewish festival, the 19 blessings are grouped into three sections: (1) Opening Blessings of Praise to G-d; these blessings are known as "Praises" and comprise 3 blessings (Blessings 1 to 3 inclusive); (2) Intermediate Blessings/Prayers/Benedictions for Individual Well-Being (Blessings 4 to 9 inclusive, meaning 6 blessings) and Blessings/Prayers/Benedictions for National Well-Being (Blessings 10 to 15 inclusive, meaning 6 blessings). The final blessing, Blessing 16, is a petition that G-d grant our prayers; these blessings are known as "Petitions" and total 13 blessings, and (3) Blessings of Thanksgiving, simply known as "Thanksgivings" which comprise 3 concluding blessings (Blessings 17 to 19 inclusive). Of these three closing blessings/prayers/benedictions, only the 2nd one is an expression of gratitude - it is preceded by a blessing/prayer/petition for the restoration of the Temple service in Jerusalem and is followed by the Birkat Ha-Kohen in Hebrew or Blessing of the Priest. Since both Blessing 17 and 19 deal with humankind's gratitude to and dependence on G-d, they are both designated blessings/prayers/petitions of thanksgiving and hence are placed in the "Thanksgivings" section of the Amidah. The first three blessings and final three blessings are constant for every synagogue service: morning, afternoon and evening and whether it is a weekday, Shabbat/the Sabbath or a Jewish festival. Although the Amidah is a series of 19 blessings, its importance in being central to the synagogue service has resulted in it being collectively designated and referred to as a "prayer".
For Shabbat/the Sabbath and Jewish festivals, the intermediate section of the Amidah, comprising 13 blessings on the weekdays, is replaced by a single blessing known as the "Sanctification of the Day" ("Kedushat Ha-Yom" in Hebrew). This reduces the Amidah from 19 blessings to 7 blessings - the 3 opening blessings, the 1 intermediate blessing, and the final 3 blessings. There is a Kedushat Ha-Yom for Shabbat/the Sabbath and for Jewish Festivals. The purpose of this blessing, as the name implies, is to acknowledge the holiness of the day in question, be it Shabbat/the Sabbath, or a Jewish festival; in this case, the Passover / Pesach festival. The first section acknowledges the Jewish people being chosen to be in a special covenant with G-d and this section is said for both Shabbat/the Sabbath and for Jewish festivals. The section section is a paragraph that names the Jewish festival that is being celebrated (or Shabbat/the Sabbath if it is that day) and the special characteristic of that day. If Shabbat/the Sabbath happens to fall on a Jewish festival day, there are special, additional sections that are added which mention both Shabbat/the Sabbath as well as the Jewish festival in question.
For Shabbat/the Sabbath and Jewish festivals as well as "Rosh Hodesh" (Hebrew for: day of the "New Moon" and hence, the 1st day of the new month in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar), a second Amidah is added called Mussaf Amidah, where Mussaf means "Additional" in Hebrew. It is said both silently and then repeated by the worshipper. The Mussaf Amidah is normally recited immediately after the morning service making for an extended worshipping session. Like the regular, weekday Amidah, the Mussaf Amidah begins with the same three blessings and concludes with the same three blessings. However, like the Jewish Festival Amidah, the 13 intermediate blessings of the weekday/daily Amidah are replaced by special prayers that recall the sacrifice that was brought to the First and Second Temple in Jerusalem in ancient times for the Jewish festival that is being celebrated on this day; in the context of our website, for the Passover festival. There is also a request for the building of a Third Temple in Jerusalem as well as for reinstituting sacrificial worship. Also, the biblical reading that refers to the sacrifice for the Jewish festival in question (for our website, this is the Korban Pesach or Passover sacrifice) is included in the intermediate section of the Mussaf Amidah. Finally, the Birkat Ha-Kohen or Blessing of the Priest is recited when the worshipper repeats the Mussaf Amidah. Orthodox Jews will include the aforementioned readings for the intermediate blessing while Conservative Jews will have two versions of the intermediate blessing of the Mussaf Amidah each of which has varying levels of difference from the Orthodox-Jewish version with one version including the mention of sacrifices but in the past rather than present tense as in the Orthodox version while the newer version omits mention of sacrifices completely. Reform Jews and Reconstructionist Jews in general omit the Mussaf Amidah for Shabbat/the Sabbath but include it for some Jewish festivals.
For Passover / Pesach, in the Mussaf Amidah on the first day of Passover / Pesach, a special and extended prayer for dew (called "Tefillat Tal" in Hebrew) is inserted into the 2nd blessing of the Amidah and recited. The first day of Passover / Pesach is traditionally the start of the dry season in Israel so it was logical to include a request to G-d to bring dew to Israel at this time of year. Tefillat Tal is recited when the worshipper repeats the Mussaf Amidah. Despite the importance of moisture during the dry summer of Israel, many (but not all) versions of the Jewish liturgy insert the phrase "He (G-d) causes the dew to fall" into the second blessing of the Amidah during every Amidah of the dry half of the year in Israel.
Another prayer that is inserted into the text of the Amidah - in Blessing 17 - for Chol Ha-Moed days (Intermediate Or Middle Days of Jewish Festivals) and Rosh Chodesh, is the Ya'aleh Veyavo ["May (our remembrance) rise and be seen..." in Hebrew]. Ya'aleh Veyavo is also recited in the Kedushat Ha-Yom blessing (the 4th blessing) of the Jewish Festival Amidah, and at Birkat Ha-Mazon ("Grace After Meals" in Hebrew). For all Jewish festivals, the wording of this prayer remains the same except for one phrase which changes according to the Jewish festival being celebrated, mentioning the Jewish festival in question by name.
Here are Passover biblical readings for each day of the festival:
* Maftir = Concluding part of the Torah reading for Jewish Shabbat/Sabbaths and Jewish festivals; Maftir means "Conclusion" in Hebrew.
* Haftarah/Haftorah = Reading from the biblical Books of the Prophets.
* Ashkenazi = Jews whose ancestors came from either Central, Northwestern and/or Eastern Europe; Ashkenazi = "German" in Hebrew, referring specifically to German-Jews whose prayer rite eventually spread to Central, Northwestern and Eastern European Jewish communities).
* Sephardi = Jews whose ancestors came from Spain and/or Portugal; Sephardi = "Spanish" in Hebrew, referring specifically to Spanish-Jews whose prayer rite eventually spread to Portuguese-Jews in Portugal as well as to several North African and Middle Eastern Jewish communities.
Food that is eaten during the Passover festival are based on the kosher dietary laws that are specific to the Passover festival which are a subset of the general laws of kashrut or kosher dietary laws. The primary law is to eat only unleavened products. The kosher dietary laws for Passover consider only 5 grains as being able to ferment and become leaven: barley, oats, rye, spelt and wheat and so these 5 grains are forbidden to be used during the Passover festival (except when used for making matzo since the final product of matzo is ultimately unleavened).
In fact, not only must all foods be unleavened in one's household during Passover but all other non-edible items in the household must not contain any leavening in them as one is not permitted to even be in possession of any leavened products in addition to eating, owning, or deriving benefit from the aforementioned five grains in any amount and in any form during the Passover festival.
There is also a category of foods in the kosher dietary laws for Passover called Kitniyot, meaning "Legumes" in Hebrew. Based on a 13th century French custom but discussed by authoritative rabbis as far back as Talmudic times, Kitniyot are specific legumes and other grains that are not one of the aforementioned five forbidden grains, known in Hebrew as chametz ("chametz" means "leaven" in Hebrew, specifically a food that becomes leavened after being mixed with water and left to stand raw for longer than 18 minutes) and Kitniyot cannot become chametz or leavened when mixed with water. Despite not being chametz, Kitniyot are forbidden for use during Passover in Ashkenazi tradition. There are a number of authoritative rabbinical opinions for banning Kitniyot use during Passover: both chametz and kitniyot are boiled in similar ways, that in some locations bread-like foods are made from kitniyot foods, plus people might assume that what is allowed for beans or rice are also allowed for the five forbidden grains, and that when ground into flour, kitniyot look very much like the forbidden leavening flour of wheat, barley, oats, rye and spelt (forbidden except, as mentioned, when used for making matzo since the final product of matzo is ultimately unleavened) and when stored, could easily get mixed in with the five forbidden grains. Therefore, to avoid these potential problems, Ashkenazi rabbis added legumes and their derivatives (such as oil derived from Kitniyot) plus grains such as rice and millet to the list of forbidden foods during Passover. Examples of Kitniyot or legumes, which are plants that have pods with their seeds inside, include soybeans, fava beans, dried beans, peas and peanuts. Rice, millet, corn and lentils also fall into the Kitniyot category, though there are differing authoritative rabbinical opinions on the use of rice and millet during Passover. Some forbid the use of rice and millet during Passover because they feel it is close to leaven/chametz and hence close to the five forbidden grains while others permit their use. Today, based on the authoritative opinions of their rabbis, Ashkenazi Jews do not use Kitniyot during Passover while most - not all, but most - Sephardi Jews and all Mizrahi Jews (Jews whose ancestors come from the Middle East as well as Central and South Asia; "Mizrahi" means "Eastern" in Hebrew) permit the use of Kitniyot during Passover based on the authoritative opinions of their rabbis. Finally, there are mixed authoritative rabbinical opinions on the use of quinoa: some permit its use while others forbid its use with each having their reasons.
As in the previous question and answer, permitted drinks for Passover are drinks that follow the kosher dietary laws that are specific to the Passover festival. Traditional drinks that are used for the Passover Seder meal include red wine, concord grape wine, and grape juice if one is not able to drink wine for various reasons (medical and/or one's age being too young, for instance). The reason is that wine symbolizes freedom and is the drink of royalty in that in ancient times, only free people were able to partake in drinking wine and this included people who were not slaves and those associated with royalty. During the Passover Seder meal, we emotionally re-experience the Exodus from Egypt and so we think and behave as if we had just gained our freedom from bondage thereby enabling us to drink the drink of free people in ancient times: wine, or if we are not able to drink wine, we drink a drink that at least resembles wine in color and taste. Another purpose for drinking wine at the Seder was to add joy and gaiety to the Seder meal. This explains why the Four Cups of Wine which are drunk during the Seder meal are placed and spaced properly at specific points in the Seder to create joy and also prevent intoxication. We also drink wine while slightly reclining to the left as did free people and royalty in ancient times.
The answer is that yeast is only forbidden during Passover when it is a product of one of the five forbidden grains in Judaism that cause fermentation: barley, oats, rye, spelt and wheat. This means that yeast which is derived, for instance, from grapes or its sugars is not chametz, meaning leaven in Hebrew, and is therefore fit for use during Passover and so we make wine from grapes or from the sugar of grapes. These wines will be labelled "Kosher For Passover" along with an affixed logo from either a recognized and reputable rabbinical organization or council or from an individual rabbi who is qualified to supervise the wine-making process and certify as well as label the wine as being Kosher For Passover in addition to affixing his name on the bottle.
For more information about Passover / Pesach, see the list of links to our web pages about different Passover topics on the upper left-hand side of this page. We hope you enjoy and are inspired by our website and you're always welcome here. Stay well and wise! :)
Website Last Updated On: June 17, 2013
Website Created On: March 8, 1999